If you’ve played the remastered Halo games in recent years, then you know the joy of being able to instantaneously swap between the original creation and the modern recreation with the push of a button. But where Halo 1 and 2 Anniversary were given this treatment only a decade later, the developers at Merge Games aim to do the same with Alex Kidd in Miracle World: a game that’s a whopping 35 years old.So far the result is a stunning overhaul that’s beautiful and modern, yet still immediately recognizable. As I toggled back and forth between old and new, I was continuously blown away by the night-and-day difference in everything from the once-pixelated levels, now made into beautiful, detailed landscapes, to the bizarre bosses that have been transformed into cartoonish masters of roshambo.
What was once a barren blue background with a few clouds here and there now has mountains, trees, a colorful sky, and even a sun that casts light and shadow over the level. An enemy that was once a very plain-looking frog has been transformed into a bug-eyed, cross-eyed leaping weirdo. And yet each area and every enemy is unmistakably the Miracle World I remember playing on my grandfather’s Master System. During my playthrough, I stopped as often as possible to switch between the old and new versions to appreciate the differences and marvel at how far we’ve come in 35 years.The most jarring difference, though, wasn’t in what I saw but what I heard. Miracle World’s audio overhaul is staggering, and the beeps and boops of the original retro soundtrack have been completely recreated with instrumentals or just reimagined altogether. The soundtrack has quite a few bangers that had me humming as I jumped, punched, and helicoptered my way through each stage. The sound effects have also been replaced to be more realistic, not to mention a bit more pleasing to my ears. For example, throwing punches no longer emits an electronic booping sound, and instead gives off a satisfying swoosh.
Of course, whether I was playing in the modern or retro mode, one thing that hadn’t changed is Miracle World’s brutal difficulty. Even today, Alex Kidd in Miracle World is still the platforming equivalent of getting punched in the face. Absolutely everything killed me in one hit with even the slightest touch, grim reapers randomly spawned from item blocks and relentlessly hunted me until my death, and my timing had to be absolutely perfect in platforming and combat to complete levels. Thankfully, running out of lives merely restarted me at the beginning of the level instead of the beginning of the game, which was a godsend.
The downside of the gameplay being such a faithful recreation is that, well, platforming is generally a lot smoother these days, and Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX doesn’t benefit from any of that modernization. Alex Kidd is a very unwieldy character to control, and when that couples with the high degree of platforming difficulty, it can be a pretty frustrating experience. But this is a platformer from the ‘80s we’re talking about — if it weren’t a little frustrating, would it even be the same game?
So far, Alex Kidd is everything I’d hope for in a remake. It looks and sounds like a completely different game, but plays identically minus the really annoying things like having to restart all over again when running out of lives or blowing into a cartridge to get a game to boot up properly. Best of all, the game’s platforming challenge and the randomness of the rock-paper-scissors boss fights remains intact to keep me on my toes. Here’s hoping Alex Kidd is able to stick the landing when it releases on June 24.
Travis Northup always wears a suit to work. Talk old-school platformers with him on Twitter at @TieGuyTravis.