While Sonic was the one to properly give Nintendo a run for their money in the mascot race, the first proper attempt by Sega to prop up a rival to Mario came in the form of Alex Kidd, and their initial efforts were pretty solid in this regard. While Alex Kidd in Miracle World was no Super Mario Bros., it was a solid platformer with a unique voice and a lot of ambition: Vehicular power-ups that significantly changed the gameplay, free roaming exploration stages, an inventory screen to store power-ups for later use, and a vertical drop serving as a memorable gimmick to kick off first level, over a year before Super Mario Bros. 2 did the exact same thing.
The game had some rough edges, most notably the boss battles that all began with protracted, life or death games of rock paper scissors, but for 1986, it was a solid, original platformer, and met with a fair amount of critical success.
Unfortunately, sequels quickly dragged Alex Kidd’s name through the mud. The immediate follow-up, The Lost Stars, was a painfully easy, short, unambitious platformer. High-Tech World shoehorned Alex into an unrelated game based on a license with no American presence for the U.S. release, which had worked out well for Mario, but while Super Mario Bros. 2 was a reskinning of the rock solid Doki Doki Panic, High-Tech World was a reskinning of Anmitsu Hime, which was not so much a game as an childish joke intended to infuriate players, comprised of a series of “puzzles” whose solutions made no sense, and involved things like repeating a particular action 100 times in a row.
Next came Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, a proper follow-up to Miracle World on the Genesis. While it was clearly a better game than the previous sequels, it really didn’t bring anything new to the table that justified the move to more powerful hardware. Even on the SMS, it would have been rather underwhelming. It was shorter than the original, placed even more emphasis on rock paper scissors, and enlarged Alex’s sprite into something downright ghoulish and horrifying.
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, released for the SMS the next year, provided a more dignified sendoff. As the name suggests, the game was a mash-up of Shinobi’s gameplay, with the cartoony art style of Alex Kidd. After finally getting a second halfway decent game under his belt, and even getting to fight a clear stand-in for Mario as the game’s first boss, Alex Kidd was retired. Now and then Sega will still trot him out in a nostalgic mascot title, but odds are against the rice ball-munching, tracksuit-wearing, giant-eared Alex ever making a real comeback.
Article by Jake Alley
GameSpite Journal 12: Alex Kidd in Miracle World