Thursday, February 09, 2006

Densetsu no Starfi 1 & 2

Densetsu no Starfi / Densetsu no Starfi 2
Marine Action - Gameboy Advance
Backup memory - 2 save slots (DnS) / 3 save slots (DnS2)
1 Player

What it is: 50% platformer, 50% underwater swimming action game, Starfi has a handy spinning attack to destroy enemies and blocks. In addition to completing stages, there are subquests along the way that make it play more like an adventure game than most action games, so there's a bit of dialog to it. But that's also what kinda separates Starfi from other games. You're in this world with lots of characters under the sea and each of them have their own stories, mostly told via flashback sequences. It brings out a bit of personality to the backdrop you're in. In addition to basic elements, there are minigames and sections where characters allow you to ride them as "vehicles" for variety.

What works:
* The plentiful spheres you collect in the game are for something tangible. In Starfi, the more you collect, the more characters show up on this eye-catch picture. In Starfi 2, the spheres act as currency to purchase tons of extras.
* The plentiful dialog brings out the personality of the characters and brings a better connection to the areas you traverse.
* Levels are designed for replay in that many of the levels have places that are inaccessible the first time you play them. As you gain powers and finish the game, you can revisit old areas and find new treasures and even entirely new levels.

What doesn't:
* The game itself is absolutely dull because...
* It's too simplistic. There are very few moves in the game and it doesn't take much of a gamer to figure out all there is to the game after 10 minutes of play.
* It's too easy. There is never any tension in the game because everything contributes to you refilling your life. When you collect 5 spheres, you gain 20% of your life back. When you hit a save point, you automatically full-heal. Even bosses do not pose a threat.

Bottom Line:
While the games offer a lot, it's hard to appreciate because the core gameplay is so boring. Yes there are a variety of minigames with adjustable difficulty levels. Yes there are tons of unlockables including brand new stages and many things to collect for the obsessive-compulsive type. But at no point do the games ever become exciting. Personally, although Starfi 2 is much lengthier, I like Starfi 1 more just because at the end of each level you can look forward to a boss encounter. Starfi 2 breaks each world into multiple stages, a la Super Mario Brothers 3, with a boss in the final stage of the act. The lack of bosses in some of those acts just contributed to the boredom.

Starfi is definitely a kids game, but I wonder if even they could be captivated by its non-existent challenge.