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A StarTropics Alternate History Lesson

by Neal Ronaghan - April 2, 2013, 12:54 pm PDT
Total comments: 11

Man, I miss the StarTropics games...

Being of the slightly younger generation, I don't remember getting many brand new NES games. There is one that I clearly remember getting, though. That game? Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II. A toy outlet store had about 15 sealed copies of the game at a deep discount around 1996, and I happily purchased one. Having loved the original game, I was stoked for the sequel.

While, honestly, I think the second game takes a number of steps back (I much prefer the grid-based structure of the dungeons in the original), the time-traveling sequel was still a great follow-up. Instead of being limited to just C Island, Mike Jones, the teen southpaw from Seattle, took the Oxford Wonder World book and tracked down series villain Zoda throughout time.

Zoda's Revenge presented an inaccurate but colorful view of history, something that worked well in the often off-kilter setting. Cleopatra is a ruler who wishes to help you on your quest to retrieve Tetrads, but she's distracted by her increasing hunger for pepperoni pizza that a shameful delivery man has been late with. In turn-of-the-century London, you wind up talking to Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character who doesn't even exist. It's glorious in a silly way, and the game manages to keep its tongue firmly planted in cheek for the entire experience without diluting the fun gameplay.

Just honestly, it bugs me so much that a third StarTropics doesn't exist. I know why it doesn't exist, since StarTropics was a series made to cater towards North America, and in that respect, it didn't do well enough to get more than the two late NES entries, the latter of which didn't come out until 1994. Super Metroid came out around the same time as Zoda's Revenge, a totally bonkers fact if you think about it.

Both StarTropics games were directed by Genyo Takeda, who is a part of the Nintendo Integrated Research and Development (IRD), which recently merged with Nintendo Research Engineered and Development (RED). Takeda's role has almost always been focused on developing and improving hardware, having been instrumental with the development of the Wii, the save battery in NES cartridges, and the Nintendo 64 controller. The last games Takeda directed were Zoda's Revenge and Super Punch-Out!!., though he worked as a producer for a few Nintendo 64 games, including Pilotwings 64 and Pokémon Puzzle League. Outside of a stint as a supervisor for the Punch-Out!! game on Wii, Takeda hasn't done much directly with game production in a long time. It's very likely any dreams of more StarTropics games died when this dude worked on the 64DD.

Of course, my dream is that Takeda, impressed by the pluck of Punch-Out!! Wii and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon developer Next Level Games, has started working on a new StarTropics game with the Canadian studio. Is that likely? Not at all, but a boy can dream...

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Talkback

Ian SaneApril 02, 2013

I've only played the first game and I find the grid-based structure really hard to get used to.  It's just not an intuitive way to move around.  When playing I can't help but compare the game to Zelda, which does not have grid-based movement.  Despite Zelda being my favourite series I find I can't get into Zelda clones.  The Zelda series just serves up its gameplay so well that the derivative works always feel strangely wrong in some way.  StarTropics has that as well but it's made by Nintendo.  The company that makes Zelda can't make a Zelda clone that compares to it?  Huh?

I always found it very strange how Nintendo kept supporting the NES for so long.  I guess the concept of releasing a successor console was a pretty new idea at the time so they probably were not sure exactly how long they should keep supporting the NES and erred on the side of caution.  Of course now Nintendo abandons their current console before the next one is even out!

If Nintendo's conclusion to the second game's poor sales was that no one liked StarTropics, it shows how sometimes these companies know less about the videogame industry than those that are mere customers.  Everyone knows why Zoda's Revenge was not successful.  It could have been the greatest game of all time but had no chance in hell of attracting attention on a console that had been replaced THREE YEARS before.  Nintendo even greenlighting development for that game for the NES in the first place was as stupid as Square Enix's sales expectations for Tomb Raider.

RABicleApril 03, 2013

Neal. I cannot believe you didn't end this blog with "Under the southern cross, anything is possible!"

Anyway I like to squint and pretend that Wind Waker is the 3rd, glorious StarTropics game we never had.

SundoulosApril 03, 2013

Has Nintendo ever even acknowledged the existence of Startropics in Smash Brothers?  I've never really thought of it before, but the oddness Startropics' setting almost makes it seem like the game could exist in the same universe as the Mother games.

I've found myself hoping that Nintendo would return to the well on this series as well. 

If nothing else, I wouldn't mind seeing remakes of the original two games on the 3DS.  To be honest, I'm hoping that the Ducktales Remastered game, if successful, will inspire another wave of retro game remakes/remasterings.  Not that it would mean another Startropics game, of course, but it couldn't hurt.  There's a number of classic, sometimes forgotten, retrogames that I would love to see get that sort of treatment e.g. Startropics, Crystalis, Clash At Demonhead, Magic of Scheherazade, etc.

AdrockApril 03, 2013

Quote from: Ian

Nintendo even greenlighting development for that game for the NES in the first place was as stupid as Square Enix's sales expectations for Tomb Raider.

Sick burn. +1

Quote from: Sundoulos

Has Nintendo ever even acknowledged the existence of Startropics in Smash Brothers?

I don't believe so. Maybe they just didn't get to it yet? There's a lot of ground to cover.

I'd be interested in a sequel to StarTropics if only to add more variety to Nintendo's releases. I wouldn't rule out a sequel ever. It would probably have to follow the path of Kid Icarus Uprising with Mike Jones showing up in Smash Bros. and Nintendo advertising a game that doesn't yet exist. The difference is that I don't think people have been bugging Nintendo for Mike's return as much as they did for Pit.

roykoopa64April 03, 2013

I played the first StarTropics for the first time on the Wii VC and despite some issues, I ended up enjoying it a lot. I still need to download Zoda's Revenge, it's been on my Wanted list for quite some time.

Such a shame the franchise has been neglected all these years.

Quote from: RABicle

Neal. I cannot believe you didn't end this blog with "Under the southern cross, anything is possible!"

Anyway I like to squint and pretend that Wind Waker is the 3rd, glorious StarTropics game we never had.

I totally hate myself right now :(

But yea, I'd say Wind Waker has some of the whimsy. Probably why I like Wind Waker so much.

Ian SaneApril 03, 2013

Quote from: Sundoulos

Has Nintendo ever even acknowledged the existence of Startropics in Smash Brothers?  I've never really thought of it before, but the oddness Startropics' setting almost makes it seem like the game could exist in the same universe as the Mother games.

The StarTropics games were made specifically for the North American market and have never had a Japanese release.  I'm sure that HAL designs SSB primarily with the Japanese market in mind (ie: Fire Emblem characters in Melee despite having no relevance to the Western audience at the time) and would see no point in putting in a reference their intended audience would not pick up on.

AdrockApril 03, 2013

Isn't that what the Trophies are for? Why put those in there if you expect people to pick up the references anyway? Additionally, why put the trophies in there when the Internet exists? They're neat extras, but come on...

Ian SaneApril 03, 2013

Quote from: Adrock

Isn't that what the Trophies are for? Why put those in there if you expect people to pick up the references anyway? Additionally, why put the trophies in there when the Internet exists? They're neat extras, but come on...

Are there any trophies in SSB for games that were never released in Japan?  I'm not defending the practice but I figure this is exactly why StarTropics is not mentioned.

SarailApril 03, 2013

Quote from: Ian

Quote from: Adrock

Isn't that what the Trophies are for? Why put those in there if you expect people to pick up the references anyway? Additionally, why put the trophies in there when the Internet exists? They're neat extras, but come on...

Are there any trophies in SSB for games that were never released in Japan?  I'm not defending the practice but I figure this is exactly why StarTropics is not mentioned.

YES. There is a Mike from StarTropics trophy. I can't remember if it's in Melee or Brawl, but there is definitely one in the game.

Mop it upApril 03, 2013

StarTropics II is one of my favourite NES games. I agree that the story isn't as good, but, everything else is better. For those who only played the first, you should still try the second game because the control is much, much better.

Quote from: Racht

Quote from: Ian

Quote from: Adrock

Isn't that what the Trophies are for? Why put those in there if you expect people to pick up the references anyway? Additionally, why put the trophies in there when the Internet exists? They're neat extras, but come on...

Are there any trophies in SSB for games that were never released in Japan?  I'm not defending the practice but I figure this is exactly why StarTropics is not mentioned.

YES. There is a Mike from StarTropics trophy. I can't remember if it's in Melee or Brawl, but there is definitely one in the game.

You are mistaken, there is no such trophy.

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