Last week, Nintendo added the cult classic 1990 NES game StarTropics to the Switch online library. There is only one problem: it does not contain the secret clue necessary to beat the game. StarTropics follows a boy named Mike Jones, who is looking for a mysterious island for his uncle, who has just disappeared. He encounters all sorts of strange creatures, including a race of alien aliens responsible for abducting his uncle. And he does almost everything with a Yo-Yo. The game appeared at the end of the NES life cycle, just a few weeks after SNES had already appeared in Japan. As a result, this was one of the more complex and extensive games available on the console. It combines platforming, exploration around the world and real-time combat with the story of a role-playing game.
It was also an extreme mystery that, depending on how many times you hit your head against a wall to find out, it was either one of the smartest or the most vicious things ever put into a game. At one point, Mike has to use his uncle’s submarine, but it will not work without a secret code.
Then Baboo, his uncle’s assistant, becomes obsessed and says, “Evil aliens from a distant planet … tell my nephew he chooses Code 1776. Tell Mike to dip my letter in water.” Entering 1776 in the Control Panel Causes the Submarine To go underwater, however, a second code is required to take further action. This second code is nowhere to be found in the game. You can search anywhere, press any key on your controller while standing on each tile in the game, and never find it.This is because the code is actually hidden in a paper card that came with the game. On the back is a letter from Mike’s uncle requesting to visit the island. If you dip the card in water, code 747 appears in invisible ink. You can watch Kotaku’s Chris Kohler doing a sealed version of the game on unboxed:
It is very clever, but it can also be a royal pain. Especially if you purchased StarTropics secondhand or borrowed from a friend, as my brother and I did back then and did not have access to the letter.
Now, switch players are in the same boat, as downloading the digital version of StarTropics players does not currently include this portion of the instructional material. When Nintendo first recorded the game in the Wii U Virtual Console, the digital manual contained a page that showed an animation of the letter in water and the code. The switch version does not have that.It’s possible that Nintendo will eventually fix something like the workaround of the Wii U, or that the company expects players to search the Internet for the answer when they encounter the puzzle. If that’s the case, I hope they’re right and nobody else is crazy about their inability to solve the puzzle on their own.