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North American NES box art
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 (who also developed the Punch-Out!! series). StarTropics was followed by a sequel entitled Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II, released in 1994.
StarTropics was released on the Wii Virtual Console on January 7, 2008 in North America and on January 11, 2008 in the PAL regions; it was released via the Wii U Virtual Console in Europe on September 3, 2015, in Australia on September 4, 2015, and in North America on May 26, 2016. On November 11, 2016, the game (alongside 29 other games) was included in the NES Classic Edition / Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System released by Nintendo.
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 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.
Near the end of the game, Mike finds Dr. Jones and learns that the aliens had captured him because he had discovered a crashed escape pod from a far-away planet called Argonia. This escape pod contained three magic cubes, which are now in the hands of the aliens' evil leader Zoda. Infiltrating their spaceship, Mike recovers the three cubes and defeats Zoda, then escapes as the spaceship self-destructs. After Mike returns to C-Island, the cubes are placed together and a small group of children appear. The leader of the children, Mica, explains that they are the last of the Argonians (their home planet having been destroyed) and that her father King Hirocon sent them to Earth to live in peace. The village chief invites the children to live with them in Coralcola, to which they accept, and the game ends with everybody on the island celebrating.
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 and 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.
Unique to the StarTropics franchise, a yo-yo serves as Mike's primary weapon (renamed "star" in the Virtual Console release). 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.
The game was also packaged with a physical letter, which set up the story and was used within the game's plot. During gameplay, the player is prompted to dip this physical letter in water to reveal a hidden code, which is required to progress in the game. In response to questions from fans, the code was also published in Nintendo Power. In the Wii Virtual Console release, the letter was added to the manual, which instead plays an animation of the letter being dipped in water before revealing the code.
AllGame gave the game four and a half stars out of five, finding the game to be derivative of The Legend of Zelda, but still "very much an excellent game". The game commented on the graphics noting that the characters and action sequences "look fantastic" while the travel scenes were "kind of dull". IGN praised the creative gameplay of StarTropics, calling it "the natural evolution of the original Legend of Zelda."
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