It’s hard to imagine a time in Sega’s history where the face of the company was anything other than Sonic the Hedgehog, but the blue blur didn’t come along till the Sega Genesis in 1991. Before that, it was a little more hazy, but the stand out character was definitely Alex Kidd. A punchy and cute platformer, Alex Kidd enjoyed several games on the Genesis-preceding Sega Master System from 1986 to 1990. However, the franchise has been pretty much dead for quite some time.
Now, in 2021, Merge Games and Jankenteam are reviving the Alex Kidd franchise with a redo of where it all started with Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX. I got a preview peek at the game, and as much as new pixel art revitalizes the look and slight new mechanics cut out some clutter, Merge Games also seems to stay quite faithful to where this plucky platformer came from.
New looks, same Kidd
For the preview, I got to try several levels from Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX. Alex Kidd is a hungry lad (though he’s also on a journey to defeat the evil Janken the Great and save a kingdom) and the main point of each level is to clear its myriad of platforming challenges and enemies and get the food at the end of the level, or defeat a boss and take it from them. Along the way, you can punch enemies, collect power-ups like rings that give you a projectile, and collect money bags for use in later shops. Beware though, generally one hit means death and a return to a checkpoint.
For the most part, these levels seemed built towards displaying both the faithfulness to the original game’s design and the reworked art and slight quality-of-life improvements of the new game. For what I could tell, every single platform, block, money bag, power-up, and enemy placement were in the exact same place from the original game. The difference was that all of it was reimagined with a delightfully appealing new look full of beautiful sprite, foreground, and background art.
Further points of the preview even showed off familiar bits such as the Miracle World map and the use of vehicles like motorbikes and flying machines. I played the original, but several decades can make a memory foggy. That said, when I looked up longplays, it was easy to see that pretty much all of the levels I played and art I saw adhered to stylish modern takes on the original.
Even so, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX wasn’t without improvements. You get a life counter in the top of the screen and there’s more context and story in the game in the way of villagers and shopkeeps that actually have dialogue to share with you. Heck, where once you had to pause the game to use a power-up, now you carry two at a time, cycle through them with shoulder buttons, and use them with one button press while in the game. These quality-of-life and context improvements do great in not taking away from the faithful design while also giving some streamline to what were originally limitations of the game and I really enjoyed that balance in the preview.
So faithful, even the original game’s look is here
I think one of the absolute neatest things I saw here in the Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX preview was this one button that transferred the game’s look and music between the new visuals and sounds and the 1986 design. Quite literally, by hitting a trigger at any point in the game, I could revert the game between the classic and modern style. Should you be looking for the full classic experience, this button will be your go-to, but you can also switch back at any point that suits your fancy.
That said, I really enjoyed stopping at certain points and pressing the button to swap between styles to just take in the old-school nostalgia of Alex Kidd and then see how they revisualized it. It’s like a time capsule and history lesson packed into the game (although the classic version still includes modern conveniences like the lives and item-use HUD). We’ve seen things like this in remakes like Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and it’s cool to see it used thoughtfully here as well.
Back to Kiddin’ around
Alex Kidd was kind of a lost treasure of Sega’s early days. We’ve seen the games repackaged in collections and emulated before, but nothing new has come out of the Kidd franchise in a very long time. It’s kind of wild to finally see Alex Kidd come back into the spotlight, even if it’s a remake of the original. This preview delighted me with just how faithful it was to the original games, whether it was nearly the one-to-one level design or the ability to actually change the game to the classic look at my leisure. Just as well, the new looks and music were delightful spins on the original content as well. If Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX lives up to the fun and nostalgia in this small snippet, every retro gaming and platformer fan should have this one on their radar when it comes out later this June.
This preview is based upon an early Steam edition of the game supplied by the publisher. Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX comes out on June 24, 2021 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX hands-on preview: Forever Kidds