Though it may not always appear as such, Nintendo has a respectable stable of franchises that are more than ready to see release around the world. The company, however, tends to express reticence over which franchises merit international exposure, choosing in most cases to regulate certain properties to specific countries.
Starfy is one such example; though well known in Japan thanks to a series of releases, the starfish-like character, developed by Tose, is an unknown property in Western shores. The Legendary Starfy for the Nintendo DS marks the first domestic release of this character’s adventures. It proves successful as he packs enough charm and gameplay variety to impress anyone who is looking for a worthwhile platforming experience.
Starfy’s adventures begin when he and his friends run into Bunston, a spacesuit-wearing rabbit who is being pursued by thieves. After successfully holding them off, Bunston requests help from Starfy and mentions that he really doesn't know why he is being pursued. The only clues that Bunston has are a series of crystal shards that cause him to have vague memories of his past. Eager to help his new friend and make sense of the calamities present, Starfy, along with his clam friend Moe, set out to recover the aforementioned shards and help their new friend rediscover himself.
What is present in Starfy’s kingdom, besides a maritime world with creatures eager to either help or hinder him, is gameplay that combines aspects of games such as Mario, Crash Bandicoot, and Kirby. Like the popular Bandicoot, Starfy fends off his adversaries with a forward spin attack. It proves quite potent, as it can easily be chained together to wipe away two, three, even four foes at a time. Unlike Crash, however, this maneuver has its limits; spin too often and Starfy will become dizzy, an action that will not only result in a humorous animation that sees his eyes and mouth gape open, but will temporarily render him defenseless. Along with this skill, Starfy will unlock other abilities, each equipping him with the necessary means to fend off anyone choosing to stand in his way.
Controlling Starfy proves quite simple; it should not take long to become acclimated to what Starfy can do. However, the fact that Starfy can become tired and therefore vulnerable proves an inconvenience when you are trying to get past waves of foes.
Moe and Bunston ably accompany Starfy on his travels and they do not sit idly while Starfy handles his business. Moe will dole out advice on the various situations that Starfy has to deal with, whether that comes through navigating specific portions of the levels or dealing with the bosses that Starfy faces. In addition, Moe will also allow Starfy the option of calling in Starfy’s erstwhile sister, Starly, for assistance. This option essentially transforms the single-player adventure into one that can be played cooperatively. Bunston’s contributions come through both filling in aspects of the story for players and by assisting Starfy through various transformations, which can be accessed through various stones that can be found throughout the levels. These transformations play out in scenes and actions that draw strong comparisons to Kirby’s various animal forms that first started becoming available in his second Dream Land adventure for the original Game Boy.
In fact, the similarities to Kirby are not just present in these animal transformations; it is also made apparent when you navigate through Starfy’s world. One example is the relatively laid-back nature of the game; with very few exceptions, the foes that Starfy meets will rarely obstruct his adventures, simply choosing to wander in a set area, minding their own business. The bosses that Starfy encounters on his journey also follow set patterns and once you memorize those patterns, they are rather easy to defeat. Along with the lax nature of the game’s foes, various mistakes that Starfy may make, such as failing to complete an objective or falling from a crevice, are merely punished through the loss of a heart and/or the opportunity to try again. In addition, opportunities to save your progress are numerous, as save markers (denoted by Starfy’s mermaid friend) are spread liberally throughout the levels. In addition, the mermaid will automatically save your progress upon your return to the map screen, and will do so manually through pressing the ‘L’ button.
These aspects of Legendary Starfy may come across as crippling points for anyone who desires some meat in their platforming brew; however, these disadvantages are made up for due to the sheer bounty that is contained in this adventure. Similar to Kirby’s adventures, hidden items are dispersed throughout the levels; finding them yields notes written by the various characters, hearts that can extend Starfy’s life bar, and clothing that Starfy can try on in the Pause menu. In addition to the surprisingly lengthy main quest, the game also contains minigames that offer a break from the action. These minigames are scattered throughout the levels and can be played from the title screen. They range from offerings such as tracing outlines in the sand to identifying coins to even making dumplings.
Qualms about challenge aside, what makes Legendary Starfy stand out, much like Kirby, is the game's charm. Part of this comes through in the graphics, which resemble a child’s storybook. The still scenes, which play out in between stages and/or levels on both of the DS’ screens, are filled with light, humorous moments, especially during the exchanges between the characters; Bunston’s squirming over his lost memories and Moe’s rants are particularly enjoyable. Any audio exchanged between these characters are done via squirms and squeals, nearly akin to what would be found in a Banjo-Kazooie title.
Looking at everything that The Legendary Starfy has to offer is in many ways akin to having pound cake for dessert — while it is not as difficult to make as other delectable treats, it has enough tasty elements in it to make it inherently filling and satisfying for those who wish to sample it.
The Legendary Starfy is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence. This game can only be found on the Nintendo DS.