Why is Alex Kidd in Miracle World so revered?

A remaster of SEGA’s Alex Kidd in Miracle World is imminent. If you’re wondering why this 2D platformer, dating back to 1986, is being plucked from gaming’s depths and being given a digital dust off – even gaining a collector’s edition with a bunch of goodies – then chances are you aren’t too familiar with the debut of SEGA’s pre-Sonic mascot.

In the US, Alex Kidd in Miracle World came and went like every other Master System game before it, failing to turn the console’s ailing fortunes around, despite almost universal praise. In Europe, this story takes a different turn. Not only was it a popular title during the Master System’s early days, with Alex Kidd intended to go toe-to-toe with Super Mario, but it went on to become synonymous with the system.

Think Master System, think Alex Kidd in Miracle World.

This is because SEGA decided to ‘build-in’ (read: bundle) Miracle World with the re-designed Master System II. Turn the console on without a cartridge inserted, and you would be greeted by Alex Kidd’s jaunty title screen music. This was a huge selling point. Alex Kidd was featured on the console’s packaging, and every catalogue and software brochure duly informed that Miracle World was built-in, usually alongside an image of Alex Kidd himself or a child playing said game.

As such, everyone who purchased a Master System II from 1990 through to 1993 (when it was eventually replaced with Sonic the Hedgehog) doubtlessly played it. Indeed, opening a gaming magazine and seeing somebody requesting hints and tips wasn’t uncommon, even as late as the mid-’90s.

There’s another reason why it’s being blessed with a remaster. Even though Miracle World was the first game in the series, it went on to become the pinnacle. A game ahead of its time, gaining more critical praise than even 1990’s Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle on Mega Drive. It’s clear SEGA pulled out all the stops to create a Super Mario Bros. beater, and the fact that there is only a year between the two is pretty remarkable.

Miracle World boasted more variety than other platform games of the era. Take the first stage as an example, which scrolled vertically and featured a seamless transition to an underwater section. A trio of vehicles also featured – a motorbike, speed boat, and a pedal-powered helicopter – and keeping these intact until the end of a stage took skill, while also making for a satisfying experience.

A shop added a degree of experimentation, forcing you to think carefully about which items to buy and when to use them. The only real downside is that the boss battles featuring ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ (aka Janken) are an acquired taste.

As Master System games go, it’s up there with Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Sonic the Hedgehog. In Europe especially many gamers have fond memories of Alex Kidd’s debut. As an introduction to the console, SEGA couldn’t have picked a better game.

No pressure at all for new developer Janken Team, then.

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