Densetsu no Starfy 4
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo DS
  • Developer:
    • TOSE
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 04/13/2006
Score: 85%

This review was published on 08/06/2009.

Starfy's fourth grand adventure brings him to the Nintendo DS handheld for the first time ever. Having braved the dangers of his world three times over on the Game Boy Advance, is Starfy prepared for what awaits him on his first DS outing? Can he overcome the challenge of two screens, one touch-sensitive? These questions and more shall be answered in the following publication, by yours truly.

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As per usual when a massive upgrade in hardware occurs, Starfy's visuals have improved significantly, featuring fully redrawn sprites and 3D backgrounds that have replaced the parallax scrolling from Starfy's third quest on the GBA. That is the main feature the game boasts about; its use of 3D backgrounds with 2D sprites in the foreground. Not a bad thing to boast about, as they do use it tastefully enough to produce some stellar results. In particular, its use with bodies of water is great, as it changes depending on how close you are to the surface. The 2D sprites aren't anything to sneeze at, either; they're colorful and well animated. All of these visual aspects combined give Starfy a new breath of life.

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Instead of being sent straight into the levels, you start on a sort of map in each world, a temporary home base of sorts. It's a place where you can talk to townsfolk, do some shopping, and save your game. All the jabbering happens in these areas, leaving the levels free of exposition. That's great when you don't understand Japanese. Still, you are required to listen to the problems of a given person in town before you're allowed to jump into the action, and this consists of a lot of text. This sounds bad, I know, but it isn't really; an exclamation mark is shown over the person you need to talk to in order to unlock the next level, and it's not necessary to understand the dialogue to get the gist of what you need to do. You would think this makes the goal of each level, typically to find a missing bauble that the respective town folk has lost, a bit more convoluted. It does not, however; unless you're doing a puzzle, it's still the standard fare of going from point A to point B. The odd thing is that you have to use a teleport point to get back to the entrance of the level, to re-enter town and eventually hand back the missing item. Why couldn't they just have automated that entire process? A mystery, if I ever saw one.

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I have to compliment the level design and themes here, for a great job has been done. Even though each world has its own overarching theme, the individual levels within that world explore different facets of that theme, to keep you from getting bored of seeing the same scenery over and over. For instance, the desert world starts off in your standard desert, but moves into an ancient ruins area, then into a desert town and palace hybrid. On top of that, you'll rarely encounter the same level gimmicks or puzzles in more than one level. I can fault this game on some things, but the level design certainly won't be one of them.

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The life bar system has changed; instead of five hearts, each representing a single hit you can take, you now have a health bar with a numerical value that is reduced upon being damaged. As a result of this change, not everything deals an equal amount of damage. Surprisingly, this also means you can now find or buy permanent health upgrades that increase your maximum health, a first for the Starfy series. I praise this change, as it coupled with being able to learn a plethora of new moves as you make progress in your quest lends the game a definite Metroid feel to it. There is one negative side to this change, though; bosses now take over five hits to down, and given how tedious they tend to be, this only makes it worse. They're the kind of bosses that only expose their weak points for a short period of time, so if you don't get enough hits at the right time, you'll be fighting the same boss for an eternity. Oh, and you have an SP meter, which is expended to cast whatever magical spells you learn on your journey. They're not overly helpful, but do help a bit; stuff like a small health regeneration spell, an invincibility spell, and so on.

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Vehicles are back again, and I have to say, they've improved. These once monotonous sections are now a delight, save for like two of them that suck. You get to drive a bunny copter that shoots carrot missiles, a swimming seahorse with a crushing tail attack, and some other stuff. The only thing that still irks me about them is the fact that you can only get hit once while operating a vehicle before being sent back to the start of the segment. I suppose this was a way for the developers to make these segments a bit more challenging, but I find that it just gets on my nerves rather than provide any kind of challenge.

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Just like what happens with many other DS games, the spare screen is used as a map during levels and as extra space for artwork during story sequences. Touch-screen use is optional, outside of a single reoccurring mini-game. Starfy isn't shy about what it is, and it didn't make the jump to the DS to rely on gimmicky controls. There is more to the DS than just gimmicky controls, after all: better graphics, better sound, bigger screens, and more buttons. That's in comparison to the GBA, by the way. I'm not saying the DS is an absolute powerhouse; just that it has a hidden potential.

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What's the final verdict? Starfy 4 is an enormous improvement over the GBA games in practically every way imaginable. It does have a few faults, one of the most prominent being the "new game +" or "second quest" mode, whichever you'd prefer to call it. I have no doubt that this game is fun to play once, but I do have serious reservations about playing it for a second time on those extra modes, especially since these modes will force you to replay each level multiple times in order to collect all the goodies to unlock the true ending. This shouldn't deter anyone from playing it once, though. I'll admit that it can be a tall order for some people to find a way to play a Japanese DS game, but I highly recommend you check this one out if you can.

Word Count: 1,129

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