Since many gamers outside of Japan are not terribly familiar with the Densetsu no Stafi series of games, not to mention the fact that The Legendary Starfy is set to be released in North American on June 9th, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the history of the series complete with some fun facts that might surprise even veteran fans of the series.
For starters, there's always been a significant amount of confusion as to exactly what the games are supposed to be called in English. Densetsu no Stafi is the more popular of the titles, but here are a few more of the many that you'll see when you go looking for information on the Stafi series around the internet. Densetsu no Stafi, Densetsu no Stafy, Densetsu no Starfy, Densetsu no Starfi, Legend of Stafi, Legend of Stafy, Legend of Starfy, and even Legend of Starfi are some of the many ways fans say or spell the game titles. Thankfully, Nintendo recently settled the argument when they announced that the fifth Densetsu no Stafi title would be coming to North American under the title The Legendary Starfy.
The Densetsu no Stafi games are a unique series of platforming titles developed by a small development squad known as TOSE. You might know this outfit for their previous development of Nintendo's Game & Watch series of Game Boy releases. The games use a unique combination of platforming elements with underwater physics and puzzle-solving elements to form one of the most unique platforming experiences you'll ever likely play. This is the main reason the games have become so popular with importers who've been enjoying the games since they debuted in Japan almost a decade ago.
While the Stafi games have never before seen a release outside of Japan, Stafi himself has made a couple of cameo appearances on two popular US Game Boy Advance and DS releases - Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga and Super Princess Peach. Sadly, these are the few opportunities many US gamers have had to experience the cute little platforming star for themselves.
For those who aren't aware, the Stafi series actually began with the first title, Densetsu no Stafi, being developed on the Game Boy Color platform back in 2000. The game was already completed and about to be released when it was decided to move the game over to the upcoming Game Boy Advance system instead. While this news initially upset a lot of Stafi fans who were anxiously awaiting the Game Boy Color version's release in December, it was probably the right decision in the overall scheme of things, given that the new Game Boy Advance system was about to be released in Japan at the time.
With the impending release of the more powerful Game Boy Advance system, TOSE decided to move the game over to this system and basically just converted most of their work that had already been completed on the game, complete with a nice little musical and visual facelift to go along with it.
The first Densetsu no Stafi game was packaged and released for the Game Boy Advance system in Japan on September 6, 2002. The game sold quite well and its toned down difficulty made it widely accessible, even to less seasoned gamers. Not long after its release, rumors of a sequel were already beginning to circulate among the Japanese gaming community.
TOSE went to work on Densetsu no Stafi 2 and this time tried to step up the game play a notch or two and also make the game a little bit longer, which was one of the main complaints many gamers had regarding the first title. Densetsu no Stafi 2 was released in Japan on the Game Boy Advance system on September 5, 2003, almost one year to the day of the first game's release. Once again the game experienced solid sales and was quickly beginning to take its place alongside other popular Nintendo first-party franchises in the eyes of Japanese gamers.
The game that most fans of the Stafi series mark as the pinnacle of the series is generally considered to be Densetsu no Stafi 3. This would be the final Stafi release for the Game Boy Advance system and was also the largest of the three games in terms of sheer playing time. Densetsu no Stafi 3 was released onto the Japanese gaming public on August 5, 2004. The game also contained a surprise appearance by one of Nintendo's other famous mascots Wario. It's difficult to tell which character Nintendo was trying to plug, as both Stafi and Wario were equally popular in Japan at the time, but it did make for a nice little surprise nonetheless.
All of the traditional Stafi game play was back and this time the level designs were much more intricate and the entire game itself just offered a slightly elevated level of challenge when compared to the two previous releases. This game went on to become a huge seller for the aging Game Boy Advance platform and would perfectly set up a release on Nintendo's upcoming DS system. Stafi was now about to have two screens to play on.
While development was well underway on Densetsu no Stafi 4 for the Nintendo DS, Nintendo gave Japanese fans a chance to design outfits for Stafi by allowing them to download a picture of Stafi from their web site and giving them the opportunity to color and dress up the little star in any way they saw fit. Winners of this contest even had their designs added to the collection of costumes in the game.
Densetsu no Stafi 4 was the first game in the series to have the luxury of dual screens, but the game stuck to the tried-and-true game play that had made it such a fan favorite and only used the touch screen for a few minor gaming occurrences here and there. It was a nice touch, but nothing to the degree that was used in a few other early DS releases where the touchscreen was the focal point.
One aspect of Densetsu no Stafi 4 that stood out from the previous Game Boy Advance releases was the use of 3-D visuals in the game. While the game still retained its 2-D layout and game play, the backgrounds and many of the between-level cinemas were executed using the 3-D architecture of the system and produced some absolutely stunning visual touches.
With the success of Stafi's first Nintendo DS release, it came as no surprise when Nintendo announced that a fifth title was in the works and would also be released on Nintendo's DS system in Japan. On July 10, 2008, Nintendo released Densetsu no Starfy Taiketsu! Daiiru Kaizokudan onto the Japanese gaming audience and with it the first Stafi release to feature a co-op function that allowed a second player to join in the game via the DS Download Play feature during boss fights and other specific parts of the game.
Once again reviews of the game were positive and the game has been quite successful in terms of overall sales in Japan. In fact sales were so good that on February 26, 2009, Nintendo announced that the game would be coming to the US as The Legendary Starfy on June 9, 2009. This marks the first Densetsu no Stafi release outside of Japan and might hopefully open the door for more Stafi titles to be released in the US down the line. At least that's what we're hoping will happen.
As usual, we'll have more information on The Legendary Starfy release as it becomes available, as well as a full review of the title when it's released on June 9th. Better start saving your money. While you're waiting you can even check out our full reviews of Densetsu no Stafi, Densetsu no Stafi 2, Densetsu no Stafi 3, and Densetsu no Stafi 4.