Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”Â Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
This week, we’re looking at Sega’s first mascot. Yes, you may be surprised to learn that Sonic was not the original Sega Mascot. Before the Sega Genesis, there was the Sega Master System and its flagship character was a young pixilated boy named Alex Kidd. He starred in six different games from 1986 to 1990 and then abruptly disappeared save for cameos in Sega Superstars Tennis and Segagaga. These games were Alex Kidd in: Miracle World, BMX Trial, The Lost Stars, The Enchanted Castle, High-Tech World and Shinobi World. All were SMS only games save for The Enchanted Castle. Although a few of his games have made it on to the Wii’s Virtual Console, it’s been twenty years since Alex Kidd has had a fresh game. Is time for a return to greatness, especially after what Sammy Sega has done to Sonic, or is Alex Kidd best left in the era of 8-Bit goodness?
Chris Bowen – Stay Dead
There’s a scene in the game Segagaga that I feel is rather telling about the legacy of Alex Kidd. My Japanese skills aren’t quite as good as Lucard’s, so for all I know he could have been talking about straw sandals and tentacle hentai, but the main character (you) talk to Alex Kidd, who runs the item shop. He mentions that he used to be the main mascot for Sega back in the good ‘ol days, until Sonic came along, at which point, he was forgotten. It’s kind of sad in a way, especially when you remember that Alex Kidd has been taken care of better than Sonic over the past decade… and Alex Kidd’s last game was Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, almost twenty years ago.
However, that scene basically says all there is to say about Alex Kidd’s marketability nowadays. What’s the point of bringing him back? They already tried bringing him back as a playable character in Sega Superstars Tennis, a game that set land speed records in how fast it dropped from $60 to $20. I think we can call that a failure.
Besides, what would we put him in? Alex Kidd’s main claim to fame was that he was flexible enough to be in every single type of game possible. He appeared in more games than Mario in the 8-bit era, playing classic platformers, action-adventure games, and even pretended to be Shinobi. He even was in a racing game that never made it out of Japan. What would you have him do nowadays? His main games were platformers – which don’t sell – and I don’t think they could make a game SO good that it would sell without a famous name. The Alex Kidd name just isn’t worth anything at this point, so they should leave it alone.
Alex Lucard – Stay Dead
I personally hate platformers and I REALLY hated Alex Kidd platformers. I hated the whole Rock-Paper-Scissors thing required to get anywhere in the game. I hated the controls, felt the graphics were eyesores even back in the 8-Bit era and found the character generally annoying. Yet on the whole, he’s had better games then Sonic has thanks to Sammy Sega putting that poor hedgehog into one pile of suck after another.
At the same time, I was surprised to see how happy I was that he was in Segagaga, one of my favourite RPG’s of all time. I was also really happy to see him in the sub-par Sega Superstars Tennis, but nowhere as happy as I was to see Ulala.
In 2009, Alex Kidd is only going to be remembered by gamers ages 30 and up. He doesn’t have any real marketing value and the franchise branding is all but forgotten. However the big reason I want this to stay dead is that I simply can no longer trust Sega to make a quality platformer. Light gun games? Sure. RPG’s? As long as it is WOW-Overworks doing it. Platformers? No way in hell. As much as I disliked the 8-Bit Alex Kidd games, there’s no way in hell a new Alex Kidd game could be any better. In fact, it would probably be worse. For that reason, I respectfully want Alex Kidd to stay dead save for the occasional cameo, simply because it would be more respectful than seeing him get the Sonic treatment.
Mark B. – Start Over
Alex Kidd as a character has been treated very unfortunately throughout his existence. Of the six games that bear his name, only Alex Kidd in Miracle World can be called “good” without any sort of qualifiers, with the rest of his games either being, “Good, but…” (Alex Kidd in Shinobi World and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle) or worse. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars was a tolerable arcade game and a weak console game. Alex Kidd: BMX Trial never even left Japan because of how uninteresting it was, and Alex Kidd: High Tech World was an abomination against God and man. If Sega ever releases that game on the VC you will truly learn how much profanity I know and how many languages I know it in. Segagaga essentially made his existence into something of a sad joke, and his guest appearance in Sega Superstars Tennis was kind of embarrassing. Said embarrassment is likely to be repeated when Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing comes around.
So why bother bringing him back? Because most of the heavy lifting is done and the concepts of the game would lend themselves well to a new game.
Alex Kidd has a backstory, family, home planet and personality already fleshed out and ready to go. He’s a martial artist from the planet Radaxian, his martial art of choice is Shellcore, he’s dynamite at Rock-Paper-Scissors, and we know his brother Egle, Egle’s fiancee Lora, and his father King Thunder are all still alive and puttering around. He has a variety of tools at his disposal, including a bracelet that shoots energy, a pedicopter, a motorcycle, a cane that allows him to fly, and other interesting toys. An ambitious developer with a good team behind them could turn out a fantastic game based in the Alex Kidd universe, and it’s not like the less-than-stellar games from his Master System years would negatively impact sales, because who played those besides me? Alex has no name recognition at this point, but as Donkey Kong Country proved, a good game can revive even the most ancient franchises, and as Ratchet and Clank and Jax and Daxter proved, you don’t even NEED name recognition at all if your game is good. Alex Kidd is a character who’s ready to have another game made for him, with the tools, the backstory and the game world more or less already manufactured, and leaving him to languish in obscurity because a couple of his games sucked and Sega can’t stop sticking Sonic into new and terrible games is asinine.
Stay Dead: 2
Start Over: 1
Wow, it’s rather telling that out of two dozen or so staffers, only three of us remember Alex Kidd or have even played his games. Even then two of us want him to stay buried under lock and key while one of us holds out hope that he can return to greatness.
Next week, we’ll be looking at SNK’s first real commercial hit, as well as its first successful franchise. No it’s not Fatal Fury. It’s not even a fighting game series. See you then.