Liam’s Game Room #35 (Alex Kidd In The Enchanted Castle, Genesis)

Introduction

Alex Kidd in The Enchanted Castle is a 2D side scrolling platformer developed and published by Sega for the Genesis in 1989 in the US and Japan and 1990 in Europe. Alex Kidd throughout the release of the Sega Master System was the mascot for Sega and was developed at a direct competitor to Nintendo’s mascot Mario. The first Alex Kidd game, Alex Kidd In Miracle World was the first appearance of this character, which was the built in game for many Master System consoles, was released in Japan in 1986 and internationally in 1987. However, after the release of Sonic, which came out the year after this game, there were no more games in the Alex Kidd series after Alex Kidd in Shinobi World because Sega shifted their focus to Sonic being the mascot of the company. Alex Kidd did make some cameos in other Sega games, the first occasion being Altered Beast where the name of Alex appears on headstones in the background of the first stage. Alex is also an unlockable character in multiple Sega sports games like Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed and Sega Superstars Tennis. Apart from these seldom cameo appearances, Alex Kidd In Shinobi World was the last game in the Alex Kidd series.

Story

Alex who lives on the Planet Aries is controlled by his brother King Igul. One day, Alex hears rumours that his father, King Thor is still alive and he travels to Planet Paperock to try and find him. Throughout his journey to the Enchanted Castle, he will run into enemies and he will need to use his martial arts skills and his knowledge of the game, Rock, Paper, Scissors to get to the Enchanted Castle and find his father.

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The plot to this game I feel is extremely thin on the ground because the game never explains why Alex is searching for his father or why his father is not on the same planet as him. The game never specifies why Alex is controlled by King Igul and why his brother is looking after him. I feel that the name of the planet Alex travels to, Planet Paperock is extremely cheesy and feels quite a lazy name and sounds unoriginal. I feel that the game could have gone somewhat more into detail because previous games such as Alex Kidd in Miracle World had a more interesting plot, as well as a story that is more memorable. The story in Alex Kidd in The Enchanted Castle is quite weak and is extremely forgettable.

Gameplay

Alex Kidd in The Enchanted Castle is a side scrolling platformer where the objective is to reach the end of the stage and progress closer to the Enchanted Castle. Throughout the stages, Alex can destroy enemies and earn Baum, which is the currency of the Planet and the player can use this currency to gamble on Rock, Paper, Scissors games to earn powerups. This is the only way that the player can obtain powerups and is also the only purpose of the collectable currency.

The only positive I have about the game is that the graphics look great considering the year that the game was released. The colours are bright and vibrant and they stand out for each other nicely. The enemies and Alex are designed really well and there are quite a few frames of animation, meaning that the sprites never have any issues with not looking realistic. The backgrounds and foregrounds are distinguishable in such a way that there are not any issues with platforms being difficult to see.

One of the problems I have with the game is the Rock, Paper, Scissors mechanics of the player because this minigame is the centre of the entire game and is the only way to progress through the game. Every couple of levels, the player will be required to face a boss where the player will need to win a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors and if the player loses the game, then the player will lose a life. This ends up being quite frustrating because the game will take the player back to the beginning of the level and this makes the bosses have extremely random and really cheap. I feel that these bosses feel poorly designed and was more of an afterthought and showed maybe a lack of imagination or a reason to recycle the mechanics.

The other issues are with the hit detection, the difficulty and the controls themselves. The jumps feel floaty and difficult to control because the enemies can only be hit by attacks if Alex is at a similar height to the enemy otherwise the player will lose a life because Alex can only take one hit. The game only starts the player with 3 lives and there are no continues in the game, which means unless the player explores everywhere in each stage, then the player will run out of lives fast. The issue with the hit detection is an issue because normally when you attack an enemy from above in most games, you will still land the hit, but here it is not the case. What this means is that the player will have to progress through the levels slowly to make sure that the player does not get hit by the enemies.

Alex’s punch attack is extremely awkward to use because I expected the punch attack to have a longer reach or a wide hit radius, but because the attack is so short it means that the player can attack an enemy and still get hit due to how uneven the attacks are. This is a huge problem because there is no other way to attack without using powerups that are annoying to obtain due to the player needed to win a Rock, Paper, Scissors game by gambling money.

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I really hate the floaty jumping mechanics in this game because it makes doing precise jumps extremely difficult, especially with some enemies that will turn without warning. Later on in the game, these poor jumping mechanics cause a lot of issues because the game requires the player to make some quite precise jumps or risk falling onto enemies and going back to the beginning of the stage. I just feel that all the mechanics and the controls make the game much more difficult than it should be. I feel that this game was rushed to try and beat Nintendo to the release date of Super Mario Bros 3 in Japan, which Alex Kidd was released 2 months after Super Mario Bros 3.

Music

The soundtrack to Alex Kidd in The Enchanted Castle for me is polarising because there some tracks in the game that I really like, for example the Town theme, but there are some tracks that I really dislike, like the Desert and Mountain theme because they sound really muddy in terms of mixing. However, I feel that I like a few more themes than I dislike, but it is the themes that don’t sound good feel really out of place. There are also some occasions where themes sound like they were composed in 8 bit and then moved onto the 16 bit sound chip of the Genesis and there is a theme that seems to jump between 8 and 16 bit, which sounds extremely weird. I just feel that the weaker themes in the game really tarnish the soundtrack and makes me not look forward to those stages in particular.

Conclusion

Alex Kidd in The Enchanted Castle is a game that looks great for the time, but has really poor controls and horrendous hit detection. I feel that the 1 hit lives and the requirement to win at Rock, Paper, Scissors to be extremely cheap and annoying. The music of the game is polarising and I think the game feels rushed and at times unfinished because of how annoying the mechanics are. I definitely think that if the developers had worked on the game for a little bit more, than the mechanics and the controls could have been worked on and improved quite a bit, but what this game comes out as it is a game that was wasted potential and negatively affected the franchise.

4/10

Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

 

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