The kidd in the shadows
It's always great when you can go back to an older gaming system and see way more of it's catalog of games than when the system was the 'New' thing. It's amazing how so much stuff that you either glossed over the first time in favour of the then accepted greats, or flat out missed, turn out to be the reasons why you fall in love all over again.
When you can look past a massively popular franchises most famous work and really see it's coolest moments then that's when a true Hidden gem is found. If you are Sega and the Master System then that means it's gonna be special.
When two become one...
Now we all love a bit of a cross-over right? Of course we do, it's something completely burned into our souls since childhood. From comics of the 1970's and 80's such as The Transformers and G.I. Joe teaming up to classic British comics like 'Beezer' and 'Whizzer & chips' (seriously I’m not making these names up) joining forces to give fans even more of the good stuff.
Cartoon & TV shows and even films have done it, books, magazines and even musicians get together and give the world some more stuff that they didn't even know they wanted... Until it was done. Anyone who doesn't like 'Under Pressure' by David Bowie and Queen should leave this page right now and never come back! So yeah cross-over’s are a massive part of pop culture and have been so for decades now.
But what about videogames? Has it happened there? Of course it has you sexy little retro loving sparrows of awesomeness and once again it's not a new thing either, it's been around for so long that it was only really noticed when a certain Blue Hedgehog and a certain fat plumber got together a few years back to have a race on a Nintendo Wii and DS game. During the Wii era everything was coined as being 'new' or groundbreaking when sadly the reality of it all is that almost nothing on that console was actually new in anyway shape or form, one day soon I’ll tell you why wand waving was more out of date than VHS video cassettes at a Blue Ray convention.
But look at me banging on about something else, back on topic...
Sega in all of their utterly brilliant glory and self proclaimed masters of being 'uber cool' (pretty sure I didn't just make that up - lol) are masters of the cross-over. With so many franchises characters and classic game worlds/franchises eventually something magical had to happen. Turns out it did so on one of the systems that if you listen to folk from across the pond in North America was a total failure (silly sausages) The Sega Master System.
Alex Kidd, the one time lead mascot character for the Japanese company who were masters of the arcade halls turned home console makers had already stared in several top quality videogames. A platforming character with access to cool weapons and vehicles he was absolutely positioned as the answer to Mario. While his games contained worlds of vastly more colour and sprite detail thanks to a machine vastly superior tech wise to the NES the vice like grip and all round masterful programming of the Mario games meant that in reality a great lead character would go on to never get the recognition he deserved... From a sales point of view.
The game we are looking at today would end up being the last game where he would venture out on his own and what a way to go out. A parody game of another massively popular Sega videogame series... Shinobi!
Taking place with Alex Kidd himself dressed up as a Ninja he ran through numerous levels completely ripped off from Shinobi and cleverly used enemies from 'Alex Kidd' games dressed up as Shinobi enemies. In one fell swoop the game looked like two very different titles but yet all it's own beast. It's real hard to explain but when you play it you can see what's taken from where and just how cool it all looks when put together. It's kind of like a 'GLEE' mash-up but 100% not as crap!
With a plot story about ghost Ninja's and end of the world scenarios based on the sacrifice of Alex Kidd's lady love this sure is one fantastic Disney style game for the kiddies... lol. A different kind of story from a different time where just about everything involved rescuing some damsel in distress that thankfully we have all moved on from it somehow manages to not really focus on that element rather taking it's time to remind you constantly about specific points of it's influence, Shinobi
From iconic boss battles with cute little twists and items in the game world that make you nod and smile this is like a trip down memory lane so the fact it came out in 1990 when the 16-Bit scene was just getting started properly somehow shows Sega almost doing a retro type nostalgic look at their own history. Pretty clever that, or maybe I’m just reading too much into it post release, who knows?
What is true however is that this is one damn fine game and for Alex Kidd fans a real high point in the franchise. Not a great seller and even though it was created in Japan never getting a release there was a bit odd it's highly collectible especially in North America where they got a tiny print run based on the fact that the Master System didn't do well there.
Now I’m sure there are better cross-over games and like I said this didn't invent the term but you don't have to be first to be great or the best. Truth be told off the top of my head I could think of loads of others that are better however there's something about this 8-Bit gem that has made me love it ever since I saw a screenshot on a poster I got inside the box of another master System game. How on earth would they make Shinobi and Alex Kidd work together... Well sexy people, that's the wonder of the Sega that was, the one that went away so long ago and won't ever come back no matter how hard we prey.
A parody of a game that made tons of 'bank' by a character that deserved far more than he got on a system one territory turned it's back on, is retrogaming history not the most gloriously wonderful hobby. I don't know about you lot but when I come across stuff like this I can't help but smile.
The things we didn't appreciate when we had them and now ache to see come back. just another reason childhoods are so damn special... Never grow up people, ever!