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The Legendary Starfy (DS) artwork

The Legendary Starfy (DS) review


"In case you're not satisfied with a diet of constant platforming and a steady trickle of new abilities, there are a variety of diversions along the way. For example, one stage finds Starfy rolled into a snowball. He'll barrel downhill and you have to move and jump—in the limited fashion available—to avoid falling into fatal gaps. Another break from the norm comes in the form of a series of mine cart rides where you can flip switches to raise the water level (good if you want to leap the widest chasms) while avoiding destructive bits of the landscape. Thanks to solid level design and a variety of neat puzzles, such moments aren't strictly necessary to keep the game engaging."



A serious Nintendo fan will tell you that the company has enough stars in its stable to singlehandedly make any hardware it produces worth purchasing. Mario, Link, Samus Aran, Kirby, Donkey Kong and others have gone a long way toward validating that comment, but none of them are real stars. That honor goes to only one mascot: Starfy. If you're scratching your head at the mention of the name, don't worry; you're not alone. Though The Legendary Starfy is the fifth game to feature the noteworthy starfish and his friends, it's the first one localized for a North American audience.

The Legendary Starfy may represent Starfy's Western Hemisphere debut, but there's no awkward learning curve. After a lively introduction depicted in animated frames that could easily have come from a comic book, you'll appear within the first of several gorgeously-rendered aquatic worlds. A moment or two is all that it will take to become accustomed to the fluid controls as you scamper about on land and dive through the water as if you've been doing so from the day the first game in the franchise arrived in Japan on the Game Boy Advance.

Gameplay feels like a curious mix of Mario and Kirby-style action. Most of your feats of daring will transpire underwater, where you simply move around with the d-pad and press face buttons to accelerate your motions or to start spinning so that you can survive contact with nasties such as crabs and blowfish. It's all comfortably familiar without being tiresome. There's an excellent sense of freedom, too, but never to the point where any of it becomes overwhelming. Best of all, the ability to swim all over the place is actually put to good use. Explore long enough and you'll find hidden passages, secret rooms and even alternate areas accessible from the world map.

Stretches of the game that abandon the watery environment, while still engaging, tend to feel more conventional and make up only a minority of the overall affair. To compensate for any shortcomings, the developers granted access to a varied arsenal of moves that range from double jumps to transformations. New moves join your repertoire as you advance--almost to the very last encounter--keeping things fresh and exciting as you wander through a surprisingly expansive series of around 50 stages.

In case you're not satisfied with a diet of constant platforming and a steady trickle of new abilities, there are a variety of diversions along the way. For example, one stage finds Starfy rolled into a snowball. He'll barrel downhill and you have to move and jump--in the limited fashion available--to avoid falling into fatal gaps. Another break from the norm comes in the form of a series of mine cart rides where you can flip switches to raise the water level (good if you want to leap the widest chasms) while avoiding destructive bits of the landscape. Thanks to solid level design and a variety of neat puzzles, such moments aren't strictly necessary to keep the game engaging. They certainly don't hurt, though.

Boss battles also add plenty of variety. They're quite distinct and definitely more challenging than negotiating the stages. Though the early monsters can easily be defeated simply by spamming Starfy's spinning attack--though not to the point where he gets dizzy--later encounters require the player to make use of the environment. For instance, one fight takes place along a waterfall with spiked barriers on the sides. Going directly against an armored monster will get you nowhere and he moves his shield too quickly for you to possibly get behind him, but what if you push him against the spikes? Surely he won't like that!

By tending a bit toward the puzzle side of the platformer genre, The Legendary Starfy is able to bring a unique experience to the table. Too often, games let that be the end of the story. They'll skimp on beautiful visuals or personality. Fortunately, that's not the case here. The story is actually reasonably interesting and its presentation is lively enough that even the rare line of dull dialog is delivered with personality. There also are some jokes. None of them are laugh-out-loud funny, but the general lighthearted air of the proceedings should bring a smile to your face. Finally, there's welcome attention to detail that also carries over to the actual stages, such as when Starfy's eyes bug out as he's riding the mine cart and it's about to crash into an obstacle. If you didn't know better, you'd think that Nintendo developed the game internally.

For those who truly fall under Starfy's spell, extra content and features round out the package and should serve to keep people playing even after they've defeated the surprisingly difficult final boss. Extra stages can be unlocked, plus the orbs gathered during the main quest act as in-game currency that can be used to purchase "toys" based on the various characters encountered throughout the game. There are even a few mini-games if that's what you're looking for, including a Cooking Mama-style game where you must scramble to make pastries. What those tasty treats have to do with the main storyline is a mystery, but at least it's an excuse to pull out your stylus if you were disappointed that the system's trademark control method isn't required elsewhere.

If nothing else, The Legendary Starfy proves that even global publishers like Nintendo sometimes fail to localize excellent content. Gamers should be thankful that the Starfy trend was broken, if only this once. The game is one of the most robust platformers released on the DS in awhile, plus it's fresher than any of its kind in recent memory. When was the last time you dressed a starfish up in a chicken suit and let it frolic among rainbows as a smiling and oversized cloud blew gusts wind toward it? That sort of thing is normal in Starfy's world and Nintendo's numerous fans owe it to themselves to investigate. Hopefully, they won't have to wait as long if any follow-ups are produced.

Rating: 9/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 27, 2009)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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