Let’s start by talking about The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo had a monster hit on their hands when this game came into being. A huge over world filled with fantastical monsters, numerous hidden dungeons that each contained hidden treasures and fierce boss monsters, this game had it all. It was one of the first times in video games where the player actually felt that they were on an epic quest instead of just playing a video game. In fact, Zelda was such a success that they tried the formula once again on the NES. Thus was born StarTropics, a game which some would call a Zelda knock off. I would call those people misinformed, as well as a host of four letter words that I am too polite to repeat here. Unfortunately, while StarTropics replicated and, in some ways, enhanced the fun found in Zelda, it did not copy the success of its older sibling.
StarTropics places the player square into the shoes of all American teenage boy Mike Jones. He’s off visiting his uncle, Doctor Jones, on C Island, aptly named because it looks like the letter C. However, it turns out that Mike’s uncle is missing. Jones the elder had been there investigating…well, let’s just say he was investigating, when he suddenly up and vanished. It turns out that Mike’s uncle had been abducted by evil aliens. So Mike does what any normal kid would do in this situation: grab a mystical yo-yo and bash some evil alien skulls in.
Its this weird melding of Americana with island mystique with alien sci-fi that really made this game stand out. Well, that combined with a refined version of the Zelda formula. You had Mike going around conversing with the village locals on a variety of islands. You could talk to Miss Coralcola 1990, save a young dolphin from an evil octopus and decipher a musical puzzle using a talking parrot. You do this by using items like the aforementioned yo-yo, as well as side weapons like baseball bats and cleats. Mike is a champion baseball pitcher after all, like any wholesome American kid. He can also take mysterious pills that he finds lying on the ground in the middle of dangerous caves and dungeons to make himself feel better. Once again, like any wholesome American kid.
Speaking of caves and dungeons, let’s talk about the caves and dungeons. So, imagine Zelda. Now imagine Zelda with jumping. Now have the main character take part in multiple jumping related puzzles where you have to juggle combat and making the right jumps at the right time to hit a switch that makes another switch appear on the other side of the room meaning that you have to run the gamut all over again to get to that switch thus opening the door to freedom. This was StarTropics. At times it was like Zelda on whatever is in those pep pills Mike likes to take. You hit octopusses with yo-yo’s. You have to dodge giant undead ostriches. Huge rolling boulders make you recreate Indiana Jones as you run for your life. And these are just the simple baddies and traps we’re talking about here. You want bosses? How about the C-Serpent, a giant creature who is not only a living pun but a creature that takes up the entire screen and causes you to jump back and forth across multiple platforms in order to shoot some bolas into his gaping maw. Or Magma the Fierce, a boss that you literally can’t damage and you have to do a jumping puzzle as he rains balls of fire down upon you.
So does this all sound keen to you? Yeah it does. Thus comes the question: why aren’t there any new StarTropics games?
Personally, I’m putting the blame on the sequel. Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II wasn’t a bad game by any means. However, it was disappointing for two reasons. The first was that it lost a lot of that island charm. You weren’t in the tropics. You were time traveling. You didn’t have your trusty mystic yo-yo, you had various swords and axes that you…threw at people. For some reason. It just didn’t have the charm of the original. Hell, there were some really good gameplay changes made, like being able to jump diagonally or having rooms with ledges in them instead of a flat plane. But still, the game suffered from an unfortunate case of blandness. The second big problem was that it came out on the NES. Now, why would this be a problem? Well, Zoda’s Revenge was released circa 1994, which puts it right smack dab in the middle of Super Nintendo’s dominance of the console market. In fact, this game was the second to last licensed game to ever be released on the NES. This means that, by the time we got StarTropics II, nobody really cared about the good ol’ NES anymore. So blandness combined with last generation software sounded the death knell for the StarTropics franchise.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Let’s imagine that there is a new StarTropics game coming out. What would it look like? Well, for starters it would be on the Wii. That’s pretty much a given. Now let us remember that the Wii is a motion control console. Alright, you still with me? Finally, you must remember that Mike’s weapon is a yo-yo. Ah, there we go. There’s that look of excitement and joy that I was looking for. Yes, StarTropics on the Wii with motion controls for the yo-yo. That would just be awesome. Think about it. With the MotionPlus attached you could have 1:1 yo-yo control capabilities. Nintendo could make all the attacks themed after actual yo-yo tricks. Walk the dog creates a spinning shield in front of you, around the world is an area attack, you could…well, that’s all the yo-yo tricks I know. But you get the idea. Motion controls. Yo-yo tricks. It’d be awesome.
Not to mention all the other items that Mike uses. Baseballs and bats, bolas, torches, slingshots, alien laser guns, all of these could make use of the Wii controller. This wouldn’t just be a waggle fest. These motion controls would actually be put to a good use. If any game has ever begged to have this control scheme, its StarTropics.
For the new game I’d have it be a remake of the original. Mike goes to C-Island, finds his uncle missing, goes on an epic quest to bring him home. But man, imagine that quest blown up to modern day levels. Think of the sailing segments of Wind Waker without all the tediousness. You’d have a submarine, diving under the waves, encountering talking dolphins and undersea monsters. You’d come across numerous villages on the multiple islands you’d visit. These wouldn’t be no tiny villages either. No, I’m imagining some down right metropolitan areas in some cases. The castle of Shecola, for example, where a tribe of Amazonian warrior women reside. And speaking of Shecola, I’d want this remake to hit all the memorable moments of the first game. C-Serpent fight, dolphins, crossdressing to get into Shecola, running away from boulders, getting swallowed by the whale, the infamous letter trick where you have to dunk a real life letter in water to get a code for your sub, the whole shebang. Just…you know, bigger.
In a bit of history repeating itself, I’d also have StarTropics ape the graphical style of the recent Zelda games. Wind Waker and Skyward Sword have lush, beautiful graphics that showcase exactly what a StarTropics game should look like. Although, in a move away from Zelda, I’d want Mike to actually talk. A bit of sarcastic banter between Mike and his little robot buddy Nav-Com would be great.
So hopefully, one day, they will get around to bringing back StarTropics. Its a franchise well worth a modern update. Its fun, its quirky, its colorful and it demands to be given another chance.