StarTropics still stands as one of the best in the action adventure genre, rivaling the great Zelda itself.
Mike Jones, a yo-yo wielding American teenager who loves baseball, arrives at C Island to discover that his uncle, Dr. J, has gone missing. His only chance of finding his uncle is by exploring the islands and following the clues he finds on them. Each island has a certain task or set of tasks that must be accomplished before heading to the next island. This makes for a linear adventure, but that's not always a bad thing.
The overworld map is similar to that of Zelda II, though there are no enemies to hinder exploration. Villages filled with one-liner islanders are scattered on the islands, and they are usually the source for the next objective.
Dungeons, which provide the meat of the game, are also accessed via the overworld. When Mike enters a dungeon, he gains the ability to jump and use his yo-yo as a weapon. The dungeons resemble those of the original Zelda. Each room requires a specific action to proceed, such as killing all the monsters or finding a button to open the door.
Slugs, flies, mummies, and even flying monkeys are among the rather creative monsters that inhabit the dungeons of StarTropics. Most of the enemies take more than one hit with Mike's yo-yo to kill; this can be frustrating at first, but a couple mandatory yo-yo upgrades throughout the game make the weapon much easier to use. The bosses are also creative, since some of them require more than brute force to destroy.
The difficulty of the dungeons rapidly increases over the course of the game, but some good old-fashioned trial and error, and a bit of memorization, will make even the most difficult dungeons seem easy after a few tries. Heart containers are hidden (quite well, I might add) in the overworld to increase your health capacity, but filling your health to the max is difficult because enemies drop stars instead of hearts, and collecting four stars only fills one heart container. This level of difficulty, however, allows for a satisfying experience.
The graphics and sound are sufficient for an 8-bit game. The environments are colorful and the music reflects the island motif, barring the ridiculous playing of My Country 'Tis of Thee at one point. But this fits comfortably into a game that requires the main character to dress in drag to enter the all-female town of Shecola, explore a fish-shaped island called Tunacola, and be accused of coming from Americola. And did I mention the flying monkeys?
StarTropics combines and improves on the best gameplay ideas from both Zelda and Zelda II, allowing it to stand the test of time as one of the best action adventure games to date. It's worth a look if you never had the chance to play it on the NES; and if you did, it's still worth revisiting.