Games that time forgot: StarTropics

I bet you never thought that a yo-yo would make a cool weapon. Well, obviously you’ve never played StarTropics then, have you? Allow me to fill the void in your life with this week’s awesome game that time forgot.

StarTropics was created in 1990 by Nintendo for the NES. Only released in North American and Europe, the RPG game was never published in Japan. Written and directed by Genyo Takeda, the genius behind Super Punch-Out and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, the game was developed in the United States with an American audience in mind. StarTropics was followed by a sequel entitled, Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II in 1994.


You play as Mike Jones, a 15-year-old boy from Seattle who heads to C-Island to visit his uncle, Dr. Jones after receiving a letter from him. When you arrive on the tropical island, you find your uncle has been kidnapped by aliens and you must rescue him. Setting out in your uncle’s submarine, Sub-C with his navigator robot, NAV-COM, you spend the game traveling from island to island looking for clues about your uncle’s whereabouts.


StarTropics is a combination of Legend of Zelda’s dungeons and Dragon Warrior’s towns and overworld which are seen from a 2D overhead view. The game is divided into chapters that each contain a new island to complete in order to move on to the next. In each chapter, Mike must talk to NPCs to gain information about his uncle and to gain useful items. After talking to the locals, usually Mike would move onto a dungeon that contained a big boss to defeat. Mike would also have to solve puzzles to move forward in his journey.

Mike’s weapons ranged from a yo-yo to a laser gun which he would find in the dungeon areas. Mike’s life meter was a series of little red hearts that would turn clear as he were damaged by enemies. He could increase his life meter by finding big hearts through the game. The system was exactly like Link’s life meter in The Legend of Zelda series. Mike had a total of 3 lives that once all were gone, he would return to the beginning of a dungeon.

Most enemies were sea creatures and cave creatures like slugs and bats. These enemies would slowly damage Mike’s life meter, while booby traps in the dungeons would kill him instantly. Each dungeon would have a big boss at the end that had a series of patterns to follow in order to kill them, much like Zelda games.

Budda Belly!

The game had a point system that had no real purpose except to track your progress. You would gain points for each area completed.

One of the most interesting parts of the game was a point in which Mike is given directions to dip a letter from your uncle in water to retrieve a location code. Most players believed they had to do this in game, but really players were required to take a letter enclosed in the game box and dip it into water to gain the code. Most players would have misplaced the letter by this point and like me would have to send a letter to Nintendo Power magazine asking for the code.

Why you haven’t played it?

During the early years of Nintendo, many RPGs were just not hyped enough to stand out from all the Dragon Warriors and Legend of Zeldas available. Though covered in Nintendo Power magazine, StarTropics was just one of many RPGs that ended up in the bargain bins.

I highly suggest to those retro gamers out there to hunt down a copy of this game and play it. It may have not been hyped like The Legend of Zelda, but it was just as good a game in my opinion.

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