Overall Rating: 4.5/5
The original Star Tropics adventure game combined light role-playing elements with an engaging, refreshing storyline to form a cult classic for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a fun cult classic, but was plagued by challenge-level and repetition issues. It was good enough, though, to spawn a sequel for the same system: Star Tropics 2, Zoda’s Revenge. On its own merits, would the Revenge prove superior to the original?
The appearance was stellar, easily bettering the original and pushing the Nintendo Entertainment System to its limits, both in the stark images and the sprite animations. The worldview scenes were well-defined and historical, while the dungeon adventuring scenes were brooding, atmospheric, and appropriate for each level. The look was unique, flawless, and obviously had a lot of heart put into its development.
The original Star Tropics actually arguably had a better soundtrack, but Zoda’s entry in the series was no slouch, and any time a game’s sound approaches that of Star Tropics, it is a favorable comparison. Blending the classic islander tunes with music appropriate for each time period that our hero Mike comes across, Zoda’s Revenge does a solid job of setting up the mood for epic heroics. At times, the melody selection is somewhat arbitrary-sounded (when visiting Da Vinci), but other times is spot-on perfect (Wild West and Egyptian tunes).
The first Star Tropics game was truly innovative, even to the point of being almost too creative: It featured a very ambitious storyline, adventure/RPG elements, and a unique dungeon system with an emphasis on platform-jumping. The biggest problem was this platform-jumping, which limited the player’s movements and forced an emphasis on precision, timing, and specific paths. With Zoda’s Revenge the formula was vastly improved: Now, Mike could jump diagonally, and had a much greater freedom of movement in the dungeons. This adaptation alone made it a superior entry in the NES universe than the original. The time-travel story was obviously not original, but it did an admirable job of fitting into the topical/Mike Jones/alien Zoda mythology.
It can be said that role-playing games are at the opposite spectrum to party games in replay value: They have a fantastic initial investment of time, but once you beat it, what’s the incentive? Whereas party games are specifically designed to be broken out with friends and played over and over to laughs and fun until they explode, Zoda’s Revenge does beg the question: Without multiple endings or even side quests to pursue, why bother going through the grueling experience again?
That issue aside, Zoda’s Revenge is a quirky, rich, wonderful game that does require extensive knowledge of the original. With its well-written dialogues, lush environments, challenging dungeons, and hectic battles, expect a session of Star Tropics 2: Zoda’s Revenge to be rewarding and worthwhile, easily earning four stars out of five as an excellent, well-developed NES title.
For a look at other almost-classics in the NES library, check out NintendoLegend.com.