Review by buruburu1

"A refining break from the original"

Graphics (28/30, judged by era)- Both in its prequel and here, Startropics is a game whose graphical content is primarily found in its dungeons. While subtle, it did appear that the sequel had slightly better graphics in that department, with an increase in the number of larger enemies—the Zelda-like snakes from the first game return, but almost 3 times the size, for instance. By and large, you will be dealing with enemies that are the same size as your character. The overworld, while a departure from the first, is also a graphical improvement. Where the first game had you exploring a series of islands, all of which were sorta bland looking in a first-gen Dragonwarrior sort of way, this game splits each chapter into a discrete locale, which aids presentation immensely. That said, there is of course a little content recycling. As well, though the dungeons look nice, there isn't the late-in-the-game graphical departure the first game had where suddenly the dungeon was science-fictional. As well, the first game had better ending cutscenes. Overall, the game is on par with the first, without rising to the heights that other third party games had achieved by the end of the NES' lifespan, when this title was released.

Sound- FX/Voice (5/10) The only area in which the game took a step back. The low-energy chime is more annoying than ever, and even the sounds of enemy fire have been reduced to an Atari-like "DING!" sound, which is both odd and out-of-character when it comes from a scorpion firing projectiles at you.

Sound- Music (10/10) Ditching the soundbank that made its predecessor sound like a Sega Master System title (all the while having great actual tunes), ST2 boasts a great and varied soundtrack that keeps the pace moving. It strikes me as one of the best soundtracks created for a first-party title in the NES' lifetime.

Gameplay- Length/ Replay (15/15) Due primarily to some tricky dungeons, this game spread out to about 8 hours of play. It's a good length for the price, and though you'll die many times and probably require a good number of continues, the game isn't really padded or unfairly difficult as to make the time it takes to finish the game a chore. That said, there isn't anything to do after completing it, so you won't be tempted to replay it unless you just loved it and wanted to do the dungeons again.

Gameplay- Game Design (32/35)- ST2 makes a few changes to the original that bothered some, but which I largely found to be improvements. Some bemoan the loss of the single geographical exploration of C-Island in the first game, replaced by a time travel scheme in this game. On the one hand, it means that there is less cohesiveness to the story overall, but on the other it provides the game a lot more graphical variety from chapter to chapter. The between-dungeon portion of the game is in fact streamlined to such an extent that you begin to wonder if it is even required—perhaps a series of character portraits and text narration could get you to the next dungeon just as well? Whereas before you had more overworld mazes to see your way through, here you basically go from point a to b.

These dungeons then are still the heart of the game, and where the real fun comes in. Expanding the single-screen room into areas that also scroll, in the way A Link to the Past does, many of the dungeons portions play out similarly to Zelda in terms of combat. Whereas the first game had a strange control screen revolving around jumping like a kangaroo, this game relies a whole lot less on jumping from block to block, and allows for jumping to be done at will. As well, you can now move and fire in 8 directions, which was a much needed addition. All of this makes for slightly easier battling, though it's not that the battles are really easier per se, it's that the clunky controls of the first game made battles unnecessarily difficult. If you've played ST1 fairly recently before starting on ST2, you're bound to die a number of times as you forget about your newfound freedom. In the first game, it was impossible to miss a legal jump, and you could even fire in different directions while jumping in a given direction. Here, if you jump one way and intend to fire in another, you'll alter your jump trajectory, too, and likely miss your target destination, and thus die. While being able to change direction in mid-air is useful for both battling and jumping, you'll have to keep it in mind while playing. If you have not played ST1, you'll not be confused in the least, and will likely enjoy the controls overall.

The difficulty of the game is generally at a good level—if you fail it's largely going to be something where you know that with a little more care you could do it. That's good. Gone are those couple of points, particularly early on in ST1, where you could end up jumping to your instant death without much warning at all. Because battling is freed up via improved controls, you may find the game to be slightly easier this time. Also gone are certain dungeon-specific puzzles that were vague in the first game (like the invisible ghosts level), as well as the insanely difficult last level of SC1. While this reduction in "difficulty" might disappoint some, I found it to be a better balance overall, where the so-called challenges of the first game was usually an attempt at artificially increasing difficulty via sometimes cheap means.

Health is also better distributed so that dying is not so onerous as it was last time, since you still start each new life with only 3 hearts. Again, more reasonable balance vs. artificially cheap constraints.

**Final Thoughts- I found it hard to believe this game was released so late in the NES' life, with the SNES era in full-swing. Who knows what might've been done with this game on the SNES? In any event, it's an obscure gem and a fitting closer to the NES era.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/05/09

Game Release: Zoda's Revenge: Star Tropics II (US, 03/31/94)

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