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RELEASE DATE (NA): June 8, 2009 GENRE: Marine Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Under the sea... under the sea...

The Legendary Starfy is actually the fifth game in the series, with all previous iterations gracing the Game Boy Advance or Nintendo DS, but it's the only one that ever left Japan. Looks like Nintendo either had a ton of faith in their aquatic mascot, or there was a severe gap in their release schedule. The Densetsu no Stafī series all follow the same pattern of being what they call a "marine platformer", with the vast majority of the game being spent underwater.

You play the role of Starfy, a yellow starfish that squeals like an anime girl whenever he's in a tough situation. He is joined by Moe, an equally yellow clam that serves as Starfy's guide and mentor during his difficult journey. We're also introduced to Bunston, an astronaut rabbit that has crash-landed in Pufftop Palace, where Starfy lives, with amnesia. All they can figure out is that by locating shards that have fallen, Bunston can slowly gain back all of his memories and figure out why he is here in the first place. You'll learn more about Starfy and his surroundings through comic-style cutscenes and goofy conversations.

Yes, they named a rabbit Bunston. I don't think there's any reason to continue reading this review because that automatically earns it a perfect 10/10.

Thank goodness you're smart enough to know that this would be a pathetic review if it ended like that. Let's move on.

You mainly control Starfy, though with a friend you'll also gain access to Starly, his pink female counterpart, through WiFi where you can play co-operatively. He's a starfish, so swimming is his forte. ...W-wait a minute. How often do you see starfish gliding through the water?! I've never considered a starfish to be among the most active sea creatures. Starfy is special. He's magical. He fights against the norm, swims against the social current, and proves his worth among naysayers who want to hold him down to an aquatic double standard! In addition, he can dash, he can spin to flip away objects and enemies alike, and he can even scoot on two points across above-ground surfaces!

Starfy was the winner of the 1976 Summer Olympics Gold Medal for the triathlon. It's true. Look it up.

The Legendary Starfy takes the platformer's curse — underwater levels — and makes it the prime focus of the game. If the marine world doesn't give you tingles in the back of the head, this game will not be for you. Believe me: I'm aware that it takes a daring person to even imagine a game made up entirely out of underwater stages. And yet it works. It works rather well, perhaps due in part to the solid controls and Starfy's high level of maneuverability (although getting dizzy after spinning too much is really annoying).

As the game progresses, Starfy will also get to join up with Bunston for extra abilities, such as transforming into a fire-breathing dragon (as most dragons tend to be) or a seal that can bust through enemies using a powerful crystalline attack. These sections are infrequent, but when they do happen, you shall feel a surge of omnipotence! Braaarrrg!

This game features a clam named Moe. *blink* Do you need more information?

Being a marine game, it wouldn't be right without doing a little plundering. Though pearls are pretty much everywhere (and are particularly useful for revitalizing your life meter), every stage has treasure chests that offer a number of intriguing results. First and foremost, you can find scraps of paper written by other characters in the game that offer a little bit more backstory or some cute tidbits about their thought processes. He can also earn heart gems, similar in nature to the Legend of Zelda series' Heart Container items, used to increase the life meter overall. Lastly, and potentially most important to some, Starfy can also pull out costumes that, while not usable in the main mode of play, can be tested on Starfy in a special dress-up mode, suitable for those who love to play those silly browser dress-up games. Put Starfy in an American hippie vest! Radical rags, dude! Cowabunga!

Unfortunately, the game falls flat when you realize that there really isn't a lot of "meat" to it. You're a starfish, and you scoot around in the ocean. The stages lack significant variety; pardon the pun, but the thrill of swimming really dries up over time. Your general objective is always the same: get from one end of a room to the other and swim through the door. Repeat. Thank goodness there are breaks for mini-games and the occasional boss fight, but the majority of your time will be spent just swimming and navigating. I'm guessing this series was designed more for younger audiences, as its gameplay premise is very simple, and the game itself barely qualifies as hard. Graphically, it's pretty standard. The Legendary Starfy is sprite-based for the most part (dressing him up in the aforementioned special mode is in 3D) and doesn't actually use special effects much for water, which would have been more appropriate here than anywhere. The music is cheerful as well, synchronizing pretty well with the overall positive spirit of the game. And I love the weird noise Starfy makes on occasion; it's squawky and it's adorable.

There's nothing inherently wrong with The Legendary Starfy, but it does get dull after a while. If the game itself was shorter, or if they somehow put more varied levels in, then Starfy could be a true classic, but as it stands now, it's stuck as an average platformer. Nintendo and developer TOSE have not made another Starfy game since, and it doesn't look like one is coming in the near future. Maybe that's saying something.

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