Nintendo has another insatiably cute leading character in The Legendary Starfy, a platformer about a star-shaped prince who lives in Pufftop. Starfy isn't new to the video game world; this is developer TOSE's fifth game in the series known as Densetsu no Starfy in Japan. This rosy-cheeked and gregarious star is sure to win over the same crowd that adores 2D Nintendo platformers, and we were easily taken by Starfy and his band of merry underwater crustaceans.
The game starts off in Pufftop, a kingdom nestled among the clouds, where the prince, our hero Starfy, is napping soundly until a rabbit in a spacesuit comes crashing out of the sky and lands in his room. The bunny is being pursued by shadow goons, but Starfy chases them away with his legendary spin attack. His best friend, a clamshell named Moe, shows up asking about the commotion, and once they realize that the space bunny has leapt off the clouds into the ocean, Starfy jumps in right after him, determined to help.
As the story unfolds, you'll explore this traditional 2D platformer that's set in the water and on land. As Starfy travels to different areas to track down the bunny, he also comes across various creatures whom he befriends and helps along the way. When you hold down the B button, Starfy can zip through the underwater area. The Y button is used for his spin attack, except that you have to monitor his spinning or else he'll get dizzy. When on land, you can use the Y button to make Starfy pick up the pace and run. You can jump on enemies, wall-jump, and glide with the B button. Starfy has a huge list of abilities that he'll learn along the way, so you're not limited to just a few moves--this little guy is quite talented. When he does eventually find the rabbit, named Bunston, they can team up and Starfy magically transforms into a walking, fire-breathing monster. Not bad for a starfish.
There's an overworld map that keeps track of your progress through the different areas. There are secret levels to discover, side quests to pick up, and a slew of items to collect along the way, like diary entries and clothes for Starfy. Pearls and other treasures are littered throughout, so you can always save your well-earned pearls to buy some cool outfits later. At this point, our Starfy was sporting some beach wear and aviator shades.
Most of the time, the action takes place in the top screen, but you can call on your friends to help you on the bottom screen. For example, Moe has an eye for treasure, so if you select him, his eyes will light up if you're closing in on something good. The game does take advantage of the Nintendo DS's dual screen when it can, which we saw during a chase sequence in which we were running away from a giant octopus that spanned across both screens. We'd see the feisty creature in the bottom screen while his tentacles came after us in the top screen.
Your sister, Starly, shows up at some point to offer her assistance, and she'll appear on the map if you can play that particular level with a friend. The best part is that you can grab someone who doesn't even own a copy of the game and play through the level together. A collection of minigames will also unlock as you progress, some of which can be played with up to four players locally, with or without another cartridge. The two that we tried are quite fun; one involves tapping as many coins as you can of the same color, and the other is a cooking minigame in which you make octopus dumplings.
There is a lot going on in this adorable platformer, and from what we played, it may not be difficult, especially when you have a health meter and frequent save points, but it's incredibly fun in terms of taking your time to explore each level. The comic-book-like storytelling and overall presentation are extremely well done. As you're gliding effortlessly underwater, the background is what you'd expect to see in the ocean: schools of fish swimming around and seaweed swaying with the current. If you leave your DS idle for a bit, you'll come back and find Starfy dozing in a tiny bed, so there's a lot of personality and charm to the game. The prince doesn't say much beyond his high-pitched "heeeeeey!" but he's a happy-go-lucky guy and could easily become the next big star.
From what we've played, The Legendary Starfy is shaping up to be a solid platformer for Nintendo's handheld. It has great presentation, solid controls, and an endearing story. The multiplayer component and minigames are a nice touch and are not just tacked on for the sake of adding new features. Look for our full review when the game is released June 8.