By Josh Speer / April 3rd, 2018
|Title||Kirby Star Allies|
|Developer||HAL Laboratory, Inc.|
|Release Date||March 16th, 2018|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Cartoon Violence|
When I first heard about Kirby Star Allies, I wasn’t that interested. The last Kirby console game, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, underwhelmed me in a big way, and the concept of a game I had to play with friends wasn’t that appealing. Fast forward a few months later, and after I got a chance to try out the free demo, suddenly I was far more interested in Kirby’s latest console foray (especially knowing that AI could control my partners). After all, I really enjoyed the latest 3DS titles, Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, so I figured I might as well jump on the Kirby train once more. As a fan of the series, did I feel Kirby Star Allies exceeded my expectations, or did it pull another Return to Dreamland?
The plot for the game is pretty standard. Mysterious evil force comes to Dreamland, affects the inhabitants, Kirby goes to save the day. What helps set it apart from every other Kirby game is the sass of a trio of villains you face, called the Generals. Each of them will confront you with snappy dialogue every time you face them, and Flamberge especially is downright nasty. I will say that by the end of the game, you find out a lot more about what’s happening, and I was starting to get very invested in the new characters right before the game abruptly cut to the final battle. While I will say that’s a bit of a missed opportunity, it did remind me of my strong desire for the creation of a Kirby RPG akin to Super Mario RPG. But let’s get back to reality for now, and see how Kirby Star Allies plays.
The hook for the game is that Kirby has a new power that lets him befriend his longtime foes by tossing a pink heart at them. You can control the arc of it before you toss it, not unlike in Yoshi’s Island, and once it connects, you instantly get a new friend. You can have a maximum of three allies with you at one time, and if you find you need a new ability, it’s beyond simple to swap out a current member with a new one. Also useful are stations you’ll find sporadically throughout the game which let you turn all your allies into their base powers, and then mix and match what power Kirby has. Usually these appear right before a boss battle, though in typical Kirby tradition, you’ll also find enemies with specific powers placed in your path leading up to a boss door. Thankfully, the AI for your allies is pretty intelligent during combat, and only gets screwed up when serious platforming hurdles are thrown at them. Even if they do get defeated, you have the nifty option to hold the X button and revive them. The only exception to this rule is that if an ally gets smashed flat, they will be totally wiped out, and beyond revival. But even that’s not a big deal, since you will constantly find more enemies to befriend.
While your team is surprisingly capable on their own, you’re able to direct them to join together and do powerful attacks simply by holding the Up button. This opens up some tremendous combo attacks, such as shooting a trio of flaming feathers at enemies, hurling stones with kinetic force and much more. That would be great by itself, but you have more options at your disposal thanks to the advent of elemental weapons. Imagine that Kirby has a standard weapon, such as a sword, hammer or cutter equipped. By holding it aloft, your buddies will line up and power it with their respective element. Each element will affect your weapons differently, as well as increasing your attack power. You’ve used these weapons before, but never quite like this. I personally felt the Wind empowered weapons were some of the coolest, since they would give your attacks much wilder effects, such as a cutter blade rising in a tornado, but no element is useless. In combat, it’s generally unimportant which element you have at your disposal, other than against a few enemies that have obvious elemental protection, such as foes with giant flaming or freezing shields. Where the elements become utterly necessary are for the many puzzles in Kirby Star Allies.
There are many clever puzzles in the game, and many of them require a smart mixture of abilities. Generally, you’ll find exactly what you need right before or in a puzzle room, and while that does lessen the thrill of discovery, it’s still fun to experience them. Sometimes you’ll need a friend with an umbrella to protect a fuse from getting wet, or will need to imbue a cutter with ice to shatter burning chains. You will also need to use your team to get through platforming challenges, such as turning into a Friend Train capable of scaling any surface, or turning into a Friend Circle and pulverizing everything in your path. There’s a lot of variety, and it’s all good fun, if a bit on the easy side. I don’t say that to be mean to the series, since I know Kirby isn’t known for its difficulty, but some of my favorite Kirby games had really well hidden secrets that took a bit more effort to unearth.
Besides trying out the team mechanics and playing around with elements, there are also new Copy Abilities to enjoy. The three that made the most impact on me were the Spider, Cleaning, and Artist. The Spider has Kirby don a fancy top hat and plays out like a mix of Circus and Ice, with tons of acrobatic feats and tying foes up with webbing. The Artist is a bit gimmicky, with you swinging a brush and bringing doodles of Dedede and Meta Knight to life, and was mostly useful to unlock hidden items from easels. Finally, the Cleaning ability lets the pink puff steal the broom from Broom Hatter. While you were able to do this once before in Kirby’s Dream Land 3, this iteration provides a wider range of attacks, such as hurling water from a bucket, firing your friends from a vacuum cleaner and more. All three abilities offer some really unique attacks, and I am glad they further broadened the wide range of powers at our hero’s disposal.
Another thing Kirby games are known for are surprising boss battles, and Star Allies delivers, mostly. What I mean is, there are plenty of wacky boss fights in the game, some which will put your team management to the test. The only issue I have with them is I often found myself feeling that they were over too soon, and generally I won because of my partners acting on their own. To be fair, the bosses found late game are really challenging, and forced me to revive my allies more than once. Sometimes it was tempting to go through boss fights solo, but that never really happened since inevitably I needed my allies to solve puzzles prior to that. That said, I enjoyed the boss fights, especially one very early on that faked me out with endgame credits. Special shout out goes to the three Generals and their enigmatic leader, who offered some truly memorable battles, as well as the over the top final boss.
As far as how long you’ll be playing the game, that will vary depending on how determined you are. Star Allies is a little bottom heavy: the first two worlds only have a few levels apiece, while the last two have easily double their number, with the fourth world having the most. In total there were 40 odd levels, which was par for the course for Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, and more than Return to Dreamland, which only had 37. It’s not too few levels, but you’ll get through them so fast you’ll be wishing for just a few more. Though you can beat the Story in five to eight hours, true fans know it’s worthwhile to spend more time finding everything (extra levels and gallery pieces) as well as playing all the modes to completion. There’s a lot to do in the game, though I was a bit disappointed this was the first Kirby game where you don’t have to unlock the last portion of the Story mode. That said, there’s a lot to keep you busy, including a handful of modes that really provide the meat of the lasting value.
There are four modes other than the Story mode — two simple mini games and two more lengthy, challenging modes. The mini games are called Chop Champs and Star Slam Heroes, and involve simple timed button presses to be victorious. Chop Champs has a bunch of Kirbies playing lumberjack, while Star Slam has you hitting a home run with meteors. Both are entertaining, but really simplistic. I managed to beat both on every difficulty within 10-20 minutes total. Thankfully, the other two modes are much more compelling. First, every game has an Arena, and Star Allies is no different. Here it’s called The Ultimate Choice, and offers you progressively more challenge, culminating in the diabolical Soul Melter difficulty. There you’ll face all the bosses from the game, as well as some hidden foes and one super boss at the very end. It’s no exaggeration to say I probably spent as long on the final difficulty of The Ultimate Choice as I did the Story, and it was well worth my time, sweat and tears. It was here that I was forced to make use of a Smash Bros. style dodge move, which saved me more often than I can count.
The other main mode is called Guest Star ???? Star Allies Go!, and it lets you play a streamlined campaign with every character (even Dream Friends King Dedede, Meta Knight and Spear Waddle Dee) except Kirby. What that means is you are stuck with the power you choose at the start, though you can recruit new allies to help. Another way this mode mixes things up is with Power-Up Hearts, which either boost your team’s Power, Speed, or max Health. I really liked this mode, as it was composed of a gauntlet of levels and boss fights. Best of all, it’s not littered with tons of food items, and only the Health Power-Up will heal you (or if you have the Chef ally on your team). Lastly, though it’s not a mode, I did rather enjoy the huge assortment of songs in the unlockable Jukebox, with 171 different tracks to listen to.
As far as the aesthetic design, I never have any problems with Kirby games. They are colorful and bursting with personality, and that’s true for Star Allies as well. You will be blasting through levels so fast it’s easy to discount or miss the special care provided to the design, but trust me it’s as good as any other console game in the series. There are lots of nice visual effects, such as the reflection of light on the surface of water, or the blazing red heat coming off a comet. Everything manages to look cutesy without being predictable, and there’s that inner core of hidden horror that every Kirby game seems to carry within. The music, likewise, is full and varied, though I found many tracks did kind of run together in my mind. That said, the boss themes are great, and the sound effects are on point. My only real complaint is that the Jukebox lacks titles for any of the tunes, but that’s nothing I’m deducting points for.
Lastly, I need to spend some time discussing the first batch of DLC that became available on March 28th. Initially I was going to write this review prior to that, but I’m very glad I waited. My opinion of Kirby Star Allies fluctuated a lot as I played through the post game content, and the addition of three new playable characters really helped round things out. This free update added three playable characters — Marx, Gooey, and the trio of Rick, Kine and Coo. Each plays entirely differently, and is bursting with personality. Rick, Kine and Coo alternate between the elements of Fire, Water, Stone, Ice and Wind, and offer some great attacks. Marx is diabolically cute, and has some high flying attacks and nasty tricks, such as kicking balls at foes and creating black holes to suck everything into. Gooey is by far the strangest and trickiest to master, lacking any real sense of momentum while moving, but being able to float, fire lasers, and even mimic some classic Copy Abilities such as turning into a blazing ball of fire or smashing foes as a statue. Best of all, the addition of all three means they are playable in all the modes, meaning you can use them in The Ultimate Choice and even in Guest Star ???? Star Allies Go! The latter is a nice treat, since their inclusion adds more levels to the gauntlets, which makes things that much more interesting. The update even added a new gallery picture for you to piece together. I was quite happy with this DLC, and will be very curious to see if Kirby Star Allies gets any other free goodies.
All in all, I feel Kirby Star Allies was well worth my time. For $59.99, I got around 16-20 hours out of the game and managed to 100% it. It did have some disappointing features, such as lacking a hidden unlockable final world (a mainstay for the series) and no Hard mode for the Story, but it makes up for it with a lot of variety and even more heart. It’s easily better than Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, but I don’t know if I prefer it to the duo of Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot. The 3DS really did a great job of showcasing the potential of the series, though I do feel this is a step in the right direction for the console games. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll definitely get more out of the game, especially if you play it with friends. But even if you play it solo, Kirby Star Allies is a joyful and entertaining romp in the beloved series. Now for me to just cross my fingers and pray for a Kirby RPG next…
Review Copy Purchased by Author
Kirby Star Alliesnintendo switchoprainfallReview