Thursday, 23 August 2012

Review: StarTropics (NES)

It's summer time and it's unbearably hot. Save me digital escapism! Take me away to the cool, breezy land of ...StarTropics? Godda-

Gameplay-wise I was told it was very similar to the original Zelda on the NES, but I'm not entirely sure if that comparison is all that valid. You have the save slot selection screen of Zelda 1, the overhead perspective, visit many dungeons in which you combat enemies and solve puzzles, but that's pretty much how deep the comparison goes.

I disagree a little.. I feel like maybe in this day and age, you’d have to be familliar with a lot of the gameplay of zelda to get to grips with startropics. I feel like if i was a total newb to old zelda games the way this game works would mystify me a little? Though a lot of NES games did when I was a kid. For example, I had ghostbusters on the spectrum my whole life and I never figured that out.

Oh my! Thank you for noticing.

You play as Americola citizen Mike Jones, the nephew of the famous archeologist Dr. Jones. (I know, it's very subtle like that) Mike's iconic design is stuff for the ages. He wears a plain white T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

Feel like he’s missing a red baseball cap and a skateboard.. Though.. he DOES fight with a yoyo and baseball bat... Earthbound, anyone?

Sorry, I can't hear you - It's 1990 and I'm being wacky!

The controls of this game are really tight. In fact, it felt way too tight to my initial chagrin. Everything in the world is locked to a grid. This might sound restrictive, and it is, but it is by design. It allows the game to turn into a puzzle platformer. The game is littered with blocks to jump on, many which reveal switches, which in turn trigger other things.

Heh, I guess it’s good for a NES game. I wouldn’t say the crude platform action stands the test of time or anything. Also fuck those mosquito things man. God damn. I guess they are the worst antagonists of warm climates though. The blocks-as-switches thing is really this games main mechanic, but that really is way better than it sounds! It’s actually surprisingly well designed easily comparable to a zelda dungeon given its limitations. Every room has a new strategy that challenges you. 

Oh, you know... just doing some archaeology.

The absolute weirdest thing StarTropics has going is a running gag of bananas and cola. These weird jokes will pop up all the time, including right at the end next to the villain. That said, I must admit I kind of enjoyed the scenarios and pieces of dialogue. It was a simple adventure story and they did it reasonably well.

Yeah the dialogue is... I’ve seen worse localisations. And the story is, um... well.. it’s very ‘of its time’. It keeps you going, though. Well paced. Also there’s a parrot who says ‘do me.’ 

Well, if it's a BOY dolphin.

- The game closes by showing you full-screen pictures of many of the key-moments in the game. I must admit... I'm a sucker for these kinds of things. It not only gives you a nice reminder of everything you've done in the game, but also shows the scenes with more detail in place. The graphical fidelity of the NES leaves a lot up to your imagination, so these pictures were pretty darn cool.
- There’s a puzzle in the game that makes you dig up the letter attached to the game’s manual. If you soak this letter into some water, a secret message will appear. While I probably don’t want to see this ever again in a game, I do like it for novelty and meta-game reasons. I bet if I played this as a kid, it would have been incredibly memorable.
- Perhaps a little dumb and superficial, but the submarine. It is your main mode of transportation on the overworld and usually the bridge between chapters. It allows you to zoom from island to island and dive in designated spots. Inside of it is a good old R.O.B. who will keep you up to speed on your tasks at hand.
- Good dungeon design. It’s packed with secrets, tricky platform jumping puzzles, enemies require strategies, etc.
- Pretty lenghty for an NES title. Especially impressive because it isn’t really artificially padded either.
- Yes, there is crossdressing.

- Many of the dungeons have seemingly innocent paths which are actually exits. This essentially forces you to redo the entire dungeon you were on.
- Throughout the game you’ll encounter many invisible passages. On the overworld they aren’t too difficult to find, as the explorable world is never too big and you’ll often see paths you can’t reach, so you’ll know there must be a way to get there. In the dungeons, however, you often have to run blindly into a wall, which takes you to a secret area. Luckily most of these places in the dungeons are not required to beat the game.
- Some of the puzzles are a little bit baffling or misleading.
- Towards the end the game it gets super frustrating, the first part of the last dungeon is nightmarish and the boss is a total pain.

Up yours, Kridley! Imma kick you in the power cells.

It’s no Kirby’s Dreamland, but it’s one NES game I sure would have loved when I was a kid, considering how many crappy ones there were, often way tricky and without save files. To complete it with the patience of an adult though, I did need those emulator save states ;)

Agreed. I was overally positive surprised and could probably recommend it to people with a nose for retro games. I’d give it a pretty dope out of ten.

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