Review by darthjulian
The last hurrah of Alex Kidd...
Remember the days when Sega was desperately trying to create some sort of a mascot (and of course a game revolving around him) in order to rival Nintendo and the company´s no. 1 character Mario? Before Sega had finally their Mario rival with the always-popular Sonic the Hedgehog, they gave it a shot with two other overly-cute Jump and Run/action-adventure heroes: Wonder Boy and Alex Kidd. Both franchises were fairly popular with Sega fans on the Master System, but never managed to appeal to a wider audience, and so their last appearances could both be seen on the Sega Genesis already, and as for Alex Kidd´s farewell-title "Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle"...well, what we have here is not exactly a worthy final.
And yep, we even have a story for this game, but it´s as insignificant and silly as in most other games of the genre, which means that it does not really matter at all - let me just say that it´s about Alex Kidd searching for his long lost father, King Thor, on the planet Paperock, and of course Alex Kidd has to bring him back to his home planet of Aries. Oh well, it´s not exactly important and merely an excuse for the hero to get on his journey, so let´s move on to the gameplay department, then. And that´s where Alex Kidd already manages to fail and disappoint. It´s basically a Jump and Run with some remote action/adventure influences, with running and jumping through the levels being the main deal, and some tiny puzzles as well as action/adventure elements like equipment being thrown in for good measure. You can gain new equipment by entering houses in certain houses in some of the levels, but instead of just buying new items with the gold you can find throughout the game...you have to bet a sum of the gold on rock, paper, scissors match against one of the inhabitants of the planet Paperock (fitting name...). In my opinion, that´s already one big no-no in any video game: getting new items by mere chance. Where is the motivation in that? Unfortunately, Sega was obviously obsessed with the rock, paper, scissors concept to an extent that we´re not just being "treated" to this feature in terms of item collection. As a matter of fact, that´s also how you´ll have to beat boss enemies. Yes, that´s right, you have to battle the bosses in this game with rock, paper, scissors, and if you lose, you automatically lose a life. Okay, I don´t really understand why Sega had to include this nonsensical feature for such a crucial part of a game, since it completely and utterly takes away the aspect of challenge. Normally, the wonderful thing about boss battles can be that your skills with the joypad are the key to success, giving you a great feeling of satisfaction after you manage to beat an especially difficult boss. That makes it all the more frustrating, if a boss fight is being degraded to a mere affair of luck. The levels preceeding the boss battles are not exactly thrilling, either. They´re short, and most of them can be played through in about two minutes or less if you´re fast, with little to no real challenge being provided. What makes the game challenging, however, are the awful controls - they just feel "slippery", and especially jumping can be extremely painful, considering the poor collision detection and the fact that whenever you jump, your character kicks as well, and hitting enemies that way is not exactly precise, which can lead to your demise pretty quickly (it takes only one hit for you to die...). Gameplay-wise, the title might be okay in the end, but it´s certainly missing the refinement of later Sega titles such as "Sonic the Hedgehog" or of course Nintendo´s Mario games.
Sure, "Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle" is one of the earliest titles for the Sega Genesis, having been released in 1989 already, but when I first saw the graphics, I was wondering what on earth happened to the much heralded (at least back then) 16-Bit power of the hardware. Of course graphics don´t make a game, but it´s still disappointing to see how shoddy Alex Kidd´s last appearance is in that regard. The evolution from the 8-Bit Master System to the 16-Bit Genesis is hardly visible in this game, with the missing variety of colors being the most notable aspect. At no point does the game make real use of the color palette of the Genesis in an appropriate way, and even though they´re not ugly, there just isn´t enough of them. The main character as well as his enemies don´t exactly manage to impress with their simplistic design, either, and especially Alex Kidd is almost laughable in that regard, both in terms of basic design as well as visual execution in the game - he´s just plain ugly. Don´t even get me started on the locations and backgrounds, as they plainly lack any sense of detail and richness, giving the game in general a rather boring visual note. Sorry, Sega, but "Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle" is more than disappointing for a 16-Bit title in terms of graphics.
Oh dear, the music...okay, to be fair, the music sounds at least reasonably well for a Genesis title, if you take the limited sound capabilities of the console and the age of the game itself into consideration, so that´s not the problem. What really annoyed me, however, are the compositions. To say that they are short would be an understatement, as practically each and every single track in the game frequently begins to repeat after only a couple of seconds, turning the music in each level into a nearly endless loop of the same few tunes over and over again...it´s repetitiveness at its worst, and just listening to the same tracks that unfortunately tend to appear in more than just one level became a frustrating affair for me...again, I don´t know what Sega was thinking here.
Even for an early Genesis title, "Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle" remains a mediocre title at best, wasting the potential of its forerunners and the talent of the developers. It could have been much more in view of the circumstances and judging from Sega´s track record, so it´s even more frustrating to see the outcome in this title. Fortunately, Sega got a fitting mascot with Sonic, and a great game for that matter too, while this title will probably disappear in obscurity, and not without a reason - the game just feels unfinished at times.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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