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Revisiting The Heroic Mike Jones

Startropics Most Nintendo-created games followed a distinct development life cycle back in the old days (and in modern times, too, for that matter): make a game in Japan, then translate and release it in other regions.  It didn't always work that way, however, and Nintendo's Startropics is old fashioned proof for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Developed for western audiences and never released in Japan, Startropics and its sequel Startropics 2: Zoda's Revenge follow the Zelda-like adventures of Mike Jones as he searches for his missing uncle and works to derail the plans of invading alien monsters.  Both games have languished in obscurity for many years now, but that hasn't stopped Hardcore Gaming 101 from excavating and examining the ruins of the discarded franchise.

The underworld requires you to move along an X-Y axis like in Zelda. You have a primary weapon - A Yo-Yo (kinda like Mikey Walsh in Goonies II), that later powers up into a Morning Star and a Super Nova, each with extended power and range. The power ups are dependent on locale in the game as well as the number of hearts you currently have (if you slip below the required number, your weapon down grades). You can also use other sundry weapons, ranging from bolas, room freezing snow men, baseballs, and even lasers- though each has a limited number of uses. Also needed are special crystals which reveal hidden enemies, and lamps to light up dark rooms. Medicine is found along the way, restoring five hearts. Your enemies drop hearts and stars (5 stars equals one heart).

While reading this article I found myself wondering why I never really got into Startropics.  I've played the first game, but I gave up within an hour of beginning the quest.  I just can't remember why I quit so early, as that's really not like me at all to walk away without giving a game an honest chance.

Unfortunately, the controls are a bit awkward, which is what tends to turn people off Startropics. The movement works on a grid system, so you can't just move a few pixels, you have to move over a whole square. Furthermore, in order to walk in a direction, you need to hold it down for a split second before you actually move. Unless you're next to water, you can only jump straight up. And the only way to move from tile to tile is to jump, which can take a long time if there are plenty of tiles in the room. Even compared to Zelda, the movement feels restrictive and can get frustrating when the rooms are filled with enemies.

Oh yeah.  Now I remember.  Maybe I should try again now that I'm older and have more patience.  Then again, sometimes dead franchises stay dead for a reason.