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File:Startropics box.jpg

StarTropics is an action-adventure video game released by Nintendo in 1990. The main character Mike Jones is an all-American teenager who visits the tropical C-Island to see his uncle. Mike finds out upon his arrival that his uncle is missing, so he sets out on a rescue mission, with his trusty yo-yo as his only weapon.

After a short while, Mike discovers that his uncle was abducted by aliens. After a series of sidequests involving talking dolphins, witch doctors, a giant octopus, an obstinate parrot and zombie pirates, Mike reunites with his uncle - who has been trying to save a bunch of good aliens from an evil alien overlord named Zoda. Mike climbs aboard the alien craft and defeats Zoda, rescuing an alien princess and a bunch of alien kids in the process.

The sequel Zoda's Revenge was released in 1994. Mike, his uncle and the aliens discover an alien code that lets Mike travel through time via a magic book. Mike travels through the stone age, ancient Egypt, 19th Century London, the Wild West, the Renaissance, 1800s Transylvania and Camelot. Along the way, he defeats duplicates of Zoda and is helped by Merlin, who reincarnates himself into several forms. Mike returns to C-Island to rescue his friends, who were taken hostage by the last Zoda clone, and the plot coupons combine to reveal the king of the good aliens.

The games are overhead-scrolling dungeon crawlers reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda with a few twists, such as the ability to jump. The first game features a distinctive control system where all player and enemy movements take place on a grid, limiting where you can stop or turn but making it easy to line up jumps and attacks. The sequel uses a more conventional system where you can stop or turn at any time. Opinions differ as to which scheme is better.

Tropes used in StarTropics include:
  • The All-American Boy: Mike's All-American-ness — contrasted with and found strange by the natives of the islands he's visiting — is a large part of the game's humor and tone.
  • An Axe to Grind: The first weapon Mike gets in the sequel.
  • Bag of Spilling: Because losing everything between games isn't annoying enough, you lose all of your medicine, special weapons and bonus lives between levels in both games. In the first game, it resets your heart level to three after each chapter as well. This is especially obnoxious at the end of Chapter 7 of the first game where it fully restores your health, only to be back to 3 hearts at the start of Chapter 8 (which begins with a boss fight and no way to heal before it).
  • Big Bad: Zoda.
  • Boss Rush: Second half of the last level in the sequel. Mercifully, there's a maze right before where you can get as much as 6 jars of medicine with some heavy jumping, although the correct path is Trial and Error Gameplay for that much (take the bottom path), and if you got past the C-Serpent without too much trouble (not terribly difficult if you know what to expect), you should still have the medicine from the first half of the level. Be sure to get all of this, especially in case the rematch with That One Boss gets really irksome.
  • Brick Joke: In the beginning of Chapter 8 of the first game, you jam bananas in your ears so you can't hear Zoda's gloating. In the ending sequence of the second game, a character mentions that you still have them in your ears.
  • But Thou Must!: Whenever Mike is asked if he'll do something, the game will not proceed until you give the answer the game is looking for. So literally that if you're given a yes/no question, and you answer "no", the game will just repeat the question over and over and over and over until you say "yes". A few times, notably talking to King Arthur in the sequel, you can say no, but this just means you can't progress at all. You have to walk outside, come back in, and ask him again.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mike is referred to as an ace pitcher frequently, this skill is required to defeat a boss. It's also apparently why he's so good at using the yo-yo as a weapon.
  • Collision Damage: In both games, touching any enemy or traps will do (often severe) damage. In the first game, Mini Bosses and above will kill you instantly on contact.
  • Continuing Is Painful: If you die at any point, you restart with only 3 hearts. This wouldn't be so bad if
  1. hearts weren't so hard to find!
  2. you didn't need to have a high enough life meter to use your better weapons.
    • You also lose any medicine and special items you might possess, and depending on where the game places you back, you generally won't have a chance to recover them.
    • In the sequel, you had a psychic attack that got weaker as you lost health, but your regular weapon always stayed the same strength, taking some of the pain out of continuing.
      • The sequel also starts you off with five hearts instead of three when you respawn.
  • Critical Annoyance: It's even worse in the sequel, where the sound is much more annoying and takes a lot less damage to trigger.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The 3 Cubes in the first game, the 7 Tetrads in the second game.
  • Early Bird Boss: Yum-Yum in the sequel if you strike the boar right in front of him; if that doesn't happen before he eats the boar, hitting him the 30 times you need to hit him isn't terribly hard at all.
  • Eenie Meenie Miny Moai: Broken Joe.
  • Enter Solution Here: INPUT FREQUENCY!!! kept the letter that came with the game, right?
  • Epic Flail: The first upgrade of the yo-yo is a flail called Shooting Star and in the second upgrade, the Shooting Star turns into the Super Nova.
  • Fake Difficulty: Because Continuing Is Painful, and a lack of Mercy Invincibility (more pronounced in the second game).
  • Feelies: The game came with a letter that had to be dipped in water to obtain a code... and if you didn't have it, you're screwed... until now. 747. You're welcome.
    • Even if you had the letter, it could take a while for you to realize that when the in-game characters were talking about "the letter attached to the instructions", they weren't referring to some in-game item you had to find...
    • As game manuals are easy to lose and not included with rentals, this issue generated tons of calls to Nintendo's tips hotline and letters to Nintendo Power. The code was eventually published in Nintendo Power.
    • To get around this roadblock in the Virtual Console release, the letter is simulated inside of the console's operations guide.
    • It is possible to guess the right code, either by guessing obvious number possibilities, or simply brute forcing every possible answer one by one until you get the right one. It works eventually as long as you are patient to the point of obsessive.
  • Fission Mailed: At the end of the first game, Mike escapes from Zoda's exploding spaceship, only to end up in the middle of the ocean. Mike briefly swims towards the left of the screen, then struggles to keep afloat. His head goes under, and you hear the usual "you just lost a life" jingle. The screen fades out... and then you're suddenly back Where It All Began, courtesy of the dolphin from Chapter 2.
  • Friendly Playful Dolphin: Mike rescues a baby dolphin so that the mother can help guide him in one chapter.
  • Giant Hands of Doom: The first phase of the Zoda fight involved these.
  • Guide Dang It:
    • The part of Chapter 5 (first game) where you have to play the giant pipe organ. The game's hint tells you which notes to play... but in solfège. For players who don't know solfège, it's a guessing game.
    • It's made slightly more cryptic by the fact that the musical tune that must be played is "Do Mi Sol Fa Do Mi" which has been warped by generations of parrots playing the telephone game into the final "Do me so far, do me".
    • Before the Internet made walkthroughs widely available, you were screwed if you didn't have the physical letter from Dr. J that came with the game. And if you couldn't decipher the clue, you were screwed even if you did have it.
  • Heroic Dolphin: Mike rescues a dolphin in the second stage. It returns the favor at the end of the game.
  • Indy Escape: The Megatons parody this by virtue of being giant bowling balls.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Both games are filled with barriers that appear extremely short, but nonetheless cannot be jumped over.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: This is the best weapon Mike can get in Zoda's Revenge; however, if the life meter is full enough, this weapon is overshadowed by his Psychic Shock Wave.
  • Killer Yoyo: Mike's signature weapon. Surprisingly, he never wields one in the second game.
  • Lady Land: Shecola.
  • Mercy Invincibility: The first game had only a little bit, but the "snap-to" motion of the controls mitigated how much damage you'd take a bit. In second game, on the other hand, the snap-to was done away with and there was no mercy invincibility at all. If you more than let an enemy brush against you, you were guaranteed to take at least 2-3 hits off it, adding a great deal of Fake Difficulty to the game.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Especially the last two chapters of the first game, full of aliens/robots/alien robots with rayguns and a small army of robotic minibosses, including one that looks (and walks) bizarrely like a giant chicken. Extra points for the fact that the only way to kill this boss is to push it back against the wall--not once, but twice. And did I mention that taking the wrong teleporter (which you have no way of telling apart) could put you in a room FULL of enemies?
    • Level 8 of the first game is an odd aversion. During the section where Mike has to destroy the spaceship engine, there's a secret (but easy to find) room Mike can fall into with an infinitely respawning super-vitamin that restores his entire lifebar, so if he messes up he can just fall into a hole, get the vitamin and try again. Then after the engine is destroyed, there are a few screens full of infinitely respawning Zoda-spawn that are very generous when it comes to dropping life refilling items.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Historical variant. In the second game, Mike meets Cleopatra, Sherlock Holmes, Leonardo Da Vinci, King Arthur and Merlin in his travels through time.
  • Nostalgia Level: The final level of the sequel is a recreation of the first level of the original game - including an undead version of the first game's first boss.
  • One-Hit Kill: Physical contact with any of the bosses in the first game is instant death.
  • Psychic Powers: In Zoda's Revenge, Mike gains the ability to shoot Psychic Shock Waves. Too bad their power is dependent on his life meter.
  • Revenge of the Sequel: In this case, literally inverted. The second game in the series is Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II.
  • Ring Out Boss: The robotic alien that you fight at the end of Chapter 7. You have to shoot him relentlessly to push him far enough back so that you can trip a switch to make part of the floor disappear and then keep shooting him until he falls into the void. He can be killed from damage but it is far quicker to push him out
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop: While some criticize the sequel due to the different control scheme (thanks to Damn You, Muscle Memory!), there are others who find the game easier to handle for many of the same reasons.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Mostly due to the control scheme and combined with Damn You, Muscle Memory! if you've played the first game. The raft-jumping sections are notable for their cruelty for the fact that you can walk right off the raft into the water/pit if you're not extremely careful when jumping.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In Chapter 6 of the first game, to Robinson Crusoe of all things. You can find his skeleton, although Mike thinks the initials RC must stand for "Rob Crusocola".
    • Coralcola's chief looks suspiciously like a certain Nintendo mascot. To add to speculation, he refers to Mike as a "power player" and later proves himself to be quite the Tetris maestro.
    • The Egyptian pizza delivery man rides a Koopa Troopa on horseback.
    • The sequel contains a major Shout-Out to Tetris, (all the plot coupons are magic Tetris pieces!) although it was removed for the Virtual Console release.
    • The trap-filled Captain Bell's Cave in the first game, with collapsing floors, spear-shooting walls, and giant rolling bowling balls, feels like something right out of an Indiana Jones movie.
    • In the second game, Leonardo da Vinci gives you a Katana (which he claims he got from Marco Polo, of all people).
  • Songs in the Key of Lock: "Do me so far, do me?"
  • Sue Donym: Mike eventually comes to "Michelle" when he does this.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Mike dies instantly when he falls in water... despite being very athletic and vacationing in the tropics.
  • Theme Naming: All the towns in the first game are named "(Blank)cola." Leading to the unappetizing town in Chapter 4 called Tunacola.
  • This Was His True Form:
    • Zoda first appears as a cloaked figure with a horned helmet. When Mike first confronts him, he turns into a giant floating head and a giant hand. After the beatdown, Zoda shifts back into the cloaked form, and then into the Xenomorph-esque final form.
    • In the second game, each of the three clones of Zoda has a different true form, but you only see the Zoda-X's true form as part of his death animation (it's the same as the original Zoda's Xenomorph form). The other two you have to fight in both forms: Zoda-Y turns into an owl-like alien, while Zoda-Z transforms into a tall alien muscleman.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Combined with Katanas Are Just Better above.
  • Time Travel: A major contributor in the second game's plot.
  • Totally Radical: Mike fell into this a bit in the second game (almost literally, as "radical" is what he calls every instance of time-traveling).
  • Trial and Error Gameplay: There are several screens where entering is instant death.
    • One of the more interesting ones is early in the first game. One room gives you a Medicine, a vital item, and opens a door to another room. This room also has a Medicine, and opens another door. In the next room... you jump straight into water, as the room has no floor. Only floating bones in the water.
    • A little later in the first game, you enter a room with two tile paths leading upward on either side of the room. After jumping from tile to tile for two rooms, you have to jump upwards at the top edge of the room. One path leads to safety, the other path leads to instant death, and there is no way to know this ahead of time. Hint: the right path is right.
    • In the Ghost Village dungeon in Chapter 3 of the first game, every single obvious path locks you into an exit out of the dungeon, forcing you to restart. In order to actually complete the dungeon, you have to ignore the obvious paths and instead find the hidden ones. Maliciously, the final fake path is only a few rooms away from the boss, meaning you can complete most of the dungeon and then have to restart it again.
  • Unique Enemy: Squidos appear on just one screen in the game, mostly so you can try out your new Smart Bomb attack.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When you finally kill Zoda in the first game, he'll start barfing right before he finally bites the big one.
  • Workout Fanservice: You can walk in on Alex. Even though he apologizes for being shirtless, no one's complaining.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: In light of "yo-yo" becoming a trademarked term, for the Virtual Console release of StarTropics, Nintendo changed the weapon's name to "Island Star." In addition, Tetrads are known as 'Blocks' in the sequel's Virtual Console release. On a related note, the chief's middle name is no longer 'Tetris', but 'Puzzle'.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: You have to jump on the tile ten times to create a bridge in Chapter 3, but it won't work until after you are told to do so in Shecola, supposedly because you have to shout a magic word to make it work.