Finding the FUN- The Legendary Starfy!

 The following review was originally presented on 04/01/2012 under the title “The most shocking game ever made” as an april fools prank. The fact of the matter is that The Legendary Starfy is an excellent game overall, regardless of the fact that it is not a horror title, and I had wanted to use the venue I had available to bring attention to this amazing but incredibly underrated game. The review following here is retained in it’s original form. Enjoy!

This is not an easy review to post.

In fact I debated with myself a for quite a long time regarding whether I even wanted to review this game. I am very aware that in posting this review I might be opening the floodgates of debate, because this is one of the most shocking games ever made, and a review of a game like this is most definitely going to generate a lot of controversy. The themes present in this game, such as alien landings and strange creatures from the depths of the ocean, are the stuff of nightmares for many people. But the game is out there, and so I felt I had to broach this game, regardless of whether I wanted to or not. I felt that I was obligated to my readership to review this game. So click the text to read on, if you feel that you really are prepared to do so. Because this may be the most shocking game of all time.

Gotchya!

APRIL FOOLS!!!

One of the most shocking games of all time, that is what I said, isn’t it? Well, I was right, it IS one of the most shocking games of all time- shockingly FUN, that is!

The Legendary Starfy, developed by TOSE for the Nintendo DS, is actually the fifth game in the Starfy series- but it is the first to be released in the United States, the rest of the series being exclusive to Japan. Starfy is a starfish prince who lives in a palace called Pufftop, and- well, to be honest, he dosen`t do much. He is actually kind of lazy! The intro cinematic finds shows him napping, when suddenly, a strange creature crashes through his ceiling- a rabbit wearing a space suit who goes by the name of Bunston. Bunston is frantic, pursued by other alien creatures who want to abduct him and take him back aboard their spacecraft- but Bunston does not know why. Starfy, already irked by having been awoken from his afternoon nap, is having none of it- he delivers a starfishy beatdown to Bunston`s would-be captors and takes off, Bunston (and his clam friend Moe) in tow, to solve the mystery of Bunston’s lost memory.

Starfy, in his dragon form, takes on a level boss. Go Starfy!

The graphics in The Legendary Starfy are absolutely beautiful. Cliched stock phrases spring to mind when searching for the proper descriptors to give a sense of what the game looks like: “visually striking”, “a feast for the eyes”, etc., but The Legendary Starfy might be the rare case where use of those flowery phrases would actually be entirely appropriate. It is immediately apparent when first playing that TOSE put an incredible amount of talent into the creation of Starfy`s world; the 3d modeled backgrounds are incredible, bright and immediate in their presentation. There were times I actually paused the game just to stop and look at the level of detail that was put into these setpieces, something I rarely have the opportunity to say about any game, and certainly almost never about a handheld title. In fact, the only other portable game that springs to mind as being equally visually impressive is God of War: Chains of Olympus. That title, though, was in a way the exact opposite presentation, since God of War involved 3d sprites moving across essentally static backgrounds, whereas The Legendary Starfy uses 2d sprites navigating through a 2d plane with 3d setpieces and scenery in the background. The effect is difficult to visualize when described through a written format like a review, but suffice it to say it works beautifully when viewed in person.

Another fun aspect of the game is that Starfy’s friends each use their unique abilities to help him progress through the game. Moe the Clam has a special sixth sense that lets him tell Starfy when treasure is near; the Mermaid pops out of her an oyster shell (a funny little tribute to Botticelli) to let Starfy save his game; and best of all, Bunston can give Starfy special powers to get through certian levels, like a dragon costume that lets Starfy shoot fire. The dragon is the first transformation you get in the game, but there are lots of others to explore with, and they`re all fun to play.

Starfy, about to challenge a level boss.

 

 

Starfy has a very low difficulty level- easy enough to make it fun for young kids, but not so easy as to make it unplayable for even a jaded old gamer like your humble correspondant. Other than one particular side-game on one level that actually shoots the difficulty up to the roof but is entirely optional, I don`t imagine even very young kids would have much trouble with Starfy. Gameplay generally consists of moving through a series of levels that are connected through an overworld map much like that in the Mario series. Each overworld has it’s own theme, and each area map provides gameplay mechanics that are unique to that area. The winter area, for instance, has special sections that involve Starfy using a block of ice as a sort of snowboard, propelling him through the level. Other levels incorporate environmental puzzles, mostly switch-based ones that involve navigating the level as quickly as possible before the switch you hit earlier resets itself.

Starfy swims through an early level. Notice the detail in the 3D backgrounds.

The game is full of collectables. If you select Moe to be your active companion, the bottom screen of the DS becomes a close-up of his face, and his eyes will sparkle whenever a treasure chest holding a collectable is near. Some of the collectables are journal entries by other characters in the game that give insight on their motivations and bring to light aspects of the plot. The really awsome chests hold unlockable clothing items for Starfy, so you can dress him up in special outfits and he will wear them when you bring up the menu screen. My Starfy was rocking a leather tassled vest and a pair of aviators.

Mook enemy design is repetitive in each world, but not so repetitive that it becomes dull. Generally the levels fly by quickly enough that you’ll find youself in a new worldmap before you tire of the enemies from the prior map. The level bosses are fantastic, each one requiring a different tactic to defeat. Some of the bossfights are multiscreen fights, giving an unexpected taste of the epic. The final boss takes this even further, and although vanquishing him required use of a gameplay mechanic that has never been my favorite (again, I will not clarify which mechanic to avoid spoiling the fun), it the implementation of the mechanic never became aggrivating.

Starfy in his seal suit!

A lot of Nintendo games have their own plot devices for why the protagonist starts each new game in the series at the lowest possible powerlevel. Link isn`t the same Link through each iteration of the Legend of Zelda, he is the reincarnation of the hero of time, so he dosen`t have the weapons of his predecessor. Kirby absorbs powers from his enemies. Samus probably removes the unneeded upgrades from her suit and stores them at home between Metroid games or something. Starfy? Well, he forgets. Yes, that`s right, he`s an absentminded little starfish, and he forgets how to do all his special moves between each of his adventures. This is easily rectified by Moe simply reminding Starfy of how to do each special attack and double-jump, and we can almost see Moe facepalming while explaining how to do a move that he has already taught Starfy four previous times in the series.

Speaking of which, as already stated, The Legendary Starfy is in an interesting position because, although it is the fifth game in the Starfy series proper, it is the first Starfy game to see a release outside Japan. As a result, the game feels new but simultaneously very ‘lived-in’. To American players the universe Starfy resides in will feel very fleshed-out, with the game giving hints that more is going on than the player might be aware of. Moe the Clam has a love interest in Ruby the Fish, though we don`t know the backstory of their relationship. Old Man Lobber the Lobster knows Starfy and speaks to him as an old friend, though we do not get any hints regarding how and where they met. Solders in Pufftop castle tell tales of great battles, but we never got to play them. All of these references make sense in light of the existance of four prior games in the series, but that insight is something of a tease in itself; imagine playing one of Nintendo’s other titles, like Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Fusion, and seeing some of the references to places and characters from the prior games in those series but not having a frame of reference for them because not only have you not played the prior games in the series but you are entirely unable to do so due to those games being unavaliable in your country. It is oddly frustrating since this is one of the best platformers Nintendo- or, for that matter, anyone- has ever produced, to know that there are a full four additional games in the series but they are completely inaccessable to American audiences unless Nintendo ever sees fit to release them stateside.

Starfy and Starly solve a puzzle by moving a boulder in multiplayer.

Starfy is intriguing not only for what it is but also for what it represents-a survivor of an older era, a different philosophy of asthetic design- the great old 2d platformers. In this time of AAA big-budget FPS games like Call Of Duty and Halo, not too many studios talk about or seem to even remember the older style of gameplay that once was exemplified by games like the original Mario, Kirby, Sonic, and Gex games. It seems Nintendo remembers, though, and that is something all gamers should be thankful for. Let’s hope that Starfy does not represent simply a survivor of that older design aesthitic but rather an atavism of the platformer genre.

I have something of a generalized distaste for the concept of ‘review scores’. They seem needlessly arbitrary to me- what’s more, I actually view assigning a score as a limiting factor in presenting an accurate picture of a game’s value, because overreliance on the marketability of a number is an easy way to quantify a game’s potential audience without allowing the inherent value of the product to determine it’s financial future. Essentially what I’m saying is that it`s far easier for a developer to slap a quote from an industry rag that says ’10/10 GOTY’ on a game’s box and let that sell the game for them than it is for a developer to add value to a product and let the consumer make an objective, informed judgement regarding where to vote with their dollar. In playing The Legendary Starfy, though, I found myself in the odd position of wishing that I could change my own review style because this game otright deserves a 10/10 score. To that end, I am immediately establishing an award to assign to games that I wish to draw special attention to as being the absolute pinnacle of the art form. As such, The Legendary Starfy is the first recipient of RedgoateeRob`s Gold Award.

In closing, if anyone from Nintendo happens to come across this review- please give strong consideration to releasing the other Starfy games in the U.S.A. I strongly believe that, given a focused and committed marketing campaign, the series would be an excellent seller stateside. In addition, Starfy would make a fantastic addition as a playable character to the roster of the next Super Smash Bros. game.

Dig it. This is one of the best games of this generation- one of the best games of ANY generation.

Oh, one more thing for those who are my friends on Facebook- now that you’ve read the review, try not to tip anyone off on Facebook about the secret of ‘the most shocking game of all time’, eh? Let’s see how many people my little prank can ensnare. Thanks for reading!

The Legendary Starfy wins RedgoateeRob's Golden Hatchet Award!

 

Go Starfy go!!!!

 

 

Images used in this review are low-resolution versions of images seen in The Legendary Starfy E3 2009 trailer. All rights to The Legendary Starfy are reserved to their respective owners. The images used above are used complaint with applicable fair use for the purposes of review.

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~ by Redgoateerob on April 1, 2012.

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