Before the Densetsu no Stafi series made an appearance on Nintendo's DS system, it started off with three amazing Game Boy Advance releases. The game creatively combined platforming elements with underwater puzzle solving game play to form one of the most unique and engrossing games available for the system. Densetsu no Stafi marks the first release in the series and while it doesn't quite have the length or depth of the later Stafi releases, it still features the same unique charm the series has become so well known for and provides the perfect starting point for those who are looking to get into this amazing series.
The variety in the game play of Stafi is what makes the game so difficult to put down once you begin playing it. You'll have to navigate the many levels of the game and complete certain tasks given to you by the many sea creatures you'll come into contact with. While most of the instruction is in Japanese, the animations themselves will generally give you a good indicator of what you need to do in order to advance further into the level. Most of the time this consists of locating lost treasures, rescuing sea creatures who've been taken hostage by Ogura's evil minions, or traversing the maze of doors and corridors throughout each level.
As you progress through the game, you'll pick up additional moves for Stafi that you'll need in order to gain access to many portions of the later levels. These range from more powerful spin moves, to the ability to glide in midair. You'll even get a chance to take control of a vehicle in certain areas that adds a little variety to the already solid game play and gives you a reason to go back and play through the levels again. It's worth noting that there's not nearly as much platforming in this first release as found in the sequels, but don't let that scare you off. There's still plenty of enjoyable game play to go around and the heavier puzzle-solving influences tend to make this one even more fun to play.
The game's unique combination of platforming and puzzle-solving give the game a very enjoyable balance of things to do in each level. The game even mixes things up quite a bit and tosses the occasional boss fight into the mix to keep you on your toes. This is where the game really starts to shine, as the bosses are not only quite humorous to look at, but the challenge of figuring out how to defeat them is equally fun. There's even some really fun mini-games to offer up a change of pace during certain levels. When you couple all of these game play elements together, you get a platforming experience that will feel both familiar and fresh, all at the same time.
Visually Densetsu no Stafi is the least flashy of the series, but that doesn't mean it's a slouch by any stretch. As with all the Stafi releases, everything around you is vibrant and crisp. There's no limit to the sheer amount of colorful scenery you'll come into contact with throughout the game. It's also a nice touch that you never hardly see the same type of area twice, as the developers have done a great job of mixing things up with all of the various surroundings. There's a little scaling and rotation thrown in here and there, but it's more of an afterthought than anything. It's still safe to say that all of the visual charm and personality that the Densetsu no Stafi games have become known for is still present and accounted for, even in this first release.
Musically Densetsu no Stafi is actually a fairly strong Game Boy Advance effort. All of the tunes in the game are upbeat and seem to fit the light-hearted theme of the game perfectly. The sound effects range from mediocre to over-the-top silly, but as you'll find out when you play future versions of the game, they're always used consistently throughout the series. The music does seem to repeat a lot, so the only real drawback with the cutesy soundtrack is the fact that it can become slightly repetitive after long playing sessions, especially if you find yourself stuck on the same level for a significant amount of time. Luckily, most levels doesn't last so long that the track will be permanently burned into your ear drums. Much like the visuals, this first game in the series sports the weakest soundtrack of the bunch, but ultimately manages to be a solid musical effort.
If you haven't played any of the Densetsu no Stafi titles, you really owe it to yourself to give this unique platformer a try. The games might be a little on the easy side for veteran platformer fans, but it's a fun ride just the same. There's a lot to be said of the type of charm and personality that these games exude and couple that with the fact that the games feature such a solid control system and what you have is one of the most enjoyable Game Boy Advance adventures around. If you're new to the Stafi games, this one is the perfect place to get your feet wet. The game might start off a little slowly, but when it picks up, the addictive nature of this game really shines through and will send you off in search of other Stafi releases to play after you've finished this little gem.