Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • JP 02/10/1989
    • US 08/20/1989
    • UK 11/30/1990
Score: 70%

This review was published on 09/30/2017.

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis, known outside of North America as the Mega Drive. It was originally released in Japan on February 10, 1989, North America on August 20, 1989, and Europe on November 30, 1990. As can be seen by the title, this game is part of the Alex Kidd series, which began in 1986 on the Genesis' 8-bit predecessor, the Sega Master System. In the event that you're unaware, Alex Kidd was Sega's main mascot before Sonic the Hedgehog entered the fray in the early 1990s. Enchanted Castle is the fifth entry in the Alex Kidd series, and the first and only one to be released for a 16-bit platform. Despite starting out as a platformer, many of the Alex Kidd games delved into other genres. After countless departures, Enchanted Castle returns to the series' roots by featuring similar mechanics to the first game in the series, Alex Kidd in Miracle World. It's a triumphant return, because Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is one of the best games in the series.

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His name is Alex Kidd, but he's no ordinary kid. For one, he has some of the biggest ears and sideburns in the universe. Also, Alex is the prince of a planet called Aries, and his brother, Igul, is the king. After saving his world a couple of times, Alex's life became uneventful. Then, he heard a rumor! According to this succulent morsel of information, Alex's long lost father, King Thor, is alive and located on the planet of Paperock. Why is it called Paperock? Well, because everyone there is an expert at the game of rock-paper-scissors. Any visitors who aren't adept at rock-paper-scissors will have a real hard time getting around. Alex's family didn't want him to go, but he must find out if the rumor is true. Once he arrived on Paperock, Alex quickly discovered that his father is being held captive by someone known as Ashra. Alex Kidd doesn't condone kidnapping, so he goes on an adventure to save his dad.

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You control Alex Kidd in his greatest adventure yet. As usual, he can walk, jump, and punch. His duck from the first game has been exchanged for a cute crawl. If down is held on the d-pad, Alex will lie flat on the ground instead of ducking, and pressing left or right while holding down allows him to crawl. He can even punch while crawling! Speaking of, punching is still Alex's main means of offense. Like the first game, Alex is able to destroy many kinds of breakable objects by punching them. However, this game introduces a new feature wherein some objects punched by Alex get knocked away like projectiles, killing foes they collide into. Similar to Mario, Alex is also now capable of breaking certain breakable objects with his head by jumping underneath them. Unfortunately, Alex still dies in one hit, so you'll have to be extraordinarily cautious when proceeding through the game.

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The first game had slippery controls, and while that's still the case here, they've been improved a tad. Plus, the stages have toned down the precision platforming. Sadly, not all the changes are for the better. Unlike the first game, Alex is no longer able to punch while in the air. Instead, he does fancy aerial kicks. While this might sound like a good thing, actually executing these aerial kicks is a bit of a bother. It's rather confusing, but to do an aerial kick, you must let go of the jump button after jumping. On top of being awkward to pull off, you'll likely end up using this move countless times on accident, potentially destroying blocks when you didn't mean to. Even if you manage to get the hang of doing them, kicks just don't feel natural. It makes no sense that the developers decided to make this alteration, because there was nothing wrong with the aerial punches in Miracle World. This is my greatest grievance with the game.

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Eliminating enemies and busting red treasure chests open will reward you with Baums, the fictional currency used in Alex's world. Just like in Miracle World, you can use Baums at shops to buy stuff. However, there are a couple of major differences. Firstly, each shop only sells a single item. Secondly, and more importantly, you must win a game of rock-paper-scissors against the shopkeeper in order to purchase the item. This probably won't seem too bothersome at first, but it quickly becomes annoying once you realize the sheer quantity of shops the game puts in your path. And you'll want to enter almost all of them, because the stuff they sell is simply too good to pass up. While some items and power-ups are found within rare white treasure chests, most of them are purchased at shops. Rock-paper-scissors played a big role in the first game, as well, but you only had to do it at certain points in the game, and not at every single shop you encountered.

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Many of the power-ups and items from the first game are back, such as the bracelet that allows Alex to shoot energy projectiles, and the cane that grants him a brief period of levitation. A few of the new items replicate the function of old ones from the first game, like the cape replaces the powder in giving Alex temporary invulnerability, and the ball that reveals the thoughts of your opponent in rock-paper-scissors has been replaced with a necklace that does the same thing. Some of the vehicles make a return, too, like the motorcycle that allows Alex to plow through enemies and breakable objects, and the helicopter that lets him fly around and shoot missiles. A new vehicle has been added in the form of the pogo stick, which lets Alex destroy enemies and breakable objects by jumping onto them. You still have an inventory accessible via the pause menu to store your items, but this time, you can also store your vehicles in there. Not only that, but items can be equipped and unequipped at any time, allowing you to put some items back into your inventory when you don't need them. This is especially useful for vehicles, because you can quickly put them away before you break them.

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As with the first title, Alex must collect the delectable rice ball at the end of every stage. The first couple of stages are very similar to the ones from the first game, almost as if they're exact recreations. However, the later stages are all new stuff. While they're all mostly linear, some stages have secret areas that lead to money and power-ups. For example, the first stage is a town with a hidden underground path that's accessible by destroying a secret spot in the ground. Sniffing out secrets and gathering money is the main thing that's fun about the stages, and by extension, the game. Thankfully, just like the first game, there are no time limits.

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There are a couple of differences between the Japanese release and the versions of the game released in other territories. The most notable difference is in the rock-paper-scissors mini-game. In the Japanese version, the loser of rock-paper-scissors gets stripped of their clothes and runs away, naked and ashamed. Naturally, the team that did the localization didn't think full frontal nudity was appropriate for a kid's game, so they changed this sequence for versions released outside of Japan. In the changed sequence, the loser of rock-paper-scissors gets squished by a heavy weight, similar to a Looney Tunes cartoon. While this is slightly amusing, the uncensored Japanese version is still better, because every character had a unique animation.

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While it's far from enchanting, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is still a decent game. It essentially does everything Alex Kidd in Miracle World did, except better. Well, except for that blasted kick. Oh, and having to play rock-paper-scissors every time you want to buy an item is super annoying. Other than those two things, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is a solid early title for the Genesis. Still, it's easy to see why Sega ditched Alex Kidd in favor of Sonic the Hedgehog later on, because none of Alex's games are particularly remarkable.

Word Count: 1,394

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