There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to remakes. Some people believe they should be kept as faithful as possible to the original source material, while others think a remake is an opportunity to fix and enhance things that may not have been feasible back when the original came out. While I personally prefer games that do the latter, the recently released Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX seems to have its own ideas on how to combine these two ideas to create something new that still feels relatively retro.
I want to preface that I was very excited for this title. I love seeing an old mascot series get a new chance at life, and while I’ll always prefer having a new title over a remake, I understand that sometimes you need to make something like this to test the waters before going all out with new ideas. Before you can fine tune a Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, you see what does and doesn’t work by modernizing an N. Sane Trilogy.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a remake that’s so faithful that you can swap back and forth between the new graphics and the old graphics with just the push of a button. Because of this, it’s important to know going in that there’s not much in the way of plot. You’re Prince Alex and you’re going to save your kingdom from a race of humanoid people who all have giant hands for faces because Jan Ken Pon is the name of the game as well as how you defeat most of the bosses in this title. The story dialogue has been touched up quite a bit since 1986, and I have to say it really did surprise me to see characters in this bright cartoony world say “Damn”.
The mechanics are also kept pretty simple. Alex can run, jump, and punch. The reach of this punch is a bit short, but generally satisfying to use, especially when you’re able to combo it with your jump and get an enemy that would have otherwise killed you. Aside from enemies you’ll also be punching blocks, and a few stages mix up the action with vehicles like motorbikes and helicopters that can shoot ranged attacks, but will explode if they take enough damage.
Many of the levels are pretty short, but they keep hazards on nearly every single screen to keep you on your toes. Navigating these levels is often trickier than it looks because of one very peculiar design choice. The entire game seems to be built on a series of evenly shaped boxes, like a piece of graph paper, but Alex seems to be about one and a half boxes tall. So throughout the entire game, players will find themselves unable to get Alex into spaces or under blocks that it really feels like he should have been able to go through. I know this may be an incredibly petty complaint, but with the four hours I spent on this game I never got fully used to it and felt it was worth mentioning.
My biggest issue with Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is its physics. The game feels incredibly slippery, and the vast majority of my (countless) deaths came from underestimating how these physics were supposed to work. For example, when going down a stair shaped decline of blocks, Alex will slide off much farther than you think he should and it’s entirely possible this will place you right on top of an enemy, resulting in instant death.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a game that’s difficult for me to criticize because so many of my issues with the game come down to “This feels like a mediocre platformer from 1986.” It’s very faithful to its source material, for better or worse. If a brand new game had come out that played like this, it’d probably be treated much more harshly for it, but because it’s a remake of an old game, it keeping that retro jank could be seen by some as a feature rather than a detriment. It's a bit hard to criticize something for very specific reasons when those specific reasons were sort of the intended point.
Now this isn’t to say they didn’t improve upon the game at all. There are brand new levels to go through, and they finally realized that having boss fights boil down to a round of rock paper scissors doesn’t really make for exciting gameplay. I mean you still have to do those, but there are rematches against the three commanders that feature real boss fights that are probably the best parts of the entire game. The new graphics also look great. I absolutely love this pixel-based cartoon vibe the game has going for it, and the soundtrack is top notch.
This is the Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX’s biggest double edged sword though because when you see what the game does with new ideas, it does give us something fun and exciting that I found myself absorbed in. It’s why I’d have rather seen a brand new Alex Kidd game or if this title had been more of a reimagining willing to make changes rather than sticking to its guns as a near one to one remake. There are a few quality of life upgrades like the option to turn on infinite lives (which I definitely needed) and a really cute extra touch where you can localize the game your own way by having the end of level treats be the Japanese onigiri, the American hamburger, or even British fish and chips. Little touches like this are greatly appreciated, but only go so far.
Basically whether or not you’ll enjoy Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX comes down to how much you enjoy retro platformers. For diehard fans of the series, this may have been seen as a breath of fresh air, but it’s hard to recommend for new players. Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is faithful to a fault as far as remakes go. When you look at the new graphics, the new boss fights actually being pretty good, and quality of life options like infinite lives and Spanish omelets, this game could have been something fantastic if it had just been a whole new experience in the world of Alex Kidd. But the wonky physics, unfair hitboxes, and rock paper scissors boss fights hold this title back. The new stuff is good, but not worth the asking price, and if all you want is the classic game, there are plenty of other ways to play it. I certainly hope this isn’t Alex Kidd’s last life, but I hope the current team is willing to do something more creative with future endeavors.
I'd also like to quickly address that the physical edition of the game for the Switch comes with a very nice reversible cover that makes it look like an old Master System title and even the instruction booklet is a nice callback to classic manuals. This was a really fun treat for physical collectors, but does little to enhance the game itself.
John reviewed Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX for the Nintendo Switch with a personally purchased copy. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlaysStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X and Microsoft Windows.