Before Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's company mascot was a boy with big ears and monkeylike features named Alex Kidd. Sega tried its best to push Alex as a mascot by producing a number of games featuring the character for the 8-bit Sega Master System console, but people never took to Alex or his games. Looking back, it's no wonder that Alex Kidd never caught on. Besides the fact that monkey boys in red jumpsuits are totally uncool, all of his games were archaic 2D jump-and-punch romps that, from the very moment they were released, were already two years behind the day's crop of kiddy action games in terms of fun and charm. Alex's last hurrah was Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, which was originally published in 1989 for the Sega Genesis and is now available for play through the Wii's Virtual Console service. Tragically, the game isn't much of a hurrah, since its most memorable traits are the clunky controls and the rock-paper-scissors minigame.
You must guide Alex Kidd through the forests and deserts of Planet Paperock until you reach and, hopefully, get through an enchanted castle full of traps and enemies. The design is wholly unremarkable and mainly involves leaping between platforms and dealing with enemies either by jumping over them or punching or kicking them. Alex will automatically perform a kick every time you jump, although it tends to pass through enemies just as often as it connects. Alex's tendency to slide all over the place doesn't help matters any, especially when a single collision with an enemy will cost you a life and haul you back to an earlier spot in the stage. With the exception of an underwater stage and the castle at the end, the game's 11 stages are short left-to-right strips peppered with the same rocks, trees, breakable bricks, and generic enemies.
Most stages end when you grab the piece of sushi that's floating above the exit, though you'll occasionally have to get past a boss before you can gobble up that delicious morsel of fish and rice. However, you don't fight bosses with Alex's fists. Instead, in what has to be one of the goofiest battle ideas in the history of video games, you square off against the game's bosses in a one-on-one janken match, better known as rock-paper-scissors. You'll also encounter numerous janken houses as you go through each stage, where you can use the money you've collected from smashing treasure chests to buy into rock-paper-scissors matches that offer money and items as prizes. Winning a motorcycle or a pedal-copter item and then using it to breeze through the next stage is good for a moment of joy. Unfortunately, those fleeting moments are the only times when Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is any fun.
Alex and his foes are decently sized, but their movements are choppy, and the enemy character designs don't stand out. In one stage, you have to contend with birds and automobiles. In another, the bad guys are scorpions and mummies. The multilayered backdrops are colorful, but they fail to impress since they're static and lack any animated features. Overall, the graphics and audio represent the baseline of what the Genesis was capable of. At least the Wii doesn't have any trouble emulating the game. The system's remote is also perfectly suited to the two-button control scheme.
Considering how many great 2D action games are already available for the Wii's Virtual Console, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle isn't worth your time. And, at a cost of 800 Wii points ($8), it's definitely not worth your money either.