RELEASE DATE: 04/90 – (US), 08/90 – (EU)
Rather than produce a misguided port of Revenge of Shinobi for Master System or let the Alex Kidd series descend to hell with a monkey boy whimper, Sega did the honorable and surprising move of combining the two franchises. Alex Kidd in Shinobi World is the Kidd’s final romp in this mortal coil. And while it’s not exactly a strict Alex Kidd game, one could make the argument that such a concept never really existed.
Alex’s girlfriend has been kidnapped by an evil ninja demon named Hanzo, tale as old as time. Despite his loss, Alex remains his smiling goofball self, only with black robes and Tabi boots. He’s also traded his big-fisted punch for a sharp sword, and abandoned rock, paper, scissors matches to the four winds.
Alex does not look or act like Joe Musashi, but he is very much in Shinobi World. The methodical pacing found in Shinobi is ever present here. Enemies always require correct timing to destroy rather than aggressive force. Stage design is also reminiscent of the original Shinobi – city scapes, ascending waterfalls, ancient Japanese architecture – with a pinch of Alex Kidd thrown in (the unfortunate swimming portions). The bosses are lifted directly from Master System Shinobi, though they’ve been given slightly different names and simplified. Hanzo is just the Masked Ninja, while Kabuto is Ken-Oh, the “Robster” (oh dear) is Lobster, and the Black Turtle Helicopter is combined with Mandara for mini-helicopter spewing action.
Because Alex is in Shinobi World and not High-Tech World or the Enchanted Castle, he’s stronger than he’s ever been. Besides his aforementioned sword, he also has a three-hit life bar for the first time ever. For extra fun, he can turn into a flaming fireball when he’s on a pole and sail across the screen, destroying bricks and enemies in his fiery wake. Treasure chests litter the Shinobi dominion and provide Alex with additional hearts/life points, a stronger sword attack, an upgraded spear attack that’s more direct, and Tornado Magic that turns Alex into a sweeping whirlwind of justice.
Shinobi World‘s flaws are its short length and lack of difficulty. There are four worlds with three stages each, but the last stage in each world is only a boss battle. With the exception of final boss Hanzo, each boss is easy to take down. And while you only start with three lives and a continue, I was able to acquire seven lives within the first two worlds without any trouble.
If Shinobi World feels like even less of an Alex Kidd adventure than usual, that’s because the game was almost called Shinobi Kid. Originally positioned as a cutesy, easier take on the Shinobi series for younger folk, young Joe was, at some point in the development process, replaced with aging Alex. What’s more, first boss Kabuto was almost named “Mari-Oh,” a chubby Italian samurai that spews fireballs. Given Nintendo’s unquestionable power around 1990, it was wise of Sega to alter the boss and avoid a potential lawsuit.
Even if Shinobi Kid morphed into Alex Kidd in Shinobi World at the eleventh hour, I’m glad Sega allowed their original mascot to ninja vanish with dignity. Rather than let the lazy, misguided Enchanted Castle be the Kidd’s epitaph, Sega gave him one final power-up: from cutesy monkey boy to a chibi, surreal version of one of their strongest characters. If that’s not a bizarrely fitting tribute to Alex’s curious legacy, I don’t know what is.
13 replies on “Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (Master System, 1990)”
I guess I’ll have to go try this out now. Being a huge Shinobi fan but not having a Master System when this came out, I totally missed it.
Definitely worth it.
Only played this one briefly,, but it’s a lot of fun. Shame it’s a treated as a spin-off – Shinobi World is probably the second best Alex Kidd game with Miracle World being no.1.
Rather than his own average games, Alex Kidd should just have starred in his own versions of popular Mega Drive games ported to the Master System. I reckon Altered Kidd, Streets of Kidd and Golden Kidd would have been pretty good…
I would love to see Streets of Kidd…
I missed this one back in the day as I was already on the Genesis. I bought it on the Wii some years ago and was pleasantly surprised. It is very fast paced and the controls are great. I still have yet to beat this game but I haven’t really dedicated the time either. I think I might give it a go again.
Yeah, it’s pretty simple. Definitely easier than Miracle World.
Wow sounds like a sleeper hidden gem. Too bad no one has ever played it (besides you Dylan). Now I’m going to have track this bad boy down.
Unfortunately, the cartridge is rare and expensive. As much as I enjoy the game, not sure it’s worth the price unless you’re a collector.
I got real upset with a retro store owner trying to fence it off for about 90$ and told him I’d give him 30$ before even looking it up to find the 25$ price tag online.
Now that I check again I’m not seeing anything below 50$ on my first cursory glance. Maybe i should have ordered it a few weeks ago.
Are your reviews driving up price????
Just checked I got the screen shot to show my buddy that was with me. (April)
So I say just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll catch it for a fair price.
This post was an emotional rollercoaster for me.
I’d be shocked if my reviews were driving up the price, but I guess you never know. Last I saw it was $55 used, which is crazy. Good game, but too short for that kind of investment.
eBay prices are starting around 70 for a complete copy. Interesting the cart has a blue label instead of the typical dark red.
If you have a Wii still, you can buy it for the paltry sum of 5 U.S. Dollars.
Glad you liked it! I love this little gem. My favourite Alex Kidd game. The SMS had a fairly long run into the early 90s in Australia and I knew a couple of people with this. I wonder if local prices reflect that…