StarTropics Review – A Cross Between Indiana Jones and The Legend of Zelda

by | NES

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to embark on a tropical adventure full of secrets, puzzles, and action? If that’s you, grab your sunscreen and put on your shades because we’re about to dive into the world of StarTropics, an epic 8-bit video game adventure!

In our StarTropics review, we’ll explore the ins and outs of this retro classic game, from its engaging story to its innovative gameplay, and why it remains a beloved gem in the gaming community. Get ready for an extraordinary adventure that combines health, movement, and fun gameplay in a way only Nintendo can!

History of StarTropics

Release date and platform

StarTropics was released in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), making it one of the later titles in the console’s life. The game even made an appearance in Nintendo Power magazine, helping to create buzz around its release.


The game was developed by Nintendo’s Integrated Research & Development division (IRD), the same team responsible for the development of the NES hardware and other console games.

Game’s inspiration

The game’s tropical setting and adventure theme were a unique combination for the time, with inspiration drawn from the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Indiana Jones. The tropical islands and interactive traffic within the game’s environment made it stand out from other titles of its era.

StarTropics Storyline


In StarTropics, players assume the role of Mike Jones, a teenager from Seattle with a knack for adventure. Mike is not your typical hero; he’s an ordinary guy thrust into extraordinary circumstances, armed with only his trusty island Yo-Yo.

Main objective

The game’s story begins when Mike receives a physical letter from his archaeologist uncle, Dr. Jones (also known as Uncle Steve), who invites him to visit his laboratory on the tropical C-Island. However, upon arrival, Mike discovers that his uncle has mysteriously disappeared. Mike sets out on a quest to find his missing uncle and uncover the secrets of the nearby islands.


Controls and mechanics

StarTropics features a top-down perspective similar to The Legend of Zelda, with players controlling Mike using the NES controller’s directional pad and two action buttons. The controls are simple but responsive, allowing for a smooth gaming experience.

Island exploration

As players traverse the various tropical islands, they’ll encounter friendly villagers and exotic locations filled with secrets. Players can interact with the environment and NPCs, like the village chief and the village elder, gathering information and items necessary for their quest.

Dungeon crawling

The game also includes dungeons filled with enemies, traps, and puzzles. Mike must use his wits, reflexes, and an array of weapons and items, like baseball bats and special weapons, to navigate these treacherous areas.

Puzzles and riddles

In addition to combat and exploration, StarTropics is known for its challenging puzzles and riddles, often involving tiles and secret passages. One particularly memorable puzzle involves a letter in water, showcasing the game’s unique design and willingness to push the envelope. You’ll have to play it; we won’t spoil the surprise! 

Graphics and Sound


StarTropics sports colorful and detailed graphics that bring the game’s tropical setting to life. The green tiles and other visual elements create a vibrant world that still holds up today, evoking a sense of nostalgia for those who experienced the game in its prime.

Music and sound effects

The game’s soundtrack is filled with catchy tunes that perfectly complement the tropical setting. From the festive village themes to the eerie dungeon tracks, the music in StarTropics is sure to get stuck in your head. The sound effects, though limited by the NES hardware, add to the overall atmosphere and charm of the game.

Legacy and Impact


Upon its release, StarTropics received positive reviews for its engaging gameplay, challenging puzzles, and vibrant visuals. However, it didn’t achieve the same level of success as some other Nintendo franchises, which means it ended up becoming a cult classic among console games.


A sequel, Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II, was released in 1994 for the NES. While it maintained the core gameplay elements and charm of the original, it didn’t garner the same level of attention, likely due to the focus shifting to the newer Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Influence on future games

Despite its niche status, StarTropics has left an indelible mark on the gaming industry. The game’s blend of exploration, puzzle-solving, and action can be seen in many modern titles, and its tropical setting has inspired countless other games over the years. It’s safe to say that StarTropics represents a natural evolution in video game design.

In conclusion, StarTropics is a gem from the NES era that deserves recognition for its unique blend of gameplay elements, captivating story, and charming presentation. Though it may not be as well-known as some other Nintendo franchises, it remains a beloved classic in the hearts of those who have experienced its tropical adventure. So, if you’re looking for a retro game to add to your collection or just want to relive the excitement of uncovering island secrets, give StarTropics a try! Just remember to keep an eye out for health upgrades, as they might save your life in this extraordinary journey.


1. How does the game handle health and extra lives?

In StarTropics, players can find health upgrades throughout the game, increasing Mike’s maximum health. Extra lives are also available, providing players another chance to continue their adventure after losing all their health.

2. What happens when Mike encounters a dolphin in the game?

In one memorable section of the game, Mike helps a mother dolphin find her lost baby. This heartwarming encounter is a nice touch that showcases the game’s commitment to creating a rich, interactive world.

3. How does the game handle random encounters with enemies?

StarTropics does not feature random encounters in the traditional sense. Instead, enemy encounters are carefully placed and designed as part of the level design, making for a more strategic and engaging experience.

4. What are some special weapons and items that Mike can find in the game?

Aside from his trusty island Yo-Yo, Mike can find various weapons and items, such as baseball bats, slingshots, and even a special yo-yo that deals more damage. These items help players tackle the game’s many challenges and add variety to the gameplay.

5. What is the significance of the letter in the water puzzle?

The letter in water puzzle is a unique and memorable moment in StarTropics that requires players to think outside the box (and the game itself). This puzzle demonstrates the game’s commitment to innovative design and willingness to challenge players’ expectations.

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