By Clinton Ma
You may have noticed a trend with my reviews for NGP so far. Readers familiar with my style will know that I have a penchant for games that are violent, bloody, bloodier or hypnotically repetitive.
How odd then, to be reviewing the latest offering from Tose Software, the cute-as-kittens platformer, The Legendary Starfy. I'll admit that my blood lust has been satiated quite well these past few months and it was the perfect time to get in touch with my softer side -- maybe even my inner child -- if I could just banish those urges to shoot a virtual gun long enough to turn on my DS and pop in the game cartridge for Starfy...
As you've already surmised, The Legendary Starfy is a Nintendo DS title that came out this June. There are really only a couple major points that I need get across in this review. Firstly, this game is cute as hell. This goes beyond the run-of-the-mill adorableness of a litter of kittens or dogs sleeping with cats in the sunlight. The Legendary Starfy oozes the type of cuteness that is cloying and even tiring, but also extremely disarming in its charm and innocence. This is without a doubt a kid's game: when you have a starfish prince consorting with the likes of cosmic rabbits, a tough-talking clam and wise, crotchety lobsters, you've clearly left the realm of what typically passes for a "mature" video game and landed smack in the middle of "Happy Fun Land".
The next thing you need to know about The Legendary Starfy sort of flows from the fact of it being what it is. As a kid's game, it is incredibly easy. But before I delve into the game's design, I should at least run through a synopsis of the story.
Well, sadly the story is rather fluffy and unimportant; there's just enough there to set up a premise for a classic-style 2D platformer. It's just another day at Pufftop Castle when Bunston, an interstellar bunny rabbit, crash lands through the roof for a surprise visit. Pursued by shady, mysterious villains, Bunston receives help from Prince Starfy himself in repelling the intruders. Rocked from his crash landing, Bunston suffers from some amnesia and can't remember who he is or why he's been attacked. All he has in his possession is a mysterious "shard", which prompts a brief flashback, providing just enough clues to set both him and Starfy off on an adventure to not only retrieve the other missing shards, but to stay one step ahead of their relentless pursuers.
So The Lgendary Starfy really is a straight-forward platformer through and through. Playing as the titular Starfy, you progress in a linear fashion through a series of worlds. Each world is subdivided into a series of smaller levels that are linked together in simple overhead map. The two basic mechanics are running/jumping, swimming or a combination of the three depending on the level. As you progress through each world, Starfy can unlock new skills, enhancements to existing ones, as well as the usual trove of optional unlockables like costumes, props, character diaries and the like.
Offensively, Starfy lays waste to the baddies with his powerful spin attack that can be later upgraded to the point where it can double as a movement technique through some very tricky spots. As befitting a good-natured, E-rated game, there really isn't a lot of emphasis placed on combat save for a handful of simplistic boss battles. You can easily drill through most common enemies with the spin attack and boss fights are standard exercises in recognizing patterns and spotting the blatantly telegraphed "weak spots" on the boss.
In a nice little touch, Starfy has one more trick up his sleeve in the form of combining powers with Bunston to create a sort of "uber animal". There are 5 such permutations, ranging from an adorable seal with a charging ram attack and a fire-spewing dragon to a chubby, sonic-booming chicken-thing. When transformed into one of these super creatures, the game is even more of a breeze and it really just serves as an excuse to mix up the variety in the game play.
Video games aimed at the tween or child demographic may not be my usual fare but I have to admit to be really taken by Starfy's charm and presentation. The cute characterizations, playful and irreverent dialogue and the beautiful, colourful sprite-based graphics combined for a truly joyful experience. The music, far from being repeitive or annoying, is pitch-perfect and pretty catchy in some segments.
More importantly, all this excellent production sits atop a very solid 2D platformer. While the challenge is very low and the design of the various levels could have been a lot more creative, it's still very competently constructed and if nothing else offered a relaxing, breezy distraction for ten to fifteen minute stretches during my daily commute or on lunch breaks.
In spite of it's very minor flaws and overall execution, The Legendary Starfy has revitalized my interest in platforming games on the Nintendo DS. It's great to look at, plays smoothly and is so cute and cuddly it's almost disgusting.
- Responsive controls
- Cute and attractively designed graphics and animations
- Smooth difficulty curve: you're not likely to get stuck or frustrated here
- Irresistible charm
- Plays it too safe as a 2D platform game
- Perhaps a bit too easy of a game, even for children
- Hidden areas of levels don't provide that much reward for discovery
- Short game and very little replay value
NextGen Player gives The Legendary Starfy a: