Startropics
Box Shot
Startropics
Platform: NES
Publisher: Nintendo
Designer: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

I remember first looking at the Nintendo Power magazine that featured this game. It looked so awesome...an updated version of Legend of Zelda, minus lots of the resource gathering plus more puzzles. All while adding an interesting plot! Could this game possibly fail?

Well, sort of. But I'll get into that shortly. Startropics starts off when your alter ego, Mike, lands on an island to visit his uncle Steve. When he visits the local village, he finds out that his uncle has been abducted by some unknown beings. Not only that, but all of the residents are getting nervous and scared about this dissappearance. Naturally, you must go find your uncle. God forbid any of the islanders did anything.

So your adventure begins. There are basically two modes of gameplay. The first bears a resemblance to Dragon Warrior with less pixelated sprites and more colors. In this mode, you simply walk around, find secret passages, and talk to people. You don't fight anybody, as this is essentially the game's "overworld". Eventually you find a Sub that will allow you to travel over water and under certain land mountains. Many of the individual chapters involve some sort of pointless detour (saving a baby dolphin, getting your Sub fixes when a storm hits, etc.) but they aren't horribly bad.

The action sequences occur when you enter a cave or likewise area. Starting off with a yo-yo (snicker) and three hearts, you must kill enemies, find more secret passages, and jump on tiles. And jump on tiles. And jump on even more tiles. Any of the little squares in the game, you cannot simply walk on them, you must jump. Switches to open doors to the next screen are often triggered by jumping on the correct tile. In a room practically filled with these things, it can take forever to test out each and every square of the room. No wonder why this game has been referred to as "the tile hopping adventure."

But no. That's not my main gripe. The worst thing about this game is the controls. Simply tapping "up" on the controller does not move Mike upward...he simply faces upward. You must hold down the direction you wish to walk in for a split second before Mike actually moves. It is possible to get used to this, but this is nearly impossible when fighting enemies. I know why they did this...they wanted to make it possible to face and attack in other direction without moving your character, but when running and dodging enemies charging at you becomes an impossibility due to the jerky controls, you have to wonder what the programmers were thinking. Plus, you can only jump straight up when there is no tile to be jumped on. I find it extremely hard to hop over enemy projectiles when I just move in place! You can't move or fire diaganolly, but the bad guys can. (sigh)

And there's still the little things. There are several times where the game gets really unfair. Like when you jump into a room, completely unwarned, that is filled with water. This will lead to your demise instantly, without any chance whatsoever to save your ass. And, in turn, this brings upon another major flaw...you only get three lives, and each death sends you back quite a bit in the level. And it can be very easy to die too. In the last level, it is nearly impossible to dodge the incredibly fast motorcycles, or attack the robots, simply because they walk much faster than you and their range is longer than any weapon you have. In addition to the unfairness mentioned above, falling into a pit or getting hit by a humoungous boulder will be the cause of way too many deaths. You do get other weapons besides the crappy yo-yo, but they either have limited usages (you can only swing a baseball bat 30 times) or don't work unless enough hearts on your life meter are filled.

The graphics themselves are actually fairly good...the overworld graphics are colorful, but not very detailed. The action sequences look nice too, but almost all of the levels look the same, at least until the end game. Mike and the enemies could be better animated though. The main music theme is very catchy, but when you hear it so often, it can get really annoying. Most of the rest of the music, quite frankly, sucks.

Startropics could've turned out to be a true classic, but too much frustration revolves around the poor ability to control your character. If you can deal with all of the above, then Startropics can actually be a pretty good game. Although you'll play through the same level many times due to constant death, they are usually well designed, even if you have to jump on way too many tiles. The plot is actually pretty good too, as it brings an unexpected sci-fi twist to this game (that's where the "star" in "Startropics" comes from.) If you have a very high tolerance level and plenty of time, Startropics can be very fun, and even addicting. After all, it is basically molded after Zelda (a look at the character registration screen is all you need to see the influence.) But most gamers will probably get too pissed off at the gratuitous deaths.