Posted on May 25, 2012 AT 02:45pm
Hey, remember Alex Kidd?
Before Sonic the Hedgehog established his place as Sega’s attitude-driven mascot in 1991, a far less aggressive character represented the company back in the ’80s. Alex Kidd, a short-but-plucky adventurer with a mean punch, was a frequent face on several Sega Master System titles before eventually falling off the grid. Although Kidd’s only seen cameos in a few Sega releases since then (with Sega Superstars Tennis and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing the most notable examples), he’s getting a starring role in the latest batch of downloadable Sega Vintage Collection releases.
Out of all the currently released and upcoming Sega Vintage Collections, Alex Kidd & Co. definitely features the least-consistent theme. Also sharing the stage with the Master System pack-in Alex Kidd in Miracle World are the Genesis classic Revenge of Shinobi and the arcade incarnation of Super Hang-On—the latter most famously known as the cabinet with the mountable full-sized motorcycle controller. Each game looks and sounds exactly like the original source material, with added features that make revisiting each title a bit more fun than the less-forgiving original releases.
In the case of Alex Kidd and Shinobi, the ability to save your state midgame takes a lot of frustration out the experience. Classic titles like these aren’t easy, and being able to inch your way forward through save states is smart addition. When playing Revenge of Shinobi, you’ll also want to abuse the difficulty levels and option to beef up your shuriken stock, which makes otherwise frustrating level design and enemy placement much easier to manage.
Super Hang-On is easily my favorite of the trio, in regards to both gameplay and visuals. Even in 2012, the scrolling backgrounds of the courses really give you a nice sense of speed, while the controls are much easier to handle by nature of being able to tweak your turns with small adjustments by the analog stick or triggers.
By far the best thing going for this Sega Vintage Collection is that the developers took the time to include options for players with HD screens. You can adjust aspect ratios, scanlines, and pixel smoothing to allow for your preferred level of graphical touches—an option that should be standard in any retro release. There’s even a particularly smart option to render the graphics in 3D, provided you’ve got the materials and TV necessary to take advantage.
Even after you eventually beat each title in Alex Kidd & Co., there’s a little extra content in the Trials mode, which gives you small chunks of each game to beat with a more difficult objective—like time trials for Super Hang-On and boss-rush modes for Alex Kidd and Revenge of Shinobi. All of this is nice dressing for old titles, especially considering that there’s no online interaction outside of leaderboard score-tracking.
While the presentation, visual upgrades, and additional online features are all nice touches, there isn’t much else to do once you’ve racked up Achievements and blown through the trials. Out of all the titles, Super Hang-On is the one that’s aged the most gracefully, though the controls in each game have their own annoying little quirks. Since I don’t have any childhood attachment to Alex Kidd or Revenge of Shinobi, your own mileage on the collection may simply vary by what you’ve played before.
SUMMARY: Sega’s $10 price tag is more than fair if you’re interested in checking out this random collection, but I’d honestly recommend saving your digital dollars for the slightly more enticing Monster World, Golden Axe, or Streets of Rage collections. At the very least, all of those releases have matching themes and stronger value for your money.
- THE GOOD: Deep customization options for the graphics-minded player.
- THE BAD: Not the strongest collection of Sega titles. Why not do a full Alex Kidd set?
- THE UGLY: Super Hang-On in particular has nastily difficult trials.
Sega Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co. is an XBLA exclusive.
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