A platformer designed by Kotaro Hayashida which was both developed and published by Sega in 1986 for the Sega Master System. The game follows the story of the protagonist Alex Kidd in his search for his long lost brother Prince Egle who was captured by the antagonist of the game, the evil Janken the Great. Players will find themselves traversing various platform jumping sequences in this adventure game as they battle their way through 16 stages with various monsters and three bosses before confronting the evil Janken.
Prior to the games beginning Alex studied mysteries of Shellcore on Mount Eternal. Shellcore is a technique allowing a person to alter the size of their fists at will in order to shatter rocks with their bare hands. On his way back home from Mount Eternal he is told his homeland "Radaxian" is in danger and that he may be the key to saving it. The ruler of the planet Janbarik, Janken the Great, has kidnapped Prince Egle and Princess Lora in an attempt to seize power. With many of the citizens turned into stone (seemingly what happens when you lose in Janken) Alex sets off to save the Prince and defeat Janken.
Aside from Janken (see below), gameplay consisted of a variety of stages. Most predominant were traditional platform levels with Alex making it to the end collecting power-ups, money and defeating enemies along the way. The these levels were well varied for the era and were always the left to right levels seen in Super Mario Bros with the opening level seeing Alex descend the screen into an impromptu "water level" which is integrated into the first level. The game also featured two special levels where Alex would fly a pedal powered helicopter, avoiding obstacles and shooting enemies. Alex also used a motorbike which he could purchase from stores occasionally located in levels. The bike moved by itself at full speed with the player responsible for jumping. Levels ended with the aforementioned Janken stages.
A key aspect to the gameplay is the focus on "Janken," which is the Japanese equivalent of Rock, Paper, Scissors. During the game players must win two out of three matches against the bosses within the game by taking part in Janken matches. A different take on more traditional boss fights where usually the player has some control over how the outcome would be due to their level of skill however with Janken matches there is a 50/50 chance of success or failure. However there is a number of ways to predict the decision of an enemy boss. One of them requires the player to have picked up the telepathy ball which allows the player to see which decision a boss is going to make. It should be noted however that the telepathy ball was largely useless as the computer would often "change it's mind" at the last second or scroll through all choices without stopping. The other is that each match with a boss would be identical and their choices would always be the same. Although losing a match would make the choices for future bosses unpredictable.
Initially upon release in 1986 Alex Kidd was released on cartridge but then from around 1990 onwards the game was built into the hardware for different versions of the Sega Master System in various regions of the world. The most notable difference between the "built in" and cartridge version is the food Alex eats on the map screen. In the cartridge version of the game Alex is seen to be eating onigiri in the "built in" version he is seen eating a hamburger. This difference could have been Sega's way of making Western Audiences relate to Alex better if he is seen eating an iconic food of Western culture. The 2012 Xbox Live Arcade/Playstation Network bundle runs the cartridge version by default, but any region or variation can be selected through the options menu.
As part of the SEGA AGES Online initiative, the game will hit Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network on May 23rd in Japan. For the PlayStation 3, the title is released for ¥600. For the Xbox 360, the title is released in a bundle with The Super Shinobi and Super Hang-On for 800 MS Points.
The game has been critically acclaimed since its release. In 1987, the French magazine Génération 4 gave the game ratings of 96% for graphics and 85% for sound, with an overall score of 99%. In 1989, British magazine Computer and Video Games gave it a score of 87% (Computer and Video Games, Complete Guide to Consoles, issue 1, Winter 1989, page 47). Later, in 1991, they gave it ratings of 84% for graphics, 78% for sound, 86% for playability, and 85% for lastability, with an overall score of 86%. They described the game as "Sega's answer to Mario" and a "madcap platform romp through a multitude" of side-scrolling levels "with hidden bonuses and screens," a "wacky" minigame based on rock-paper-scissors, and "absolutely hilarous gags," concluding that the "absorbing gameplay will have you glued to your screen for hours on end."
The November 1991 issue of Sega Pro magazine gave the game a 95% score, stating that it is the "first" and "ultimately the best" of "the Alex Kidd adventures." They concluded that, with "so much to do and so many different ways of doing it, this is one of those games you will keep coming back to even when you have finished it completely." (Sega Software Showdown, Sega Pro, issue 1, November 1991, page 19) The October 1992 issue of Mean Machines Sega gave it an 86% score, stating that it is "the first" in the Alex Kidd series "and it's still one of the best." They criticized the graphics for being not "so hot" but praised the "blend of platforming and puzzles" which "work well" and concluded that it is an "entertaining platform romp."
The game has an average press score of 9 out of 10 on GameStats, based on 6 professional reviews, making it the highest-scoring game for the Master System.
In a 2008 retro review, IGN gave Alex Kidd a score of 9 out of 10 and an "Editor's Choice" award, calling it "an exceptional platformer with loads of action and some great puzzle-solving challenges" that "still holds up remarkably well." IGN also gave the Wii Virtual Console release a score of 9 out of 10.
The review website Honest Gamers awarded the title a 9 out of 10, complimenting its "inimitable" music, "innovative" use of different items, and balanced level of difficulty.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World was released as a direct competitor to the juggernaut that was Super Mario Bros, to try and bring the Master System's sales up to the level of the NES. Sega needed the mascot and Alex was to be it.
The game was well received at the time by the press, and was by no means unpopular in North America, but the strength of the Mario brand and the NES popularity, particularly in the USA, could not be reversed and the Master System continued to sell poorly in comparison, at least in Japan and North America.
In Europe and South America, however, Alex Kidd in Miracle World was a phenomenal success, outselling Super Mario Bros in both these regions, helping the Master System outsell the NES in these territories.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World spawned five sequels, even branching into the 16-bit era, but by then the brand's strength was minimal in comparison to Mario and Sega dropped the series. One year later, the first Sonic the Hedgehog game launched, with that character being more directly referenced as a Sega mascot than Alex Kidd ever was, at least in North America.
The French pop punk band Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! have a song named after the game on the initial release of their album Something for Nothing.