I had always hoped and dreamed that North America would receive a Starfy game if we wished on enough…stars. This was because I wasn’t really sure what it was, other than a cute 2-D “marine platformer” where, yes, every level is at least part water level, like where you swim through rain drops in a forest. “But wait,” you say, “WATER levels? Doesn’t that also make every level the hardest and most obnoxious level?” Actually it’s exactly the opposite; Starfy, as it turns out, is really for the kiddles, leaving more experienced gamers pretty bored, even if the sprites are adorable.
Actually, the characters aren’t quite as cute as they used to be. For some reason in this fifth Starfy game (the original came out for GBA in 2002) there are many cut-scenes with sort of half-baked puppet characters flapping their Muppet mouths. If only we could have just stuck with the sprite art. Then I’d actually want to watch as you help Prince Starfy of Pufftop assistant space bunny, Bunston, regain his lost memories.
Series staples definitely apply. For instance, you can buy vanity costumes with the pearls you find scattered around. These don’t affect the game at all, but make you look hilarious – check out the Swan Boat special. The more recent addition of in-game power-up costumes breaks up the normal spin attack action. Breathing fire is pretty fun, especially when you start racking up combo kills for extra pearls (which is not to say you can’t do that with your regular move or a different power). I love the way Starfy is enveloped by these outfits, poking out of the dragon’s stomach.
In addition to these features, the gameplay strategy of both land and water combat and mini-games also holds. The takoyaki Cooking Mama-inspired mini-game is particularly frantic, not to mention compelling since when the time limit hits, Starfy feeds all your successfully prepared dumplings to Moe, his clam pal.
Save points abound, and to simplify things even more, some of the puzzles come with instructions. I like that there are a lot of secret levels, but it seems rather hand-holdy to mark the door every time where the challenge (defend an area from enemies, defeat a monster) to earn them is located. That said, there are other areas that you can break through with your spin attack to access, and some niches that require a certain move to enter.
The Legendary Starfy has one serious strength, and that is co-op levels. You can play with a friend whether you both have a copy of the game or not. It’s sad that a single player never seems to be given the choice to play Starly (Smart move not localizing it to Star Pee!), Starfy’s sister, since she can wall jump and crawl, giving her access to things that Starfy can’t have. I guess it’s just a good excuse to have friends with DSes – so you can trade and be like, “Here, you play Starf’,” gah, why do they call him that? “I want to be Starly!” I would certainly fight over her, despite her pinkness.
Really the only big problem with Starfy is just how corny it is, but a little kid won’t care. And they’ll be ecstatic to go crashing through a cracked wall all of the sudden to swim smack into a pile of pearls. And they might have friends who would actually want to play Starfy with them. If that’s harsh, it might just be because I know that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is coming out for Wii soon. The hardcore gamers will no doubt get their co-op platforming fix there, and leave The Legendary Starfy to the n00bs.
System: Nintendo DS