Mike Jones returns in the sequel to Startropics. Startropics 2: Zoda's Revenge manages to surpass its predecessor in a number of ways, not the least of which is in the control department. Like Startropics, the sequel is an adventure type RPG in which you alternate between normal RPG type control and action sequences. And this time around, it isn't an island hop Mike embarks on. It's a disjointed romp through time.
As you may or may not recall, Mike Jones is the brave teenage pitcher who saved his eccentric uncle, Dr. Jones, or Dr. J for short, from an evil alien named Zoda and freed 7 alien children from three alien cubes, all with the help of the trusty yo-yo he got from the chief of Coralcola at the start of his unlikely quest.
Since his adventure's end, he has returned to Seattle and gone back to school. His uncle has also returned to the states, where he has spent his time trying to solve a cipher that was found on the alien's escape pod. Mica, the princess of the fallen planet of Argonia, where the children escaped from, has since learned she has telepathic powers. One day, she contacts Mike with some information she dreamt the night before. Here father had said to her, in the dream, two cryptic phrases, "Was it a cat I saw? Was it a rat I saw?"
Mike takes this information to his uncle, who immediately sees that the phrases are, in fact, a clue to solve the mysterious cipher. Mike grabs a history book and, before his uncle can stop him, repeats the deciphered cipher and is hurled backward through time on a new adventure to seek out mysterious blocks scattered throughout time by Mica's father, called Tetrads (yes, they are not dissimilar to each of the different blocks one would find when playing a game of "Tetris") before his alien nemesis does.
The control in Startropics 2 is leaps and bounds beyond that of Startropics. The overworld, or any time Mike is walking around in his small form, is controlled the same as in Startropics. Examine, talk, and confirm are all done with the A button. Moving around, of course, is done with the directional pad. The start button pauses the game and lets one see how many hearts Mike has, what weapon and physic power he has, and new for Startropics 2, what Tetrads are currently possessed.
The action sequences are where the improvements in control are quite evident. First, and most importantly, you are now able to maneuver while jumping from anywhere. You can also quickly turn while walking around. You can also move diagonally, both walking and jumping. Jumping is done via the A button. Throwing your weapon, which isn't the yo-yo of Startropics fame, is done by pressing the B button. Further, you can now fire diagonally. I should also mention that throughout the game, you will gain a special magic power that is usually slightly less effective than your normal weapon. Jumping and attacking will now throw the weapon in the air ahead of you, not at the ground as the yo-yo did.
Startropics 2 adds a new aspect to the action sequences by having more than one level of floor. You can now jump up on top of certain ledges from below. When jumping off of these ledges to the ground, you must be careful because it adds extra movement to your jump.
The select button, as before, selects your weapon of choice, and the start button pauses the game and gives you access to non-combat "magic items" by pressing up on the directional pad. Special weapons and magic items are gained on a labyrinth-by-labyrinth basis, just like in Startropics.
It also should be noted that you are now able to walk over tiles. There are still switch tiles, which you find by walking over them. If the tile blinks when you walk over it, it is a trigger, at which point you have to jump on top of it in order to trigger the effect.
The newfound mobility Mike gains in jumping, however, creates a new problem. You have a maximum jumping range of a little more than a single space. Because of this, and the fact that you can jump from anywhere in the field, you can mess up jumps and not make it. Also, since you can now maneuver in the air while jumping, you can accidentally cut the jump short and find yourself taking a bath by moving too far in the wrong direction. It takes some getting used to, but eventually one does get the hang of the limitations that Mike's jumps possess.
Graphics, too, are a step up from Startropics. In part because this game was made at the tail end of the NES's life-span, the graphics are about as good as one will find on the NES. There are, however, things I don't personally like. One major one is that many monsters were merely pallet switched from other monsters. This was something Startropics did a fairly good job of avoiding in most instances. It's a shame they could not do the same in Startropics 2.
Sound was roughly as mundane as the sound in Startropics was. Granted, they got rid of some of the more annoying sounds, but some annoying ones still exist. Not the least of the annoyances in the sound department is the return of the "Ding, ding, ding," sound, reminiscent of Legend of Zelda, when ones life gets too low. It drove me to purposely jump into a bottomless pit or into water once or twice just to start a new life without that sound.
Music, on the other hand, is improved from Startropics. While still quite boring after a while, they did there was more verity in the music than before.
Something that always sticks in my mind about Startropics 2 has nothing to do with the game it self. It is, actually, the fact that this was one of the last NES games released in the US. Because the new technology of the SNES and the timing of Startropics 2's release, the game was one of the final new NES games I ever purchased, or even saw on store shelves. Someone could argue that the game was on shelves that long because it wasn't so great of a game, however, games such as the re-release of Metroid and Legend of Zelda also sat on the shelves right next to Startropics 2. They were there because most people had quit buying NES games and gone to the SNES. Even so, this game really was a good game, even compared to the SNES games that were out around its time of release. It was also a very good sequel to Startropics. I give this game an overall score of 77%, though I should probably deduct a percent or two for gross over use of the word, "Radical."