Welcome to another Back in the TAY! This week, I’m actually going to talk about a game:
To maintain the theme from the last couple of weeks, I decided it was time to finally talk about the games that are bundled into this pint sized beauty. While a lot of these titles I have played endlessly as a young chap, a few of them seemed to have slipped by me. StarTropics is one of those titles.
This box art is something I vividly remember seeing a lot growing up. Nintendo Power had a cover dedicated to it, shops had posters hanging of it, and forever embedded that serene jungle picture into my mind. Even though I have such fond memories of the cover, I still for some reason just never gave it a shot.
Until now that is.
The basic story of the game is that of Mike, a kid from America who takes a trip to visit his uncle Dr. Steven Jones, or Dr. J as the islanders refer to him, at the peaceful little tropic C-Island. After shortly arriving into the peaceful little town of Coralcola, you are notified to speak with the Village Chief, who is expecting you. You approach his hut at the top left of the screen, only to be informed of the bad news.
What was supposed to be a leisurely trip to a tropical island has now become a journey to rescue your uncle. I hate when that happens! Not even 15 minutes into your trip, and someone has to ruin it by kidnapping your damn uncle!
The chief continues to tell you about a shooting star that happened before the disappearance of your uncle, which is notoriously known as a bad sign on the island. With no other options, you begin on your journey to rescue your uncle, but not before you receive one final gift: a fucking Yo-Yo.
Yeah, a powerful Yo-Yo. Unlike most adventure games that outfit you with a sword, a gun, or even a whip, young Mike is equipped with a toy. I could go on further about the odd choice, but I’ll save that for another time.
Your first objective to locating Dr. J is to go through a hidden tunnel in the village, which leads to the other side of a dense forest blocking part of the island from the small tropical village. Getting into the tunnel was a bit of a pain for me, but not because it was hard to locate. The man guarding the entrance has only one box of text he will say repeatedly, which is:
Over, and over, and over again. I tried from all three possible locations, but no progress could be made. Eventually I went back to the chief, repeated the conversation with him all over again, and went back to this helmet wearing jackass before he would let me through. This is where you are introduced to the real portion of StarTropics.
StarTropics is broken up into two parts: outer world exploration, and dungeon crawling. The outer world exploration is broken up into a few possible segments of hugging walls of mountains for hidden paths, treading through small forested area, or just simply following the winding cliffsides until you reach your location. Early on into the game, you are given a submarine (or the Sub-C as they refer to it as), which comes in handy for travelling further distances.
The dungeon crawling parts, however, is where the action portion of the game takes place. Very similar to Zelda, you are put into a sprawling, corridor filled cavern where your goal is to get to the end. You have enemies you have to kill (with your trusty Yo-Yo), puzzles to solve, and even your boss battles at the end. This was the most unexpected part of the game to me, as I was anticipating it to stick with an over world view.
Ever chapter ends with a dungeon, all varying with different enemies, puzzles, and item pick ups. While starting out simplistic enough (go straight, kill enemies, fight a giant boss), the difficulty ramps up rather quickly. The first few dungeons offer little variations in enemies, each one going down with little effort on your part, and give you a taste of the jumping puzzles you will need to perform. To find your way to the end, you will need to get well acquainted with these little blocks.
The dungeons grow increasingly more complex with hidden partitions in walls, loop holes you can get stuck in repeatedly, and in some instances, stairwells that will take you out of the dungeon completely. If this happens to you on this damn cemetery, grave robbing, spelunking trip then you have to start it completely over. I can’t count how many times I reset the game just so I wouldn’t lose my heart’s and items.
While the Yo-Yo is your primary source of offense, you can come across some other items along your travels. The weapons you are given can range from a baseball, a bat, bolos, spiked shoes (which somehow gives Mike the ability to jump kick everything in the face), and a laser cannon. You can also come across health potions, Icarus wings (which gives you the ability to jump twice as far), a wand for exposing ghosts, and a mirror. The mirror, which threw me off at first, comes in handy with enemies who throw projectiles at you, as it reflects it back at them.
As the game continues, it takes you through a varied palette of locations. You explore caves, a pirate ship, the aforementioned cemetery, castle cellars, and at the end a crashed space ship.
Once you reach the last location, you finally meet up with your uncle who tells you that he was actually abducted by an alien named Zoda. While it does sound like an off brand soft drink, he is an evil alien Lord who followed a meteor to Earth, searching for 3 cubes of power. Your uncle goes on to tell you that it is imperative that Zoda does not get his hands on them, or else the galaxy will fall under his rule.
The last two sections of the game are incredibly grueling. The enemies are tough as nails, the disappearing blocks are everywhere, and you can’t stop for anything. Aesthetically the maps are impressive, giving you the feeling as if being inside of an alien craft. They filled the corridors with plenty of bosses, coming close to 6 encounters before hitting the final climatic end.
In the end, StarTropics is a pretty solid classic title. It has some catchy music to get you in the mood, decent enough 8-bit graphics, and the cross between exploration and dungeon crawling kept the overall experience fun. My total time dropped in the game was close to 10 hours, including the constant restarts and save games I made, but could easily take longer to complete. If you have never experienced this game, or even it’s sequel, I highly recommend it.
Tune in next time where I finally give my NES a well deserved break and explore some of the other titles I have backlogged in my library!