#54: Alex Kidd – The Lost Stars (1988 Sega)

054alexkiddstars

Our second Sega sequel from the summer off 1988 is the long-awaited second chapter starring Sega’s pre-Sonic flagship character. Many Sega gamers enjoyed the classic cartridge Alex Kidd in Miracle World, especially the nice unique features that were added to the platforming formula, and you’d think the encore would concentrate on improving the gameplay. Unfortunately, just like Fantasy Zone: The Maze, Sega took a complete left turn for the second chapter of Alex’s saga instead of doing a proper sequel. This time they decided to port an old arcade coin-op from Japan that featured Alex and using that as the follow-up to Miracle World instead. (Not to mention debuting the horrible Western box art depicting Alex as a gawky teenager instead of his cool Japanese design) Not only that the original arcade title was a straightforward platformer with none of Miracle World’s innovations so Sega essentially went backwards with their flagship character, even though it was obvious that ordinary run’n’jumps weren’t going to cut it in the post-Super Mario landscape.

Are your sure this is my sequel, Sega?

Are your sure this is my sequel, Sega?

Anyway Alex is on a new mission to save the day, only this time his task is to recover the stolen Zodiac constellations that have been snatched from the night sky by the evil being Ziggeraut, who’s basically a giant energy ball with a nasty face. Alex’s quest will span 14 horizontally-scrolling levels (which are divided into two sets of seven environments that include a playland, an industrial factory, a haunted forest and others) and all of them are crawling with strange enemies and obstacles. But as mentioned above this game concentrates on straight platforming; there are no coins to find, no shops to obtain items or any vehicles to ride, you simply have to make your way to the end of each stage while running and jumping your way past the baddies. A few power-ups float down from the sky to help you, including one that gives you limited amout of “cloud shots” you can shoot at foes. Sadly this is your only defense as Alex has somehow lost his Shellcore ability, meaning you don’t have your oversized fist to punch baddies out. Also instead of starting with multiple lives, you have just one life and a timer bar that slowly ticks down as you traverse each stage. Reach the finish before time runs out and you’ll recover a “Miracle Ball” containing one of the Zodiac signs. Once you’ve collected six Miracle Ball’s you’ll head to Ziggeraut’s shrine and release the constellations back into the night sky before going after the other six.

I bet I can outjump that robot.

I bet I can outjump that robot.

The game certainly gives a nice first impression, especially with its surprisingly good visuals. There’s definitely a nice variety of environments that feature plenty of vibrant colors and detailed backgrounds, while the characters are large and nicely designed for the most part while sporting some solid details and animation. The background music is okay and it certainly tries to fit with the theme of each stage, though it’s not anything memorable. The one negative to the audio is the high-pitched yelp Alex belts out whenever he takes a hit, which will get on your nerves. Plus Lost Stars is pretty simple to dive into as the controls are fairly responsive and for once a SMS platformer follows the standard NES button layout.

How does one go deep sea diving with a snorkel?

How does one go deep sea diving with a snorkel?

Unfortunately the game’s simplicity is what keeps it from really being enjoyable. Since none of the stages have anything to spice up the action, things will get boring and tedious in a very short time. In addition you’ll find there’s no challenge whatsoever; you can quickly tear through all the stages without even breaking a sweat as don’t need to really fight any of the enemies since you can easily jump past them, and there isn’t even any boss battles. In fact the only real “boss encounter” is Ziggeraut at the end of each 7th level, but you don’t even fight him, you just run past him to the end. Getting hit by an enemy or falling into a pit won’t kill you instantly, you’re just penalized a few ticks on the timer bar, and while running out of time will end the game, you’re also give unilimited continues to keep you going. Not only that you’ll find the programmers took the cheap way of padding out the game; after you pass the first set of 7 stages and get treated to a brief interlude, you’ll take on the second set of 7 stages which is just the first set repeated with very little variation other than a few more enemies. As a result you’ve already seen just about everything halfway through the game, and passing the other half just nets you an unsatisfying ‘THE END’ screen.

I'm so cool I even have a neon sign with my name on it.

I’m so cool I even have a neon sign with my name on it.

Thus The Lost Stars isn’t the worst game on the Master System but is still a pretty sad follow-up to the great Miracle World and an overall disappointing addition to the SMS catalog. The vanilla platforming action, lack of interesting features and laughable difficulty will send Alex Kidd fans running back to Miracle World (or, to a lesser extent, the Genesis entry which actually does seem like a real sequel to Miracle World), and even if you’ve never played the aformentioned first game in the ‘series’, this is still a cartridge to steer clear of. The thing is this isn’t even the worst Alex Kidd game; things would get much worse for Sega’s original mascot before they get any better.

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