Action-Adventure, Nintendo Entertainment System
StarTropics is an RPG-flavored action adventure game from the cusp of the early 90s. I'm lucky enough to have a cartridge of this one, and as I promised in my game collecting post about it, here is the review!
Young protagonist Mike Jones (no, not the rapper) is visiting tropical C-Island to see his uncle Dr. Jones. The chief of the natives informs him that his uncle has been kidnapped and mysterious monsters are roaming the island's underground. Mike must act to save both his uncle and the archipelago from imminent danger.
From a world map, the player travels into a classic RPG-style town. There, a basic yo-yo weapon is provided by the town's chief, and you are loosed into the bowels of the first dungeon almost immediately. On the other side, Baboo, the assistant of Dr. Jones, gives you access to his submarine and hints that something darker is going on amongst the seemingly peaceful islands.
The game has a somewhat odd movement system in the dungeons, wherein pressing a directional button makes Mike pivot in that direction prior to actually moving. It leads to a sort of slip-and-slide style walking, but it makes for more precise aiming of weapons and actually becomes second nature before you've even finished the first dungeon. Also of note is the fact that the player's sprite doubles in size when in the dungeons. Why Mike is not always this size is beyond my understanding, but it's still pretty interesting to see such large, detailed characters in an old NES game.
|You had better get used to jumping. A lot.|
Keep an eye out for the bosses, as well. These guys require really good timing, can kill you in only a few shots, and take a lot of beating before finally perishing. It's amusing that a pixelated, flailing octopus can get your heart pumping a lot more than the bosses in many modern games! You can fend off these baddies with your trusty yo-yo or an assortment of other (usually sports-themed) limited-use weapons. Why are random baseball paraphernalia hidden in the cave systems of a tropical archipelago? Don't ask me.
In a lot of ways StarTropics seems like an organic broadening of the concepts put forth in The Legend of Zelda only a few years earlier. Whereas Zelda is kind of like one big dungeon, StarTropics utilizes the spaces between dungeons to insert dialogue, characters, and reemphasize what Mike's goals are. For the most part, it's just a repetition of dungeon, town, dungeon, town; but the pacing feels comfortable and the breaks between the sometimes frustrating dungeons are much needed.
The music is on the bland end of the spectrum, but isn't so bad that you'll feel the need to mute the game. The puzzles almost entirely comprise of jumping on green tiles until you find one that hides a button, so I wouldn't really class this as a "puzzle" type game. There are some unique stylistic choices, namely with the setting, that I honestly don't see developers striving for much nowadays. Collecting interesting items, fighting new enemies, and tackling the quite difficult bosses is a lot of fun in itself, and for those reasons alone the game is not to be missed by any action-adventure fans out there.