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Wii Virtual Console: StarTropics Review

by: Hollan ; edited by: Simon Hill ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

The American Legend of Zelda, sort of.

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    StarTropics is an NES game, released in 1990, and it is one of the only games made primarily for US and European audiences. While it it is similar to The Legend of Zelda in a few ways, it stands on its own as a unique action adventure game.

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    You play as Mike Jones (so original) a pitcher from America that receives a letter from his uncle, an archaeologist named Dr. J to come visit him on the island he's conducting research on. Upon his arrival, Mike discovers his uncle has gone missing and sets out on a quest to find him and uncover the secrets of his disappearance. Mike must travel from island to island and dungeon to dungeon to find out the truth. Also, there are aliens.

    Story-wise I find StarTropics has more in common with Mother (Earthbound Zero) than Legend of Zelda. It's weird and interesting in a way that only early NES games are.

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    Like many NES and SNES era games, StarTropics is a top down style action adventure, although while in towns and the overworld you are a lot farther away from Mike than when you are in dungeons. You control him with the classic Wii mote combination of d-pad and 1 and 2 as B and A to jump and use your weapon. Also, like a lot of NES games, there is no diagonal movement.

    While in towns Mike must talk to NPCs and gather information or buy supplies. Once a certain amount of information is gathered, he can travel into a dungeon. Dungeons in StarTropics are filled with enemies and simple puzzles.

    The combat is real time. Mike starts out with a yo-yo as his first weapon, but he can get more as the game progresses. He never gets a sword, but instead has things like baseball bats and a laser gun. Most enemies move in a certain predetermined path that is easy to figure out, but some are faster than others so it is best to be cautious.

    The puzzles in StarTropics are not brain teasers. In fact, most of them are pretty simple. The most difficult being the 'dip the paper in water' puzzle that the VC version has made more than obvious (the original NES version was less so). At the end of each dungeon is a boss that does call for a bit of strategy to defeat. This is not a simple hack and slash as there is quite a bit of thought to put into some of them.

    There are also a lot of instant death traps in each dungeon. Sometimes just opening a door can result in Mike getting killed.

    Mike levels up much like Link, with the collection of a life bar (hearts) instead of gaining levels. If you run out of life you will begin at the entrance to the dungeon.

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    Graphics and Sound

    StarTropics isn't winning any awards with its graphics. Even for an NES game it doesn't look all that good. I mean, it came out in 1990 and that's the best they could do? The colors are sparse, the character designs are blocky and strange. Everything moves very stiffly. I wasn't at all impressed.

    Sound wise StarTropics is pretty good. The music is upbeat and catchy, although it can get old after a while. The sound effects aren't very impressive, but I'm willing to let that slide.

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    StarTropics can be fun for a while. The story line is interesting and different. But the dungeons can be really difficult with the instant death traps and the annoying bosses. It presents a challenge that's for sure, but I'm not sure if it's a challenge I like. I would have preferred more difficult puzzles and easing up on the instant death.

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    StarTropics is an interesting game. I prefer Mother, but that's probably not coming to the VC. If you want a challenge and have 500 Wii points lying around give it a try. Be warned that it is not really very much like Legend of Zelda though.