I don't give my NES much time any more, these days I'm wrapped up in adventures with the characters of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, XenoGears, or even Einhaender. However, when I do return to my 8-bit friend, Star Tropics is a game that keeps me coming back... I only wish I knew why.
Let me see if I can explain this, ok? When I was about eight or so, I went to Toys 'R Us, in hopes of finding some action figure, or something. Well, it wasn't there, but I got two games instead: Kirby's Adventure and Star Tropics. I went home and popped Star Tropics into my NES. With my limited eight year old attention span, I played about ten minutes and switched over to Kirby's Adventure, which was a lot more fun.
I didn't really pay much attention to Star Tropics until about a year later, when I had finally bothered to finish Kirby. All of a sudden, Star Tropics had me immersed until the next cool game I got, when I forgot all about it. From this, I have learned two things: Nine year old gamers are fickle people, and Star Tropics takes a special frame of mind to play; namely boredom.
The plot is as follows: You are Mikey, a kid of unspecified age. You head out to the Island where your mad-scientist-like-uncle works, and, recently, has dissapeared. A strange shaman woman gives you a wooden yoyo to beat monsters over the head with, and you're all set to find your Uncle. The plot will not progress much at all until the end of the game, but at least it isn't a save the princess plot, right?
Game play is divided into an upper world and caves. This distinction is a little unusual for an Action/RPG, but I don't ask questions. In caves you fight monsters, in the upper world you talk to annoying villagers and explore.
Luckily for Mikey, your arsenal isn't limited to a wooden yoyo. It will expand to unclude ninja stars, cleets, baseballs, baseball bats, and some other stuff depending on what items you find while crawling the caves. You can also pick up magic items that do things like healing Mikey or lighting up rooms. I hate to tell you folks, but the game play isn't that original.
\the control is a nightmare. I'm not exaggerating in the least bit, either. While the game is mostly combat driven, Mikey moves like he's in a puzzle game. You can't start moving one direction then change your mind and fluidly start moving in another. Instead you have to let Mikey stop for a second, THEN move in another direction. Even the "drift" in Super Mario Brothers was less annoying than this. While the concept makes for precise movement, I found it hard to fight while compensating for Mikey's extreme decisiveness.
Mikey also jumps a little, which is the basis of most puzzles in the game. The puzzles are sometimes a little difficult, but even my nine year old brother would probably be able to solve them in one sitting. The "find the switch to open the door" approach was used for not just some, but ALL of these puzzles, and got really old. Especially since they had very few rooms to add any kind of a twist to this element.
The graphics in the caves are nothing fascinating, and in fact suck even for being an NES game. Sometimes I wonder if the programmers who made NES games just decided, "oh well, it'll look like crap in comparison to real life any way, so who cares?" I know graphics can be done better on the little 8-bitter. Ninja Gaiden proved that to me.
And thus, the adventure continues, on the upper world...
The graphics here suck even more than in the caves. Just don't look at the game, and you should be fine. A really annoying thing about the characters on the world map is that they are animated as though walking all the time, even when standing still. This is due to the artists being too lazy to program an idle frame.
The music in and out of the caves adds a somewhat distinct upbeat flavor, but isn't anything worth writing home about. I really never pay much attention to music in NES games, though, so it doesn't really bother me too much.
However, I love this game. Almost all of the stuff I have said so far was criticism, but I still love this game. Somehow, Mikey endeared himself to me (it could have been that we share a first name ;0) as did his quirkey adventures. This is one of those NES games that really isn't much to speak of, and yet addicts you if you spend much time with it. In short, you'll love it or hate it. You may find a medium, but I doubt it.