The Cult of the Game: Startropics
March 2, 2009, 12:14 am
Filed under: The Cult of the Game | Tags: , ,

It may seem odd but this month is the Cult of Nintendo month. I say odd because in all honesty few companies are as consistent at releasing top selling AAA titles as the big N. From old classics like Zelda, Mario and Metroid, to new franchsies like Pokemon, Animal Crossing and Nintendogs it always seems Nintendo is able to touch anything and turn it into franchise gold destined to sell millions along its many consoles.

However Nintendo is a company about good gameplay first, and as the Cult of the Game shows being good doesn’t always mean you’ll be popular. Odd settings, difficult (at first) game mechanics and lack of availability have caused a number of Nintendo’s first party titles to slip under the Big N’s and consumer’s radar and have created wonderful cult games.

The creation of Startropic was an odd birth. Directed by Genyo Takeda who had originally worked on Punch Out!! Startropics was developed in Japan but never released there. The game was an answer to the growing North American and European markets. While games were becoming hugely popular in both regions many US publishers at he time had a large amount of xenophobia to games from Japan which sometimes were steeped in Japanese ideals and pop culture they felt would turn off gamers. Startropics was an early attempt to design a game with western audiences in mind only and was released only in North America and Europe.


Startropics stars Mike Jones, a star baseball pitcher from Seattle who goes to C Island to meet up with his uncle; Dr. Steve Jones (nicknamed Dr. J for short) who has went missing when you arrive. The game revolves are Mike trying to find his uncle while celestial events such as Sothern Cross constellation and meteor showers reveal to be premonitions of doom to the world as told by many shamans met during the game.

Gameplay is divided between two parts. On the over world the game is very much like a JRPG, most notably Dragon Warrior. Mike visits towns talks to villagers and gathers information as well as attain more powerful versions of his initial Yo-yo weapons when he meets with certain individuals. It’s an odd way to represent the game but makes good use of the game’s island setting and immersing players in the wonderfully silly story.

When we get to the action though Stratropics is best described as a spiritual successor to The Legend of Zelda. Combat occurs in an overhead map and mike can walk all eight directions, clearing rooms of enemies and finding powerups along the way. The dungeons are laid out very much like Zelda dungeons, sometimes requiring backtracking and finding appropriate items in order to advance through the game.

Startropic has one notable change from Zelda in that unlike Link Mike can jump. Jumping is very important in the game of Startropics as not only can some things be only accessed through jumping but jumping play an important part in the game’s puzzle aspect. In Startropics some squares are designated as “tiles” which MUST be jumped on. They can not be walked onto even if a tile is sitting right beside walk able ground. Tiles are more than just an obstacle; many have switches or magical footprints that will unlock sections of the map. Since they can only be “jumped” onto they provide much of the puzzle element to Startropics. Often times the game’s main puzzles are truing to figure out how to work a series of switches through hoping on tiles giving the game a strong puzzle element.

Another notable change in Startropics from Zelda was the idea of dungeon specific weapons. While Mike always had his Yo-yo each dungeon had at least one item unique to it that could be used for a limited number of times. Particularly most of these weapons are designed to beat the bosses of the given dungeons. Weapons ranged from the mundane like torches and baseball bats to crazy like the snowman and the cleats.

Musically the game keeps up the island vibe with varied reggae and calypso sounding tracks. The music keeps an up-tempo light pace. Graphically Startropics was a nice change of pace from a lot of the grittier NES games coming out in the late 80’s. The color palette for the game was bright and vibrant to match that of the games island settings. In the dungeons the game utilized large detailed sprites that ensured everything was easy to view but still kept a strong amount of gtaphical depth.

In the end if you’re itching for a great action adventure title give Strartropic a whirl. It’s refreshing storyline from the typical dungeons and deagons type deal for the genre really works for it and the vibrant graphics and great gameplay make this a missed classic that people should give a second chance to.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is an awesome game.. too bad Nintendo isn’t in any rush to revisit this franchise.

And if anyone can ressurrect this game, something tells me only NOA can do it. Or the original creator himself.

We need more action-adventure games on the Wii, and a new StarTropics for it, would be awesome.

I honestly don’t like it’s “cult” status. It doesn’t take it anywhere but memory lane.

Comment by ShiHe

[…] spel som gjorde ett särskilt stort intryck på mig när det begav sig var Startropics. Det var mycket som var speciellt med det där spelet. Musiken, de udda fienderna, roliga dialoger […]

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