Vacation is almost over. For many students, school has begun, or is about to begin. How about I close August with the ultimate vacation adventure, courtesy of Nintendo?
Anyone remembers StarTropics? No? Well... On one hand, it IS one of Nintendo's most forgotten series. Created by Nintendo of America, the series is little known in Japan. And since most Nintendo games are made in Japan, let's say this small franchise doesn't get much attention. It was barely mentioned in Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Chronicle mode and received no trophy whatsoever. Not even stickers! It's kind of sad for Mike Jokes, the hero of this story. And since I grew up with the game (it was in my collection of NES games, and it was one of my favorites), I told myself that I HAD to review it at some point. Give it a bit of the spotlight for once.
The game is fairly simple: Mike Jones walks around on the overworld screen, enters villages, speaks to people, solves puzzles. When he enters a dungeon, the perspective shifts; now we follow Mike one room after the other, as he battles enemies, finds switches to open doors, jumps on pads and avoids the dozens of hazards. On the way, he gains upgrades to his main weapon, and also finds all sorts of additional weapons and items in the dungeons, which help him fight the dangerous enemies and the creative bosses on his way.
How about we start now? This is StarTropics, everyone, a game that definitely deserves a better place in Nintendo's large library of games.
As soon as the game starts, we see Mike dropped off from a helicopter onto C-Island, where he was supposed to meet his uncle, Dr. Jones. ...who, by the way, looks nothing like Indiana Jones, not even the one from Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. So Mike walks on C-Island, which really is C-shaped, and enters the village. There, he has to speak to absolutely everyone before he can speak to the Chief. Because you know, an American boy looking for his uncle sure will want to hear about everyone's little problems, right?
In fact, this is something that has bugged me ever since I bought the game, long ago, and it still bugs me. WHY do you need to speak to everyone in the village? On a technical standpoint, it makes little sense, as Mike was sure he could see his uncle. It's only once he enters the Chief's hut that he learns that his uncle has been kidnapped! Why on Earth would he need to speak to everyone before he even learns the news? Not like it makes a big difference...
Anyway, C-Island's chief (who bears a mustache that would make Mario proud) gives Mike the famous Island Yo-Yo- Oh wait, I meant the Island Star. Seriously, who's the dumbass who decided “Yo-Yo” was a trademark? Enterprises, always stopping us from having fun words. So, Mike, now armed with the Island Star (urk... My nostalgia feels betrayed), heads to the sorceress' hut, where he enters C-Island's cave, which has been inexplicably filled with monsters and traps shortly after Dr. J.'s disappearance. And as luck would have it (me and my bad luck...), it's the only way towards Jones' laboratory.
|That's serpently a good first boss.|
|Dolphin translator... what else do we|
have in here? A toaster for bagels
only? shoes without laces?
...A poster of The Room??
|Come over here, Octo! I want to examine you a little! Don't|
be shy, I just want you to meet Mrs. Yo-Yo and Doctor Bat!
|Jumping: Not very easy in this one. Then again,|
it could have been worse. It Could have been Link.
|76 mirrors, 40 bolas... Wait. Couldn't he just use the same|
mirror every time? Or the game knows how many times
the mirror can be hit before it breaks?
Want another proof that Mike is an idiot? The next time we hear about him, he got caught in a storm and crashed the Sub-C. Luckily for him, he survived; he landed on a beach. The same cannot be said for the submarine, caught in a coral reef. If he wants his quest to continue, he has to find a way to repair it. So he starts walking on the island, completely forgetting about the robotic buddy still in the ship...
Mike walks through a small dungeon containing, among others, flamingos with skull heads. ...I wish I was making that up. Oh, and monkeys with wings. But who cares? This is a short dungeon! Mike finds a way out and reaches the village of Miracola, where he has to – once more – speak to freaking everyone if he wants to enter the Chief's hut. Again, why? Mike is in a hurry, he needs to find his uncle, he doesn't have time for little pointless island chatter! Anyway, Mike speaks to the chief of Miracola and learns that his daughter has been cursed with eternal sleep. And of course, he will not help Mike unless the American teenager finds the spell to wake her up.
Because obviously, a tourist should do all the dirty work. Me and my stupid tendency to question this game's logic...
|I guess fiery tempers must be doused.|
Water you gonna do?
Okay, look, I know Mike has been sent on this quest and all, but seriously? The bosses are that stupid? C-Serpent keeps opening its mouth, sometimes for no reason; Octo approaches the player, not even trying to hurt him; and now this smartass fire monster who fully KNOWS it's standing just over water and that falling into it will instantly kill him? Gosh!
Still, as a result, Mike passes to the next location. He knows about a sage located on top of a mountain... but Mike has to get there, the path is closed, and there is no bridge! However, there's a castle nearby... and the queen of Shecola knows the formula to bring the bridge up. There's just one problem. Shecola is home to rabid amazons who do not let men enter the castle. Insert female homoerotic subtext here if you have a dirty mind. Mike walks around the castle and finds a fortune teller who promises to help him enter the castle... if Mike brings back her crystal ball, which has been lost in the Ghost Village, at the very top of the island. Great, more fetching!
Mike enters the Ghost Village, more of a graveyard around a lake than anything else really, and finds an odd tombstone that turns out to be an entrance to another dungeon! This one is really long and tedious and tricky, as there are many false exits that will force you to restart the whole dungeon from the freaking beginning. Yes, this is an unnerving level. But there's worse. Along the way, you pick up special scepters that will emit a flash in a room when you use them. This causes ghosts to become visible. Yes, there are ghosts in here! And you better not waste the scepters in ghost-less rooms, or you will be stuck. And there is no way to know if there's a ghost in the room until you use the scepter.
Mike continues walking through the dungeon and eventually meets wizards that appear and disappear; also, they shoot energy balls and can NOT be hurt by the yo-yo or other weapons... so Mike uses mirror shields to reflect the energy balls back at them. Apparently it works. Oh, did I mention that there are also HORDES OF MUMMIES in the level? Holy crap! Anyway, Mike also manages to reach the boss... Maxie, a giant ghost. This boss does show some intelligence, though: It stays far from the ground, floating over the water, and has hordes of small ghosts going towards Mike. Oh, and there's also cannons shooting fireballs. It also speeds up after it's been hit. Kudos, StarTropics: Your most logical boss so far is a ghost.
Still, after Mike destroys Maxie, he finds an empty room where he presses a button, causing all of the lake's water to go underground. Mike recovers the crystal ball, goes back to Shecola and gives it to the fortune teller.
|No, really? Congrats, Mike, you almost|
blew your cover!
|How does he do if he runs out of food up there?|
Does he teleport down there for grocery shopping?
Because I can't picture him going through this
whole dungeon with four grocery bags!
Oh, I forgot to mention a running gag about Mike traveling around with bananas? My mistake! Oh yeah, I sure would get a lot of comedy out of that...
Anyway, the Sub-C is picked up from the reef and repaired by the Miracolans, and Mike leaves to his next destination.
Mike is still in his quest when he finds a little island shaped like a fish. He visits the village of Tunacola (yuck!), in which he hears that Dr. J.'s assistant, Bubba, is searching for him. Mike leaves again in the Sub-C, but the submarine gets eaten by a giant whale! Inside the whale, Mike finds Bubba, who was out at sea on a raft... Okay... and a lighter, but the lighter is far inside the giant whale. Bubba, also known as “an insulting caricature of island ethnics”, tasks Mike with the job of finding the lighter so they can set the raft on fire and cause the whale to sneeze. Mike ventures through the whale and finds the lighter, and then comes back. Mike and Bubba carry on with their plan, which indeed causes the whale to sneeze and spit them on a nearby tiny island. Talk about a lucky coincidence that there was an island around, huh? Mike can't swim, remember that!
|By the way, congratulations to that whale for having innards|
that look so much like a dungeon. Nature does things well.
Bubba tells Mike that finding Dr. Jones will be much easier if the Sub-C can locate him; only, the helping robot needs the code... which can be found only by dipping the letter in water. ...You know, the letter? The one that was packaged with the game? What? You don't remember that? You lost the letter? You're lucky the Internet is there! You had to dip the very real letter given to players with the game in water, and the code would appear: 747 (no need to thank me). You then input the code as the robot asks, and Mike is ready to leave, with a Sub-C upgraded both to go underwater (IT WAS ABOUT FREAKING TIME!) and to locate the scientist.
Sounds like a fun vacation so far, huh? See you this Monday for the next and final part!