Several weeks ago whilst I was working through the Legend of Zelda I came across a game that apparently shared a similar look and style to both Zelda games and an RPG to boot. A quick nosey around the web showed StarTropics to be a good title so I thought it would be worth the risk of importing. The game was only released in the US during 1990 by Nintendo themselves which explains a lot of what happens in game (which I will get to later). My first port of call was eBay and even with shipping prices of $10 the game was still pretty cheap at around the same. Coming with cart, manual and box although it had the usual scuff marks and battered corners it was in fairly good condition all told. It wasn’t until it arrived that I realised something was actually missing.
A bit of research via Google revealed that the game should come with a piece of parchment, a letter from Uncle Steve to the main game character Mike. Later in the game you are instructed to actually dip the letter in water to reveal a secret message, a code that you need to continue. Reading a bit more about the letter and it appears that most stores tended to rent NES games out in great numbers so a letter like this tended to disappear or the store removed it completely. Which means these parchments must be like gold dust and I still haven’t been able to spot one on eBay since I picked my copy up on several weeks ago. I was able to find a pretty decent scan of a complete one and have added a picture to this blog.
The game story starts off simple enough with you being invited to visit your Uncle Steve on C-Island for a holiday however once you arrive it seems he has disappeared. Based over several chapters it is your job to hunt him down and find out just what’s going on. For an RPG it’s quaint but silly, you even receive a request to save a young dolphins life from its mother though on my first play through I wasn’t able to find him.
Starting out you are presented with a 2D map which seems to use the exact same graphics tiles as the over world of Zelda II with everything being rearranged to make a totally different landscape. The similarities don’t end there however as you continue on your journey you begin to pick up various items that seem to be pinched right from Zelda 1, such as the compass, map, wand etc. The game does switch to more of a Zelda 1 perspective once you are inside a building, cavern, dungeon etc with all the available weapons being laid out in the item bar below. The weapon of choice that you start with is a Yo-Yo but as the game progresses you are given other chances like a baseball.
A God send to NES games the cart uses the battery backup so no lengthy long password codes here with the game being linear (no vast maps to explore just a straight forward RPG) I often found myself completing a chapter or two before saving. The dungeon sections are quite well designed with each having numerous puzzles most requiring you to jump on certain blocks, find a key or kill a set number of enemies finishing with a boss that requires the use of an item you collected earlier. The first boss you come across involves a rather long snake which requires some good timing and a bit of luck to beat so it still offers a challenge from time to time. Although it sounds very much like the first Zelda (pinching a bit from both Zelda games probably down to the designers wanting to save costs and reuse some of their engines) and does follow its basic design in those ways yet there’s something endearing about it all. It is by no means difficult and even with the story becoming sillier as it goes on it leaves you wanting to see the end.
Not one of my favourite games but certainly up there as one of the more enjoyable US NES titles. I believe there’s a sequel and this has peaked my interest so I’ll be adding it to the purchase list.