Densetsu no Starfy
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Advance
  • Developer:
    • TOSE
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 09/06/2002
Score: 75%

This review was published on 06/26/2009.

Starfy is one of Nintendo's lesser known characters from a franchise that has largely remained exclusive to Japan for the typical reason of being too Japanese for the west. It wasn't until the fifth game in the series that Starfy arrived on western shores. This being the first entry in the series, you'll have to navigate through Japanese menus and dialogue. Starfy is, however, a fairly accessible platformer, so that shouldn't deter you from trying it out. In any case, onward!

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A star-shaped individual, Starfy hails from the palace of Pufftop, some kingdom that floats high in the sky. He's kind of a klutz, as his adventures typically start off with him falling from the majestic floating palace into the dangerous world below, where he is mistaken to be a starfish. The misconception occurs because Starfy is, for whatever reason, an excellent swimmer. Moe, Starfy's eccentric clam friend, tends to do all the talking during story segments. Surprisingly, for such a straight-forward platform game, Starfy features a wide cast of characters with unique personalities and tons of dialogue. That is a shame for anyone who's not savvy in the Japanese language.

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Whereas most 2D platformers are on-land affairs with a few water levels in between, Starfy is just the opposite. Annoying as it may sound to any stalwart of old-school gaming, every level is a water level. Controlling Starfy underwater is smooth sailing, being that it's like a more refined version of the Frog Suit in Super Mario Bros. 3. In just a few minutes, you'll get so used to the underwater areas that the sensation of being on dry land will seem like an odd concept. That doesn't mean ground levels are tough to control, though. Starfy can run and jump about with ease like any platform hero can. My only complaint with the controls has to do with defeating your foes; Starfy has to go into a spin and twirl into his enemies to harm them. If you misfire with this attack, you'll bounce about and usually end up getting hurt by something sharp.

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Anyone who's played Kirby will realize the similarities in Starfy's art style and character design. I'm not sure if there are members in Starfy's team who've worked on Kirby titles, but it sure looks like it. The graphics are pleasant on the eyes with their colorful yet simplistic style. However, the bland backgrounds and sparse-looking environments drag the game down a bit. Coupled with the dull soundtrack, Starfy has the tendency to bore. Having such a low difficulty level doesn't do much to help the unexciting nature of the game, either.

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That's not to say that Starfy lacks in fun factor. For such a friendly looking game, you'll encounter plenty of things in your quest that want nothing more than to kill you, and mastering the spinning twirl attack will take some practice. While level progression is linear, the levels themselves feature a good deal of exploration, in which you'll meet a lot of new characters. They're the talkative sort, usually sending you off to fetch them an item they lost or to defeat a boss that bullied them in some form. Some, however, will teach Starfy a new technique that'll increase the areas you can explore, adding a slight Zelda or Metroid element to the mix. Drab backgrounds aside, there's a surprising amount of variety in the level settings, considering the developers were limited to areas with an aquatic motif. Who'd pass up the chance to explore a sunken ship, or ancient underwater ruins?

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Boss fights are your typical fair; discover when they dutifully expose their weak points, then hit them for massive damage. An attempt at variety was made by way of mini-games, and though none are excessively bad, none are particularly engaging, either. You won't lose out on much by ignoring them. The last issue to discuss is game length. It starts off rather short with very little in the way of optional content, and remains that way until you beat the final boss. At that point, they will bombard you with optional stuff to do on your second go at the game, complete with a level select feature that lets you tackle your new objectives in any order you choose. All the levels will change slightly: new enemies, new hazards, treasure boxes to collect, and remixed boss fights. It's enough new content to make you think that it might just be worth a second play-through, even though it's essentially a retread of what you already accomplished. Personally, I didn't bother.

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Starfy's a fun, carefree platformer that presents a take on the genre not seen too often outside games such as Ecco. There is a potential here for something great, a potential that was not realized in this entry in the series. Much of the charm lies in the dialogue, so unless you can read Japanese, the first Starfy probably won't sell you over.

Word Count: 838

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