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RELEASE DATE (NA): 1989 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

One reason NOT to own a Sega Genesis.

Imagine the year 1989. The Sega Genesis had been released to the world, and a flood of improved graphics, arcade-style sound effects, and greater depth of gameplay was now available in your very own living room! At Christmas time when bloodlust for electronic goods reached its peak, hordes of button-hungry gamers rushed to the local department store and grabbed whatever games they could, not even looking at the covers. They assumed what they were clutching would automatically be godly in nature. Then, many unsuspecting individuals, particularly disillusioned children, discovered the horrible truth: Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle was in their possession. And that's when the chaos began...

"Okay, so I made it up! Then I made it happen!" ~Mario Paint commercial

Seriously, though, this game is terrible. It's the reason Mankind invented the fetal position.

Alex Kidd was Sega's star pupil in the late 1980s before a certain blue hedgehog took over the scene. The Alex Kidd series was never great, but it helped keep the Sega Master System afloat while Nintendo was basically printing its own money with Super Mario at the helm. But with Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle, it almost feels like Sega was purposely trying to kill the franchise because this is just... awful.

The text-based introduction with its gigantic font tells us everything we need to know about the game's story. Alex "Kidd" (apparently his last name doubles as a nickname) lives a meaningless existence on the planet Aries, where his brother, Igul (possibly Igul "Kidd") rules the entire planet. It's probably a very small planet by the sounds of it. But hope springs eternal as Alex learns that his father, King Thor, may not actually be dead as he had previously thought! He just kinda skipped town... and the planet... to go to a different planet called Paperock, where everyone plays Rock Paper Scissors. Oh, wait, scratch that, it's called "Paper, rock, scissors" there. And apparently, if you aren't very good at that game, you'll likely be murdered by the local townsfolk. Despite some hurt feelings from his family, Alex set off for the planet Paperock. The game doesn't mention exactly how he gets there. I 'unno... bus?

Although the storyline is lackluster, it's the gameplay itself that ruins Alex Kidd's Genesis debut. (Okay, his ridiculous sideburns don't help his case, either.) What this game should be is a simple platformer. Alex Kidd should be able to walk left and right, jump, and attack. Well, he can certainly shuffle around. That's not a problem. And for certain, he can jump. But when it comes to attacking, he's a terrible oaf. His punches don't even register half the time, resulting in too many cheap deaths (where Alex turns into a lifeless angel and floats to the sky). Alex can also kick while leaping in the air, but it's hard to know when he's actually going to commit to the move, leaving you with leaps of faith. In short, Alex Kidd couldn't defend himself from a spicy omelet.

And the controls don't get much better. Alex can use additional items, such as a pogo stick or a pedal-powered flying machine. Don't even get me started. When he's riding the pogo stick, you might as well not even TRY to control Alex because he clearly has a mind of his own. As for that flying machine (oh... it's called a Pedicopter... yes...), it's a whole other beast. To use it, you have to keep tapping the A- or C-button in frantic succession to keep your goofball hero afloat. There is one level that entirely involves flying. Aside from the fact that Alex looks ridiculous in his pitiful machine against what appears to be a World War II-era Zeppelin fleet, you have to smash the button like crazy to keep him going or else he will quickly lose momentum and tumble to the ground (or smack into an enemy, whichever comes first). Why couldn't they just let me hold down the button? THAT would have been generous.

Alex Kidd kicks it old-school. Can we not just kick Alex Kidd?

With such a severe lack of offensive ability (other than actually just looking offensive with sideburns the size of flapjacks), you would assume that boss battles would be nigh impossible, right? Well, you'd be... wrong! And there's a good reason for this. Brawls with bosses are indeed fought with your fist, but not in a violent way. Instead, antagonists challenge you to a bloodthirsty game of Janken, also known as "Rock, pap--"... er, sorry, "Paper, rock, scissors." If you win, you can advance to the next area. Lose, and you literally lose your life. It's random, it's unfair, and you're far more likely to find Bigfoot suntanning in your backyard hammock than fun in these battles.

But whoa, pardner — if you thought your days of always choosing Rock were over, think again. As I mentioned before, Alex Kidd can collect items, such as a pogo stick and that forsaken flying bubble. Although you do collect money and lots of it, that special currency (known as Baums... yes...) is only used to give you the chance to win an item. When you enter a building, you'll pay your money if you so choose and then challenge the Paperocker inside to a game of Janken, it's up to pure luck as to whether you win or lose. I'd rather just buy things. The Paperock economy must be lousy.

To make the game even more unappealing, it looks more or less like its technically inferior Sega Master System prequels, just with larger sprites. There certainly isn't much detail to speak of, unless you count extremely cartoony environments as detailed. Where exactly did all of that "blast processing" go? Presentation is generally archaic as well; the title cards for each section, as an example, are as bland as possible. The music is also uninteresting and jingly. Then again, for a game that seems to have been prepared in an afternoon, were they even going for any kind of appeal? I knew this wasn't supposed to be a stunning game when I saw a coin glitchily shoot up the side of a wall. It provided a hearty laughable moment, though!

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is simply a despicable game. I... I don't even want to look at it anymore! It's so wretched! Awful controls, substandard programming, and mediocre graphics and sound all add up to one thing, and it belongs in its rightful place in a brown paper bag set on fire on a stranger's doorstep. And to make matters worse, most of the game wasn't even set IN an enchanted castle! It was torture to play to the very end, and I will never do it again, this I swear. If it's any consolation, the series only had one further game before it was brought to an immediate halt, only to replaced with the far superior Sonic the Hedgehog. Alex Kidd is now relegated to cameos in Sega All-Stars games and living in Sega's dingy basement for all eternity. So long, Alex Kidd — stay gone.

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