Stalagmite's StarTropics Review
Gameplay is enjoyable, fun and pretty fast paced, the difficulty is fair, getting harder and harder as the game progresses, which will force you to better yourself (a rarity in today's games), and likes keeping you on your toes at times, graphics are excellent and detailed, sounds and music are executed well, suited to the levels/actions and memorable, controls decent, length is good for a game of this style, and it saves which helps for a game like this.
Grid movement system will take some time to adjust to as there's no diagonal movement, sometimes you'll spend quite a lot of time trying to solve 1 puzzle, movement controls can be unresponsive sometimes (it's a minor problem actually, though it gets ever so bothersome), and the later levels of the game may frustrate players due to the fact that this game forces you to better yourself.
Created in 1990 by Nintendo, Startropics is a game you that is fun and addicting. When you first load it up and press start...well, doesn't this look familiar? You play on into the dungeons and...Yes, your suspicions are true. It's a lot like Legend of Zelda...the first 2 games anyway. Basically, it takes what made the first couple of Legend of Zelda games so fun, multiplies them by 2 and adds in stuff that makes this game challenging and not just frustrating. Now, we've had some hits and misses with tampering with the Zelda formula (Soul Blazer for the SNES was a hit, but Dark Cloud for the PS2...ehh, it's alright I guess, and its sequel Dark Chronicle, also for the PS2, wasn't so bad either, but they weren't fun to play after some time, more tedious). Is this a hit or a miss? I say it's a hit, but I prefer Soul Blazer over this. Oh well, this is still a good game nonetheless. If you want an NES game to play, this is it.
Basically, you're on this remote island called the C-Islands by taking a helicopter from home to the helipad on the island, and you want to see your uncle, Dr Jones, who is a researcher. However, because of the fact that he's a heavy researcher, he gets kidnapped by aliens, so you have to save him. As Mike Jones, you go around the islands, armed with a trusty yo-yo and whatever else you can find, conquering the eight dungeons of this game and defeat bosses Zelda-style, whilst trying to find your uncle. Of course, to enter the dungeons, you must first find it, or an area close to what you think the dungeon is. You must then talk to everyone before you can enter the dungeons. This may sound annoying, but thankfully, each dungeon only requires a town full of people to talk to, plus there aren't even that many people, so it balances out. And besides, it can add to the story, and not many NES games have a story like this, so that still balances out. Besides, who doesn't like a story? ...okay, there are times where stories can bugger up a game (Final Fantasy XII anyone? I cannot forgive this game for having way too much story...no way does a game require cutscenes EVERY FEW MINUTES!!!), but this one doesn't have the whole '20 minute cutscene 5 minute action' disease Final Fantasy XII has, so thank god. But still I still wasn't really paying attention to the little details of the story, I only cared for the main story (if anything, considering it's an NES game); to find and rescue your uncle from certain death.
Your main character is named Mike, though, like in Zelda, you can rename your hero to what you like (I named him Nate, the manly version of my real name, but we'll keep referring to him as Mike). He is this game's main protagonist, and he is quite social as he enjoys having to talk to every person on the island, unless they're foes, in order to enter dungeons. He actually reminds me of Link from the Zelda series, only a human instead of an elf, doesn't wear a tunic (more like a shirt and pants) and his weapon isn't a sword, but something else...his main weapon is, believe or not, a yo-yo! Not a sword, but a yo-yo. You never would've thought a yo-yo could be so lethal, but it is! You will eventually believe it while getting through the dungeons. Speaking of which, Mike has got some real balls because these dungeons are filled to the brim with snakes, cobras, bats and a whole slew of enemies who want to do nothing in these dungeons but move around and try to kill Mike. As well as that, these dungeons have tricks and traps that Mike has to overcome the difficulty of passing through...because if he fails, he dies. If he's lucky to live, he'll have very little energy left. But he manages to overcome the difficulty of these tricky dungeons, as well as work machines like his uncle's submarine and such to get around these tropical islands to find his uncle. What a guy...
Okay, enough of the story and character, let's get to what everyone really cares about: GAMEPLAY! The gameplay will be recognizable to anybody familiar to the first two Zelda games. If you're not, first off stop living under that rock and go play them already, and next off, what it is, is this:
Overhead view: Occurs when you're in or out of a village/map, kind of like in Dragon Warrior or the second LoZ game. Typical, you just move in the 4 directions, depending on what you're pressing on the D-pad. You can talk to people in villages and on the island itself, as well as solve some puzzles. Again, typical Zelda engine tweak.
Non-overhead view: This is the view you get in the dungeons; 40 degrees above the ground. This allows you to keep your eye on Mike, as well as the enemies, items, platforms, surroundings and your inventory.
What I'll add is this: On the world map, you have to find dungeons and villages, talk to the villagers for hints and stuff on where your uncle is or how to get to the next dungeon, yeah that's already established, we know that already! But what I'll add is that in the dungeons, just like in the first Zelda game, each room within it requires you to find a way into the next room. This can be done either by jumping onto certain platforms until you find a switch then jumping onto a switch, defeating all the enemies, a combination of the two or finding some secret passages. Along the way in these dungeons, you'll find some items which will help a lot in the long run against the bosses, but since the items come in limited quantity, I wouldn't recommend wasting these on minor enemies. Your yo-yo should be the one used against minor enemies. Save the items for the bosses, as if you fight the bosses with your yo-yo, they'll only be more difficult than they should be.
As for the bosses themselves, unlike in Zelda, they are pretty hard. Maybe they're a bit easier than the dungeons, but still considerably hard nonetheless. Defeating them will take some time, as well as some memorization of timing of when to hit and when to dodge. Once you got the pattern down, you think you can win without much trouble, right? Wrong! The bosses tend to keep you on your toes even if you know what to expect from them and what to do, so just expect the unexpected basically, whilst pummeling the boss with...well, your projectiles, or your yo-yo can work, though projectiles help way better.
Please do yourself a favor, and keep an eye on your health when you're getting swarmed by enemies. You have hearts, just like in Zelda, to measure how much life you have left. And if enemies crash into you or hit you too much, or if you jump into the water by accident (yeah, Mike can't swim, what a shame), you'll lose a life. You lose all 3 of your lives, and you go back to where you last saved. And as for saving, you save as soon as you either:
Enter a dungeon
Lose all three lives in a dungeon
Finish a dungeon
You start the next chapter
So don't start thinking you can really select when you can save. It might be a pain, but if you got to save whenever you wanted, then the game would lose some of its challenge, and if you die, you'd simply reset, load up the file and start where you saved. As for what happens when you lose just 1 life and not all 3, you'll start your second or third life either halfway or a third of the way into the dungeon, and you only have 3 of your hearts refilled...just like in Zelda. You will have to repeat the puzzles you did before dying, depending on where you had to start again...just like in Zelda. Not really a problem, there should be a penalty to dying, aside from a game over if you die 3 times. Just common sense really, and I personally don't mind it. If you screw up, there is supposed to be a penalty. It can be a pain repeating the dungeon up until the point you just died in, but that's life, you shouldn't have died. Besides, a lot of deaths are avoidable.
Yeah...most of them, not all, are avoidable and only caused because you did something stupid or forgot a part of a puzzle. Some deaths can be caused because of this movement system...the grid system. See, the way your character, well, EVERY character in the dungeons move, it's set out like a grid, which is pretty unique, and different from Zelda. You cannot move diagonally though, but that's not too much of a problem since you shouldn't need to move diagonally as the entire game is set out this way to compliment with the system. The main problem is...well, it might not be the fault of the grid system, it might be the coding, I don't know, but there are times when the D-pad just wants to make your character face the direction you want him to move in. This isn't too common, but when it happens, it sometimes causes quicker deaths when enemies home in on you (you can just jump over them if there's like 1, but if you're surrounded, that's going to be a bit hard to dodge). Besides that, it just gets annoying when Mike doesn't move when you want him to, due to the grid system being a bit of a pain. TBH though, it just takes some time to adjust to, but you'll eventually get the hang of it. Even so, the D-pad control does get a little unresponsive, which gets annoying.
Speaking of controls, the controls are a bit better than in Zelda. You can attack with B, jump over enemies with A, jumping onto a platform 1 or 2 grid spaces adjacent to Mike by holding the D-pad to the direction of the platform + A, move with the D-pad, pause the game with the Start button and switch weapons with Select. A complaint about Zelda was that it was annoying having to press Start to open up the menu, just to change to weapons. Well, this game fixes that problem by having you just press Select to change weapons. It should only need to take a second to change your weapon, not 10 tedious seconds like in Zelda. Also, I felt that jumping was a nice touch, used to either dodge enemies or jump on platforms. I'd say that's pretty good, aside from the sometimes unresponsive D-pad.
The gameplay wouldn't be as enjoyable without the soundtrack. Whether it be the creepy music you hear upon entering a ghost town, the upbeat and catchy tunes of the dungeons and world map or the slightly depressing life loss tune, it's all very well done and suiting to the situation. It's actually clear that while playing the game, you'll end up listening to one of the NES's best musical scores. I honestly cannot get over how catchy these tunes are. As for the sound effects, they are well on the mark. Whether it's your yo-yo coming out to attack, your yo-yo hitting an enemy, jumping, pretty much anything (walking aside), the sound effects are just great. Seriously though, this is the highlight of Startropics.
As far the visuals go, they may not be the best feature that this game has to offer, but they're some of the NES's best graphics nonetheless. Why? The first thing you'll see would be some of the world map. It looks very detailed...well, as detailed as 8-bit can get. The trees look a lot like palm trees you'd see in pictures if you searched 'palm trees' in Google Image search. The grass is a light green color fill with dark green dots spaced evenly to give the player the illusion of grass. Hell, it all looks good on the world map. The people in the villages look good, much like people you'd see in Dragon Warrior, which is aesthetically pleasing to the eye while looking like people. Go into the dungeons...the surroundings are also quite detailed, looking like a cartoon version of being in a cave, only, you know...8-bit. Some complaints I've heard as far as graphics go is that Mike isn't as detailed as the enemies. The enemies look very detailed and clearly recognizable. Mike is clearly recognizable as a human and...Well, while he isn't as detailed as his foes, he still looks pleasing to the eyes. Some of the cutscenes that play are definitely the high point of graphics for this game. To be frank, I have yet to see anything on the NES as detailed as some of these cutscenes, because they are not only the most detailed graphics I've ever seen on an NES game, they're also fluent and incredibly pleasing to look at. Overall, while not this game's highest point, it's definitely one of the NES's best visual efforts.
So basically, this game is meant for those who want a challenge, because this is quite a challenging game, but others can still find something to love about this game. If you don't want a challenging game, still give this game a shot. You'll be amazed anyway at the visuals and soundtrack, and you will grow to love this game. If you haven't played this game yet, you don't know what you're missing out on...
It takes a while to get used to the grid system, but if you stick with it, you'll really get into it. It may frustrate some gamers that the difficulty is kind of high, but again, stick with it, and you'll eventually enjoy it for what it is...a challenging yet rewarding experience, only on the NES and maybe the Wii Virtual Console.
Crisp and detailed, some of the NES's best graphics.
The soundtrack is fitting to the game and would make the game boring without it. The sound effects are just typical 8-bit sound effects.
The D-pad could be a bit more responsive, but otherwise, these controls are quite fine and easy to master within time...trust me, you will need to, as this game forces you to better yourself.