Tag Archives: Portable Gaming

The Legendary STARFY Review


Nintendo has always been known for its platformers. Most would argue they’re the Kings. Super Mario Bros. Donkey Kong and Kirby are three of the most popular franchises the world over. Each of them involves going through a plethora of themed worlds on a quest with a playable mascot. And while that premise may sound similar the execution is different within each. Often to well deserved critical acclaim. It’s very rare to come away from one of their titles visibly upset with it. Other M notwithstanding, and even that game was far from the broken mess so many other games turn out to be.
But way back in 2009, another game was quietly released here in the United States featuring a new character that appeared to be a cuter Ristar.

Maybe it was the fascination with other games at the time. Maybe it was the mass market fascination with Nintendo’s Wii or the Call Of Duty sensation Activision struck proverbial oil with around that time. But in any case, this was probably a bad time for us to have crawled back under our rocks and gone back to whatever we thought was hip. Because in the process we missed a cool newish IP at the time.

PROS: Terrific graphics. Fun level design. Humor.

CONS: Probably takes more cues from other Nintendo platformers than it should.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!: Everything Starfy says sounds like this.

I say “newish” because Starfy is actually a long-running series in Japan that started out on the Game Boy Advance. For whatever reason Nintendo didn’t think the series would translate to the North American market very well. But suddenly they changed their tune when the Nintendo DS was striking it big.
In this game, you take the Star Prince on an adventure (I forgot to mention Starfy is royalty.) when a mysterious rabbit in an astronaut costume crashes through his ceiling. The rabbit freaks out and runs away. So Starfy is sent on a quest to figure out just who the heck this bunny is and where he came from. A few stages in you’ll figure out that his name is Bunston and that the long-eared mascot has amnesia.


The Legendary Starfy is in many ways its own animal, but it does borrow a couple of things from Nintendo’s better-known platformers. You’ll have the Super Mario Bros. 3 map structure. Each of the worlds you play through has an environmental theme and you’ll clear areas on the map to progress. Things on the maps often change when you clear a stage. But, it also will draw many comparisons to Kirby because of the cuteness factor of it all. Starfy looks like he could come from one of those HAL powered games. From the adorable smile to the cute “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” he’ll exclaim. And there are secret rooms as well in many of the stages.


Finding these rooms will often give you an arcade challenge to complete. If you can do so there are a number of rewards for your success. Sometimes it’s new cosmetic items to dress your Starfy in. Other times its chat logs that explain more of the backstory. And in other cases, they lead to secret exits that open up new hidden levels on the map, which have secrets of their own.
Over the course of the game’s worlds, you’ll find most of the stages feature a lot of underwater sections. That’s due to the fact that many of the game’s mechanics are centered around swimming. Starfy starts out with some light twirl attacks, and there’s even a bit of jumping you’ll need to do when you’re not submerged. Most of the stages are surprisingly large with a lot of health pellets to collect. There are also hidden gems you can find that extend the number of hearts on your life meter. A big chunk of the fun in this game is exploring stages to find these items and the aforementioned secrets.
The combat in it does open up over time though. You’ll get upgraded swimming attacks, jumping skills and more. Plus as time goes on you’ll find items that allow Bunston to merge with Starfy. These mergers turn the two characters into different creatures you’ll need to use in order to solve puzzles, defeat certain enemies, or even access secret areas.


In fact, many early stages have sections you can’t access until much later in the game when you have collected all of Bunston’s merger items. This fosters a sense of replay value as on top of the secret stages, these areas are more content for you to go looking for on a second run. Adding to this replay value is Starly, Starfy’s Sister. Throughout the game, you can call on her for help, and there is a two-player mode you can access through the DS’ local wireless option where you each can use a character. But if you clear the game, there is a bonus world that opens up where you play as Starly. Starly also plays a little bit differently than her default Brother does. So you can have a largely different experience using her.


The game doesn’t have the high challenge of the Super Mario Bros. tougher entries, nor does it have the lower bar set by the Kirby games. It’s pretty easy going although there are a few moments where the game does surprise you with a puzzle or a boss. And most of the bosses here are really cool. A few of them even take advantage of the Nintendo DS dual-screen setup to give you a little bit of added depth. The final confrontation at the end can actually be a bit cheap at times, but once you master the pattern it isn’t too much of a spike.

One thing The Legendary Starfy does exceptionally well is its visual style. It’s a blend of 2D sprite work and 3D backgrounds. In a way, it’s a lot like Falcom’s releases of Ys on Steam. But it’s even better here taking advantage of a lot of colors. Even when you’re in kind of dreary areas in the game it’s still very colorful. A lot of bright reds, blues, greens with terrific gradients. Sprites are crisp and feature a lot of great details as well as a simulated cel-shaded look. It’s a beautiful game. Even though the 3D graphics aren’t the most exciting or detailed models, they still fit the world well and don’t really clash with the sprite work.


The game also has full-motion videos that resemble animated comic book panels. These push the story along as you meet up with certain characters, fight bosses, and discover key areas that trigger them. Fortunately, you can press Start to skip these if you do get stuck on a certain boss or puzzle so you don’t have to watch a 2-minute segment every time you have to continue. And while I can’t say there are a lot of songs that stay in your head long after you’re done playing, they are all something that fit in the environment well.


When you get done with the main game’s campaign and the bonus world you still aren’t fully done because you can go back to replay old stages to find new areas you didn’t find previously. Among some of them are minigames you may not have already found during your campaign. There are five of them. Once you’ve found these you can play these separately from the main game alone or with friends using the DS’s wireless functions.


Overall, Starfy is a rather fantastic platformer. It may borrow a little bit from Nintendo’s mainline platformers at times giving an impression it might be derivative. But it really is far from the case. The majority of the game’s water-themed levels leads to some unique gameplay. Plus the bright, cheery, optimism of the game’s environment is a change of pace. Even from something like Mario or Kirby. It’s too bad the earlier games were never localized because Starfy is pretty great. It’s lighthearted, it’s fun and genuinely funny. Tose’s little Star has an infectious charm about himself even if the only thing he ever says is “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”. The Legendary STARFY is one legend you’ll want to add to your Nintendo DS collection.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Kid Tripp Review


Endless Runners. There are thousands of them out there on a multitude of mobile devices, consoles, and computers. The good ones try to do something unique. Robot Unicorn Attack was an early example of a great one. A runner with challenging patterns, speed changes depending on how well you were doing, and a great song choice for its BGM. Turbo Pug was another one that pleasantly surprised me by adding different variables into the mix, along with great music, and cute characters. So how does this game fare in a sea of similar contenders?

PROS: Nice chip tunes. Nice sprite work. Conventional stages.

CONS: Cheap deaths.

ADORES: The big Nintendo, and Sega mascot platformers.

Kid Tripp was originally a game for the iPad, then the 3DS. But now it finds itself on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a lot like an Endless Runner. Except that it can be beaten. You see, this game’s trailer on Nintendo’s shop never makes it clear that you won’t be controlling your character’s movement. Other than jumping, or throwing rocks. It jumbles along, showing off visuals, and music in line with what you might find on a Nintendo or Sega console in the mid to late 1980’s. Chances are, if you were to pick it up without doing any research, you would think of this as a typical platformer.

But you’d be wrong. Kid Tripp gives you some stages laid out in a way you’d expect Mario, Alex Kidd, or Sonic to run through. But you have no say as to how Kid Tripp will move through it. He just automatically starts running, and you have to instinctively know when to jump. Basically, you have two commands throughout the entire experience. A jump button, and a throw button. That is it. Jump, or throw rocks. So the entire game consists of auto scrolling stages, and you timing jumps. Much like an endless runner. Except with an end, because there is no procedural generation on display here.


Right away, this is where some disappointment sets in. The reason that games like Robot Unicorn Attack were compelling was because of the vintage arcade play they provided. You were always on a quest to last longer, and eventually get to the top of the boards to gloat to everyone that you were the best. Then, a friend, relative, or even rival would attempt, and eventually succeed at besting that score. So it led to a competitive environment. At the same time, it was a great casual game. You could play it for 20 minutes on your lunch break, or you could play it for hours before you had to go to bed.

This game does none of that. Instead it tries to be more like Super Mario Bros. with a broken D-pad. No matter what you do, you’ll always move right. I can already hear some of you bringing up Super Mario Run. The thing is, for its faults, Super Mario Run is a pretty well done mobile title. Mainly due to the well thought out level design. In that game you generally have enough stuff on the horizon you can see, and plan for.


Kid Tripp does not consistently do this. Often times you will not see a pit, enemy, or other lethal obstacle until you’ve already succumbed to it. So where Mario feels familiar, Kid Tripp can feel frustrating. That’s because trial, and error in this game doesn’t always come off as challenging. Sometimes it just comes off as cruel. A stage starts, you’re going along, and you get crushed by a boulder. You’ll have no visual or audio cue of note that it might happen. You just get to a platform, see you’re going to have to bounce off of killer spiders, and get crushed by the boulder before there’s any time to react. There’s no way to avoid it the first time.

So you’ll finally figure out when you need to jump to avoid boulder death. Then you’ll bounce on the spiders, and you’re dead. You were killed by the next obstacle you couldn’t possibly know about, because it was off-screen a moment ago. That is how a number of stages in Kid Tripp work. The conflicting thing is how other stages don’t do this. Some of them do give you some advance warning. Some of them have some genuinely fun, and creative moments. One of them is even a really nice send up of the mine cart stages in the Donkey Kong Country games. There are some really great moments that will make you glad you decided to play it. It also keeps records, so you can try to speed run the game, and shoot for the best possible time.

The game also has some pretty good sprite work going for it, with some great character designs. Though on the flip side, Everything seems substantially zoomed in. Which leads to some of the blind jumps, and cheap deaths. That said, it looks bright, colorful, and a nice use of darker shades for contrast. As far as graphics go, this is a good-looking indie game. It also has the chip tunes to match. Kid Tripp has a soundtrack rife with catchy hooks, and digital effects.


Kid Tripp also has a few different movement speed settings. Honestly, I didn’t notice all that much of a difference between them. For the most part the game played pretty much the same. There are also achievements you can shoot for, like clearing levels without killing an enemy, or beating the game using fewer than a certain number of lives.  The game isn’t terribly long as it goes around four worlds, and a few sub levels in each. There are a lot of homages in it too. Every stage ends with a spinning post sign as in Sonic The Hedgehog. The settings of each stage hearken to the Super Mario Bros. games, and some of the death traps will remind you of Mega Man.

Kid Tripp isn’t a terrible game by any means. It looks nice, it plays alright most of the time, and it has some good music to go along with the action. But the game could have used some better scaling, and balancing.  There is some enjoyment to be had with it for sure. But the lack of balance, and telegraphing in key points of some stages leads to cheap deaths. Still, the challenge isn’t insurmountable, and if you’re persistent you’ll likely clear it. Hopefully any potential sequel will address the problems, and take things from fairly decent, to pretty great.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Retromini X review

For this entry I decided to do a little something different. Something that has become more common over the last few years is the creation of clones. Consoles that can run the software of older, defunct consoles. There are Sega clones, Nintendo clones, among others. The Nintendo clones are often called Famiclones, as many of them can even run Famicom cartridges. Of all of the vendors making these things, a handful stand out. The Retromini X is a pretty good one. I nabbed one a while ago, and while I took a number of decent photos back then, I never got around to reviewing the thing.  So I’m rectifying that.

PROS: Runs the majority  of the NES library. Can also be connected to a TV.

CONS: Wireless pads aren’t so hot. Light guns won’t work on modern HDTV’s.

WHAT?!?!?: The reaction you will hear playing it in public.

The Retromini X is one of the better portable NES clones you can find. The unit is lightweight without feeling too cheap. It has pretty responsive buttons, in a great layout. As far as handhelds go, it’s very comfortable, and you can easily spend several hours playing it. At first glance, one might complain about the size of the screen. It measures around 2.5 inches. Consider that’s about the size of the original Game Boy’s screen. But the quality of the screen is honestly, quite good. Colors pop, and the detail of the sprites show up without a hitch. it is also positioned nicely in relation to all of the face buttons, and the viewing angle is pretty wide. You don’t have to look at it dead on, just to  see it.

The Retromini X also has a very nice audio chipset. The speaker itself can be set very loudly, without distorting the sound, or becoming muffled. It does have a headphone jack as well. So you can play it out, and about without distracting everyone around you. The Retromini X  runs on 4 AA batteries. I would recommend using rechargeable batteries in lieu of the standard alkaline batteries. Because the regular batteries will drain fairly quickly. You can expect to get around 3 hours or so out of regular batteries, whereas the rechargeable ones can go a lot longer. That said, I do like that the unit works on standard batteries as, many other portable NES clones go with a proprietary battery. Especially a lot of the more recent releases.  While these do give you much longer play sessions there is a problem. When the units go out of production you have no way to run it as a handheld any longer. Because this in turn means you cannot find a replacement battery, as they were only ever made for that specific handheld. Which makes replacements very scarce.

With the Retromini X you won’t run into that trouble as it isn’t likely we’ll stop seeing AA batteries any time soon. The system does include an AC adapter as well, so you can still play your games off of an outlet. The AC adapter (at least the one included with the North American release)also appears to be a fairly common style that many devices use. So if you lose it, or it wears out you can probably find a suitable replacement for it. So long as you’re willing to put a bit of effort into scouring the internet for one. If not?  Then common, every day AA batteries will have to do.

Where the unit begins to fall short however, is as a home console. It does come with AV cables, and you can hook it up to a TV.  But this is not going to replace an NES in your gaming setup for a number of reasons. The biggest of these is that the handheld has no ports for game controllers on it. To alleviate that concern, the manufacturer included two wireless gamepads. But these pads cannot be replaced if they become lost or broken. They run on two AAA batteries each. Unlike the plastics used in the Retromini X itself, the pads are made of flimsy, and brittle plastics. The pads also don’t retain the same shape as classic NES pads or the NES Max. Instead, they take the shape of the Super NES controllers. But they won’t give you the same comfort, or feel as the handheld or classic controllers will. They also aren’t as responsive as a wired controller. So in some games where timing is key, you’ll really wish you could use something else.

Mysteriously, the system also includes a Zapper clone. The Nintendo Zapper was a light gun used for games like Duck Hunt, and ports of light gun shooters like Operation Wolf. Surprisingly, the Zapper clone works really well. Almost as well as the original gun. It isn’t as comfortable to hold as it is made from the same questionable plastics as the wired pads. But it does work as advertised. The biggest problem with it is the same one affecting the original Zapper, and other light guns. Modern televisions. Back in the 80’s, and 90’s light guns worked on a combination of light patterns off of a TV screen, and coordinates on a grid. It could read a pattern, send the data to the software, which would tell if you were close enough to your target’s hit box to count as a hit or not. But modern HD TV technology doesn’t display the image you see the same way. The Zapper was built with a CRT’s line by line refresh rate, where HD TVs mostly draw all of the image lines at the same time. I’m sure someone even more technically inclined might comment with a better explanation. But the bottom line is unless you are hooking up the Retromini X to an old CRT you won’t be able to play the NES light gun games on it whatsoever.

The unit works with the overwhelming majority of the NES library. Even most of the unlicensed third-party game paks in your collection will run well. The system’s emulation is pretty spot on, as the music, effects, and visuals are on display as you remember them. In the time I’ve had with mine over a few years, I’ve put a lot of games through the paces on it. The only game I ever ran on it that didn’t work was a copy of Paperboy. The cartridge fired up fine enough, but none of the buttons would work. I switched the game out with Mario Bros., to find that game played pretty flawlessly. So again, most of your collection should run on this swimmingly. With that said there are a number of game paks that will not run on this. There are no definitive lists of incompatible games that I’m aware of. So for the most part, it’s going to be hit, and miss. At least until either the vendor or a group of collectors get together to make a definitive list.

One last note about this system is how well it holds games in place. The Retromini X is a few years old now. A number of other handheld NES clones have come about, and yet many of them have wobbly cartridge slots. That is, the cartridge can shift forward or backward while it is in the system, and cause the pins to briefly disconnect. In the Retromini X, Game Paks fit in pretty snuggly. You don’t have to worry about the game falling out of the unit completely. Despite that fact, the Retromini X does has a hint of this issue, as you can get games to wiggle slightly. Yet it is not as bad a problem as on some of the other retro themed handhelds you might find in the wild. So if you find yourself looking at them, it is something you might think about when trying to decide on one. With my time on the Retromini X, I’ve found you almost have to go out of your way to tap the cartridge, and knock it loose. Although I suppose there are some titles you’ll pop in that will make you want to do exactly that. Isn’t that right Deathbots?

As a handheld NES, the Retromini X is actually a pretty cool product. It’s standard battery use, comfortable layout, and spot on emulation are wonderful. Bringing a handful of NES games on a long trip, or killing an hour in a coffee shop will be nice experiences. Provided of course you use rechargeable AA batteries. As a console replacement you’d be better served trying to find a used NES or a dedicated Famiclone. The Retromini X doesn’t give you controller ports, and the wireless pads really don’t lead to a good experience. I should also note that the system was also released as the FC Mobile II. So if you do hunt one down you may see that version. For all intents, and purposes they’re the same handheld. The only differences are some minor paint decorations around buttons.

As far as I can tell Hyperkin is still producing these for independent game stores, and E-tailers. So it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you want to give one a go. Do note that according to their website these are for PAL territories. So if you live in another region you’ll need a power converter, and an outlet adapter if you plan on plugging it into an outlet. It isn’t confirmation that the NTSC versions are discontinued. But if you see one, verify the version so you’ll know if you need those additions or not.

Final Score: 7 out of 10