Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX Review – Blast From the Past
Title: Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX
Developer: Jankenteam, Merge Games
Release Date: June 22nd 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Merge Games
Genre: 2D platformer
Although many consider Alex Kidd a classic 8-bit platformer, it’s often overlooked compared to its old-school peers. Developers Jankenteam and Merge Games look to rectify this by releasing Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, a remake of the original 35-year-old title. What results is a game with more accessibility and boosted visuals but stays faithful to the punishingly difficult and unique gameplay found upon its initial release.
The plot sees the evil Janken overthrowing the King of Radaxian and overtaking the land. In his conquest for power, he turned the villagers to stone and kidnaped the Prince and his girlfriend. You play as the prince’s brother and expert martial artist Alex Kidd on a quest to rescue them and bring peace to the land.
Compared to the original version, additional stone characters and NPCs fill the land that you can talk to. It’s unnecessary, but they help flesh out the world a bit more and drive home the narrative.
Actual gameplay sees you armed with your fists and agility to take out evil animals and monsters alike. Controls feel spot on with the original title as you must get fairly close to enemies to hit them. Jumping and movement physics are also seemingly unaltered and maintain their slippery and floaty feel.
They’re by no means bad controls, but they do feel dated and particular to the Alex Kidd games. They don’t leave much room for error and can take a while to get used to. Even with a solid understanding of the physics, obstacles and pitfalls will put your precision platforming to the test.
Stages are sometimes laid out like mini puzzles, where you must contemplate your actions before you actually make a move. Luckily most sections are generous to give you enough time to do this, but that doesn’t make the execution easier. Alex will die instantly if you hit any obstacle which brings a strategic pace to the platforming. Fortunately, you respawn extremely close to the site of your death, but after three lives, you are sent back to the beginning of the level. It’s certainly more generous than the original release, which could mean a complete game over, but it’s still challenging even with this change.
For those looking for an even easier experience, you have the option of turning on “infinite lives,” which sidesteps the whole level reset. However, once you are in this mode, you cannot turn it off, making players more reluctant to use it.
Aside from this gameplay change, the biggest notable changes are the updated graphics and audio tracks. Sprites are presented with smooth, beautiful animation and completely re-envision character models for Alex and enemies alike. Backgrounds also see a major overhaul with vibrant environments interacting with gorgeous lighting effects. Amazingly these changes affect not only the presentation but the feel of the game as well. Because there are little nuances to animations, it is occasionally easier to anticipate enemies’ movement and subtle actions.
The soundtrack is given a rework with numerous fitting instruments and compositions. While the original 8-bit music is catchy, it could arguably become a bit repetitive. Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX’s reworking of these tunes makes it a lot easier to listen to upon repeat listens. Sound effects like Alex’s punch also feel better suited and pack in an audible impact with each strike.
One of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX’s coolest features is the ability to switch between this reimagined version and the classic 8-bit style on the fly. The 8-bit version features the same aspect ratio and additional characters as the remastered version, making the transition seamless. While I thoroughly appreciated DX’s remade version, it was a joy to switch between the two to compare all the work done.
Some additional levels and boss battles have also been added, but for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a huge deviation from the original game. There are also tweaks to make boss battles a bit more involved and interesting. They can be tough, but rarely do bosses take many hits to defeat and are totally capable of beating with a bit of practice.
The series classic “Rock, paper, scissors” battles before actual boss fights remain intact. Players can rely on chance for these sections or memorization if they fail their first attempts. While they give Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX a unique feel, at times, these sections can feel a bit too frequent.
Don’t go in expecting a drastically longer experience with the additional content. It’s hard to pick out the new sections from some of the original ones, and they aren’t as numerous as I initially anticipated. That’s not to say that the adventure is short. Like many games of the era, it lengthens its playtime through difficulty. With those infinite lives, it can cut that time considerably.
Unlocking “Classic mode” contains the original unaltered Alex Kidd in Miracle World with a bordered full-screen presentation that can be found after completing the game. Additionally, “Boss Rush” provides a challenging gauntlet for those that wish to test their mettle. Both provide a bit of extra gameplay content after the main game.
While Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is enjoyable, it sometimes shows its age with unusual level design. For the most part, everything is a pretty straightforward side scroller until you get to a castle with awkwardly dated cryptic elements. It’s great that the developers are faithful to the source material, but it sometimes hurts the overall experience. On the flip side, it’s remarkable how much of the gameplay holds up after all this time. It says a lot about the game’s original strength.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX does a fantastic job of taking an already good game and adding a gorgeous fresh modern coat to it. The art design is beautifully done, and the option to switch between the redesign and 8-bit graphics adds to the nostalgic experience. While this remake is faithful for better or worse, there’s no denying that the quirky and challenging world of Alex Kidd is a side-scrolling experience unlike any other.
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