Written by  :  Mumm-Ra (410)
Written on  :  Mar 16, 2003
Platform  :  SEGA Master System
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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A real classic for Master System.

The Good

The first Alex Kidd, a game released the same year Master System was born, is arguably the best title ever released for the console. And may be considered the best game Sega has ever developed, facing rivals such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Virtua Fighter and Phantasy Star series.

Back in 1986, there were not much to be done to make a game more attractive to the consumer in terms of commercial appeal. Games licenses using famous characters became popular years later. Graphics were inevitably very simple because of technological limitations. Honest times. If a game was crap, nobody would conceal that by using ultra-sophisticated 3D graphics or surround sound.

When Sega released Master System, it had to face ultra-popular NES, despite its technological superiority, it had to have comparable games. Super Mario Bros had just been released for NES and it was really popular.

Sega's reaction to Super Mario came in the form of another action game. Alex Kidd was some sort of Mario for Master System. It never became as popular as Mario, but was the most popular character for the 8-bit Sega console. Alex Kidd is an incredibly nice game.

Graphics were just amazing, really beautiful for the time. Very colorful. Everyone could easily recognize the boy with big ears jumping and running in front of a blue sky. Mario couldn't dream of starring in such a colorful game because of NES graphics limitations.

Sound was nice too. Alex Kidd song was well-elaborated and sounded fine. Sound effects were very good and diverse for the time.

OK, nice graphics and nice sound. But that's not the most important aspect. Graphics and sound get dated and the game doesn't necessarily.

Alex Kidd is the proof you don't need a sophisticated hardware to create a really good game. It had only 1 Megabit of memory (128 Kbytes), but it was incredibly used. Alex Kidd was one of the most complex games for the time and hardly any Sega Genesis or Super NES game had such sophistication.

First, Sega created a nice story to go with the game. It took place on a different planet (Aries) and had hundreds of aspects. And the most important: the story did not just provide a background to be forgotten while playing. There was actually a storyline which involved the player.

Second, despite the simple controls (one button for jump and the other one for punch), the game had lots of sophistication in gameplay. There were different kinds of enemies. Some of them were revealed in an unusual way, such as the ghosts that would appear if Alex Kidd broke some blocks.

Alex Kidd could use many items that would give him special abilities (such as a powerful bracelet, capsules, a stick and so on). He would also have at his disposal a moto, a launch and an helicopter to help him through the stages. Some of these items could be bought at a store.

There were also the Janken matches, which Alex Kidd would have to play with the bosses, including Janken himself.

All these elements provided a very sophisticated gameplay that could hardly be rivaled by most platform games and were responsible for Alex Kidd's massive popularity in Master System. This was indeed a well-elaborated game, a game designed with care.

The Bad

For a game released in 1986, Alex Kidd is perfect.

Some aspects could be polished up, such as the controls (some of the moves were very difficult to be done).

And, since the game made no use of AI (Artificial Intelligence; c'mon, we're in 1986), Janken matches would be too repetitive.

Well, and there's also another problem. I don't like the background in which this game was produced. It might be seen as a waste of a fantastic game. That's why it is so hard to tell if Alex Kidd game is superior to Super Mario Bros. It probably is. But Mario became the most popular video game title in the world and had amazing sequels (Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World for SNES and Mario 64 for N64 were probably the best ones), while Alex Kidd is the symbol of a not really popular video game system. And it also has to be said that Alex Kidd sequels were not so nice as the first game. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars was too simple and childish (despite its beautiful colors); Alex Kidd In High-Tech World had adventure elements, but was not an involving game; Alex Kidd In Shinobi World was probably the best sequel and had a nice gameplay, but was not as good; and Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle (Sega Genesis) was a desperate trial of making a 16-bit Alex Kidd In Miracle World (speedy Sonic The Hedgehog proved to be a much more adequate game for 16-bit consoles and became Sega's symbol after 1991).

The Bottom Line

TRUE CLASSIC. Alex Kidd remains as one of the best platform action games ever released, for all video game systems.