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Densetsu no Stafy

Nintendo platforms have been home to a plethora of popular platformers over the decades. Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong Country, Kirby, Banjo Kazooie, and a slew of others have all been extremely well-received. One popular series that took forever to make its way West, though, was Densetsu no Stafy, for the GameBoy Advance (and later DS). When the first one came out, it had a lot of charm with its cutesy cast of characters. There were also elements of exploration rather than being a standard side-scroller. It had neat boss fights, and there were a bunch of mini games, not to mention lots of collectables for players to find. There were so many things to like about the game, but, sadly, it never saw a release outside of Japan to the chagrin of many.

The game starts out with Stafy at his home in the Pufftop Palace doing a bit of cleaning. He winds up dropping a Magic Jar that falls into the ocean, though. Making matters worse is that a storm suddenly erupts and the winds then blow Stafy into the ocean as well. When he wakes up, he is greeted by Old Man Lobber who kindly offers to help Stafy get home. From here, Stafy starts meeting all sorts of denizens of the deep and helps them with their problems, eventually leading to a showdown with a creature named Ogura who escaped from the Magic Jar that Stafy dropped at the beginning of the game. It’s all light hearted fun and gives the game a very nice, laid back feel.

Given that this game does take place in an ocean, there’s a lot of swimming to do, which impacts how the platforming functions. While Stafy is out of water he can run and jump with the best of them. When submerged, he glides to and fro while using a spin attack to hit enemies. To ensure that players don’t simply spam this move, which would trivialize the game, they must use the attack button sparingly. If one uses the attack too many times in a row, Stafy gets dizzy from all that spinning and players temporarily lose control of him as he recovers, which also leaves him vulnerable to attacks during that time. It helps ensure that players use their head and time their attacks well.

As mentioned earlier, there’s a fair amount of exploring in Densetsu no Stafy as well. It isn’t as linear as some other 2D platformers out there. In many stages, players will find doors leading to different areas, or sections that are blocked and need key items to get past. Sometimes it's as simple as trying to figure out which waterfall is the right one to jump down. With that, one needs to figure out where things are a lot more, adding an extra layer of depth to the game. Meanwhile, most stages end with some sort of boss battle where Stafy and the boss both have five health points. The first to zero loses. It’s straightforward enough, but the fights themselves have some fun mechanics specific to each boss. Sometimes, there are even mini-games to be had against various sea creatures, like a memorization game, a quasi-breakout challenge, and many others. They’re all quite fun and make for a nice break from Stafy’s adventure.

While Stafy is busy taking care of business helping people, he and the game itself look great. It has a very cute, cartoony look to it. Moreover, a very bright colour scheme is being used that makes everything feel all the more cheery. This was a frequent occurrence with GBA games, but Densetsu no Stafy just feels extra cheery and charming by its graphics. Adding to this is the game’s soundtrack which is very upbeat much of the time with a nice seaside sort of vibe like going on vacation in the tropics. It matches really well with everything that is going on in the game.

Despite the game having so much praise heaped upon it, Densetsu no Stafy never got released in the West. Apparently, Nintendo of America worried that the game’s stories had too many Japanese cultural references that Western gamers wouldn’t understand. As such, they resisted the game coming out this way. With that, those interested were forced to go the import route to enjoy the game, and with each person that got the game, its reputation grew a little more, and Westerners wished a little harder that the series would come out over here.

- IroIro
December 30, 2019

More Handheld Games that We've Discussed:

- Drill Dozer (GBA)

- Trip World (GameBoy)

- Konami Krazy Racers (GBA)

Platform: GameBoy Advance
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Tose
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2002

Densetsu no Stafy Image 1
Box Art

Densetsu no Stafy Image 2
Stafy helping out Moe the Clam

Densetsu no Stafy Image 3
Trying to figure out which waterfall to take

Densetsu no Stafy Image 4
Stafy in a boss fight