Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Legendary Starfy Review

A couple of months ago, I was digging through the discount bin in GameStop. I came across The Legendary Starfy, a platformer that I remember somehow. Maybe it was in Nintendo Power or the fact that he was an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I don't freaking know, but I decided to check it out. In short, the game was "ehhhhh".

I will admit though, he's pretty darn cute.
The game starts with a simple cutscene. It's not complex or, for that matter, particularly interesting, and the animation unintentionally looks like a bunch of unmoving pictures jumping around. The frame rate is next to none, but although the graphics are cute, they aren't exactly the greatest way to kick off a game.
Apparently, Starfy was taking a nap as per usual, when a rabbit falls from the sky, being ambushed by the dumbest looking criminals on this side of the planet. One's a... uh.... rabbit thing....... one has a ponytail...... I dunno. We can safely assume that the introduction isn't that important.
In short, the introduction is choppy and unimportant, the characters are weird, and there's no really anything to take note of. We do, however, meet the titular Starfy and his friend, some clam thing named Moe. Unfortunately, he doesn't own a Mexican restaurant chain, so prepare to be disappointed. 
If you imagine, I guess he looks kind of like a taco?
The strange bunny fellow in spaceman getup soon jumps into the ocean, and Starfy being a "kind fellow" decides to jump in and find him. I know this is a "rated E" game, but for all we know, the guy's a serial killer and cannibal. So why? WHY DO WE FOLLOW HIM? It's clearly evident tat Starfy doesn't think through much. This is further evidenced by the fact that he forgot all his "signature moves", so back to square one, eh?
So we find him kidnapped by a squid, and being a genius, Starfy follows without thinking through what could happen. Talk about "legendary." With that, the game begins.

The first thing to take note of is the gameplay. In terms of the style, it's very much akin to that of Kirby games. That being said, it's simple and very straightforward. You can spin, swim, run, and some other stuff that you learn much later. That's a slight grudge I have with the game; while you can do all the tricks in Mario games from the start, it eventually tells you how to do them if you are inexperienced. Meanwhile, this game spoon-feeds you everything; you can only do what you've learnt. It makes sense because you never have to go back to another level because of some "secret exit" requiring that technique, but even so, it makes the progression halt frequently. 
The enemies are fairly straightforward, too. Some just float around, others jump, others throw rocks. They aren't actually difficult though, and in the slim chance you take serious damage, the game makes it extremely easy to regain health, as the game is literally littered with "pearls". Aside from healing, they serve as currency to buy accessories (we'll get to that later). The bosses are also laughably easy. Repeatedly hit them with your spin attack and they're dead in less than a minute.
The level design is also simple. There are a couple of obstacles, but they are easy to pass through. You might have to push some circles (I have no idea what they are), spin attack boulders, break walls, and etc., but the game is so linear that it's easy to find every nook and cranny. 

Next are the graphics. They too are very akin to that of Kirby. The characters are simple sprites with fair animation. Every monster is in the same style; simple creatures with basic design. The problem is that the majority are generic and forgettable. Even the bosses, such as a giant squid, aren't that memorable.
The backgrounds are presented in that simple, polygonal feel that one often sees in DS games during the middle of its lifetime. They aren't complex or extremely realistic, but they do a good job of adding depth.
In terms of using the DS to it's full advantage, the game is just "meh". The bottom screen mostly just shows  little hint/advice/tip screen. While there are multiple, you'll often find yourself using the same one; either the "treasure seeker" or a generic screen showing Bunston (the bunny astronaut fellow we saw earlier) and the amount of shards you collect (you get one per world; we'll talk about it later). The few times the double screen is properly used, though, are actually pretty interesting. Despite the simplicity, the "squid chase sequence" (shown left) is pretty interesting, if not creative. 

The music itself is not to shabby. Quite ironic that the "ocean" music is so "bubbly.".... What? No laughs? Unlike the level design and most of the characters, I find the music cemented in my head at all times. Is it as iconic as music from the similar Kirby series? Well..... no. But the music nevertheless stays stuck to my mind. Even the music from levels I hate are stuck in my head. While the warm color palette of World 2 gives me migraines, it's still one of my favorites.

Next is the story. Oh boy, the story. Once you find Bunston, we discover his memory was wiped clean, and by showing him the shards you get after each world, his memory is slowly pieced together. The problem is that the game's story is presented in a heavy way, which is unfortunate because the story is as plain as possible. There are so many random characters you bump into to "jazz up" the story, but so few are actually worth noting. 

Furthermore, the game's bonus content is unimportant. First are the bonus levels. While great games like Kirby: Squeak Squad (am I the only person who played that game?), Super Mario Bros. U, and a lot of other platformers had great bonus levels, Starfy does not. This is due, in part, to the fact that all the levels feel the same. While in Mario, all the levels have new gimmicks that warm my heart, Starfy's just feel like shortened levels. The world "bonus" shouldn't even exist; there is nothing special about them and they just merge with the other levels.
The game also has collectible chests, which give you "diary entries" and "accessories". You know how I said the story is way too heavily put onto the game? The diary entries are like the exact same thing; uninteresting. It just feels like they tried to hard to turn their bland story into an expansive, fully-fledged mystery, but it just can't work. Meanwhile, I also have a grudge with the accessories. They turn the game into a little "dress-up session", but unlike games where you can equip armor on your guy(s), in Starfy, it doesn't actually affect the sprite in-game. That's a terrible disappointment. Furthermore, the pearls you collect  can only buy MORE ACCESSORIES. It's just a vicious cycle; the pearls are practically worthless unless you really enjoy playing with clothes to no avail. Even a simple cosmetic change would be cute; in Squeak Squad you can change Kirby's color into a multitude of colors, while Starfy is stuck as a naked, yellow star that's always smiling in an unsettling way.

Evaluation Time!:
Gameplay: 7/10. It's basic, but linear and straightforward. The game doesn't branch out at all, and all the secrets are dead ends, typically way too far off the beaten path. Nevertheless, it's exceptional.
Length: 5/10. Even with scouring for treasure, the game is way too short. Each world can be cleared in one short sitting, and levels are usually done within 3-6 minutes. It could've been better with the addition of more levels, but everything is just too short.
Difficulty: 3/10. The levels are designed for everyone of all ages to play. As such, inexperienced players will happily enjoy this title, but those a little more advanced will find it so simple that it feels as if it almost mocks you and your intelligence. 
Story: 2/10. Oh God, it's horrible. I've already criticized it enough.
Characters: 6/10. While some are nice, such as Moe and Bunston, most are generic and only added to spice up the story. There must be fifty characters, but of them, you'll probably only remember around five.
Graphics: 7/10. They aren't amazing, but they are good enough. The foreground and characters are cute, slightly-pixelated sprites, while the background adds some dimension, but it doesn't make up for the fact that they are so generic.
Music: 8/10. They're delightfully catchy, but not exactly "amazing". While it didn't take my breath away, I found it charming anyway.
Fun: 7/10. It's a decent experience. The younger audience will probably love it, while more experienced players will think it's borderline "okay". There is no challenge to be had in this game, so you won't be having any hectic moments, but it's at least passable.

In short, I give The Legendary Starfy a score of 45 out of 80.  It's decent, but you won;t find yourself playing it again and again.
Do I recommend it?: If it's cheap, you might as well pick it up. It's best for the younger audience, though you might have a little bit of fun out of it.

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