(SMS / Master System)

Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (SMS / Master System)

Game Review

Alex Kidd in Shinobi World Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Kelvin Green

Does Sega's original mascot go out with a bang or a whimper?

Poor Alex Kidd. The pint-sized, big-eared wonder never really caught on as a mascot, although it was not through lack of trying on Sega's part. Alex appeared in a number of games featuring vastly different forms of gameplay and, with this last throw of the dice, Sega tried to pair the ailing character with one of their more successful franchises, in the (perhaps desperate) hope that something about the combination would catch the gaming public's attention. It is something of a shame that this last attempt also failed, because they very nearly got it right with Alex Kidd in Shinobi World.

As one might expect from the title, the game is a scaled-down version of Shinobi, with many of the original game's elements making an appearance, albeit with a bigger, bolder, more light-hearted tone; think perhaps of the relationship between Mario Strikers Charged Football and Pro Evolution Soccer, or Kid Dracula and Castlevania. As it's essentially a basic platformer, the gameplay is simplistic, but also responsive and well-balanced, with the same indescribable sense of things being "just right" that permeates titles like the original Super Mario series. If there is a complaint, it's that the game is too comfortable to play, and offers little in the way of innovation or the unexpected.

As such, it is not a difficult game, as the enemies have basic and unchanging attack patterns, alternate paths through the levels are rare and even the secrets are exactly where any veteran gamer would expect them to be. The whole thing can be played through in one sitting without too much trouble; only the last boss offers much of a challenge, and even he will not take more than a handful of attempts before he's sent packing. All of this is not to say that the game is not enjoyable, but it will be far from taxing for all but the most novice players. It is the equivalent of an old movie on a rainy Sunday afternoon: something to while away an hour or two without having to think too hard about it.

There is a sense throughout that the designers did only what was necessary, the minimum required to produce a playable game, and this also extends to the graphics. They're certainly clear and functional in terms of conveying the setting, and are as bright and colourful as one would expect from the Master System hardware, but even so never truly impress. That said, there are some pleasingly idiosyncratic visual choices made herw and there, particularly in the enemy designs; the first boss bears a striking resemblance to a certain famous plumber, and the Moai-like helicopter and lemon-spitting giant lobster are unique opponents to say the least.

On the other hand, it is clear that some corners were cut in places, such as the black squares behind the more complex sprites and a distinct lack of detail and imagination in the backgrounds of the boss stages. The sound is by far the weakest aspect of the game, with some good tunes mangled in their execution and some notable glitches in terms of the music slowing down or sound dropping out altogether when there is a lot happening on screen. These issues are sadly retained, with disappointing fidelity, in the Virtual Console release.


All in all, this is not a great game, but it would be a mistake to discount it completely. The most disappointing thing about Alex Kidd in Shinobi World is that there's little in the way of ambition; everything it sets out to do, it does well, more or less, and the general impression is that if the designers had just pushed themselves a little harder, and reached a little higher, this could have been one of the more memorable titles of the 8-bit generation. As it is, the game is not an embarrassing farewell for Alex Kidd, but neither is it the blaze of glory Sega's long lost mascot deserved.

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User Comments (21)



bro2dragons said:

i may pick up one of these games.... i'll have to do some research for the best one though... sounds like this isn't it.



Porky said:

This game is really short. I probably can beat it in one hour and experts can beat it in ten minutes.



blackknight77 said:

I was not a big fan of Miracle World and High Tech World, but this one does have ninjas and that has to count for something.



CH405K1N6 said:

This review hit the nail square on the head. The game could've been so much better...

Maybe he'll make a triumphant return one day... /blind optimism



JayArr said:

Oh, that Alex Kidd and his crazy shenanigans......when will he ever learn?



Dazza said:

As great as it is that Sega did a Shinobi parody, this just isn't all that much fun. Nice review Kelvin, spot on!



Sabrewing said:

Alex Kidd doesn't deserve anything resembling a "blaze of glory", just as Bubsy, Crash Bandicoot, and a litany of other mascot characters don't. His mediocre titles (this one, Hi-Tech World) and flat-out bad titles (Lost Stars, Enchanted Castle) far outweigh any good titles (Miracle World) he ever had. Sega was right to leave him in the dust.



KeeperBvK said:

How about adding a video to the game page? You used to do so whenever a new game popped up on the VC radar, but by now there often even isn't a video once the review's up.



Ristar42 said:

I like old movies on Sunday afternoons ('Out of the Past' for example..) and I also really like this game. Just completed the final boss and I didn't need 250 lives, as I did to complete the arcade Shinobi...
I'd agree with the score and review is spot on, but as a big SEGA fan way back when - Alex's adventures bring back cool gaming memories.
Also Kelvin - dig your Clyde Radcliffe avatar



Corbs said:

While I enjoy this game, it's very basic in design and sometimes more about persistence than any kind of gaming skills. I'd score it a 6 as well. Great review.



bro2dragons said:

hey, where's StarBoy? i expected him to be all over this review. he loves alex kidd and shinobi... i've not seen him in a couple days. it's kinda weird...



y2josh said:

The sprites and attacks in these games are not very good in my opinion. Miracle World is the one I've played and I like it none whatsoever. This game has a good concept (Shinobi World), but I hate the sprites and attacks.



Twilight_Crow said:

I may give this a try someday, a simple but fun platformer, sounds relaxing, as the review says, a perfect time waster for a sunday afternoon.



JimLad said:

I haven't played any of the other titles, but Miracle World was one of the best games of its time.
Way too underrated.
In fact if they hadn't discarded most of what made it awesome in the sequels, Alex may have garnered more respect.
One thing you can say is that he wasn't afraid to try new things.
Not like that damn Hedgehog, "oh what now? hold right again? ok... wow look how cool I look!...oh that's the end of the level."



JDesensitized said:

I like this one. This and Miracle World are the only games in this series that are good, but I still think the series could have been better than it was. There were a lot of great ideas that were never really implemented well.



cheetahman91 said:

Just get Miracle World people and forget the rest even existed. Like the reviewer said, poor Alex Kidd.



Kelvin said:

@Ristar42 thanks! I'm still hoping to see the Creatures games on Virtual Console one of these days.



Vinsanity said:

For 5 bucks, I'm definitely picking this up. This is the only other Alex Kidd that people talk politely about, besides Miracle World. I don't get SEGA sometimes. Nearly any company with a successful franchise knows you must balance core ideas well while introducing new gameplay mechanics with sequels - a balance of old and new. But SEGA seems intent on reinventing their franchises completely from game to game - look at the recent Sonic games, and tell me 5 things that are consistent between them all. It can't be done. Looking at Alex Kidd, it's clear that they were doing this all along. They're one crazy company:)

Though I gotta say, this idea - having Alex Kidd jump into various other SEGA game universes - would've been a great one if they stuck with it. Very self-celebratory; kinda like a Smash Bros. vibe. If they had a "normal" platformer franchise nowadays (poor Billy Hatcher didn't stick either), having one that went through various sega worlds like a Kingdom Hearts-style platformer would be awesome. Tis a shame; I doubt anyone would attempt to make a new Alex Kidd. Ever.

Konami, LucasArts, or Nintendo - I don't know whose reponsible, but seriously. WHERE'S METAL WARRIORS! There's a clear lack of mecha games on the service right now, and I already played through Cybernator back in the day. I want Metal Warriors - its far superior anyway. Also that one game from Irem for the NES, where you could flip the gravity (Metal Storm, I think?)

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