[Zoda's Revenge logo]

[Battle versus Yum-Yum]

System: NES
Publisher & Designer: Nintendo of America
Release Date: February 1994
Genre: Adventure/RPG
Players: 1
Save Feature? Does Cleopatra like pizza?

Zoda's Revenge was the last truly great adventure game to be released for the NES. Like its predecessor, this game has a lot of personality and charm for an NES game and it really is a shame that so many gamers missed out on it due to its extremely late release date. The enjoyable music, unique time-travel story, and fun atmosphere add up to a worthy sequel!

Overview: As the title indicates, Zoda's Revenge is the sequel to one of the more underrated games for the NES: Startropics. While the gameplay is very similar to the original game, the atmosphere/feel is quite different. Mike Jones does not go on an exotic, tropical adventure this time around. Zoda's Revenge will take him beyond space and time to legendary places such as the Prehistoric Era, Ancient Egypt, and even the Old West! Although I thoroughly enjoyed the original game and its tropical (yet mysterious) atmosphere, Zoda's Revenge has a captivating aura as well...just in a different way.

As in StarTropics, Zoda's Revenge is full of action, yet it's an adventure, yet it's a puzzler. While there are plenty of mummies and ghosts to face, brawn isn't everything in this game. Being able to navigate the many dungeons all while solving various puzzles is necessary as well. For example, in Chapter 2, the only way to make it through Yum Yum's cave is to memorize (or better yet, write down) the markings on the wall of a previous cave. Later on in Chapter 5, being able to master the "Cactus Dance" will make finding the Lost Mine less cumbersome. Although it probably isn't quite as intuitive as StarTropics in regards to intricate, well-thought-out puzzles, Zoda's Revenge can still be pretty clever at times.

Simply put, the goal in this game is to complete all nine chapters and to acquire the mystic tetrads (magical items that appear to contain a secret) before Zoda does the same. As you progress, you will discover many unique weapons and magical items that will come to your aid. Some of them are rather hard to find as well! There are quite a few secrets hidden in this game like heart containers (Zelda, anyone?) and gold nuggets (which give you points). Patience and a thorough investigation of every area in the game is highly recommended!

[Wayyyyyyyyy back in time!]
[Let's make Mona Lisa look radical!]
[Fighting enemies...]

Graphics: Although they are nothing extraordinary or groundbreaking for a 1994 NES game, the visuals throughout Zoda's Revenge have a real old-school charm about them. The overworld scenes are very nostalgic with their various character sprites and the cinema scenes should make Ninja Gaiden fans proud. Some of the character graphics in these scenes (e.g. Sherlock Holmes and Leonardo da Vinci) look incredible for an NES game and I thought that some of the effects (e.g. ominous light around Zoda) were nicely done as well. You could really tell that, despite its late release, this game was not rushed. Nintendo really did themselves proud here.

The action scenes look nice as well. The graphics are probably more detailed than in the original Startropics game and there seems to be more variety in terms of the dungeon graphics also. This game has a really special atmosphere too...at least in certain stages. The maze area in Chapter 3 is so original and was a fun challenge while the Great Pyramid contains an aura of mystery. The Lost Mine in Chapter 5 with its miner ghosts and feeling of isolation felt perfect too.

Granted, the character/enemy animated effects are actually fairly weak in this installment with many enemies just having really spastic movements at times. At the same time, some of the enemies like the snakes in the pyramid have very lifelike movements so I suppose that there is some balance there. Also, while it is unrelated to the game's animation, Mike Jones has reddish-brown hair in this game...except in the overworld/dungeons where his hair is black...?! How a character with such an obvious appearance ended up having black hair in the main game is beyond me. Nintendo didn't make too many mistakes in this game but that was a real perplexing error in my opinion.

Music: To become a true epic, a memorable soundtrack is an absolute must in most games but especially in the Adventure/RPG genre. The first StarTropics game succeeded in this area but how would the sequel fare? Well, Zoda's Revenge did just fine in this area. Especially for an NES game, Zoda's Revenge features a remarkable amount of music with most of the tracks being quite enjoyable! Atmosphere is the key word when having a discussion about the music in Zoda's Revenge because I was amazed at how appropriate the game's music was and just how well it fits each level of the game.

As I write this review, I can't help but think of Little Nemo: The Dream Master. Like that wonderful game pak, a lot of the music in Zoda's Revenge is so enjoyable even though it is incredibly simple! I felt that the overworld tracks for each chapter were wonderful in that the composers really captured the spirit of each era. Some of the tunes that play during the Prehistoric and Old West chapters are great! I also enjoyed the gentle Chapter 3 maze theme a lot.

Of course, the dungeon tracks are very good as well! And there is a lot of different dungeon music too which is one minor gripe I had with the first StarTropics game (which had just one primary dungeon theme until late in the game). Although most of these dungeon tracks are upbeat, encouraging, and even a little adrenaline-pumping, a few are eerie and mysterious as well. Who could forget the Transylvania Castle theme? Lastly, one can't talk about the game's music without mentioning the excellent Zoda boss music or the memorable ending theme. Nintendo really laid down the gauntlet with Zoda's Revenge in the music department. This game sounds great!

On the flip side, while the sound effects are pretty good overall, there is a very annoying sound that repeats over and over when your life meter is low. This sound is incredibly irritating too. I suppose that at the very least, it gives you the incentive to keep that life bar full! With the exception of that one hideous sound (and it truly is awful), the music is superb.

Play Control: The controls in Zoda's Revenge are probably better than the original Startropics game since you can now move/jump diagonally instead of being limited to four directions and having that odd delay whenever you want to switch directions and move. Of course, there are times when I wish that you couldn't move in the air while you jump like in the original StarTropics classic (I can't tell you how many times I've lost a life by falling into a pit in Zoda's Revenge.) While the controls are certainly improved overall, I can't shake the feeling that they are still just a little bit stiff at times. I wish that you could move just a bit faster and possibly jump just a bit further. Other than that, I have no real qualms with the controls.

Challenge: It is certainly no Battletoads but Zoda's Revenge is still one tough cookie at times! This game features a wealth of content and is definitely not one of those games that you can breeze through in one setting. There are nine large chapters (with the exception of Chapter 1 which consists of nothing but dialouge) featuring a plethora of dungeons and taxing puzzles so you can expect a challenge. You might have to navigate a tricky maze or fight a tough-as-nails boss (this game has some pretty tough bosses too). The final area of the game holds nothing back either as you will have to face off against all of the previous bosses in a marathon battle! Sure it is a challenge but it leaves you very satisfied in the end.

Also, for an NES game, Zoda's Revenge has a decent amount of replay value. There are several out-of-the-way heart containers to acquire along with some lesser bonuses like gold nuggets (or even chicken nuggets!) Granted, this game does not exactly have 10-15 endings like Chrono Trigger or a vast world to explore like Final Fantasy III/VI but for an 8-bit game, I have no complaints.

[The first dungeon]
[The great Sherlock Holmes]
[Yikes! Watch out for the stinger!]

Storyline: One rule of thumb regarding adventure games in general is that, to be respected as a true classic, the storyline almost has to be epic in some way, shape, or form. Originality is important and the ability to intrigue the gamer and to motivate him/her to press on and complete the quest is paramount indeed. And like with the original StarTropics game, Zoda's Revenge really came through in this regard.

Although I admittedly missed the tropical atmosphere and general mystique of StarTropics, Zoda's Revenge contains a surprisingly original time-travel story. The funny thing is that the story in Zoda's Revenge is so different and takes place in such foreign settings that it can be hard to fathom that this is indeed a direct sequel to StarTropics. This is not a bad thing either. It is just...unusual. Instead of taking a voyage from island to island in the South Pacific and searching for Dr. Jones (or "Dr. J" as he is known by in Zoda's Revenge), Mike Jones finds himself thrust back in time and quickly discovers that there are mysterious stones called "Tetrads" (which look eerily similar to Tetris pieces...wait a minute...) that he needs to find. However, Mike is not alone in his pursuit of these mystic Tetrads as an old enemy from the past (Hint: The game's title gives you a clue.) desires the stones' powers and finds a way to time slip as well. The concept of time-travel is intriguing enough by itself but visiting different eras while being pursued by aliens? In the words of Mike himself, "This is radical!"

Basically, this game is a race through time and the story carries itself very, very well. It is only at the very end of Mike's quest that he understands its true purpose. Speaking of which, while the overall story is indeed very different than the one in StarTropics, the final battle takes place in a very familiar area to StarTropics fans which I thought was the perfect location for the game's (and series') finale. The ending does not disappoint either.

Funfactor: Zoda's Revenge, in my personal opinion, is slightly better than the original StarTropics game. The dungeons contain more variety in terms of their appearance, the music just feels better as a whole, the controls are a bit more polished, and the story just feels more epic. Granted, the special weapons are not as exciting in this installment (the original game had some truly awesome special weapons) and the tropical atmosphere is sorely missed. I can really appreciate the whole time-travel theme though and Zoda's Revenge pulled it off quite nicely.

Along with its predecessor, Zoda's Revenge has to be one of the more underrated NES games/series out there. There are so many unique challenges (especially in the overworld scenes) and this game comes across as both serious and cheesy (but in a fun way). Like in StarTropics, Zoda's Revenge has a quirky sense of humor like when you have to chase down a pizza for Queen Cleopatra or when Mike Jones gives Leonardo da Vinci some "hip" advice regarding the "Mona Lisa." The gameplay is pretty solid as well and fighting enemies is a lot of fun. It's probably safe to say that Zelda fans would enjoy this game along with StarTropics. Overall, Zoda's Revenge is a fine game. It's just too bad that it was released when no one was looking.

Negatives: The first thing that comes to mind is easily the sound that plays when your life meter is low. It truly is that irritating and unless you've played the game, you have no idea how hard it is to concentrate with that incessant noise bleeping over and over and over again. Of course, if you can keep your life meter filled, you won't have to worry about the noise but good luck with that.

While the play control is very good, I just wish that Mike Jones was slightly more agile. There are a few jumps in the game (like when you are fighting the "Brain" boss in the sewers) that seem unnecessarily difficult simply because Mike can't quite jump far enough.

Also, while the gameplay in Zoda's Revenge is a lot of fun, I would probably give the original game the edge in terms of original and intuitive puzzles. There are still some well-thought out puzzles in Zoda's Revenge but nothing really impressed me like the Sceptor item in the original game that could cause invisible enemies to appear. Just a little more creativity would have been nice.

Lastly, I found it frustrating that every time you lose a life, you start off with only around 1/3 of your heart containers filled and you lose all of your magic items on top of that! This can be extremely irritating if you had full life, two medicines, and a large star and lost a life due to the dreaded one-hit K.O. Talk about being penalized for a mistake!

[I'ma the pizza man!]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.0 Music: 4.2 Play Control: 4.0 Challenge: 4.3 Storyline: 4.7 Funfactor: 4.4 Overall Score: 25.6 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo

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Last Updated: March 4, 2015
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