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

Get a haircut, ya hippie!

In the beginning, Man created the gaming industry. And the gaming industry begat the Atari 2600, the Vectrex, the Odyssey, and many other delicious consoles. But Man was displeased by the vast array of choices surrounding him. Too many selections caused a massive market flood, and not even two of every game survived this unnatural disaster. The Great Video Game Market Crash of 1984, as it came to be known, wiped out all the console species, leaving the electronics shelves empty and void of life. But all was not lost, as Nintendo begat the Nintendo Entertainment System and led the Americas to a new golden age. And the NES begat Super Mario Bros. and the Legend of Zelda. And Man was pleased. Meanwhile, Sega was busy honing a similar craft, and they begat the Sega Master System, which was like a little sister to the miraculous NES. And some Men accepted this new console as their idol, though most were infatuated with Mario, the son of Nintendo. Sega was ashamed of itself and vowed to overwhelm their brethren with a fine son of its own. So the SMS began the wonderous Alex Kidd. And a few sporadic citizens rejoiced. But there was one person who did not care for this "Alex Kidd". And that person is me.

All Biblical purées aside, this is a really poor attempt at a platformer. For those of us who are blessedly uninformed, let me give you the basic rundown about Alex Kidd. He is apparently the prince of the planet Aries. He bears an enormous pair of ears, and an even more enormous pair of sideburns. It's almost like he's modeled after a Texan. (In the arcade version, he had a girlfriend named Stella for the second player to fiddle around with, but she doesn't appear here. Lucky Stella.) And for some stupid reason, boss battles in several of his games don't involve any sort of physical defeat whatsoever. Instead, he challenges them... with a game of "rock, paper, scissors". Yeah, how stupid is that. No wonder Sega pretty much discontinued any further instances of Alex Kidd, actively replacing him with Sonic the Hedgehog. It's the smartest decision Sega ever made. Anyway, in this particular excursion, Alex Kidd has to locate the twelve Zodiac signs that have gone missing for some mysterious reason. He will need to go through many different worlds in order to snag them back. The plot sounds pointless, and it is.

But the plot isn't as weird as all the different worlds that Alex Kidd will need to slither his way through. "Toy World"? That's rather lame. "Monster World"? Aren't they all filled with monsters of some sort? "World Of Make Believe"? So...he just imagined it? And let's not forget the "Giant's Body". If Alex isn't careful, he'll be liable to give this game an M for Mature rating from the ESRB. And after visiting each world once, our hero moves forward to "The Shrine of Ziggurat", where he must fight the evil Jiggarat. I guess that's the guy who stole the Zodiac signs in his, uh, master plan to control people who are obsessed with reading about their horoscopes in the morning newspaper. I'll bet Jiggarat can control the world better than I can control this game though. I spent more time trying to dodge enemies and instead jumping INTO them. That's just great. I've since become an expert at getting hurt. To make matters worse, there is no way to defeat enemies at the beginning of each level. Only when you snag a powerup that lets you fire off strange acupuncture-style needles can you even dream of defeating anything. And you'd better watch out, because the first enemy is guaranteed to take life off your meter. A dog spouting out the letters B-O-W-W-O-W that bounce towards you? LSD is a terrible drug, isn't it? Then when you get to the end of a level, there's no real boss per se; instead, there's just a stupid obstacle to get across. Way to go, Sega. You made the thrill of boss challenges disappear. You're the frickin' Houdini of video game developers.

I'd better put this out there right now that the overly cute and candy-esque graphics don't sit well with me. Bright, cutesy graphics are not exactly what I'm looking for in my everyday platformer. I'm not saying they're really horrible or unbearable, but the pseudo-Chibi style doesn't work for me in this instance. And frankly, I shouldn't have to wear sunglasses just to play a subpar video game. Soundwise, I'm scrunching my nose on this one. The music is barely notable; I could even go as far as saying that I don't even remember if there WAS music. The digitized speech samples that pop up at the beginning of each stage were a conditionally successful and worthwhile undertaking, the condition being that it is not ear-piercing. Well, that failed. Alex also creates a frightening digitized screaming noise when he gets injured (and this happens often). This noise alone will scare off any younger players who may have inadvertently subjected themselves to this game. (Of course, the rest should be fended off by everything else.)

The bottom line here is this: even though I will openly decree that the majority of the entries in the Alex Kidd series were a waste of programming space, "Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars" is among the absolute worst of the bunch. I don't understand why there is a cult following for this series, aside from the fact that it brings nostalgia to some. But games like "Back To The Future II & III" and "Home Alone 2" have nostalgic value to me, but those games REALLY suck. It's time we actually carefully review games we think are good only because they were so precious in our childhood, and see them for what they really are: children's allowance vacuums. That's precisely what this game is. Go buy something else. And don't get sideburns like this guy either. You won't attract a mate that way.

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