Zoda’s Revenge: Star Tropics II

aStartropics 2 Zodas Revenge USA 188x266 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Released: March 1994
US Cartridge ID: NES-6C-USA

Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 4 megabit
Mapper: MMC6 (256k PRG, 256k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Zoda’s Revenge: Star Tropics II is a direct sequel to the original StarTropics, released four years prior, and was released in North America only. As Nintendo’s penultimate NES game development project and release, it was used in conjunction with Mega Man 6 in a television advertising designed to stimulate interest in the redesigned top-loading NES Startropics 2 Zodas Revenge USA 002 256x224 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review Screenshotdeck, released in October 1993, shortly before Nintendo of America discontinued support for the aging NES line in 1995.

Zoda’s Revenge picks up where the original StarTropics left off: once Mike had saved the Argonian race from the evil Zora, rescued his uncle, and helped the people of the islands, he returned to Seattle to resume his life as a normal teenager. After receiving a telepathic communiqué from Mica, the Argonian princess, Mike goes to visit his uncle. He finds Dr. J laboring over a cipher puzzle that he found in the Argonian ship, and with Mike’s help, solves it. Grabbing the “Oxford Wonder World” volume from the shelf, Mike reads the decrypted cipher and is sucked into a vortex. He is greeted by a caveman, and learns that he’s been hurled back several thousand years into the Stone Age. After exploring and helping the cavemen with a monster that’s been eating their children, Mike finds a “tetrad.” Mica, again through telephathy, tells Mike that they were several of these tetrads strewn throughout history by the Argonians, and Mike needs to seek them out. He opens his book once again, and, much like Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, jumps through time to the location of his next objective, never Startropics 2 Zodas Revenge USA 193 256x224 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review Screenshotknowing where or when he will go next.

The adventure is split between nine chapters, each representing a different time and place where Mike can find a tetrad. He’ll meet caricatured portraits of several historical and fictional figures on his travels, trading favors with the likes of Cleopatra, Sherlock Holmes, Leonardo Da Vinci, and King Arthur. Each chapter follows the same format established in StarTropics. The gameplay is still split between two primary formats – the travel stages, and the battle stages. The travel stages are viewed from a top-down JRPG style perspective (think Ultima: Exodus), where Mike explores his surroundings, speaks to the various locals, and offers his good Samaritan services to those in need. Once Mike has been given a task or has explored thoroughly enough, he then fights monsters in the battle stages. The battle
stages are viewed from a 3/4 overhead view used in many action RPG’s (Willow, Crystalis), and require that Mike solve the puzzles in the dungeon while also destroying Startropics 2 Zodas Revenge USA 788 256x224 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review Screenshotwhatever evil he may find. Stages now have an added vertical element, with platforms that sit in different elevations in some rooms, unlike the completely flat stages in StarTropics. The yo-yo has been replaced in this installment with an axe, automatically upgraded at certain predetermined points in the plot to a dagger, and a katana, which all act as projectile weapons, in addition to the weapons that can be picked up in certain areas, like the slingshot and the spiked disc. Though there are far fewer weapons in Zoda’s Revenge than in StarTropics, Mike is also  wields psychic powers, which are also upgraded regularly over the course of the game. StarTropics‘ control scheme is improved greatly in this sequel, as Mike now has the ability to move and shoot in eight directions, as opposed to the four that he could in the original. This makes both hitting and avoiding enemies much easier, and the enhanced jumping also allows for some platformer style sections that rely Mike’s newfound ability to control the direction of his jumps in midair, giving a distinct feel from the original.

The original’s presentation has gone through a major overhaul for the sequel.  Dialogue Startropics 2 Zodas Revenge USA 911 256x224 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review Screenshotportraits are rendered much more realistically, and cinematics featuring Zoda feature some impressive animation. The environments are well detailed, and the time-travel setup of the story allows for a lot of variety between chapters. Most of the enemies are impressively animated, and there is extreme little flicker present. This is particularly noticeable during some of the fights with larger boss monsters, as Mike, the enemy, and over a dozen projectiles will be moving simultaneously without the slightest hint of breakup or slowdown – an impressive feat for the NES’ hardware. For all of its successes, however, Zoda’s Revenge‘s graphics are dull and generic. While significant technical improvements have been made, most monsters lack the humorously distinct personalities that they had in StarTropics, and the colors are far more subdued, making the overall look drab in comparison. The sound has gone through similar changes: the sounds effects are nearly identical, suiting the action perfectly, and some of the newer effects (the synthesized Zoda laugh) are good additions. There are more tracks and better variety to the tunes this time, and the game makes good use digital sounds and drums in the music. This is largely counteracted by the quality of the compositions – while some of the songs are extremely Startropics 2 ZodastartropicsZSA 135 256x224 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review Screenshotcatchy and well-done (the Coralcola Village remix, the victory theme, a couple of the dungeon themes), the great majority of them are either annoying (particularly tracks used in the wild west and renaissance Italy chapters) or possess a seemingly inappropriate tone in their given context (Egypt, Leonardo’s flying machine).

If there is any single aspect of Star Tropics II that wholly disappoints, it is the story and its method of telling it. The writers obviously tried to recapture the magic of StarTropics  characters and offbeat humor, but the writing is nowhere near as good. Many of the jokes come across as flat and dull (unlike the lame jokes of the original that could make someone smile and roll their eyes), rarely coming across as clever or witty. The story jumps constantly between time periods and locations, never allowing itself the opportunity to develop any of the characters met beyond their initial meeting with Mike, making them feel more like cardboard props than people. There are several clever references embedded in the game (for example, Leonardo Da Vinci gives Mike a katana, the same weapon used by Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; the cipher that Mike reads are actually the words from the 60’s song by The Rivingtons; a hippo bears a striking resemblance to Gannon from The Legend of Zelda), but some of the references are so Startropics 2 Zodas Revenge USA 348 256x224 Zodas Revenge: Star Tropics II NES Nintendo Review Screenshotblatant and obvious that they come across as obnoxious and cheap (especially the Tetris references, using tetrads, and Chief Tetris Coralcola self-appointed nickname).

Star Tropics II: Zoda’s Revenge shares many traits with StarTropics, and unfortunately it suffers badly for the comparison. Though it is an entertaining game that requires both quick reflexes and logical thinking, it feels like a cheap rehash, bankrupt of innovation or creativity; it comes across as a weak attempt to wring a little more money out of the NES in its twilight years. It’s worth a play for fans of StarTropics – just don’t expect to be blown away by it.

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Nintendo, 3/1994