North American NES box art
|Composer(s)||Takashi Kumegawa, Yoshio Hirai|
NA December 1990
EU August 20, 1992
Wii Virtual Console
NA January 7, 2008
EU January 11, 2008
StarTropics is an action-adventure video game released by Nintendo in 1990 for the NES. Unlike most of Nintendo's games, it was never released or intended to be released in Japan. It was released only in North America and Europe, although designed by Japanese designers living in the United States. It was produced, written and directed by Genyo Takeda of Nintendo Integrated Research & Development (which also developed the Punch-Out!! series). The game was added to the North American Virtual Console on January 7, 2008, and the PAL regions on January 11.
StarTropics was followed by a sequel entitled Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II, released in 1994.
The story of the game follows Mike as he travels to visit his uncle, an archaeologist by the name of Dr. Steven Jones, at his laboratory on the fictional C-Island in the so-called South Seas. When Mike arrives at Dr. Jones's home in the tropical village of Coralcola, he finds that his uncle has gone missing. Dr. Jones's assistant gives Mike a special yo-yo to defend himself, and also permits Mike to use his uncle's submarine to search for him. On a nearby island, Mike finds a bottle with a message from Dr. Jones, stating that he has been abducted by extraterrestrials. Traveling to many of the isles of the South Seas, Mike encounters monsters, labyrinths, quirky characters, and many intelligent animals, including a talking parrot, and a mother dolphin looking for her son, all in the search for his lost uncle, Dr. Jones.
StarTropics is played from a 2D, top-down perspective, similar to many other role-playing games of that era. The game is divided into several chapters; in each chapter, players take control of the protagonist, "Mike", exploring various settlements and other areas of interest, interacting with non-player characters in order to obtain more information about the surroundings. The player is then usually tasked with locating the source of some local calamity or disturbance. When the player enters a more dangerous locale, the game switches mechanics, bringing the view closer in, and introducing various obstacles and adversaries that the player must either navigate or destroy, in a manner similar to The Legend of Zelda.
Unique to the StarTropics franchise, a yo-yo serves as Mike's primary weapon. As the player progresses, other weapons and tools are made available that will aid in Mike's journey, including several items influenced by American baseball.
Another unique feature of StarTropics was a feelie that came packaged with the original cartridge. Included with the game was a letter on parchment paper, written by Mike's uncle, Dr. Jones, requesting that Mike visit him at his laboratory on C-Island, thus setting up the initial plot of the game. However, the letter also served a second, more interactive purpose. In the course of events, Mike receives an enigmatic message from his uncle that refers to the original letter:
- "Evil aliens from a distant planet...." "Tell Mike to dip my letter in water...."
Even for a player who owned an original copy of the game, and thus was more likely to have the actual letter, it was unusual for a video game to refer to a real-world, physical object that would otherwise just be a novelty. Confused, many players believed that Dr. Jones was referring to an item or object acquired from within the game itself, to say nothing of the potential damage that could result if the paper letter were to be submerged in water as instructed. Nevertheless, if a player was able to perform the task correctly, a secret message from Dr. Jones was revealed: the digits 7-4-7 would appear, serving as a passcode for the player to advance the plot of the game.
Since many rental stores and used video game shops did not have original game boxes or manuals, it was often difficult to find a copy of StarTropics with the letter as originally enclosed. Gaming magazine Nintendo Power was asked about the letter so often that they revealed the passcode soon after their initial article on the game was published.
StarTropics received generally positive reviews from critics upon its release. IGN praised the creative gameplay of StarTropics, calling it "the natural evolution of the original Legend of Zelda."