Review: Densetsu no Stafi 3 (GBA)

The third time is the charm for the Densetsu no Stafi series.

After the success of the first two Densetsu no Stafi releases, TOSE obviously wanted to knock one out of the park with their third and final Game Boy Advance Stafi title. To say that they were successful would be a huge understatement, as Densetsu no Stafi 3 offers up the type of platforming experience that most of us normally only dream of. The game takes everything that was great about the first two releases and raises it all to a whole new level of playability to form the game that many Stafi fans consider to be the pinnacle of the entire series, even to this very day.

The basic goal in each area of Densetsu no Stafi 3 is to navigate through the various levels completing tasks given to you by the other underwater creatures. Along the way you'll have to deal with a constant bevy of enemies trying to stop you from completing your task. At the end of each level is an Exit Portal that has a rotating set of balls around it. You basically try to enter the portal at the moment when this rotating ball is closest to the star on top. This scores you additional pearls which in turn add health to your meter. Once you've entered the portal, it's on to the next level.

In Densetsu no Stafi 3, you still have all of the same game play moves from the previous release, including the double jump, super spin, and slam, but this time you get to also play as Stafi's pink sister Stappie. Stappie comes complete with her own unique set of game play moves including a Wall Jump and Crawl move. You'll need her help in order to traverse some of the tricky spots in certain levels that Stafi cannot navigate through. There will even be times when you'll have to quickly switch back and forth between the two in order to help each other out in certain areas.

There are 10 areas in Densetsu no Stafi 3, each containing four levels each. At the end of the fourth level you'll have to face off with a boss before proceeding to the next area. While the levels themselves are amazing, it's the boss fights that tend to be the absolute highlight of the game. Not only are the bosses insanely hilarious in design, but they feature some of the most intricate attack patterns that really make you put in the work to figure out how to beat them.

The vehicles also make a return in Stafi 3, and this time there's some new ones to toy around with including a Pogo Stick, Rocking Horse, and Submarine. After you've beaten the game you can even go back and add upgrades to your vehicles in order to open up two new vehicle-based levels in each area to use them in. Of course beating the game also opens up two very challenging bonus levels in each area that will really test your platforming skills. Ultimately it's this bonus material that ends up adding in tons of replay value to an already lenghty and rewarding platforming experience. Heck you even get a cameo appearance by another famous Nintendo platformer character.

As with any Stafi title, the play control is spot on perfect. Stafi and his sister are both very responsive as far as control goes and it's quite easy and intuitive to pull off their host of special game play moves, even in a pinch. The level designs are by far and away the best the series has seen to date and show just how much the game has evolved in the short time since the first release. There's also five brand new mini games to play that provide a nice little break from the standard levels throughout the game. Add in a heaping dose of replay value and you have one of the most in-depth platformers available for the system.

The visuals in Densetsu no Stafi 3 also get an upgrade from the previous release. Not only is there a lot more detail in the backgrounds, but the color usage is even more vibrant and varied between each area. The careful blend of sharp and pastel colors gives the game a dynamic visual presence and the developers have also managed to make even levels within the same area vary enough to keep things fresh from level to level. Even the enemies and bosses show a wealth of detail in their overall design. The developers really pushed the Game Boy Advance's hardware with this final Stafi release on the system and it paid off in the end.

As if the step up in graphics quality wasn't enough, the developers even found time to compose a brilliant and catchy musical score for the game. Some of the tunes sound familiar, but for the most part the soundtrack is made up of quite a large number of original compositions, each distinctly different from the last. While the sound effects ultimately remain pretty much the same as the previous Stafi releases, the new musical score is more than enough incentive to plug in a pair of headphones and truly enjoy the incredible musical creations throughout the game.

Conclusion

Densetsu no Stafi 2 took the series to new heights, but this third title in the series still blows it away. It's bigger and better in just about every single facet and is easily one of the most playable platformers available for the Game Boy Advance system, or any other system for that matter. While the game's still a bit on the easy side during the first half of the adventure, it's still one of the best platformers ever created and a testament to how its developers manage to keep the series evolving at such an incredible pace. If you love platformers, you absolutely must own this game. It would be difficult to say that any video game is absolutely perfect, but this one's pretty damn close.