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SEGA Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co.  (Xbox 360) artwork

SEGA Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co. (Xbox 360) review

"During May of 2012, Sega published a whopping four retro collections on XBLA, three geared towards compiling the franchises of Monster World, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage. This left the remaining compilation, Alex Kidd & Co., a bit of an oddball in comparison. Disregarding the franchise theme of the others, this release opted to showcase one game from three separate series: Alex Kidd in Miracle World, The Revenge of Shinobi, and the arcade version of Super Hang-On."

During May of 2012, Sega published a whopping four retro collections on XBLA, three geared towards compiling the franchises of Monster World, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage. This left the remaining compilation, Alex Kidd & Co., a bit of an oddball in comparison. Disregarding the franchise theme of the others, this release opted to showcase one game from three separate series: Alex Kidd in Miracle World, The Revenge of Shinobi, and the arcade version of Super Hang-On. A strange gathering, indeed, and because of that, many consider it the weakest of the bunch. Sure, the Golden Axe and Streets of Rage games have already appeared on the Ultimate Genesis Collection back in 2009, but their new releases have the added excuse of online co-op. Since the games in Alex Kidd & Co. have had limited exposure over the last couple years compared to the others, they have the uphill battle of proving to a new generation and massaging the minds of oldschoolers why they rocked in their prime.

Ironically, the game that got top name billing is the most likely to turn off players. I grew up with Alex Kidd in Miracle World, so it has a special place in my heart, but even I'll admit it's a very awkward game to get into for newcomers. Kind of an answer to Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers, Miracle World is a platformer starring a prince that explode blocks and wreck foes with his deadly fist. Now, the thing about this title is it tries a lot of different elements, and ends up making the ride a very hit and miss experience for many. The experimental vibe starts immediately, as instead of walking to your right, you have to make your way down a mountain, then swim towards the exit once you reach the bottom. The following level then encourages you to purchase a motorcycle and plow through half a dozen hills guarded by frogs and scorpions.

The one aspect a lot of players will find unattractive is the rock-paper-scissors boss fights. When you encounter your first, it's based entirely on luck since you don't know what your opponent will pull out. If you fail, you lose a life, and if all lives are lost, you get sent back to the title screen. Ouch. Welcome to 1986 style difficulty. You'll find an item later which grants foresight, turning the matches into quick draw battles, but that's later. Thankfully, this port allows saving at any point, which I highly recommend; not only do you have to deal with the ill-designed boss fights, but several stages revolve around using specific items available at scattered shops, and progressing without said items will easily get you killed numerous times. While I personally think it's a nice platformer, I completely understand the loathing Miracle World receives from other people.

Probably the main reason this set will be purchased is due to Revenge of Shinobi's inclusion. Still considered one of the most beloved games in its series for some reason, I consider it the weakest of the three Sega Genesis Shinobi games. I still think it's a competent platformer, though, where you control Joe Musashi, Ninja Badass Extraordinaire, as he fights the dreaded Neo Zeed organization after they kidnapped his bride. Compared to the first Shinobi game, Revenge makes gameplay adjustments to create a more flexible ninja, letting players double jump across thin waterfall logs, use one of four special attacks to get out of tricky boss patterns, and spray a rainbow of shuriken at gun-toting soldiers blocking pathways. Get carried away, however, and you'll be out of shuriken to throw, having to then rely on melee attacks to fend off Rambo-esque foes atop a train or ninjas aplenty in a complex maze.

I guess my problem with Revenge is, in its attempt to "evolve" the Shinobi play mechanics, it doesn't quite make a complete leap. You get a much bigger and longer experience than the original title, but the game design doesn't 100% accompany this change of pace. There are moments where Joe Musashi is just plodding along, making for somewhat repetitive moments of action. Though, there are times the slow pace works, like when you're carefully jumping in and out of the background at a heavily-guarded military base. In my eyes, Revenge hasn't aged well against most other Shinobi titles of the day, especially its fantastic successor, Shinobi III, which fixes a lot of the issues here. But as a standalone title in a compilation, I guess it holds well in providing an ample amount of entertainment.

The final game on this vintage collection, Super Hang-On, is one I believe a lot of people will view as a questionable or throwaway addition. Designed by Yu Suzuki, the mind behind Space Harrier, After Burner, and Out Run, this motorcycle racing title follows the template of the latter mentioned game, having players race on a linear road at high speeds. Reach a certain height of speed, too, and you're granted the ability to boost even faster through sharp turns and opponents, across four different continents with varying degrees of length and difficulty. Like Out Run, also, is the selection of tunes to pick before a race, each going on for incredible amounts of time, as well as perfectly matching the intensity and thrill of the ride. Unlike Out Run, unfortunately, is the barren landscape, offering legions of signs and trees in place of things like windmills, mountains, and pillars.

I truly thought this game would get the least play time from me, quickly finishing it in a heartbeat before jumping back into some ninja or block-breaking action. Surprisingly, the more I seriously played Super Hang-On, the more it turned into an addiction, and gradually into admiration. What first looks like a simple racer turns out to be a cleverly-designed series of curves mixed with rival and hazard placements that challenge your turning, breaking, and acceleration prowess. The boost plays a huge role, as it almost seems like Yu Suzuki and company were able to predict nearly the exact moments players will use the ability. For those wanting to complete each race the legit way (this has an added save feature, too), it only motivates to memorize the patterns and make daring maneuvers to win against the aggressive timer. I'll boldly go on to say it holds up well against a lot of arcade racers of today thanks to solid game design.

Much as Miracle World has its nostalgic web wrapped around me, and think Super Hang-On alone is worth the purchase, I still have to see this from a compilation viewpoint and how much staying power there is. With three titles working together, flaws and all present, it really does come off as a rather weak representation of Sega's past glory. I'm all for Sega acknowledging their lesser-known titles (by today's standards), giving games like Miracle World more recognition, but something like this would work better on a bigger collection. Which this isn't. Even with the fun times I had with Super Hang-On, this would have been better off as a Shinobi collection instead, featuring the likes of the Genesis version of Shadow Dancer and Shinobi III to support Revenge.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (July 29, 2012)

I can only imagine what the dev meeting for Yaksha's character design and animations were like...

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SamildanachEmrys posted July 30, 2012:

I never played Alex Kidd in Miracle World but I remember it being highly thought of at the time. My one and only experience with Alex Kidd was his visit to Shinobi World. Having never played either Alex Kidd or Shinobi before, I liked it. It was easy and short, but pretty fun. Whether it would be now, I don't know.

Anyway, I agree that this seems like an uninspiring collection. Personally I think even just releasing a bundle of the three or four Alex Kidd games would be better, and a Shinobi collection would have made the most sense really.
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pickhut posted July 30, 2012:

Yeah, for Sega Master System owners, Miracle World was a game you needed to have. It's like owning an NES and not having Super Mario Bros. 1. Shinobi World was easily the other best Alex Kidd game on the system, and probably has aged a tad better. I dunno if I'd be thrilled about an Alex Kidd collection, though, as the remaining games in the series ranged from average to just plain bad.

Thanks for reading the review as well!
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Masters posted July 30, 2012:

Nice review. I agree with most of what you've said here. Except Super Hang On didn't grow on me. And I think part of what makes RoS age so poorly is the shitty inconsistency of the double jump. Maybe we put up with it way back when, but now it's a deal breaker. And yes, Miracle World is actually manageable with the save states.

I made one catch: in the second paragraph you say 'wreak' when you want 'wreck'.
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pickhut posted July 30, 2012:

I always get the two mixed up. I was reading some of my previous reviews, and I notice I tend to mistake one for the other x_X.

Thanks for reading, too. Considering my long-time experience with the games here, I really had to fight the urge to give it anything higher than a 6/10. As a collection, it's not great.
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Masters posted July 31, 2012:

NP. No, it's not. Did you notice that on PSN they are presented as three different retro games, not as a package?
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pickhut posted July 31, 2012:

Yeah, I thought that was strange. The collections on XBLA are 800ms points each, so I hope they aren't charging extra for the individual games when added up.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted August 05, 2012:

A Shinobi collection would have been better. :P

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