Welcome to the island-hopping video game that proved once and for all just how lethal a yo-yo can be. Startropics is a strange little game Nintendo released in 1990 on the unwitting public. This oddly addictive game has got to be one of the most eccentric games I've ever had the opportunity to play. Then again, it's the little quirks and absurdities in this game that make it fun.
You star in this game as Michael Jones. Mike is the average American teenager with an amazing aptitude for pitching baseballs. He receives a letter from his Uncle Steve, an archeologist with a laboratory on an island named C-Island, located somewhere in the Coral Sea. Uncle Steve, or Dr. J as the islanders call him, is studying some lost ruins in the area.
When Mike arrives on C-Island, he meets the chief of the local village of Coralcola. But the chief doesn't have good news for young Mike. It appears that recently, Dr. J was kidnapped from his laboratory and hasn't been seen since. Monsters of various sorts have also begun appearing all through out the island chain C-Island sits in. Mike bravely volunteers to go find his uncle and get to the bottom of the mysterious goings on in the area. He is given an island treasure, a yo-yo, which quickly becomes a quite unlikely, but also quite useful weapon. He meets the island shaman and embarks on the quest of his lifetime.
The controls on this game are quite simple. On the overworld and in towns and some caverns, the A button talks to others and examines. The start button pauses the game, tells you how many hearts you have full, what weapon you have, and what chapter you are in. The control pad, of course, moves you around.
In the action sequences, i.e. the numerous labyrinths through out the islands, the controls are slightly more complex. The control pad moves you around. The A button jumps your character into the air, and if you are on a tile or at a ledge you can jump over, pushing the direction and hitting A makes you jump across one tile's worth of space. The B button fires the currently selected weapon, which will normally be your trusty yo-yo or one of its later incarnations. Hitting start pauses the game, and while paused, you can hit up on the control pad to get to the menu of non-combat items, including potions you find along the way. Hitting select chooses which weapon you want to use. You can pick up weapons other than your yo-yo in the various dungeons, however, these weapons have a limited supply and when you leave the cavern, you lose the weapon. The same goes for your non-combat items.
At the end of the initial C-Island adventure, you also gain access to the yellow mini-sub, Sub-C. Moving Sub-C is just a matter of using the directional pad. Later on in the game, you get the access code that will allow you to submerge and go through underwater tunnels marked by dark, wavy lines in the water. On board Sub-C is the robotic navigational computer named Nav-Com (the writers of the game really do like their hyphens, don't they?) Nav-Com gives you advice and will be your assistant in tracking down Dr. J.
The graphics in this game are fairly good for an NES game. They are terrible by today's standards, but compared to other NES games, they are really good. And one of the bigger pluses in this game is the fact that there is very little pallet swapping in the enemy design.
The sound and music are repetitive and boring. There is only about one catchy song in the game and it only plays in one area. I kind of wish they would have done a better job on the music than they did, but such is life. The sound was decent, but considering how many times you fling your yo-yo and jump throughout the game, the sounds, too, get old pretty fast.
Startropics is a hypnotic little game that was fairly well done. The island-jumping adventure is worth your time playing. It's an odd breed of Adventure/RPG that blends a tropical adventure with an alien conspiracy. My biggest complaint is the fact that a good 70 percent of this game is jumping from tile to tile in the dungeons. It's fun at first, but sometimes jumping will manage to get you in trouble and you will find yourself falling in water, or lava, or just a great big hole in the ground. Overall, I give this game a 75%. You may now remove those bananas from your ears.