Most gamers are familiar with Nintendo’s popular characters, as they are known pretty well worldwide. But there’s one long running Nintendo series, with five games under its belt, which has stayed exclusively in Japan. And they all star Stafy, a little heroic starfish who has his own series of cute little 2-D platformers on the GBA and DS. I just imported the most recent one, fifth in the series, so I figured I’d write a little blog about this little known Nintendo character.
Since Stafy is the Japanese name, there hasn’t been an official spelling in English yet. Some places spell it Stafy, or Stafi, or Starfy, etc. So I may spell Stafy differently in my blog, depends on what mood my fingers are in as they type. Stafy games are pretty much the same. Typical 2-D cartoony platformers that are designed for young kids. They’re light on difficulty and easy to figure out. But since they’re from Nintendo, they also have that high level of polish and fun. They’re great for importing, too, because since they’re meant for younger players in Japan, reading skill isn’t as necessary so it’s easy to figure out what to do, even if you can’t read Japanese. I figure the reason why Nintendo never brought the Stafy series to the US is because we’ve already got a series of easy 2-D platformers for young kids that’s even better than Stafy (or Mario, in my opinion). And those are the Kirby games.
One other thing to note about Stafy games is that since he’s a starfish, a good amount of the stages are underwater. In most underwater parts of platformers, swimming can be a bit difficult. But not in Stafy games! Stafy actually maneuvers better in water than in on land, so players who dread swimming in video games have nothing to fear!
Even though Stafy games are published by Nintendo, they’re actually developed by a little-known company called TOSE. I read an interesting article about TOSE a couple of years ago. I think it was on 1up.com, but I’m not sure. According to that article, TOSE kind of stays behind the scenes and does all sorts of port work for game companies. The GBA Final Fantasy remakes were all done by TOSE, for instance. TOSE also did the Game & Watch Gallery games on the GBC and GBA. As much as I LOVE the Wario Ware games, it’s a shame they kind of ‘replaced’ the Game & Watch Gallery titles because they were awesome. They also did Rocket Slime and the DS port of Chrono Trigger! TOSE also made Super Princess Peach, which has a few similarities to the Stafy games, and is a game that I feel is even better than New Super Mario Bros.
Stafy games have their own cast of unique characters, so let’s take a look at them. The characters and worlds of Stafy are kind of like what you’d get if you mixed SpongeBob and Finding Nemo with Hello Kitty.
He’s the little yellow hero of these games. He’s a starfish, but he lives in a castle in the clouds with his king and queen mother and father. So yeah, Stafy’s a prince. Even though it’s hard to get a bead on his personality because of the language barrier, Stafy seems to be very laid back, easily distracted, not very smart, and maybe a little spoiled and lazy. But he always saves the day anyway.
Not sure if that’s spelled right, but she’s Stafy’s pink little sister. Even though she’s younger and smaller, Stapy seems to be bolder and more adventurous than her older brother. She’s usually the one who coaxes the others into going on adventures. In the games where she’s playable, she has different moves than her brother. While Stafy can double jump and has stronger spin attacks, Stapy can wall jump and fit into smaller spaces.
I had to go to Wikipedia to get the spelling of that right, because I know I couldn’t spell it on my own, much less pronounce it. Anyway, he’s a clam that follows Stafy and Stapy around on their adventures, giving out bits of advice and whatnot. He’s a little rude and aggressive and quick to anger, but he must still be a good friend because he’s always around. Kyorosuke is in love with a female spiky lionfish and at the beginning of Stafy 4, he didn’t want to go on an adventure. But when Stapy reminded him that he might run into that fish he has a crush on, his eyes turned to hearts and blood started gushing from his ‘nose.’ You see, in Japan, one of the cartoon signs for being in love (or aroused) is a nosebleed. Kind of like how US cartoon characters in love have their heart beating out of their chest. Anyway, because of that, I started just calling him Nosebleed the Clam.
There are other, minor reoccurring characters in Stafy games, like that fish that Nosebleed the Clam is in love with. And an old sensei lobster who gives Stafy tutorials and refreshers on his moves at the beginning of each game. And the first three games’ main villain was a ghostly oyster thing named Ogura.
Stafy has five games under his belt, each one on either the GBA or DS handhelds. Let’s take an undersea tour of each game in the series:
Densetsu no Stafy
That just means “Legend of Stafy” in Japanese. The first game was originally going to be for the Game Boy Color, but they delayed it to be on the GBA instead. In the first game, Stafy accidentally breaks a magic jar and the evil Ogura comes out and causes thunderstorms around the sky castle. Stafy falls into the sea and must make it back up to the castle to seal Ogura back in the jar. The first Stafy game was pretty basic, with no world map or themed areas or other extras. Things picked up more in the sequels.
Densetsu no Stafy 2
In the sequel, Ogura is back in his jar, but sends out his underlings to cause another thunderstorm and break the jar so he can escape again. Then Ogura kidnaps Stafy’s mother and sends his underlings to wreak havoc in the sea. So Stafy sets out again to save his mom. The sequel added new moves, mini-games, and a dress up mode where you can buy outfits to put on Stafy (but not in the game).
Densetsu no Stafy 3
This is probably one of the better ones in the series. A thunderstorm again breaks the jar and frees Ogura, but is there a bigger evil force involved? Stafy 3 is the first game where you can play as Stafy’s sister Stapy in some places. Dress up mode returns and now you can outfit both Stafy and Stapy. One cool thing about Stafy 3 is that Wario makes a cameo appearance in one of the worlds. You have to help Wario get treasure and solve puzzles similar to the ones found in the GBC and GBA Wario Land games (like push Wario around in a bubble, for instance). In dress up mode, you can also unlock Wario themed accessories like his nose and zigzag moustache, his hat, and a GBA and Wario Ware box.
Densetsu no Stafy 4
This was the first Stafy game on the DS. It’s actually the first one I played, too. It’s not too much different from 3. An evil…something or another…stole a crystal from an undersea kingdom, and a princess fish summons Stafy and friends to save the day. What’s weird is that the ending is actually a little sad this time. You see, during the course of the game, Stapy falls in love with a fancy boy fish, and Starfy falls in love with the princess fish that summoned him. But at the end of the game, you find out that both of the fishes were going to marry each other. Stapy seemed shocked, but got over it quickly. But Stafy just sulked in his room during the ending. I don’t know if I got a bad ending or what (I don’t think so), but that’s a pretty depressing ending for a kids game!
One difference between the DS and GBA Stafy games is that the backgrounds are in 3-D on the DS, but the sprites and foreground are still in 2-D. The map has touch screen controls this time, too. Stafy has a new power this time as well. He can summon a coin if he has enough power, and if it flips to a pearl, all the enemies turn into pearls (pearls refill your energy and you can buy things with them, too). But, if the coin flips to the anime cartoon poop symbol (pink swirly thing), then all the enemies turn into poo and chase after you! There’s also a bunch of extra stages after you beat the game, too.
Densetsu no Stafy: Taiketsu! Dire Kaizokudan
I guess they dropped the 5, but it is the 5th one in the series. I’m not sure what that last part means. Probably “Space Rabbit Adventure” or something. You see, the story here is that a rabbit with a spacesuit on crashes into Stafy’s room. A bunch of shady figures are chasing him, but Stafy staves them off with a few of his patented spin attacks. Apparently they’re after some crystal shards the rabbit has, and you know how important crystals are in video games! So Stafy and friends agree to help the space rabbit find the rest of the crystals. Do you know why the Japanese associate rabbits with space? (well they do, there are space rabbits in other video games, too, like Wario Ware). In the US, we see a man in the moon, like a face. But in Japan, they see an image of a rabbit in the moon. Me, personally, I don’t see a face or a rabbit when I look at the moon. When me see moon, me think of COOKIE!
Anyway, I just got this game last week. It’s been out in Japan for a while, but I just waited until the import price went down a bit before getting it. I like Stafy games, but not THAT much. So far it’s pretty much like the others. The space rabbit appears in levels and transforms Stafy into different costumes of animals that give him new skills and powers temporarily. But that’s not really anything new, other Stafy games let you use costumes and vehicles, too. You can choose what to have on the bottom screen by different characters. The mermaid who saves your game gives you hints about the stage. The space rabbit shows how many crystals you’ve gotten. The lobster sensei shows your stage records. But the most useful one for me is what the clam does on the bottom screen (mainly because it doesn’t require any Japanese to read). He acts as a treasure detector, and if there is hidden treasure in a room, his eyes turn into treasure chests. I usually have him on the bottom screen because I like getting hidden treasures in video games!
The 3-D dress up mode is back, but I’m not sure how you buy new clothes in this one. Another feature I’m not sure about is the 2 player co-op mode. In a handful of stages, you can use DS wireless play and a second player can play as Stapy and you can tackle stages together. But I’m not sure if the other player needs a copy of the game or what. Oh well. I’m still currently playing this game, so I’m sure I’ll figure out more stuff as I go.
Even though Stafy games are strictly in Japan, he’s made appearances stateside in a few game cameos as well. Stafy’s on a poster at the theater in the first Mario & Luigi RPG game. He’s also a hidden ‘enemy’ in Super Princess Peach. I guess TOSE felt they should put him in there since they made both games. He’s really hard to find, though. Finally, Stafy is an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Sometimes you can pick up these glass cases and a minor Nintendo character will pop out to help you fight. Well Stafy is one of the most useless, kind of like Goldeen in the Pokeballs. Stafy just skips along the ground and sometimes uses his spin attack. But most of the time he just spins off a cliff. There’s also a trophy of Stafy and Stapy in the gallery you can get as well.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about Stafy. They’re pretty good games for kids, but I really can’t recommend that parents import them because it’s pretty expensive to import games and there are plenty of good kids’ games right here in the US already. I only import them because I’m an insane freak. But it’s nice to know that no matter where you are, if you’re playing Mario or Kirby in the US or Stafy in Japan, there’s still always plenty of great games for kids. Because kids deserve good games, too!
Speaking of kids games, I just wrote a preview of a new Wii game coming out this spring: Marble Saga: Kororinpa. It’s a sequel to a really fun marble maze rolling game and I can’t wait for it. Another good kids game I downloaded on Xbox Live is The Maw. It kind of reminds me of early PS2 and GameCube 3-D platformers. It’s a classic story of alien boy meets ravenous pet monster. You play as an alien boy who is captured and put in prison on a spaceship with other alien specimens, including a one eyed purple alien with a mouth that he befriends. But then the spaceship crashes and the boy alien and his new hungry purple friend must explore the wilderness on an unknown planet.
There’s some light platforming but it’s really more of a puzzle game. For instance, to get past some chomping plants, you must have the alien creature eat a fire lizard so he can breathe fire. But you have to cool down the fire lizard by bringing it to some water before you can feed it to your hungry friend. The Maw kind of reminds me of Katamari Damacy, too, because the more your pal eats, the bigger he gets, and he gets bigger in each level, too! The Maw is pretty short and light on challenge, which makes it good for kids. And aside from your pet alien eating everything, it’s pretty nonviolent, too. Definitely worth the 800 points. I think it won some kind of award at PAX, too.
And that’s all for now! Later! –Cary