Handheld platform fans have heard rumblings of the legend of Starfy for years, though his four previous adventures - spread across the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS - were reportedly deemed "too Japanese" or not commercial enough for a North American release. Naturally, that just made us want it more, and Nintendo has seen it fit to bring us his fifth release, The Legendary Starfy on DS. Does the actual experience match the heightened expectations and self-aggrandizing title?
Initially, no - in fact, The Legendary Starfy starts off incredibly slowly and takes some time to really make any kind of impact. Whether or not Starfy is an actual starfish (or just a swimming, luminescent orb) is unclear, but regardless, most of his adventure takes place underwater, giving his movement a slower pace and dragging out the speed of the action. Starfy also takes its time introducing the narrative and saves the more interesting character interactions for later in the game.
But luckily, once you get past the first couple hours, Starfy starts to make the most of its unconventional premise, which has you accompanying a shape-shifting space rabbit on his quest to recover pieces of his crystal spaceship (and his memory in the process). This leads to a hodgepodge of silly or simply unexpected elements, such as transforming into a fire-breathing dragon or squawking chicken, as well as the ability to swim upwards through rainbows and giant raindrops. And while we've seen countless games and boss encounters built on the rock-paper-scissors premise of matching specific strengths and weaknesses, one boss battle in Starfy literally offers you a touch-screen rock-paper-scissors match against a trio of bumbling foes.
Starfy isn't aggressively strange, just sort of amusingly goofy in its wide-ranging approach. But it's not just for laughs - by the time you hit the later stages, nearly every room in each level offers a distinct experience, thanks to the introduction of transformations, special moves (your basic spin attack becomes a pulverizing spike in time), and various unique scenarios. The game is also flush with bonus content, packing a large amount of unlockable levels, as well as four-player touch-screen minigames. Moreover, you can call in a pal to play as Starfy's sis, Starly, in a select number of campaign stages.
The Legendary Starfy never completely shakes the sluggish nature of its initially vanilla gameplay, and the game offers very little challenge for hardened platform veterans, but it's a pleasant romp that continually improves as it progresses. We wouldn't quite call it legendary, but it's a promising start to this star's stateside aspirations.
Jun 18, 2009