July 17, 2009

Legendary Starfy - Nintendo DS

Author: Trevor H of Game-Boyz.com

The Legendary Starfy represents the fifth instalment in the Legendary Starfy video game series; however this is the first time that we have seen Starfy in North America as Nintendo has been reluctant to bring the game overseas up to this point. The wait is over though and now North American gamers can hop on board the Starfy bandwagon. But hold on just a second, is the game worth all the hype and will North American gamers embrace the franchise? Granted Starfy is nothing incredibly original but I can certainly see why the game has been a success in other parts of the world. Following the same formula as so many of DS platformers, The Legendary Starfy is an easy, colourful game aimed at gamers of all ages.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, Starfy plays out very much like the Kirby games that so many Nintendo faithful have played and it is clearly inspired by the franchise. While Starfy and Kirby may be vastly different in terms of storylines they both follow the same premise; that being a mindless, heartfelt, addictive and simplistic platform game aimed for players of all ages. While Kirby may be a little more difficult, Starfy does offer a ton of variety and a single player experience which will take you anywhere from 10 to 15-hours to complete depending on your level of experience. But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you a bit of background in terms of the storyline and Starfy himself.

Starfy is the prince of Pufftop which is a kingdom located high in the clouds. Whenever Starfy is not going on adventures he lives in a fluffy castle with his little sister Starly and his best friend Moe. One day, while Starfy is having a nap, a mysterious visitor, a freaky looking bunny in a space suit, crashes through the ceiling. Suddenly, three shadowy goons follow as they crash through a castle wall and they start dragging the bunny away. Starfy uses his Star Spin to fight off the goons but not before the bunny escapes with the shadowy trio in hot pursuit. Starfy, alongside his best friend Moe, team up to find the little fella but not before they both slip off a cloud and fall far down to the ocean below.

All in all, the story is decent and there are certainly some heartfelt moments. I was only moments into the game when I heard my daughter saying, “ahhhhhhhhhh, he is so cute”. I know I probably made some of you roll your eyes but you get the picture. In any event, the story never really grabbed me and was merely a small backdrop to real enjoyment of the game which was navigating Starfy through the many levels in the underwater environments.

It seems every platformer needs to have a hook or a gimmick. While Kirby's is his ability to copy his enemies, Starfy's is his seamless ability to swim and take out enemies in underwater elements. Doing so is enjoyable and easy. It is this element alone that will keep gamers coming back to the franchise. Controls are straightforward and every movement underwater is very responsive. Starfy can quickly turn on a dime and he uses his star spin attack to smash various enemies out of the way. He can also burst through walls and other breakable blocks, but be careful not to use too many spin attacks as our pudgy friend gets easily gassed. The game features a slick progression system. In the beginning Starfy does not have all his abilities available to him; instead the game slowly introduces you to new abilities as Moe helps Starfy remember all his moves. The progression can seem a tad slow, and skipping through all the dialogue can be a pain, but I must say once you have all your abilities the game does become quite enjoyable.

The game’s main storyline features eight worlds and two bonus worlds, one of which includes Starfy’s sister, Starly. Each world contains a different theme from glaciers to a lush tropical lagoon. Within each world there are four main levels with three secret levels that can be unlocked by finding a special door and completing a challenge. The challenges are also varied and you seemingly never do the same challenge twice as they contain a great deal of variety. In addition to your typical disposing of enemies and boss fights, Starfy will also have to partake in swimming races and scavenger hunts. Also, the game features plenty of in-level secrets and collectibles making for an entertaining experience with plenty of enjoyable aspects.

Another unique aspect of the game is once you catch up to the freaky bunny Bunston, you will have the opportunity to transform into one of four animal forms. In the game Bunston uses his powers to transform Starfy into a powerful creature. Whether it be a fire breathing dinosaur or a super swimming seal, this aspect of the game adds a slick element which gives the game a tremendous amount of enjoyment and replay value.

In terms of any issues or concerns, Starfy does have a few. First, the game is not a challenge for experienced gamers. My 6-year old daughter loved the game and was a good test for her novice gaming skills. For me however, the game was not so much a challenge. Boss fights were easy and Starfy is never too low on health as power-up pearls are everywhere. It’s nice to be able to whip through the levels but a bit more of a challenge would have been great. Secondly, the endless dialogue and interactions with characters is over-the-top and unnecessary. Far too often I found myself skipping through endless amounts of text just to get to the action. It slows the game down and takes away from the gameplay to say the least.

Visually, Starfy is a good looking game. Following in the same footsteps as the Kirby and Mario franchises, Starfy is bright and colourful featuring large vibrant level and funky looking enemies. It presents as a polished looking game which seemingly maxes out the hardware capabilities of the DS. Our hero, Starfy, is a pudgy star shaped character and there really isn’t much in the way of detail to him. That being said, the simplicity of his look works and gamers will inevitably fall in love with the character. Enemies also look very unique featuring a good amount of variety as you face underwater creatures of all different shapes and sizes. The game can certainly look busy; however for the most part Starfy pulls off the look with ease. I should also mention that the game features a nice blend of cut-scene art work, and the storytelling is wonderfully presented albeit there can be a bit too much text now and then. All in all, Starfy scores high marks in the visuals department.

Unlike the games visuals, I was not all that impressed with the game’s audio package. For starters, the musical soundtrack is forgettable and sounds so much like all the other games in the genre that are currently on the market. Don’t get me wrong, it is not annoying or distracting but it is merely forgettable and repetitive. Other in-game sound effects are typical of similar games but the do work and are perfectly in sync with the game’s action; however again they are just nothing incredibly innovative or original. My best advice for those playing The Legendary Starfy is to either keep your expectations to a minimum or just listen to some of your favourite tunes on your MP3 player as the audio has no bearing on the gameplay. It may sound like I am being a tad critical for a game that does not sound all that bad but at the end of the day the same old audio package heard time and time again is starting to wear a little thin on this DS gamer.

Overall, The Legendary Starfy for the DS is a pleasant game featuring enjoyable platform gameplay and a lovable ‘Kirby-like’ character. The game’s levels feature a great deal of variety and the solid looking underwater environments offer up plenty of eye-candy. While Starfy may not offer up much of challenge for experienced gamers, younger and novice DS gamers alike will undoubtedly enjoy this first taste of the Starfy franchise.

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