Super, let’s give it a shot then. For April 2020, the retro games of the month shall be:
- StarTropics (NES) – 1990 – action-adventure
- KiKi KaiKai (arcade) – 1986 – top-down shooter
StarTropics appears quite similar to The Legend of Zelda, in terms of gameplay. The setting is completely different, however. This one is set in the modern day and has a more lighthearted tone, perhaps comparable to Earthbound. So instead of a great hero like Link, you play as a regular boy named Mike Jones, who fends off monsters with a yo-yo (called a Star). And instead of rescuing a princess, you’re looking for your kidnapped Uncle Steve. You’re also exploring a tropical island in this one, which is certainly a change of pace for RPGs.
StarTropics is unique in that it was a game developed in Japan by Nintendo, but was designed specifically for Western audiences. So it was released in NA and EU (etc), but not in Japan. It was developed by Nintendo’s Integrated Research & Development, which handled the hardware and peripheral side of things for the company (but notably they also made the game Punch-Out). Other than on the NES, you can also play StarTropics on the Wii or WiiU (via the Virtual Console) or on the NES Mini. It is also one of the games available on the Switch’s NES Online service. Howlongtobeat dot com says StarTropics takes about seven hours to play through.
StarTropics would go on to get a sequel in 1994 (Zoda’s Revenge), which worked with a time-traveling theme. There haven’t been any other games for the series since then, and I’ve hardly ever seen anyone online clamoring for more. Mike Jones for Smash… probably not likely?
KiKi KaiKai (“Mysterious Ghost World”) is the first in a series of games that lived a bit longer than StarTropics, but has also become largely forgotten. If you looked at the picture of the protagonist Sayo-chan and exclaimed “Oh, I know her – that’s Pocky!”, then you probably have played the SNES sequel that was localized as “Pocky and Rocky” in 1992 (which in turn got a follow-up in 1994, and finally a GBA game in 2001). The SNES games were developed by Natsume, the GBA one by Altron, and the original arcade game by Taito (famous for titles like Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, and Arkanoid).
At any rate, the KiKi KaiKai we’ll be playing released in Japanese arcades in 1986, and can be considered an overhead run-and-gun along the lines of games like Commando and Ikari Warriors. But instead of a Rambo-esque soldier, you’re playing as a Shinto shrine maiden (or “miko”) who must defeat swarms of ghosts and yokai (monsters from Japanese folklore). You shoot ofuda (paper talismans) for long-range attacks, and can swing an oharai wand (a stick with paper streamers used in purification rituals) for close-range attacks. Your goal in this game is to defeat the boss creatures to rescue the seven lucky gods (patron deities who grant good fortune).
This game is available to buy on the PS4 and Switch, as part of the Arcade Archives series of re-releases from Hamster Co. Like most arcade games, this is the sort of title that will take some practice to get good enough to win, so I recommend playing for a bit on a regular basis, and see how much you’ve improved by the end of the month.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on either (or both) of these games as you play them over the course of April. If you finish, you can give a mini-review if you’d like. Let us know if you think these games stand the test of time!