No one ever really talks about the game of StarTropics. Usually the first thing on most people’s minds when thinking about it is “that gosh danged letter!”. For the uninitiated-

At some point during the game, the player is instructed to “submerge my letter in water” by the protagonist’s uncle in order to solve a puzzle. There is no letter in the game nor any mechanism by which to submerge it- the game is actually referring to a real, physical letter that came bundled in with the cartridge. Placing this letter in water would reveal a hidden message with the answer to the puzzle.

Now, we in the UK were a little less awestruck by such a break in the fourth wall- so-called ‘feelies’ were a fairly common pack-in with games for the home computers popular in Europe during America’s videogames crash. They were a subtle and fun way to combat the piracy rampant on machines using easy-to-copy cassettes and floppy disks. In the US, though, this cool trick has given StarTropics a somewhat legendary status, infamous especially among those who rented or bought second hand, and in modern times becoming the bane of collectors.

Well, now I’m guilty of being one of those people who only talks about StarTropics the product instead of StarTropics the game, so!

Probably the best (or easiest) comparison is The Legend Of Zelda. Mike Jones explores dungeons and uses a yo-yo to battle enemies in melee range. There’s a much more pervasive sense of humour to StarTropics though; the dialogue and quests give me something of an Earthbound vibe, a gentle surreality that never quite surrenders itself to full-on wackiness.

Fin or Bin:

As part of the Wii U re-release, Nintendo included a digital copy of the letter, complete with hidden code, as part of the game’s online manual. For the Switch version however, the have forgotten to include it in any manner. If you intend to Finish it, as I do, then you’ll need to find the code some other way. Watch my first hour here!

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Punch Out!!

As previously discussed, I’ve started streaming my first hour of gameplay! I’m still new at this so expect a lot of errors (hey, I recorded it at the wrong resolution, it’s not going to get worse than that). The focus is always going to be on this blog here, so if you’re not into streams at all no worries.

I’ve also started a Discord to facilitate discussion and sharing of backlog miseries, plus a Patreon tip jar if you like what I do. Would be neat to expand this little project a little!

But for now here’s Punch Out, specifically the Mr Dream version rather than the Mike Tyson version. If you’re interested in the history of this franchise, I strongly recommend watching Jeremy Parish’s NES Works video on it.

I played the sequel Super Punch Out a very long time ago and didn’t really understand what I was doing- approaching it more as a standard brawler than the puzzle game it actually is. Little Mac is a tiny, tiny man, who has to fight smart rather than hard if he wants to stand a chance at the Title.

I actually prefer it this way- having to learn how to spot opponents’ tells and openings is the kind of gameplay I enjoy (very prevalent in Ys, for example). It’s very satisfying to finally work out how to beat an opponent that you’ve been struggling with and watch them go down in one round.

Something else I’ve noticed is how good the translation effort is. Doc Lewis gives subtle hints on how to beat each opponent between rounds (if you survive that long), far more useful than the “EASTMOST PENNINSULA IS THE SECRET”-style of non-hint often found in games of the era.

Fin or Bin:

We’re starting the new era of BBLC off strongly, then! If only I knew anything at all about boxing, I could come up with a great pun for this Fin.