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Keith Courage in Alpha Zones

Some of the younger people out there might not know this, but once upon a time when folks bought themselves a new video game console it came with a pack-in game. Nintendo had Super Mario Bros packed with the NES and Super Mario World with the SNES, meanwhile Sega had stuff like Alex Kidd packed with their Master Systems and, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog with their Genesis (among other games). When NEC eventually stepped onto the scene with their TurboGrafx-16, they decided to have a pack-in game as well, and that game wound up being Keith Courage in Alpha Zones.

When the game originally came out in Japan it was a licensed title for an anime called Spirit Hero Wataru. Since hardly anyone in the West would have known what that was, it got a hefty rework for those audiences leaving us with Keith Courage instead. It had a very simple story about an asteroid plowing into the Earth with an alien invasion force hidden in it. This resulted in two large forces who both very much enjoyed their acronyms facing off against one another. Representing the forces of evil was B.A.D. which stood for Beastly Alien Dudes. Meanwhile, the forces of good had N.I.C.E., aka Nations of International Citizens for Earth. What with Keith being a member of NICE it is his job to take the fight to the aliens and kick them off of the planet.

The game is divided into two distinct sections that the player constantly alternates between. One will start in a light stage, then go to a dark stage, then the following stage will be light again, and so on. Light stages will see Keith in his regular clothing, armed with a small sword that he uses to bop some of the cuter members of BAD over the head. These are usually very easy levels with some simple platforming. The main thing players will be doing here is farming coins to be spent on weapon upgrades and for buying more bombs. These parts of the Keith Courage can get a little bit grindy as players park themselves in a spot that causes particular enemies to constantly respawn, then bashing them and hopefully getting some gold out of it.

At the end of each light stage, Keith would stand on a platform where a rainbow beam whisks him away to the next dark stage. Here, he would board a giant mech because this game did come out in the 80s after all, and who didn’t like themselves a nice big mech back then. Keith’s mech design is rather compact looking almost like it was given a sort of super deformed design. Meanwhile, the enemies here had a far more menacing, dangerous look to them including things like flying skulls, strange spider-like creatures, and anthropomorphic guns. Players would fight their way past these with a much larger sword as well as being able to launch explosives at them. At the end of each dark stage, one would have a boss fight to get past, and after defeating it, Keith would once more be taken away by a rainbow beam, and then dropped in the next light stage.

Overall, the game wasn’t very hard. It was just some nice, simple platforming with a bit of action thrown in. For the most part, Keith Courage was just grindy since players had to spend so much time collecting coins so that they could upgrade their mech’s sword, which usually resulted in it changing color and getting bigger. That being said, some of the latter boss fights could suddenly be somewhat tough. Other than that, though, the game was a total cakewalk.

Visually, the TurboGrafx was never a powerhouse on the same level as the SNES or even the Genesis, but it could still put on a good show. While Keith Courage didn’t have a tremendous amount of detail, it made up for that with cuteness and unusual ideas. Generally, the light stages were adorable, if a bit common to the genre for the time it came out. Dark stages are where things got interesting with strange enemies showing up and some reasonably unique boss designs.

Meanwhile, the game’s soundtrack was very catchy. Most stages had their own music that could very easily get stuck in players’ head thanks to their memorable melodies. However, they tended to become very repetitive quite quickly due to how short the loops were for each piece of music.

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones certainly wasn’t on the same level as Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog, but it was still a reasonably enjoyable game. It had a certain charm to it in how the game presented a very 80s-inspired platformer. While it certainly won’t make it onto many top ten lists, the game did keep new owners of TurboGrafx-16s busy for a time when the system first came out.

- IroIro
October 28, 2019
Platform: Turbografx-16
Genre: Action Platformer
Developer: Advance Communication Company
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Released: 1988

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones Image 1
TurboGrafx Box Art

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones Image 2
Venturing forth in one of the light stages

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones Image 3
A boss fight in the dark stages

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones Image 4
One of the kind surface dwellers