Tag Archives: vintage

Review: Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX – Vintage Sega Hero In Mediocre Remake

We know we’re risking the ire of several hundred very cross Sega Master System fans by saying this, but we have to be blunt — the original Alex Kidd in Miracle World, while inarguably an important and formative classic, is and always has been an exceptionally flawed game. Don’t get us wrong, there’s plenty to like and a surplus of charm present in its curious world, but mechanically and structurally there’s a lot to be desired. Gotcha traps, luck-based design, missable key items and localisation issues rendering puzzles near-unsolvable? It’s issues like these which make it something of a perfect candidate for a remake. Elevate the features that people enjoy (level design, visuals and soundtrack, shopping/inventory system) and iron out or fix the ones that they don’t. It’s a no-brainer!

Why, then, does Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX seem to double down on the more unfriendly elements of its source material while doing next to nothing to update them? It’s a truly odd decision that results in an experience that will irritate long-time Miracle World fans while doing nothing to bring new people into the fold.

Rather than accentuate the negative (for now), let’s talk about what Alex Kidd DX does well. For a start, it’s absolutely gorgeous, with vibrant and enjoyable pixel art bringing the world of Radaxian to life as it’s never been seen before. Familiar stages are given a beautiful lick of paint, creating something that’s recognisably Miracle World but with a contemporary look. It may irritate some purists, but there’s plenty of character in the reworked sprites, even if it’s not quite the same character as the Master System original. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said for the new map and character artwork. There’s nothing essentially wrong with it, but it’s somewhat generic in a way that the sprites certainly aren’t.

The soundtrack has survived the remake, to a point, though it’s worth noting that there weren’t many songs in the original Master System title anyway. They’re all here in new arrangements and with a handful of new songs to boot — which, in a nice touch, have equivalent 8-bit versions available if you switch to “Classic mode” mid-game by holding ZR, akin to the Lizardcube remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap.

Said “Classic mode”, however, flags up a major issue for series stalwarts: it’s not ‘right’. At a glance, yes, it looks the part, but if you’re familiar with Alex Kidd in Miracle World you’ll quickly realise that it’s not at all faithful to its game feel. Alex just doesn’t feel right moving around and the sound effects are routinely just… wrong. It’s bizarre and we can’t imagine why it turned out this way given that M2’s Sega Ages version of the same game is spot on.

Let’s talk about the aforementioned issues. The most prominent that comes to mind is the retention of rock-paper-scissors as the principal ‘boss battle’ mechanic. Now, we hear you cry, that is exactly what was in the original game. You’re quite right! It was. And, like here, it was primarily a luck-based system. Pick rock, paper or scissors and hope you win. Get it wrong twice and you die. Life lost. Yes, you can memorise the order of the games. Yes, you can locate a Telepathy Ball that lets you read the minds of opponents, but you lose it when you get a Game Over, and you will get a Game Over. And every time you do, you’ll receive a suggestion to pop into the Options menu and give yourself infinite lives, which we have to admit got more and more compelling as the game wore further and further through our patience. But it’s a crutch; a way to paper over cracks that we’d suggest should have been removed in the development stage.

On one hand, it’s a little churlish to criticise Miracle World DX for being too much like Miracle World. After all, a good remake should be evocative of that original experience. We feel in this case, though, that too little has been updated outside of the aesthetics, resulting in an experience wherein the visuals and the moment-to-moment gameplay feel somewhat mismatched almost all the time, which means we never quite felt comfortable controlling Alex.

The changes that have been made feel universally detrimental, though in a way that we can sort of see the reasoning behind them even if the outcome hasn’t been a great one. For example, in the early-ish game there’s a boss battle with an angry bull. In the Master System game, this was simplistic in execution; you simply punch the bull when it approaches you, causing it to be knocked back before coming at you again, this time a little faster. It’s very, very basic, but it’s also quite tense and exciting — it’s a pure test of reactions and lasts less than thirty seconds. In the remake, it’s been changed to a much more traditional sort of thing where you need to jump over the charging bull so it rams into the opposite wall and becomes stunned, allowing you to attack it. Isn’t that just… worse? For no reason? What was wrong with the original approach? Other boss battles have been changed to similar, more routine fights. The tension of the forest boss, for example? Gone.

There are new levels added here and there, and they’re fine. Mostly, though, they have the (presumably unintended) effect of reducing environmental variety — there’s now a second, nearly-identical volcano stage right before the original volcano stage. A later stage outside Janken’s fortress, though, is very cool and great addition, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

You unlock a couple of modes on finishing the game, but they’re not super interesting: there’s a Boss Rush (which inexplicably includes the rock-paper-scissors challenges, too) and a full Classic Mode, but this, again (and bafflingly), still isn’t the original game. We initially assumed it was the Master System ROM running in a wrapper but it’s not and it still doesn’t quite feel right. The Sega Ages version is, again, right there on the Switch eShop.

Conclusion

We can’t pretend this isn’t a disappointment. After promises of updates and improvements to this classic title, what we’ve got is something that we’d honestly not recommend to either prospective new fans or enthusiasts of the original Alex Kidd. We’re inclined to think this may have been something of a rushed release, but that’s pure speculation based on some of the more lax features (there’s a lot of new dialogue but almost all of it is awkwardly written, with typos and errors). Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is not horrible by any means, and you might have fun with it until you run up against its irritating issues — unless you use infinite lives, in which case you’ll finish the game in two hours, tops. If this was supposed to be Alex Kidd’s big comeback, we’re sad to say that we don’t think we’ll be seeing that Alex Kidd: High-Tech World remake any time soon.

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Reviews

Review Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance

All we know is that if we got surrounded by three enemies or more, we were dead. And that’s a very unusual feeling coming from something like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 (no relation) which offers a far comfier take on similar gameplay. Here, though, you pick your class (Human Archer, Dwarven Fighter or Elven Sorceress), wade into combat, and die a lot. Unless you put the game down to Easy mode, which makes things a lot more manageable while — quite frankly — still not really being all that easy.

It helps mitigate the frustration somewhat that this port is as clean as you like. Yes, it’s a PS2-era game which ought not to tax the Switch too much, but this plays like a dream even in handheld mode, with extremely good image quality and a rock-solid smooth 60fps framerate, meaning that even when kobolds are handing you your ass, they’ll be doing it in a rather aesthetically pleasing way. The lighting remains attractive to this day, and the water is very good.

Unfortunately the sound doesn’t quite match the graphics. Music is sparse and rather uninteresting, and the crucial clangs and cleaves of combat don’t evoke much in the way of visceral thrills. They’re competent, but if the sound popped a little more the experience would certainly be more appealing. Voice acting, however, is very good, with all NPCs fully-voiced and delivering their florid narration as well as could be asked for.

For veterans of the original, gameplay is just as you remember, and just as you’d expect. Rather like a light Diablo, you make your way through a series of Dungeons & Dragons worlds linked by small hubs, with the story/narrative distinctly out of focus compared to, well, braining things with a big hammer. You’re limited in your basic controls to move, jump, block and attack, but this is all you need and the complexity comes from the game’s high difficulty. Naturally finding and equipping new armour and weapons can afford you a brief but welcome advantage, though more likely a simple levelling of the playing field.

Speaking of levelling, that’s here too, with the customary skill points to assign as you obtain more and more XP. Pleasantly (and unlike other games of its genre), none of the upgrades are really “gated” behind others, so you can hold off and purchase the more devastating spells and abilities if you want to. This adds some semblance of replay value to the game, but knockabout fun is what kept us coming back.

The presentation of the world is a little impersonal, in that you feel very detached from it. NPCs are limited, and while well-performed they don’t really stick in the memory. Still, they’re not the focus of the game as this is very decisively not an RPG, just leaning enough into the stats to make things a smidge more interesting rather than bogging the gameplay down in technicalities, strengths and weaknesses. It’s to Dark Alliance’s credit that the game is very much one of skill rather than attrition, as no matter how powerful you are it’s still best to kite enemies and play tactically rather than rely on anything particularly overpowered.

You can bring a friend, too, which makes things a little less arduous and is probably the most appealing way to play the game. It may struggle to hold your interest for its duration — a chunky ten to twelve hours — but the game’s rougher-than-you’d-expect difficulty may be to its benefit here as the whole enterprise takes on a compelling Souls-like feel. Yes, even we rolled our eyes at our evocation of “Souls-like” to describe a game that came out eight years prior, but until gaming discourse creates a more effective term to instantly communicate exacting, unforgiving difficulty, it’s going to remain omnipresent. Make as many game journo jokes as you please, but this writer has beaten the entire Mega Man Zero series with a 100pt average (not a humblebrag!) and he genuinely struggled to get past Dark Alliance’s first dungeon on the normal difficulty setting.

We’d also argue (and believe us, it’s an argument) that the asking price for a PS2-era port is perhaps a bit much, regardless of how well-done it is; Dark Alliance 2 would certainly have sweetened the pot had it been included. Still, all negatives aside, this feels like the perfect aperitif for the upcoming (sadly, not currently Switch-bound) new take on Dark Alliance from Tuque Games.

Conclusion

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is a formidable challenge, particularly by modern games’ standards, but one that’s been ported rather brilliantly and is certainly a lot of fun to play. It may outstay its welcome to some extent with gameplay that’s not quite complex enough to warrant its lengthy campaign, but the port is one of the very best we’ve seen, improving the visuals of the original and maintaining a flawless framerate along with a UI perfectly suited to handheld play. However, this is the game exactly as you remember it from 2001. If that’s enough for you, you’ll have fun with this version. If you’re on the fence — or if you’re not ready to get kicked on your ass a lot — we’d recommend waiting for a sale.

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Reviews

And the Oscar goes to… Boxing champ Roy Jones Jr. ‘willing to fight Oscar De La Hoya’ in latest vintage comeback bout

Boxing icons Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya could be set for a clash in the ring after Jones’ trainer, Alfy Smith, indicated his man is more than willing to spoil the The Golden Boy’s recently-announced comeback.

Former six-division champ De La Hoya revealed this week that he is to make his return to the sport in July for the first time since a 2008 shellacking at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, and Jones – fresh from his own ring comeback last November in a veteran matchup against Mike Tyson – has thrown his hat into the ring to be the man to challenge him.

Jones, a boxing legend in his own right, fought Tyson to an eight-round draw last November in a bout which proved to be a massive success for all involved, with some estimates placing the pay-view-view proceeds somewhere north of $ 80 million – a figure which is even more impressive given that there was no live gate due to Covid-19 restrictions.

And if it seems as if this has helped provide some motivation for De La Hoya’s own return, Jones’ trainer says that his man will be happy to meet him in the center of the ring on July 3. 

I spoke to Roy today and he is feeling great – and is willing to fight Oscar De La Hoya,” said Alfy Smith. 

I know that they never got to fight based off weight classes before, but now would be the perfect time to give the fans a great fight that they’d thought they would get to see.

De La Hoya has one of the greatest left hooks in boxing history, Roy has a devastating hook as well. We shall see who will be the real ‘Captain Hook’.”

News of the potential fight wasn’t greeted with the waves of enthusiasm Smith might have expected, however. 

Why can’t these [Hall of Fame] guys just stay retired?” asked one boxing fan on social media, while another described the idea as a “circus act”. “Just isn’t really that interesting watching 50-odd-year-old guys fighting.” 

Hell no,” wrote another. “Roy Jones needs to know when to STOP. He disappointed the fans against Tyson last time. We don’t want to see his old ass in the ring ever again.”

Jones had been linked to a fight with former UFC champion Anderson Silva but ‘The Spider’ has since agreed terms to box another former ring icon, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, in June, leaving Jones with an opening in his calendar – one that Smith thinks De La Hoya could more than adequately fill.

The fans all over the world love Roy Jones Jr and Oscar De La Hoya,” Smith continued. “This is a great fight, an exciting match-up where you would only dream it up in a video game. Now we have a chance to make it a reality. 

Roy is still active and training every day, he’s in tremendous shape and his speed is still crisp.”
Also on rt.com Anyone upset with the outcome of the Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr fight needs their own head examined
One sticking point, however, could be the weight that any prospective fight might take place at.

Jones tipped the scales at a career-high 210lbs for his November showdown with Mike Tyson and while De La Hoya is clearly no longer in the fighting shape he was in his prime, his latter career saw him compete at the middleweight limit of 160lbs. 

Still, though, in days of yore it was often said that ‘styles make fights’. But in this brave new world of boxing in 2021 it appears that the maxim should be modified somewhat.

‘Checkbooks make fights’ sounds about right.
Also on rt.com ‘No one wants to see it’: Boxing veteran De la Hoya earns mockery after dropping mic to tell rapper Snoop Dogg of comeback (VIDEO)

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