Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars (Sega Master System): An okay but simple platformer

I wrote this review in 2010.  I could expand on it, but it’s okay as it is, I think; this game is fairly simple and doesn’t really need a long review.  I changed a few details in the last two paragraphs and otherwise left it untouched.

  • Name: Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
  • Platform: Sega Master System
  • Developer/Publisher: Sega
  • Released: 1988
  • Review Written in 2010

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is the second Alex Kidd game, and it’s much less acclaimed than the first one. I can see why, honestly — it’s alright, but not great, and it’s quite different from the original fun platformer. This is a pretty easy and short game. It’s not exactly the best game, but it was fun anyway, in an easy and simplistic way. In this platformer, you walk to the right until you reach the end. Avoid the enemies and obstacles along the way, and don’t run out of health/time. See, this game’s unique feature is that you have a combo health/time bar, and when it runs out — either from taking too long (this will not usually happen) or because you got hit/fell in pits too much, as you get docked time for each time these happen (and they will) — you lose and get game over. The game is generous, though, and you have infinite continues from the beginning of the level you’re on. All levels are horizontally sidescrolling — there are no vertical or multi-screen-tall segments. The original game, in contrast, often was vertical scrolling. Oh, and this was an arcade game first; the SMS version is a port. You can tell, there’s some bad flicker at times.

You have the standard jump and attack buttons, but you can only sometimes attack — you can only attack when you have picked up a “S” powerup, which give you 15 shots per powerup. Also most enemies infinitely spawn, so getting past them without getting hit can be tricky. Fortunately you can take a good number of hits before running out of time. Again this is a dramatic change from the first game, where you could attack with your fist at any time.

As a result of those things, for a lot of this game you’re just moving right, trying to avoid the enemies and make jumps. It’s pretty basic stuff, this game is not deep. There are powerups — the aforementioned one that gives you ammo, one that increases your time a bit, and one that increases your jumping — but they don’t add much. It’s mostly just the simple but entertaining gameplay that holds this game at all. The problem there though is that once you beat it — and it won’t take too long — there’s not much left to do.

Oh, there’s one more problem — the levels. While you play through 14 stages in the game, the second seven are simply the first seven again, but a bit harder — the game makes you play two loops until you reach the end. There’s very little payoff too, just a single screen of the balls doing whatever and then your average 8-bit “the end” screen at the end of the game. It actually shows that screen of the balls you collected at the end of stage 7 as well; the only difference I could see at the end is that “The End” screen afterwards. Maybe that’s a spoiler, but when the ending is so lame I think it’s a spoiler worth mentioning. So yeah, not that much level variety either.

Oh, and there are no bosses in this game. The final screen of each level is an obstacle you have to avoid before you can reach the end, and if you get hit on the final screen you’ll respawn at the start instead of just taking damage as you do in the rest of each level, but these aren’t really bosses and for the most part aren’t very hard. Only a few challenged me at all, such as the stage 2/9 final screen and a few others on the second loop. Many you can just zip right past. And none involve fighting any real bosses, you just get past whatever it is and you’re at the end.

The graphics are good, though. This is a good looking mid-life SMS game, with nice, bright graphics and a good variety of settings. I like the levels, all seven of them are well designed and different in theme, enemies, and obstacles. Each stage has different enemies. One level is underwater, and it’s a solid underwater level, like in the NES Mario games. I like the jungle level as well, the graphics are nice and there are some fun challenges. On the other hand the machine level is one of the trickier ones; the part near the end with two moving platforms over a long pit is one of the game’s trickier segments. And the final level is different as well — it’s got low gravity, so you can jump very high. It makes it easier, but still it’s fun. The game just needed more. More levels, actual bosses, etc.

The music’s simple but good enough. Not much to say about it really. It’s there, and works well enough.

So, despite the game’s many flaws, it does have some good points. They do not outweigh the bad, but it does have some. The levels are fun enough to play through and look at to make me want to keep playing until I finished. The game is lacking in many ways, but it is fun to play despite them and overall I’d say the game is okay, probably, while it lasts. It’s seriously lacking in terms of depth and has some questionable design issues, but at least while it lasts it entertained me in its simplistic way.

So, overall? Overall, Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars is okay. It’s far too short, is easy thanks to the easy to moderate difficulty and infinite continues, has limited replay value because it’s pretty much the same each time, you just run to the right in every stage (except the one where you swim right) instead of having some variety to its level directions, and has more, but it is kind of fun to run through the levels, dodging enemies as you go and jumping over the obstacles. The level designs are decently done, and it has a good variety of obstacles and challenges to get past. Overall, I’d probably give it a C or C-. That might be a little generous, I could easily see scoring it lower with its problems, but the good points are just enough that it might be able to hit an average C, for its era.

On another note, it’s kind of funny, the first Alex Kidd game, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, was both popular and successful, but Sega never seemed to manage to make a sequel people liked as much as the original. The first sequel, The Lost Stars here, certainly wasn’t that. Nor were the other sequels either. Alex Kidd BMX Trial (Japan only SMS release) is a vertical-scrolling racing game spinoff title.  It looks a lot like Enduro Racer (SMS), and doesn’t look anything better than average.  The Genesis Alex Kidd game also isn’t exactly as popular, I do have it and from what I’ve played of it it’s really hard and not very fun. Alex Kidd in High Tech World actually wasn’t originally an Alex Kidd game, they just reskinned something else as one for Western release… and it’s just okay at best anyway.  Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, the last game in the series (a 1990 release, a year after the Genesis game), plays as much or more like Shinobi than it does Alex Kidd.  It’s also quite easy.  Of course Shinobi is awesome, but it’s not exactly what fans of the original would have wished for.

And then, of course, in 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog came out and Sega stopped making Alex Kidd games. It’s kind of too bad, some of them are good games, even if they don’t have an even quality level, and the game designs keep changing drastically.  As the second Alex Kidd game I guess this game, The Lost Stars, was the start of his decline. And overall I can see why, it’s not exactly what the first game is to say the least.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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