This classic GameCola article was originally published in February, 2008.
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is the strongest entry into the Alex Kidd series, in that it’s the only one that doesn’t result in me shutting off my Sega Master System within eight seconds of playing and putting in Shinobi instead. I’m not sure who at Sega decided that Alfred E. Newman’s retarded son would make a good mascot, but it was probably the same guy who said “The 32x is going to be revolutionary!” and “Toejam and Earl was great, but let’s make the sequel a piss-poor platformer.”
In Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars, you’re tasked by a disembodied voice to travel to other worlds to “Find the Miracle Balls”. There are twelve of these Miracle Balls, each one holding a constellation of the zodiac that was stolen by what appears to be an anthropomorphized fireball named Ziggurat, who lives in space. I said it was a strong game in the series—I didn’t say it made any goddamn sense.
Every classic system is absolutely maggoty with sub-par platformers trying to capitalize on the success of the Mario games, and extremely few of them succeed in being any more fun than picking at scabs. Lost Stars capitalizes on a lot of the elements that made Mario fun to play but brings a lot to the table on its own as well.
Instead of going with the standard “You can get hit X amount of times before you die” game mechanic, we instead see the lesser-used “your time is your life is your time” mechanic, seen most famously in Gauntlet. While this method can often end up being more annoying than fun, Alex Kidd pulls it off, and the levels are mercifully short in the event that you do have to replay one.
Despite its decidedly low difficulty level, the game manages to be fun and surprisingly addictive. Each new stage brings with it a completely different world of scenery and strange enemies that you have to defeat or avoid, including stages in a toy land, space, a robot factory, and a giant’s digestive tract. If you want to be generous about it, there are, technically, 14 stages. Unfortunately, the game decides to get lazy and just repeat the same seven levels over again, making them only slightly different.
Once you reach the end of every stage, in lieu of a standard boss battle, you must navigate through a gauntlet of sadistically placed enemies and traps. In any other part of the game, if you get hit by an enemy, Alex just says “Aaah!”, loses a little bit of time, and goes on his merry way. Get hit by any of the traps at the very end of a level, however, and you’re sent back to the other side of the screen to navigate them again. In my experience, the best way to deal with these frustrating nightmares is to intentionally get hit just before the end of the level is on the screen. Time it right and you won’t be sent to the other side of the screen and, most importantly, you’ll be a ghost for long enough that you should be able to get to the end of the stage and avoid the frustrating traps altogether.
The enemies you run into are worth going into greater detail on, as they’re some of the strangest I’ve ever encountered. They vary from the innocuous to the extremely bizarre. Some standouts:
But what is easily the strangest enemy of the bunch, and possibly the strangest in all videogame history, is:
Yes, this game has what appears to be a naked baby with sunglasses and a mohawk doing some kind of booty dance, and every so often a skull rolls out of his ass and makes its way toward you. Once I ran into this enemy I had to look around my house for Chris Hanson, who I was certain was going to ask me to “have a seat” while he admonishes me for playing games for pedo-necro-scat fetishists.
Overall, Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars offers what is easily the strongest game in the Alex Kidd series and also one of the strongest platformers on the Master System. Is it a Mario-Killer? No, not in the least, but it could hold its own against Yo! Noid or Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers.