Remember Alex Kidd? If you're a younger gamer than you'd be forgiven for answering in the negative. Sega's former mascot had his brief moment of fame during the 8-bit era but was unceremoniously swept aside when Sonic arrived in the early '90s, and has been relegated to a bit-player in the company's history, occasionally turning up for cameo roles.
It has long been assumed that Alex Kidd was created to combat the rising popularity of Nintendo's Mario, and the character was certainly positioned as a rival at the time; during the war between the Master System and NES (which, let's be honest, was mainly fought in Europe and Brazil), Alex was Sega's most famous face; Alex Kidd in Miracle World was pre-loaded onto the console and was arguably the closest Sega fans got to a genuine Super Mario Bros. rival at the time.
However, there have been rumblings in the past that Alex Kidd wasn't actually designed to fight Mario, but instead came out of a failed licensing attempt. Two years ago, French YouTuber anthogeek posted a video which made comparisons between Alex Kidd and Dragon Ball, the famous Japanese manga and anime series created by Akira Toriyama in 1984. Some of these relate to slight visual links between key characters and enemies, while others - such as the use of the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" in both - are more obvious.
However, we now have solid evidence from a former Sega staffer that the game was indeed intended to be a Dragon Ball video game before being hastily re-fitted with Alex in the lead role.
The revelation comes from none other than Kotaro Hayashida, creator of the character. Incredibly media-shy, Hayashida speaks to John Szczepaniak in the latest volume of the superb Untold History of Japanese Game Developers, explaining exactly how the project started:
Sega were planning on making a Dragon Ball game... I guess this happened long enough ago that it's okay for me to talk about this! The project began as a Dragon Ball title, not as a direct competitor to Super Mario Bros.
But when we were told we could not use the Dragon Ball licence any more, we were forced to come up with our own ideas instead. For example, when it was Dragon Ball, Goku fought with his Power Pole, but we changed that to a punch attack. It was only after we came up with the plan to restart the project as Alex Kidd in Miracle World that we starting thinking about Mario, and looking for ways in which to differentiate the title from it.
Dragon Ball has since become a popular media property in its own right, and recently spawned the excellent Dragon Ball FighterZ on PS4, Xbox One and PC. It's amazing to think that the series shares a connection with Sega's forgotten mascot; one wonders what things would have been like had Sega secured the licence and not created Alex Kidd.
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