I’d loaded up and messed with StarTropics 2 early in my messing with NES emulators, but didn’t play very far into it. It’d been a long time, so me being me, I just kind of assumed my old self stopped playing because they had gotten bored of it and moved on to pirating something zanier. Turns out I probably ran out of patience!
To properly describe my beefs with StarTropics 2, I have to lay out a bit about the mechanics of the original. StarTropics has a very strict tile-based movement system, and making your way through the game means mastering that particular quirk. While restrictive; the game is designed with it in mind- enemies aren’t usually super aggressive, those that are are typically slow… in general, there’s a lot more of a feel that each room is a puzzle to solve beyond ‘kill all the enemies and the door opens.’ Even when you do get a room like that, it’s usually done to make sure you know how to deal with a certain type of enemy or that you know your way around a special weapon. (In particular, the Asterisk, a.k.a. throwing star is given to you then you pass through several rooms where using its splitting ability is needed to take out paired enemies in tricky locations.) It certainly has its share of dick moves in later stages (as anyone who was watching my Twitch stream of the game can attest to) and rather unforgiving general design choices (if you die in a dungeon, you always start your next life with a meager 3 hearts, and some checkpoints are placed in a way that makes it impossible to refill your health to a decent level before the boss.)
What I’m getting at is StarTropics is awkward and fairly hard, but it checks a lot of the ‘good game design’ boxes. StarTropics 2 attempts to be more of a standard isometric action game, and it feels like a case of something that’s not broken being ‘fixed.’ Mike can move and attack diagonally, and isn’t restricted to full tile movement. You also seem (oddly) to be able to jump farther diagonally than straight across gaps, as well as alter your airborne course a little.
This is actually kind of a problem! Particularly coming straight off of the first one. Jumps across tile-wide gaps was easy the first time around, as your movement was ‘locked’ to a grid, but in more intense platforming segments like the three-lane boulder dash in the Wild West mine section, I find myself falling to my death way more often than I would have under the old system. In fact, the same basic obstacle was IN the first game before the fight with the ostrich mech. The challenge was about timing there, and more of a standard placement issue in the sequel.
So, at least part of my problem is that I’m used to the first game’s controls. That’s on me. But Mike retains just enough of his old movement habits that he’s not quite as responsive as he could be either. You can still kind of spin in place if you rotate the pad fast enough, trying to walk him in a circle around the room, however, you can feel that he still hangs a bit when changing direction. You still have more freedom of movement to be sure, but it feels less precise and measured.
Let’s talk about what it does well, though! It’s more deliberately funny than the first one. The graphics are definitely nice, more detailed. Dungeons now have multiple elevation levels, which is used to interesting effect in parts. Leaping from higher levels adds an extra ’tile’ to your jump length, and the height of yourself and enemies factors into who can hit who. It’s also kind of neat how you’re giving a telekinetic shot as a permanent secondary weapon, and your two main weapons receive upgrades throughout the story.
I’ll keep picking at the game off and on- my Twitter (@thethreetwo) and Twitch widget should say when. Currently picking at the card stuff again though.