Now, I’m technically not too old to have played Alex Kidd in Miracle World when it released on the Sega Master System in 1986, but if I did play this extremely old school platformer, I don’t really remember much of my time with it. But it’s hard not to have heard the name Alex Kidd, especially if you have any interest in video game history, like I do. In fact, I’ve been on a bit of a retro kick lately, and ramping up my collection of retro games. It’s fitting, then, that I got a chance to review one of the classic platforming adventure games.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a retro adventure platformer where you play martial artist Alex Kidd in a quest to save the kingdom from the evil Janken the Great. Most of the people have been turned to stone, and Alex Kidd has to jump and punch his way to victory. Originally developed as a tie-in to the Dragon Ball series, Alex Kidd in Miracle World became its own IP when the Dragon Ball license expired before development was completed. While Alex Kidd in Miracle World has been enjoying acclaim since its release, the real question is whether or not this retro classic holds up to modern audiences—and that really depends.
While Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX might look like a modern game, it’s really just new flesh put over the bones of a game from 1987. But that doesn’t mean that Alex Kidd in Miracle World doesn’t hold up as a platformer—in fact, I can understand how it’s acclaimed, as it has an interested mix of platforming and combat challenges with a surprisingly well realized world full of interesting characters. What DX does is add new sounds, updated music, and a shiny new coat of pixel art graphics that make it among some of the best looking platformers available today. Like the Halo Master Chief Collection games, you can switch between retro and new graphics with a press of a button, and sometimes the change is shocking. In fact, sometimes the new graphics add so much detail, pathways can be obscured and “hidden” objects are even harder to find. Sometimes I would turn the graphics to classic mode to not only see what the old game looked like at that moment, but to also see if there was any interesting object I might be missing.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a fun game, despite its retro nature—but there are surprisingly few quality of life upgrades. Sure, you don’t have the restart the entire game once you lose your three lives, instead you just have to restart your current level—but that’s really it. You can choose to turn on infinite lives if it turns out to be too unforgiving, but Alex Kidd in Miracle World has mostly bite-sized levels and the occasional boss fight. Alex Kid in Miracle World is a quirky game, sometimes to its detriment. For instance, I love the fact that there is a boss you run into repeatedly that you have to defeat in rock, paper, scissors—but I also hate the fact that losing against him in a game of chance might mean having to replay the entire level.
There are a few ways to play Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, especially after you beat the base game. Classic mode forces you to play the game as it was originally meant to be played—three lives, and you’re done, unless you find more. Boss rush mode is self-explanatory—fight the bosses, one after the other, without having to trek through the levels.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a classic platformer that has been given new life with this release. The updated sounds, music, and graphics are all impressive—it really makes it feel like a modern game. But it isn’t a modern game, and if you come into it completely uninitiated, it’s possible it could dampen your enjoyment. But it’s possible, with Alex Kidd’s tight controls and impressive visuals you won’t even know—even if it does have some game design that is obviously old school. But even I, with full foreknowledge, sometimes forgot I was playing a game that released 35 years ago.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel.