Total time played: 12 Hours
Short review: This sequel to Startropics fixes almost every issue from the first game, has some of the best cutscene animations on the NES and sprinkles in a lot pop culture references. A must play game that I had never played.
Interesting links related to Startropics II: Zoda’s Revenge
- Speedrun (1 hour 3 minutes 18 seconds)
- Video Review (Happy Video Game Nerd)
- Written Walkthroughs and Game Maps
Evil Dead 2 of gaming
Evil Dead is a pretty good horror film. Evil Dead 2 is almost the exact same movie but gorier, funnier and had a much larger budget. Startropics is a great game. Startropics 2 is almost the same game but funnier and more polished.
Improving A Near Perfect Game
Some of my favorite albums are the only albums by that band I’ve ever listened to. For example, I love the Blue Album by Weezer, but I’ve never given any of the other albums a fair shot. I think I’m afraid they won’t live up so I just don’t even give them a shot.
I did the same thing with Zoda’s Revenge. I love Startropics and played it growing up so much that i never gave the sequel a shot because I knew it wouldn’t live up to the hype. As it turns out I was wrong, Zoda’s Revenge may be better than Startropics.
The gameplay hasn’t changed much from the original game but you can now jump and move in all 8 directions instead of just 4 directions. The cut scenes have gotten more impressive and there is no section of the game requiring you to put a piece of paper from the instruction manual into water to access a password needed to progress.
These old NES games typically don’t ever have a story that leaves a lasting impression on me. The story in Zoda’s Revenge is about a kid traveling through time and space looking for Zoda, the big bad guy, and meeting a lot of famous characters from literary and actual history.
You learn the story at the beginning of the game and then each time you meet a new character you fill them in on the story. But, each time the story looks more and more like the story below:
Zoda’s Revenge charm shining through. The programmers knew I wanted to play the game and didn’t care about the story.
The game is linear in nature, meaning you just go from one level to the next. But, the game hides this fact by letting you walk around an overworld and interact with people in towns, go into buildings and generally just search around. These overworld areas are big enough to make the game not feel linear and small enough so you never get lost.
There are a couple of puzzles throughout the game but they never feel too complex which I appreciate. The puzzles are solvable by most people, even in the before the internet era.
In the first town you enter there are hieroglyphs on a wall. A few minutes later, inside the first dungeon, the order of those hieroglyphs determine the path you must take through the dungeon. Of course I wasn’t prepared so had to walk back to the town and take a photo of the pattern. This short detour only took 5 minutes.
There was also a puzzle requiring you to walk in a certain pattern from a specific cactus in a desert in order to find the hidden entrance to a dungeon. I’ll be honest, I gave this one about 10 minutes before giving up and looking online. I never did find the correct cactus. It was late at night and I was ready for bed and wanted to get into that next dungeon to access the next save point. But, the area to search wasn’t too large so with a little trial and error I could have figured it out.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
There are 8 chapters in this game and the pace moves pretty fast (unless you die a million times like me). There aren’t really any new revolutionary game play mechanics or story elements but every piece of Zoda’s Revenge is polished and just as good as the original. I never noticed any glitches or slowdown and there was so much attention to detail. Even the animals in the game had butt holes!
While I haven’t played EVERY game on the NES I can’t imagine too many games have animals with butt holes.
The Final Stage
We’ve seen it before a million times. An old game wants to give you the most bang for the buck. They can’t afford to create a bunch of new levels so they just make you fight every boss from every stage in a row.
The level is pretty short, you fight a short mid-boss snake skeleton and then reach a save point. The next few rooms are just used to re-fill your health and to stock up on medicine bottles (take the bottom path). But, then starts the boss rush.
You must fight all 7 end level bosses, this time in black and white. Luckily your life meter is maxed out and I have the strongest weapon in the game (Ultra Psychic Shock Wave). Unfortunately, this weapon is only super powerful if you have half health or more.
None of the bosses on their own are that tough, but, fighting them back to back can be a nightmare. I beat every single one of the enemies without getting hit on multiple occasions, but, I could never beat them all in a row without using all of my bottles. It took many many attempts before I got lucky enough to get good patterns with every boss and got to the final boss with some medicine bottles.
Like Ninja Gaiden, there are 3 waves to the final boss and if you die you get sent back to the mid-level save point. This means you have to fight all of the bosses again. Not only that, two of the medicine bottles are before the save point meaning if you don’t get through the level on the first life of a continue you were 2 medicine bottles short in the boss rush.
This game deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as all the first party NES classics. I would say it deserves a next-gen sequel as well but I’m sure it wouldn’t live up to the first two classics (there I go again, making assumptions about sequels).
If you haven’t played this you should, even if you haven’t played the first game. It is the best game on the NES that you never hear people talk about.