Alex Kidd In Miracle World
Friends, I have some terrible news. We are in the midst of a horrible war, one with no end in sight. This war has been going on for a long time, since almost 1991. Wait, what the hell did you think I was talking about? That shit in Iraq? Fuck no, I'm talking about the console wars! The 16-bit era marked the first time when North American gamers had to make a serious choice as to which console they would buy, Nintendo or Sega. The SNES vs. Genesis console battle induced in gamers an especially vicious type of brand loyalty that had not previously been seen within that industry. By 1992, the battle lines had been drawn and sides had been chosen: you were either a Nintendo fan or a Sega fan, and you were willing to fight anyone who had the audacity to claim that their system had better games than yours. Since that time, we have seen some equally ferocious battles: PSX vs. N64 vs. Sega Saturn, Dreamcast vs. Gamecube vs. PS2 vs. Xbox, and Wii vs. Xbox 360 vs. PS3. With the rise of internet, these conflicts have moved off of schoolyards and on to the GameFAQs message boards. But although less punches are being thrown, the fights have become a whole lot nastier. Psychotic fanboys with tenuous grasps on the English language spend untold hours trolling message boards and making baseless claims about their enemies' sexual preferences, each of them hoping that their poorly constructed arguments will convert others to their side. With each new generation of consoles, it only seems to get worse.
But such was not always the case in America. In the 70s, you had an Atari or you were a loser. In the 80s, you had an NES or you were a homo. But while Atari did receive some legitimate competition from Intellivision and Colecovision, the NES completely dominated the American market in its time. No one ever came close to usurping the Nintendo's 8-bit crown, but Sega gave it a shot. And while its technically superior Master System never caught on in Japan or America, it beat out the NES in Europe as well as secondary markets such as Brazil and New Zealand. The failure of the Sega Master System in America can be attributed to a few key factors. First of all, Sega's third party support was extremely weak, a direct result of exclusivity agreements that companies such as Capcom and Konami had signed with Nintendo. Second of all, the system was poorly marketed. Sega's CEO decided that since Nintendo already had a stranglehold on the American market that the Master System was inherently doomed. Instead of aggressively marketing the system and playing up its strengths, Sega sold the system's distribution rights to the Tonka toy company and let them market it. Since Tonka had no fucking clue how to market a video game system, this move proved to be disastrous. But more importantly, the system was poorly named. In a country where machismo is far more prevalent than masochism, not many people were looking to buy something calling itself the Master System; the console was also incredibly unpopular with black people. But despite its failure in the big markets, the Master System was home to quite a few great games. One such game was Alex Kidd in Miracle World.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World is the story of Alex, a young boy who has spent the last several years training on Mt. Eternal. During this time, he mastered Shellcore, a powerful form of martial arts that allows him to break solid rock with his bare hands. As Alex prepares to leave the mountain, he is approached by a critically injured man who tells him that the kingdom of Radaxian has been taken over by a powerful villain known as Janken the Great. The man gives Alex a map and the mysterious Sun Stone Medallion and then dies. Despite the fact that only a massive douchebag would ask a preteen to save a kingdom, Alex decides to accept the quest in order to test his newly acquired fighting skills. Though he is just a boy, Alex is not without skills; he can jump reasonably high, he can hold his breath underwater for an unreasonable amount of time, and thanks to his Shellcore training, his fists are so big that even a nasty slut like Debi Diamond wouldn't stick them in her vagina.
Alex Kidd was Sega's first real mascot, and Miracle World was their answer to Super Mario. The first thing you'll notice when you start the game that there are some harassing yellow blocks with stars on them scattered around. These are Miracle World's answer to the Mushroom Kingdom's question mark blocks. But whereas Mario can find coins or power-ups in his beloved question mark blocks, Alex only finds money in his star blocks. This money comes in the form of $10 bags and $20 bags, not unlike the weed that guy sells down by the train tracks. The money you collect can be exchanged for goods or services, but that's not important right now.
Remember when I said that star blocks were Sega's answer to Nintendo's question mark blocks? Well, I kinda lied; there are question mark blocks in Alex Kidd as well. The star blocks, however, are much more ubiquitous, and are thus are far more comparable to the Mario question mark blocks. Besides, Sega's question mark blocks are NOTHING like the question blocks in Super Mario. First of all, they're yellow instead of orange. Secondly, the question mark is pink instead of black. Finally, the block doesn't flash. So there. In Miracle World, a question mark will almost always hold the Power Bracelet, a power-up which Alex can activate to give himself a projectile attack until he completes the current level or dies; he can also leave it in his inventory and save it for another level. This is cool, insofar as it never hurts to have a couple of power-ups handy, but there is precious little need for power-ups in this game. The hardest parts of Miracle World all involve platform jumping and only one power-up, the Cane of Flight, can actually help with that; the rest are little more than fun diversions. On the plus side, there's also a chance Alex might find an extra life in the question block instead. Of course, there's also a chance that he'll find something BAD in it...
Sometimes when you open question mark blocks, you don't find an item. Instead, you find the Grim Reaper. The first thing you'll probably notice about Death is that he's really short. To give you some perspective as to how short the Reaper is consider this: actress Eliza Dushku is 5'5" and Alex Kidd would have to stand on a milk crate to fuck her doggystyle. And since Alex towers over the Reaper, he can't be taller than 2'8". Gregg, the Reaper from Conker's Bad Fur Day, surely must have been modeled after this midgety apparition. This evil ghost will also be summoned if you step on a pink skull block.
Alex's Shellcore training does more than just allow him to break rocks and blocks; it also lets him break heads. Yes, with the swing of his mighty fist, Alex is able to absolutely crush the forces of Janken the Great. For example, take that Monster Bird in the picture above. It's harmlessly flying back and forth, its mind focused on other things. Suddenly, its BlackBerry begins to vibrate. It has a new match on eHarmony! Excitedly, it begins to login to the site, but then... BAM! Alex Kidd punches it in the face. It is vaporized instantly. Somewhere, a thirty-something female Monster Bird wonders why she never got a reply, loses all hope of ever getting married, and slits her wrist.
Alex Kidd is not Mario, a point which Sega continually tries to drive home throughout this game. Oh sure, he's a guy in a red outfit who jumps around collecting money and killing bad guys, but that's where the similarities end. Sega worked very hard to make a Miracle World special and different from Mario, and there are plenty of things in the game that let you know just how special and different it is. Case in point: the game starts off as a vertical scroller, which is something you certainly don't see in that stinky old Super Mario game. And if that wasn't special and different enough, the game scrolls from top to bottom, which is something you almost never see outside of Metroid. Once you reach the bottom of the screen, the game shifts to some of that much more intuitive horizontal scrolling. But, wait, you're underwater! Super Mario had, what, four underwater sections? Meanwhile Alex Kidd delivers some hardcore swimming action in the first level. THAT'S COMPLETE FUCKING CRAZINESS! But seriously, it is pretty awesome.
One major downside to Miracle World is that the enemies all kinda suck. That Monster Bird you saw earlier is probably the coolest basic enemy in the game. And considering that Monster Bird looks like an angry flying turd, you can probably imagine how awful the rest of the game's enemies must be. And they are. As he makes his way through the levels, Alex will face off against such unmemorable enemies as a little fish, a slightly bigger fish, a mopey fishman, a doughy lipstick-wearing frog, a rock with hands, a bat, a scorpion, and a seahorse. Yes, Janken the Great has actually put together an army so lame that it makes the baddies from Adventure Island look like the Nazi Vampires from BloodRayne by comparison. The problem isn't so much that the enemies in Miracle World are complete pussies - though they absolutely are - it's that they're completely uninteresting. Video game enemies can be meek and weak, but they should never be dull. Unfortunately, Miracle World's are. Luckily, the game has other features with are far less sucky.
At the beginning of the second level, there's a shop. Since I spent a large portion of the last level picking up money, I guess I owe it to myself to check out what's inside. Let's see, a motorbike, that gay bracelet, a mysterious hat box... Wait, what was that first one again? Oh yeah, IT'S A FUCKING MOTORBIKE.
In case you haven't noticed, Alex Kidd wears a red tracksuit. There are only two occasions where wearing a tracksuit doesn't make you a total fucking loser, and neither of them involve being in Slipknot. One of them is competitive street dancing, the other one is motocross. Sadly, there is no breakdancing in Miracle World, but Alex kicks ass at motocross. When he is on his motorbike, he can plow through enemies and bricks, thus rendering him temporarily invincible. But if Alex touches one of the circular red blocks littered throughout the level, his bike will suddenly explode and he will once again be quite vincible. No matter how good you are at platformers, you will eventually lose your motorbike because the programmers have placed a metaphorical brick wall of sorts in the level to prevent you from keeping the bike forever. Well I guess it's not so much a metaphorical brick wall as it is an ACTUAL brick wall, but it sure puts a stop to your fun. Behind this wall, you'll find the first boss battle...
Here we have Stone Head, the one of King Janken's top three henchmen. He has a fist for a head, a giant yellow belt buckle, and a muscular chest that is barely concealed by his stupid blue vest. If he wanted to, he could probably beat the shit out of you. Luckily, he doesn't want to beat the shit out of you; he wants to play Rock-Paper-Scissors, best out of three. No, seriously.
I suppose I should explain that "janken" is the abridged version of the Japanese name for Rock-Paper-Scissors. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Janken the Great is obsessed with the game and that his three henchmen are patterned after the three janken options. And in order to defeat Janken and his henchmen, you will have to beat each of them in the aforementioned game. It's a weird concept, but it's pretty cool. It's also a lot less weird than the game's original concept.
If you lose to Stone Head, he turns you into a stone statue. See, cuz he's got that whole rock motif going on. Get it? GET IT!? Oh Sega, you're so fucking clever.
If you best Stone Head, he calmly concedes defeat and disappears in the same cloud of smoke that consumes enemies you've punched to death. If you think it's stupid that you fight bosses in a game of chance, fret not; Sega has you covered. Each boss battle can be won in the first two rounds by throwing down predetermined combinations. If you fail to win either of these rounds, the battle will become completely random. For the easy win over Stone Head, throw rock then scissors.
After you beat Stone Head, you'll go for a swim in Lake Fathom. This level is pretty straightforward and rather unextraordinary, except that it's home to a special enemy that you won't find anywhere else in Miracle World: a giant red scrotum-faced octopus. There are two of them in this level, and the first one is the doorway to the game's only secret area. Aside from that, this level is short, sweet, and simple.
After traversing the lake, you end up in a bizarre level where grass and lava peacefully coexist. Also, vines are somehow able to live in the lava. Additionally, the level features more of the circular red blocks that fucked up his motorcyle as well some comparable cyan blocks. The difference between the two is that Alex can break the cyan blocks by punching them. In fact, that's what you'll spend most of your time doing in the level; punching your way through blocks. At the end of this level, you'll encounter an old man who will advance the plot.
The old man has much to tell you. It seems that Radaxian, the kingdom you have come to save, is actually your homeland. Not only that, but you are a prince. Also, you were kidnapped. Also, you apparently don't remember being kidnapped and despite being kidnapped, you somehow found time to learn martial arts. In addition to oh-so-shocking information, the old man gives you a gift as well: some weird blue thing that looks suspiciously like a propeller beanie.
Okay, so apparently that blue thing wasn't drawn to scale in the last level. It's the Peticopter, a pedal-powered missile-shooting flying machine and it's one of the coolest things in Miracle World. This level is pretty much a complete fucking cakewalk. You fly around shooting things and racking up ridiculous amounts of money. Unless, of course, you suck.
If you suck at video games and you manage to run into an enemy in this level, or if the propeller blade on top of your Peticopter touches one of those red balls, your shiny new toy will explode and you'll forced to play through a rather uninteresting underwater level. So uh, don't suck.
At the beginning of the next level, there's another shop and inside it, you can buy another Peticopter. You can also buy an extra life for $500, but I strongly recommend against doing this because the game has an undocumented continue feature. To continue, hold up on the controller during "Game Over" screen and quickly mash Button 2 eight times before the game resets. You will start at the beginning of the level you died in with $400 less than you had before. So basically, you can shell out $500 for one extra life or you can play until you die and pay $400 for three extra lives. The second option is clearly the better one.
The Peticopter is almost a hindrance in this level. There's so many blocks to dodge that you can run through the level more quickly on foot. Of course, that's nowhere near as fun. At the end of the level, there's a brick wall similar to the one that Alex encountered right before he fought Janken's henchman Stone Head. It's been quite a while since that boss battle, so it's pretty safe to assume that either Paper Head or Scissors Head is waiting behind it.
Dammit, it's not the second henchman, it's a bull... and Alex is wearing red. FUCK. Luckily, this miniboss isn't very threatening. He'll charge at you a few times, you'll punch him a few times, and then he'll explode. Then another old man will
try to have sex with you advance the plot. It seems you have an older brother who's been held prisoner in a castle that you were already headed towards. This sucks, because it means you're not the heir to throne. It also means you'll never ever be cool, because younger brothers are completely useless. You know, like Luigi... or Dr. Jeebus.
The next stop on Alex's trek is a mountain cave named Mt. Kave. Clever, yes? It's filled with lava, scorpions, bats, and Geodudes. Okay, so maybe they're just generic anthropomorphic rocks. But when Nintendo finally gets around to buying Sega or Sega Sammy Holdings or whatever the fuck they're calling themselves these days, their first order of business will be to retcon the rockmen in Miracle World to be Geodudes. Also, the bats will be retconned into Zubats. Also, Alex Kidd will be retconned into Ash Ketchum. Hey, they have the same initials.
Deep within the craggly bowels of Mt. Kave, you will find the single most useful item in the entire game: the telepathy ball. The telepathy ball will let you read the thoughts of Janken and his henchmen, giving you a definite advantage in your Rock-Paper-Scissors matches. To obtain it, you must drop down into an alcove with no visible exit. If you keep moving forward, however, the way will open.
At the end of this level, you'll finally encounter Janken's second henchman, who goes by the rather dubious name of Scissors Head. If I had to name him, I'd call him Generic Retarded Alien Head. With the telepathy ball in hand, you might think he'll be a piece of cake to beat, but that's not necessarily true. Janken and his cronies will often change their mind at the last second, thus fucking you over.
If you lose to Stone Head, he turns you to stone. Makes sense, right? So if you lose to Scissors Head, he should turn you into... Anyone? That's right, scissors. Unfortunately, that sort of logic is apparently lost on Sega because this guy turns you into stone too. Way to go, Sega. Real fucking creative. For a guaranteed win against Scissors Head, throw scissors in the first round, followed by paper.
After the thrilling cave battle, Alex finds himself in the Blakwoods, which is home to the game's third shop and its second Sukopako motorcyle. Riding a motorcycle through a densely wooded area is generally considered dangerous, especially when the motorcycle in question doesn't come equipped with brakes, but since this is a goddam video game, let's go for it!
Once Alex traverses a magical forest filled with monkeys and wooden spikes, he will arrive at another miniboss. I'm not entirely sure what the fuck this guy is supposed to be, but he looks kind of like an angry blue bearman with a green mullet, a sword, and the ugliest armor ever made. When you get near him, he'll raise his sword over his head and get ready to strike. However, he won't actually attempt to strike unless you retreat. So if you stay close and keep punching him, you'll win quickly and easily. This is just a minor victory though; Alex still has a long journey ahead of him. To read about the rest of Alex's amazing adventures in Miracle World, please click the hyperlink below.
Continue onward to the second half of ALEX KIDD IN MIRACLE WORLD!