IGN Review of Legendary Starfy
Starfy is one of those franchises that always baffled me. Here Nintendo has a Mario/Kirby-inspired platformer developed by a talented team (TOSE), and one that the company has partial rights of. The franchise has seen five iterations, including a cancelled Game Boy Color debut game back in 2000. Still, despite the huge success the series has seen, not a single one of these games have seen a US release. But wait… we like great games, and Nintendo likes money. Isn't there something we can work out here?
Well apparently there is, as Nintendo's quest for more cash is also going to help our current quest for better DS games. Starfy has finally hit in the US – after plenty of complaining and "What to import" articles from yours truly – and yeah, it's as good as we all expected it would be. Unless you thought it'd suck. It doesn't suck. It's fun. You should buy it.
Starfy is essentially an aquatic spin on the Kirby franchise, mixing up a lot of the same mechanisms and play styles as Nintendo's pink puff, and throwing in a little bit of other classic gaming influence as well. The game has an odd beach/surfer vibe like Cool Spot on Super NES, there are monster suits to hop into like in Little Nemo: The Dream Master, but the whole game is undeniably Kirby influenced more than anything else. With that being said, the design and attitude is 100% its own. Starfy runs and swims around with very round, bouncy animations, the game isn't afraid to cut into chaotic hand-drawn skits and random character discussions, there's an odd emphasis on collecting clothes and accessories for a 3D modeled rendition of Starfy in the main options screen – Why? Well, why not I guess… - and there's a seemingly never-ending amount of in-level ideas that spurt up every stage or two. Team that with a strange (but welcomed) addition of optional two player boss fights and levels, wireless mini-games that take inspiration off everything from Point Blank to Cooking Mama, and a never-ending, undeniable "Japanese" feel to it all (chaotic, inexplicable, and entertaining as all heck) and you've got an idea from what to expect from Nintendo's odd little starfish-man.
Basic gameplay carries out like a fusion of Mario, Kirby, and the underwater levels from Donkey Kong Country. Starfy can walk on land, star spin (Y button) to attack enemies, and hold the Y button down further to kick start a run animation, which bugs out his eyes and changes his tiny starfish legs into a blur of whirling insanity. Apparently the guy can bolt when he wants to. When you plop into the water though it's obvious that Starfy is more comfy in the depths, as holding B sends him into free-swim mode, Y still star spins, and breaking the surface of the sea launches him into the air. As the game progresses different in-level actions pop up, so you can star spin into boulders to move them about the level, engage huge blast jets, and of course plop into the different suits in the game. As for the suit transformations, Starfy has four different possible options as the game goes on, but they are basically level-decided, so if you've got need for the dragon suit in order to burn down plants or special baddies the game will have it waiting for you on-hand.
Where things really take off with Starfy is in the sheer depth of the game though. Not only do you get a full-sized Super Mario Word-like take on action/platforming, but you've also got multiple secret levels per world, lots of tiny challenges within each area – things like swim races, mini-bosses, full fledged boss fights, and scavenger hunts – plenty of in-level secrets and collectibles, the co-op mode for boss fights and special stages, and five mini-games. It's packed. When you aren't in the mood for general gameplay there's plenty to be found on the pause screen, complete with the five wireless min-games (each pretty different and relatively entertaining), a talk show featuring your best friend Moe as he brings on other characters from the story mode and interviews them, and the oh-so-random wardrobe area. Different items can be purchased or found in levels and then added to the 3D Starfy model which does nothing more than acts as a top screen avatar during pause menus. When combining specific clothes (like a beach t-shirt and sunglasses) you unlock little scenes with Starfy hanging out. Each of these can be checked out like a 3D model viewer, and the game goes as far as to have alternate special costumes and Starly (Starfy's pink counterpart) included too. If that's not enough "un-game" tomfoolery, you can also use collected pearls to shop in the store, or drop them into a gachapon machine that dispenses game enemies as another "collect & view" mode.
There's obviously a lot going on in The Legendary Starfy, but it's more the fact that the entire game comes together in such a complete package than anything else. The music is well done, the sound effects work great (very playful and abstract), the gameplay is well designed, the added multiplayer is a random – but fun – touch, and even the game's storytelling is hilarious and completely oddball. Each level contains a slew of story – sometimes a bit too talkative, honestly – and little animated scenes play out before each major world change. On the flipside though, there's a bit of "anything goes" feel in the game, and that can keep it from being totally concise. Once you toss in so many random elements together the game can feel almost too nonsensical, and while fans expecting a strange take on action/platforming will chalk it all up to the title's strange overall vibe, it does start to become a bit of a mish-mash of ideas. The visuals, for example, are high quality, but the mix of 3D and 2D (along with using every color imaginable for water, enemies, effects, and the like) can start to stray from the normal pastel look the game pushes at the forefront. It's a minor gripe, but even in this first debut title it's obvious that Starfy is made up of piled ideas that keep getting stacked year after year onto the brand. Most of it is borderline amazing, but it's also a bit cluttered and disorganized to take in all at once.
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