Zoda's Revenge: Star Tropics II
  • Genre:
    • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US March 1994
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/12/2017.

Zoda's Revenge: Star Tropics II is an overhead action adventure video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was originally exclusively released in North America in March 1994. This is the sequel to the original StarTropics, which was originally released by Nintendo for the NES in 1990. Strangely, despite both of these games being made in Japan, neither of them got released there. Star Tropics II is the second-to-last licensed game to be released on the NES, with Wario's Woods being the last one. There was also a silly commercial that aired on U.S. televisions back then that advertised Star Tropics II, Mega Man 6, and a revised NES model informally known as the "Top Loader." By 1994, the NES was ridiculously outdated, as newer, more powerful consoles like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis had already been out for years. In fact, even the SNES and Genesis were about to be outdated in 1995 when 3-D gaming was on its way. As a result of that, brand new NES consoles sold for a paltry $49.99 in 1994. Unsurprisingly, games that were released this late into the NES' existence weren't very popular, so Star Tropics II didn't sell too well. That's a little saddening, because it's a decent game.

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Michael Jones, the high school student protagonist of the first StarTropics, returns for another bodacious adventure in this game. In the previous game, Mike's uncle, a famous archaeologist named Dr. Steve Jones, was kidnapped in the South Pacific by an evil alien known as Zoda. Mike managed to rescue his uncle from Zoda, along with seven mysterious space children. These space children came from a planet called Argonia, and they were sent to Earth on an escape pod when Zoda attacked their planet. Several months later, Mike returns to his home in Seattle, where his uncle is attempting to decipher an inscription he found on the side of the escape pod that was written by Hirocon, the leader of planet Argonia. Dr. Jones thinks the solution is in a book he received a long time ago from an old wise man that contains stories from various time periods. Mica, the princess of Argonia that was rescued on the previous adventure, telepathically gives a hint to Mike on how to solve the cipher. Together, Mike and his uncle solve the cipher, but this causes Mike to be flung into the past! Eventually, Mica informs Mike that he must travel through time to find all seven Tetrads in order to truly get to the bottom of this mystery.

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As its title implied, the first StarTropics primarily took place in the tropics. However, that's not the case for the second game. Since the story of Star Tropics II involves time travel, you'll be visiting many differently themed locations this time around, like a snowy world filled with cavemen, the deserts and pyramids of ancient Egypt, the streets and sewers of London, the Old West, and even Dracula's castle in Transylvania. Mike will also meet a mixture of fictional and real life historical figures, such as Cleopatra, Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, and Leonardo da Vinci. It's a little cliched, but the variety adds a certain spice to the game that makes it more enjoyable. Plus, there's always something to look forward to in every chapter, as each one takes you to a new time and place.

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Like the previous game, everything is broken up into chapters, and your progress is automatically saved throughout them. Chapters are further divided into two forms of game play, and the first one is referred to by the instruction manual as "Travel Stages." Travel Stages look and play like those old Dragon Warrior role-playing games, except there are no turn-based battles. In case you don't know what that looks like, it's an overhead perspective with a really zoomed out view, featuring miniscule sprites and minimalistic graphics. There's absolutely no action or danger during Travel Stages, so all you can really do is use the d-pad to walk in the four cardinal directions and the A button to talk to people. The objective of most Travel Stages is to explore the over world map until you enter a town, where you chat with the townsfolk to get hints on your next destination. Figuring out where to go is generally pretty easy, because Travel Stages are fairly linear. Typically, you just have to talk to people until you progress the plot or unlock a new path. There are some annoying mazes later on, though.

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Whenever you enter a cave or other similarly dangerous area, you'll be taking part in what the manual refers to as a "Battle Stage." Battle Stages look and play like a Zelda game, sporting a more zoomed in overhead view with larger sprites, better graphics, and nicer animations. During Battle Stages, Mike will encounter many enemies and traps, and he must avoid having his Zelda-like heart gauge get depleted from these dangers. His maximum heart capacity automatically increases between chapters, plus he can find big hearts during some Travel Stages for further increases. He's still got limited lives, too, and getting a Game Over will put him back to the start of the current Battle Stage. The controls are pretty different during Battle Stages, because pressing the B button allows you to attack foes while pressing the A button will allow you to jump. Unlike the previous game, movement during Battle Stages is no longer based on a grid-like system, so Mike can actually attack, walk, and jump diagonally now. On top of that, he can move and change directions while jumping. The worst thing about the first StarTropics was the frustrating controls, and this game entirely remedies that problem.

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Yet again, dungeons are the main focus of Star Tropics II. Battle Stages pretty much always take place within a dungeon or dungeon-like area. Dungeons in this game contain far less puzzles than the previous one, so the focus is primarily on the action. In other words, you fight enemies, survive traps, and navigate the mostly linear labyrinth. Like Zelda, you'll often get locked inside a room with enemies, and killing them is the only way to proceed forward. Unlike the last game, dungeon rooms now often have different levels of elevation, so the platforming is a bit more complex. The objective of most Battle Stages is simply to reach the end, where a boss occasionally awaits. Some Travel Stages will have invisible "holes" on the over world that force you into a randomized Battle Stage that serves no other purpose than to waste your time. It's almost like a random encounter in an RPG, except the spots aren't random. While annoying, there aren't many places in the game that do this.

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Instead of a yo-yo like in the previous game, Mike's primary weapons in this game are far more standard, like stone axes, daggers, and katanas. He starts off with the weakest weapon, but will eventually get upgraded to the better ones throughout the story. Strangely, these weapons are thrown like projectiles, and you have an unlimited supply of them. Unlike the first game, Mike's primary weapon doesn't downgrade when he loses hearts, but his secondary one does. His main secondary weapon is a psychic wave attack he learns early on, which also gets upgraded throughout the journey. The psychic wave is generally stronger than Mike's primary weapon, but as mentioned, it temporarily downgrades if he gets hurt too much. Also, certain enemies can only be killed by the psychic wave, so it's a good thing it's also unlimited. Weapons found in dungeons are usually temporary and have limited ammo, though, like rocks, slingshots, and spiked discs. You switch weapons by pressing the select button. Pausing the game allows you to press up or down to switch to other usable items, such as life potions and stars that grant temporary invincibility. Unfortunately, all temporary items and weapons are lost after leaving a dungeon.

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While it doesn't quite have the same charm as the original, Star Tropics II improves the graphics, controls, and overall mechanics, providing a far more polished experience. This game fixes most of what the original game got wrong, like the awkward grid-based jumping and movement. The time travel stuff also allows you to see and explore more varied themes, which is good fun. Additionally, the game isn't as wretchedly hard as its predecessor, making the difficulty a lot more balanced. It's a shame the game sold poorly back when it came out, because it deserved better. Even now, Star Tropics II tends to get overlooked for its better known predecessor. That really shouldn't be the case. Check out this game when you've got the chance.

Word Count: 1,468

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