Kirby Super Star review
He's a superstar when he hits for home!
Kirby is about simplicity. His design essentially consists of a smiley face with feet. His games consist of sucking up enemies and then either swallowing them or spitting them out as dangerous projectiles. There is some platforming, but more often than not, Kirby can repeatedly puff himself in the air for quite a long time, which keeps him up in the air and thus makes platforming unnecessary. That's as far as it went in his début for the Game Boy, Kirby's Dream Land. It did its job of providing a solid game for those who were intimidated by the likes of Castlevania, Contra, Ghosts 'N Goblins and even Super Mario... almost too well, practically to its detriment for those who are even a little experienced with gaming. So then came Kirby's Adventure on the NES, which introduced his trademark copying ability for people to *bleep* about with while maintaining the low difficulty of Dream Land. Kirby's Dream Land 2 then dropped into stores and introduced animal partners for transportation purposes. From there, you could assume that Kirby games would add on mechanics to keep things fresh.
Kirby Super Star introduces two things; helper characters who can help Kirby take down enemies, and what essentially amounts to eight games in one... oh, wait, there are nine games? Poor form with the typo on the box, guys. Regardless, it gets to a point where you wonder what will the Kirby series do next, and then you take notice of games revolving around what you draw with the stylus on the DS games, using a warp star to move around and even being transported into a world of yarn. Kirby is both a fine example of and far from a traditional platforming series, and even going as far as presenting itself in the form of hosting nine games with somewhat different playstyles between them, Kirby Super Star distinguishes itself from not only the competition, but even from its progenitors.
As such, there are actually a multitude of stories. They're all simple, but so are the games themselves, so it makes sense. One game is a faithful retelling of the first Dream Land game, only with the new abilities and souped up graphics presented in this game. One game is simply a race between Kirby and King Dedede to see who can run, collect and eat the most sugary sweet and potentially cancerous treats. One game has Kirby hunting for treasure. One game has Kirby needing to defeat Dynablade because he's eating peoples' crops. There are two more games to go through, but those are locked until you beat the other four first... needless to say, there isn't a lot of detail or even much if any dialogue in any of these adventures as the most you're typically given is a quick backstory when you go to select a mode – in fact, the closest thing to dialogue is found in one of the unlockable games, that being the fan favorite Revenge Of Meta Knight. It all works for what they're worth. They're just little games that don't require a complex plot, especially when given the happy go lucky atmosphere this game produces.
Such an atmosphere requires just the right style of visual flair and soundscapes, so it's a good thing that Hal were hard at work on this one. The entire game is bright and colorful with cutesy little sprites that look less like they want to fight you and more like they want to have tea with you. It's like a barrage of the slimes from the Dragon Quest series, only they can morph into other creatures apparently. Even when you have angry looking enemies, you can't help but think about how adorable they look. Meta Knight and Dynablade seem to be the only designs that actually aim for an imposing effect, especially Meta Knight. He succeeds not just because you wouldn't want to cuddle him, but also because of his dark color palette and his helmet obscuring his face, implying that he's meaner than what you'd expect. His ship is similarly unlike everything else you've seen in the game as it's mostly one color. Oh no, it's not monochromatic like every bland modern military shooter; more like there aren't as many colors to be found, although given Meta Knight himself, it makes sense. In regards to the rest of the environments, the forests, deserts, castles and even caves are about as vibrant and full of exuberance as it gets. It gives you a happy feeling, being surrounded by these colorful landscapes and cutesy sprites.
The soundtrack is upbeat and, much like the graphics, instil a happy feeling... for the most part. There are some dramatic pieces like when you're about to fight Meta Knight, and the songs during the Revenge Of Meta Knight deliver more urgency in their tone than the cheery, upbeat tones found in the rest of the soundtrack, but they worked rather well in conveying the feeling for that situation. On the whole, the soundtrack manages to keep your spirits high as it lifts you up through its peppy beats. Whether it's the remixed soundtrack from Kirby's Dream Land or the uptempo boss theme that inspires you to kick ass, there is a lot that this soundtrack does. Yet surprisingly, none of the songs are all that threatening. Like the graphics, it hardly teeters to an imposing point, although when it does, it congeals with the graphics to such a great effect that, despite it possibly being a mediocre song on its own right (generally, half the soundtrack is short and repetitious), it *bleep*ing works.
The idea of a Kirby game is to suck up enemies and either fire them at other enemies or swallow them and absorb their powers. There is some platforming, but it's used to traverse vertical heights rather than jumping over carefully placed gaps as Kirby can float in the air for a generous amount of time as long as you keep pressing the B button. Besides, your efforts should be focused more on getting through enemies and the occasional boss than jumping around. Enemies will typically have a basic attack if they're not just strolling along, hoping to collide into you. Bosses aren't much more complex as they have two or three basic attacks that are either easily dodged or produce ammunition for Kirby to suck up and counterattack with if he hasn't already acquired a power. For the most part, they're easy as shit, even the final boss - but then that's what you'd expect from a Kirby game.
But oh god, potential, thy name is Spring Breeze. Being that it's a remake of Kirby's Dream Land, you'd think that it'd be more than a mere graphical and audio overhaul, but it's not quite. While it's awesome that you have the power to copy abilities, the designs - particularly the bosses - forgot to adapt, and this is at its most evident with the King Dedede boss fight. In the original game, you had to wait until he slammed the floor with his hammer so that you could suck up the debris and shoot it back at him, all the while avoiding his attacks. He wasn't hard there either, but he was definitely harder. Why? Because in this game... you just spam power attacks and maybe dodge him when he gets moving because while it's significantly easier to deal damage, bosses don't really stagger when they're hit. Actually, it's made easier if you utilize the co-op feature – if you have a power, you can press A to essentially splice it out of your body and have it work on your side. Whether it's controlled by the computer or by a second player, it can make fights significantly easier. Hell, the AI allies your ally to actually do a half decent job of covering your six, although doing anything else seems to reduce its brain to mush trying to comprehend anything beyond “kill, crush, destroy”. In a mode like The Great Cave Offensive, which has sections requiring two people working together to obtain some treasure, this is a pain in the ass and to get 100% in that mode, you need a second player, which is somewhat bullshit – I mean, it's obviously pushing co-op gameplay in your face and how much it sucks or rocks depends on whether you're willing to indulge or not, but the fact of the matter is that it'd be better if it didn't try to shove it down your face.
Ordinarily, I'd say that a game is fun despite the bitching, but that'd only be perhaps 70% true. Spring Breeze is literally a breeze. The levels are actually well designed as they're easy to navigate through while providing the player with some nooks and crannies for exploration, but since the game moves at such a blur that Sonic would be jealous, it's a tad tricky to appreciate it, especially for the first two levels. The last two levels are long, but then they're also cleared rather quickly due to the fact that not a whole lot was done to have it adapt to the change in design between Dream Land and Super Star, and everything I've said about Dedede pretty much applies to the entirety of Spring Breeze. The Dynablade game is better in this regard as it's a bit longer, and there are alternating paths that can lead to two secret levels. Topping it off is the fight against Dynablade itself, which... is more what I'd expect for a final boss battle – an intense battle where you'll need to hit the weak point for massive damage with a satisfying victory at the end... even if the ending proves that Kirby is a bit of a sociopath. It's still an easy fight, but at least it tries to challenge you.
The Great Cave Offensive is where things get exciting as you're searching far and wide for treasures, leading up to the big treasure that'll be worth enough gold to make Kirby the next Scrooge McDuck and a final boss that's on par with Dynablade. After playing through those three will allow you to unlock Revenge Of Meta Knight, which is something of a sequel to the Dynablade game where Kirby has to defeat Meta Knight aboard the Halberd. The idea is to beat levels within a set time limit and in general, it's business as usual – you go through a set of easy levels and fight mostly easy bosses, although the fight against Meta Knight is one that's climactic – at least thematically speaking - as you'll be given the sword ability before it starts. It's his way of saying “I'm too honorable to kill you as you are – here's a sword powerup; now en garde!” but on the whole, it has that “easy intensity” thing to it that Dynablade and the final boss from the Great Cave Offensive have.
Sadly, one of the default four games is the Gourmet Race... you race King Dedede through a few levels while collecting food, and the winner is the one who earns the most points – you get points for winning and getting a lot of food, especially Maxim Tomatoes that give you 500 points but you'll have to go out of your way to get most of them. Unfortunately, while the levels would be well designed under normal circumstances, putting them in a racing scenario like this just doesn't work and makes everything frustrating when you're trying to get food, especially with AI that seems to be nearly *bleep*ing perfect with these courses! “But you'll get into it if you play it a bit more” - no; even after a decade and a half of playing this game, this is still a game that isn't fun in the slightest. Admittedly, the last course does have a power that'll speed up your platforming, but that doesn't elevate the game up by much. The first course is reasonably straightforward, but the second course has plenty of platforming, nooks, crannies, twists, turns and a few dead ends that would keep things interesting, but it feels more like they're just there to dick you over. The good news? It's short. Thank god.
After beating the first five main games, you'll unlock Milky Way Wishes. This is, by and large, the best part of Super Star. I mean wow, they sure saved the best for last! At first, the idea of having no powers might seem a little counteractive – after all, the reason powers were even a thing in the first place was to give people something to mess with. But then when you scour high and low, within somewhat well hidden nooks and crannies, you'll find statues with powers, and then it hits you; you can either make this game a ton of fun by experimenting with whatever powers you find to defeat the bosses, or make it hard as *bleep* by not having any powers to defeat the bosses with. Oh... did I forget to mention that there are a lot of levels and it amounts to a fairly long game whilst maintaining a high standard in level design? Did I also forget to mention that it can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be? Topping it all off is just the sheer depth of it all – the levels have various nooks and crannies that can be deviously hidden, the bosses are generally harder to fight than in the other games and there are even some exciting shoot em up levels towards the end. It's a mode that makes everything else worth it in the end. But that's not our finale – nope, that goes to the Arena, which has you fighting every major boss in the game one after the other with only six Maxim Tomatoes available for healing between fights. Where they're easy when you fight them on an individual basis, they're quite tricky when it's one after the other and can make for some intense fights. THIS is quite the finale...
...however, the fact that unlocking Milky Way Wishes and the Arena requires you to beat the boringly easy Spring Breeze and the terrible Gourmet Race, as well as the mildly entertaining Dynablade and awesome Great Cave Offensive games. Now, there are two more games on offer, but they basically amount to pressing a button at the right time. While Kirby is based on being an easier alternative to those big, scary NES and SNES games out there, ironically, Kirby Super Star works at its best when it tries to be challenging and lengthy. One could chalk this up to me not exactly being in the target audience, but honestly, this entire review is nothing more than the more eloquent version of the thoughts I was having even back when I was five. Even back then, I found Spring Breeze to be boring due to how easy it was. I understand that Hal wanted to show how far they've come since then... and quite frankly, they've come quite far. When they hit for home, the ball lands two or three states over; when they opt for a bunt, all they can hope for is that the opposing team bump their heads and give each other concussions because they certainly can't bunt for shit.
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