Nostalgia is a powerful thing. There’s no doubt that really, games are better than they have ever been (aside from all the money-grabbing tactics that have snuck their way in). However, for gamers of a certain age almost nothing beats heading back to an old classic and rekindling fond memories of titles we played as kids. I’ve certainly done enough of that over the years with original hardware and games, but more and more companies themselves are digging into the back catalogue and bringing fan favourites to new players, with shiny up-spuffed visuals and audio, as well as a few quality of life improvements. Often this is enough to make an old game feel new again, and while this is partly true of Alex Kidd in Miracle World, the nostalgia soon gave way to remembering how needlessly hard the game was – and still is.
As with most titles from the Master System era, this is a 2D platformer. We move Alex forward through the levels (much like Super Mario Bros. we cannot go backwards at all) punching blocks and enemies to get to the end goal. Some of those blocks have currency in them for use in the shop that shows up once in a while, others items to help such as the Fire Ring, Shield, or orb that spits out mini-Alex clones. We can store these for use as and when, but once we die after activating them they are lost. And I did die. A lot.
Once more, as with most titles from the Master System era, this is almost needlessly hard thanks to still treating console games like arcade money grabbers. One hit is enough to cost Alex a life, and by default three lives are all he gets. The hit detection is just as harsh as it ever was, and combined with Alex seemingly having greased up shoes such is the slipperiness of his control feel, these three lives don’t last long. In fact, I bit the bullet before even getting to the bottom of the first drop down section on my initial go… just like old times. Thankfully there is a generous check pointing system that doesn’t put us back too far each time, though again we’re still then without any items used in the previous life, and once all three lives are gone it’s back to the beginning of the stage.
The boss battles from before are still present and correct. Each one challenges us to a game of JAN-KEN-PON (Rock, Paper, Scissors), with us needing to pick our option while some music plays, and aiming to win best of three rounds. As before it’s guess work until we learn the pattern by repeat plays, but it’s still passably entertaining. At least until we get to the next one and lose our lives again thanks to the guess work.
So the gameplay is just as exacting as before, but Jankenteam have at least offered some modern quality of life takes that will appease players. As mentioned, losing three lives only sends us back to the start of the stage and not the whole game, which is nice. I remember being stuck on the Black Forest area back in the early 90’s, and as soon as I got to it here I got a wave of ‘oh no’ wash over me. When I died almost immediately I was very happy to see it load me back to the start of the level, and not the game!
We’re also able to pick up at the stage we left on a previous play session, which is also nice. Additionally, there’s an infinite lives option in the menu that is essential to use for all but elite players. It’s still a bit of a shame that items are lost on death though, and I’d have liked to see some sort of concession made here as well. It perhaps would have been nice to also give Alex more of a chance in this remade campaign, maybe giving him several hit points rather than the one hit kill aspect that admittedly is more faithful to the original, but also very frustrating by the end of the game. There is a classic mode unlocked via beating the campaign, so those looking for the traditional experience could be catered for by that. As it is, it can make many sections a case of trying over, and over, and over, to get past. Thank goodness for infinite lives.
And I’m not sure if it’s just in my head, but to me controlling Alex feels slightly harder with the remade visuals turned on. We can switch between new and old visuals at the press of a button, but there seems to be an ever so slight delay on movement with them on that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m no Digital Foundry so it’s likely this is in my head more than a technical thing, but it could also have to do with how much I played the original as a kid that my muscle memory responds better to the old visuals too. It’s not enough to ruin the game, but enough to make the already tricky platforming that bit harder.
They are, however, bloody lovely to look at – enough to make me put up with this slightly off feeling for 90% of my play time. Jankenteam have done a wonderful job at turning flat blocks of 8-bit colour into vivid landscapes full of effects and visual splendour. Switching between the two modes shows just how far we have come since I started playing games (Alex Kidd in Miracle World was the first game I owned) and the music has been suitably updated too, with some excellent scoring complimenting the visuals perfectly.
If you’re after a blast of tough nostalgia, then Alex Kidd in Miracle World has got you covered. If anything, it’s a bit too faithful in terms of the mechanics despite offering up some modern concessions such as checkpoints and save states. But then that’s the point, isn’t it. Older players will still get some enjoyment out of revisiting this, while younger players can see what we used to deem cutting edge back in our day. It’s not going to challenge the best platformers out there, but it’s still decent enough – and really bloody hard.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.