Review by Relle

"Zoda? Soda?! My god! It all makes sense!"

I have less-than-fond memories of Startropics back when I was a wee lad who'd just received an NES for his fifth Christmas of his life. The original Startropics was a challenge in and of itself, with dated controls and often near-impossible levels that were made more frustrating by dead-end mazes and traps that dumped you out to the beginning of a stage. So how does the sequel stand? Much better, actually.

Graphics

A definite improvement over the first. The sprites have been cleaned up, and there are new enemies, with big bosses that look pretty good, if a bit dated by today's spritely standards. Mike looks about the same, and the cutscenes (if you can call them that) are similar to the first, though they do look slightly better. The dungeons take a different path than the first game, with haunted mansions and underground sewers providing a change of pace from the palette-changing caves.

Sound

I can't say I've heard worse music from an NES game...well, I can, but I don't remember which game, so I'll just say I've heard worse. You'll probably just consider the music background noise and go with it. The sound effects aren't that great either, and the noise the game makes when you're low on hearts is just grating. Fortunately, it's easy to die, so that noise will be gone soon.

Gameplay

The original Startropics was hindered by leaps and bounds by two major problems: you couldn't move diagonally, and you couldn't jump to save your life. The sequel fixes these problems, though the latter is sort of a question mark. The sequel takes place some time after the end of the first Startropics, with Mike receiving a message from the alien girl whose name is, oddly enough, Mica. Suddenly, Mike is warped into prehistory, and your adventure begins.

Right off the bat you'll notice there's no yo-yo this time. Instead you start with some sort of throwable food pellet, then work your way up to an ax, then a throwing knife, then a katana (that you throw, somehow). You also eventually get the psychic shockwave, which is upgraded as you progress through the game. The bolas, mace, razor discs, and slingshot make an appearance as well for more alien-bashing fun.

As I said earlier, the game improves very much on its predecessor mainly due to the inclusion of diagonal movement. You finally have free range of motion, and aren't limited to single-tile movements. The downside is, in the first game you'd be held in place by a tile. In this game, if you try walking toward the water or a pit, you'll fall in and die. No more invisible wall holding you back. This makes for some interesting (and sometimes frustrating) platforming. Another new addition is the multi-tiered environment. There are multiple levels to each dungeon, and jumping up to one level or another will let you proceed at times. Falling = bad.

The humor in this game is almost worth the trip by itself. There's a lot of little jabs at ye olde early 90's pop culture, from the TMNT reference to Mario delivering pizza in Italy. This may be one of the earliest games to have people of every time and culture, from cavemen to Leonardo Davinci, speaking perfect English as if it were a second language. Sign of the times...

This game retains some of the annoying qualities of the previous Startropics, namely dead-end mazes that lead to the beginning of a level. Considering how damn hard it is to get to the boss, let alone beat some of them, having rooms that lead you to the beginning can be downright infuriating. But, like all NES games, you've got to persevere and keep going.

While Startropics was made hard by poor play mechanics, the sequel earns its toughness rating. Enemies range from wild boars to zombies to laser-shooting aliens. The bosses are a test in and of themselves, each one requiring a certain method to beat. One particular boss near the end of the game made me think I was one of the best players in the world for beating it. Then I discovered there was an easier way, and I almost snapped my cart in half. Most bosses require nothing more than just hitting them a lot with whatever weapon you use, but figuring out their pattern, avoiding damage while you dish it out, there's the rub. That's what'll kill you fifty-umpteen times while you keep going back for more until you finally triumph over the bastards.

Replay Value

Really, none, unless you enjoyed the game as much as I did and wanted to play again. Actually beating the game will take a while, since the platforming is quite tough, even with the improved control. I have to admit the final boss wasn't quite as tough as some of the others, but the...interesting ending makes up for it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/29/03


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