Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Master System
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • UK US Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    • UK August 1990
    • US Brazil 1990
Score: 75%

This review was published on 10/06/2017.

Alex Kidd in Shinobi World is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Sega for the Sega Master System. Originally released in 1990, Sega published the game in North America and Europe, whereas Tec Toy published it in Brazil. Even though this game was developed in Japan, it was never released there. Alex Kidd was Sega's primary mascot during the 8-bit era, years before the company released Sonic the Hedgehog on its next console, the Sega Genesis. The first handful of Alex Kidd games were all released for the Master System, but the series briefly entered the world of 16-bit graphics with the release of the fifth title, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, which came out on the Genesis in 1989. Oddly enough, Sega decided to return Alex Kidd to his birthplace on the 8-bit Master System for his sixth and final game, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World. Despite the downgrade in technology, this is arguably one of the best games in the series.

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As implied by its name, this game combines Alex Kidd with another one of Sega's popular franchises at the time, Shinobi. The Shinobi series started in the arcades in 1987 and moved onto consoles not long after that, appearing on various Sega platforms like the Master System and Genesis. Considering Shinobi is more or less the Japanese word for ninja, it should come as no surprise that the Shinobi games revolve around ninjas. Almost all of the Shinobi games are of the side-scrolling variety, but they're fairly different from Alex Kidd, being that they focus more on action than platforming. However, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World has more in common with Alex Kidd than Shinobi. It's basically an Alex Kidd game that borrows a few thematic and game play elements from the Shinobi series. The game also outright parodies the Shinobi series, taking serious characters from those games and portraying them as silly caricatures of themselves. While strange, this combination ended up working surprisingly well.

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Like all of the games bearing his name, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World stars the titular Alex Kidd. Sporting some of the biggest ears and sideburns in the universe, Alex is a prince from planet Aries. After saving his home a couple of times, Alex decided to take his girlfriend on a trip to planet Shinobi. There, the couple were spending a lovely afternoon together, when suddenly, ominous clouds covered the sky. With a flash of lightning, a dark figure appeared out of nowhere, grabbed Alex's girlfriend, and disappeared into thin air. Before Alex could collect his thoughts, a ghostly figure appeared in another flash of lightning. This apparition is the White Ninja, who filled Alex in on what happened. Ten thousand years ago, the righteous White Ninja banished the Dark Ninja due to his wickedness, but now he has returned to do evil. It was the Dark Ninja that took Alex's girlfriend hostage in hopes of conquering Aries. To aid Alex on his quest, the White Ninja gives him all of his ninja powers. With his newfound abilities, Alex is now ready to take on the Dark Ninja and save his girlfriend.

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You control Alex Kidd, but things are a little different this time around. He still has his typical walking, jumping, and ducking abilities, but he's changed in every other regard. First of all, he can now crawl. Secondly, instead of punching everything, Alex is now equipped with a deadly sword, which he's able to swing while standing, crouching, or jumping. It has more range than his fists, though it's still quite short. In addition to chopping up enemies, Alex's sword can also destroy breakable blocks. If he swings the sword while crouching, he'll be able to break breakable bricks that are underneath him. Also, unlike all the other Alex Kidd games, Alex no longer dies in one hit! He now has a life bar that is replenished via picking up hearts. You start out with three hit points on each life and can get up to a maximum of six. If your life bar is full, additional hearts will turn into extra lives. It's a pretty nice system.

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That's not all; now Alex can grab onto and climb lampposts, ropes, ladders, and horizontal bars. The real interesting thing about this is that, if you hold the attack button while Alex is holding onto one of these objects, he'll begin to swing around. After holding the button long enough, Alex will swing around so fast that he'll turn into a fireball, at which point, you launch him by releasing the attack button. While Alex is soaring through the air as a fireball, you can slightly influence his path with the d-pad. As a fireball, Alex will destroy whatever enemies or breakable objects he smashes into, but he reverts back to normal after a short while. If done while climbing a vertical object like a lamppost, Alex will fly left or right, but if done from a horizontal bar, he'll fly upwards. Not only is this fiery move extremely useful, but it's also highly enjoyable to pull off. Additionally, Alex is capable of wall jumping, but that's nowhere near as exciting as the fireball move.

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Treasure chests are scattered throughout the game, and Alex can break them open to reveal power-ups. Beyond hearts and extra lives, there's also a power-up that increases the potency of Alex's sword, and another one that replaces his sword with an unlimited supply of darts. The darts are quite useful, being that that they allow Alex to attack enemies from a considerable distance. These power-ups are lost whenever Alex dies or beats a stage, however. There's also a power-up that temporarily transforms Alex into an invincible tornado, allowing you to fly him around the screen with the d-pad. The game might not have many power-ups, but they're all very helpful.

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Most of the stages and bosses are heavily inspired by the original Shinobi arcade game from 1987. For example, the first stage is set in a city with wild gunmen, and the second takes place in a warehouse laden harbor inhabited by scuba diving ninjas. Some of the stages seem to borrow from Mario instead of Shinobi, however. The obligatory water stage is a good example of this, because it looks like it was lifted directly from the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Almost every stage also has shiny breakable bricks that are reminiscent of the ones from Super Mario Bros. 3, which was already out in Japan by this point. There's an explanation for all of this in the following paragraph.

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Believe it or not, this initially wasn't going to be an Alex Kidd game. This game was known as Shinobi Kid during development, essentially serving as a cutesy parody of the Shinobi series, similar to what Kid Dracula is to Castlevania. Alex Kidd was nowhere to be found in this unfinished version of the game, which instead starred a generic kid in ninja garb. Not only that, but there were originally going to be some outright Mario references. For instance, the first boss was named Mari-Oh, and had a strong resemblance to Sega's rival mascot, Mario. The final game changes the name and visual design of the boss to remove his likeness to Mario, but his attack pattern of shooting fireballs and turning small when badly injured remains intact.

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It may be a silly parody, but Alex Kidd in Shinobi World is surprisingly good. In fact, it's quite possibly the best game in the Alex Kidd series. That's not exactly saying much, but still. This is by far the most polished game in the series, plus the stage design is the really solid. Perhaps the greatest thing about the game is that wicked cool fireball move. It's just so satisfying to do. Alex Kidd in Shinobi World is most certainly one of the better games on the Master System.

Word Count: 1,332

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