Old school post.


I died a lot here.

I remember being a kid and going to the local corner store and renting this game.

In point of fact, I remember renting it numerous times as 3 days wasn’t enough to clear it.  The boss in the picture above was the first time I learned to think outside the box in gaming.  There was this item, a rod, which made ghosts appear.  You could not get through this level without the rod.  As the game was rented, it didn’t have an instruction manual and actually using the rod was a mystery.  It took a day to figure it out, and I finally cleared the boss.

Now I’m giving it a shot on my Pi and the game is a pile easier than it was before.  Save states certainly help with that, as the controls are still rather unforgiving and there are spots where lack of input, or taking the wrong path is just plain death.  I can remember the frustration all those years ago of a screen filled with fireballs and having to jump on the exact right spot to move on.  Very annoying.

To top it off, StarTropics is renowned for one more thing – a code within the instruction booklet.  At one point, you get an in-game message that says something like “Remember to dip my letter in water”.  Well, the instruction book came with a small letter, and if you did dip it in water, then you had a code appear.  This code (747) was used to progress in the game.  Without it, you needed to bruteforce the way through.  I think this was the last time I saw this type of DRM used.

Anyhoot, back to the game.  You’re a young guy, armed with a yo-yo, exploring islands and dungeons, killing bats, snakes, minotaurs and finally aliens, all on your way to find your uncle.  The plot is actually pretty good, considering some of the stuff on the NES.  The controls are directional, with no diagonal movement, making some sections quite difficult.  There are various alternate weapons, like a bolo, or a baseball bat.  Enemies have patterns, you have life points, bosses are tough as nails.

It’s a hard game, but one that requires planning versus twitch movement.  With only a few places as exceptions, you can always see what’s coming ahead, and a quick pause can lay out the enemies to plan the attack. The largest issue is the lack of diagonal movement, which the sequel gets rid of (but introduces other quirks).

I have fond memories of the game and it’s certainly longer than I remember.  I thought perhaps I had rose colored glasses here, but StarTropics does a really solid job of holding true over time.  Well worth the trip down memory lane.

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