Kirby Star Allies Review
Like Mario and Zelda, Kirby is another of the Nintendo franchises that has refused to quit over the past 25 years, and for good reason: despite the ‘easy’ nature of these games, they continue to appeal to the broader Nintendo fan base, taking the world of platform video games and delivering it to a wider, more accessible audience. Like the Kirby games before it, Star Allies continues the trend of mixing easy gameplay with charming visuals and audio. Does the package work when stuck together? Despite the easy nature of the experience, we think so!
Kirby is built on charm, and without the charm, the visuals, and the outstanding audio tracks, Kirby probably falls flat. On a different platform, in fact, I think Kirby falls flat. But in the safe confines of the Nintendo family, Kirby flourishes, and is loved by millions around the globe. Even when compared to Super Mario titles, the verdict still stands: Kirby is the most accessible platforming title available today, and will likely continue to be so for years to come.
Charming Visuals, Characters, and Story
The one thing that every Kirby game has going for it is the charming cast of characters that comes along for each ride. In Kirby Star Allies, that cast has been greatly expanded to include a number of cute, effective allies who will ultimately make your journey through the game easier, if you can manage to coordinate them correctly. Visually, nothing is lacking in Kirby Star Allies, from the character models to the backgrounds, to the foreground environments. Everything looks great, and more importantly, everything runs great, with no frame rate stutters or pop-in. From a technical standpoint, Kirby is classic Nintendo development, and the care and dedication of the developers is very evident.
Charming visuals won’t be enough to lure in everyone, however, and Kirby extends the work done on the visuals to the overall story telling. The world has been overcome with an evil essence, and Kirby and his allies will travel across 4 worlds and 40 levels – although not evenly dispersed to each world – dispelling this evil. Once friendly companions of Kirby have become evil, and it’s up to Kirby to save them. With over 25 abilities for Kirby to take on, and roughly 30 friend combos, how you choose to play the game can be wildly different during every play through. Although older Nintendo fans aren’t likely to cruise through this came more than once, younger fans will, and each experience can be enjoyably different.
The main gameplay ‘gimick’ behind Kirby Star Allies is the ability to trailer three friends behind you as you play through each level and world. These friends can be obtained by throwing hearts at them when in levels. If you have less than three friends, they will automatically be added to your party. If you have more than three friends, you’ll be required to boot someone else to make room. Playing through Kirby Star Allies with a gaggle of people behind you makes the game much easier, and although you can complete 90% of the game solo, there are times when having 4 characters in your party is a necessity, primarily when engaging in Friend Actions – when all the party comes together to form one ‘thing’, such as a Friend Train, Friend Star, and the like. These moments are few and far between – which keeps them interesting and fresh – but do require a full team to perform.
Another important mechanic in Kirby Star Allies is the ability to mix and match different friend abilities. Want a yo-yo that’s on fire? Or a sword that instantly freezes whatever it touches? Combining abilities in Kirby Star Allies is a simple task. If you have an item as a weapon – the yo-yo, sword, or whatever – simply pressing up on the gamepad will stop your character and have him raise his weapon high into the air. Then, teammates with elemental abilities can ’empower’ that weapon with their element. That leaves you with water swords, and fire yo-yo’s, all with unique names you likely won’t ever remember.
Thankfully, Kirby Star Allies is full of in-level puzzles that will require you to use these elemental combinations. For example, early on you will encounter a bomb fuse that can only be lit by something with a long reach, say a yo-yo. Other times, you’ll need a frozen object to smash through walls. It works well, which is what adds to the charm and overall game play experience.
Kirby titles throughout the years have been plagued by being too similar to one another, but in recent years that trend has changed. Kirby Star Allies is just the latest development in this trend to make each Kirby game unique and different. Sure the main platforming elements are much the same – Kirby can still float forever for example – but it’s the subtle differences, when used well, that make all the difference. And in this title, they are used well.
The key to a good multiplayer game on a Nintendo platform in recent years has been the ability to drop in and drop out of cooperative experiences. For myself, it allowed me to jump into my sons game quickly if he was having a problem, helping him out, and getting him moved along. But it’s also great for when I’m playing alone, and for whatever reason, my son wants to join in. Having a second, third, or 4th player is rarely disrupting, especially if everyone is on the same page.
Thanks to a wide scheme of control options, anyone can play! Whether you choose to use 3rd party wired controllers, pro controllers, or of course, up to 4 Joy-Cons, it’s not hard to get enough for everyone in the room. Playing with friends has always been fun, and has never been easier. That being said, if you are having problems in an area because of 2 or more controlled characters, players can always drop out, and hop right back in when you clear the section.
Initial Challenge Lacking, More in the Post Game
Getting through the 40 levels in Kirby Star Allies won’t take much time. Even my 8 year old son was able to beat the game in 6-8 hours, with little-to-no help from me what-so-ever. Even when I attempted to play the game alone – as often as I possibly could (you can dismiss allies at anytime) – I was still able to breeze through all the levels, only ever dying when making a stupid mistake as opposed to utilizing an incorrect strategy. In the post game, however, that definitely changed.
There are a handful of fun mini games that can be accessed in the post game, but also a much more challenging mode where you will take on the games bosses, but with ramped up difficulty. It’s fun to play through once, but like everything else in Kirby Star Allies for adults, it’s going to be a one-time experience. Doing the Boss-Rush mode called Ultimate Choice provides some challenge, as well as the Guest Star ??? Star Allies Go! that has you playing through timed stages, is the most fun I had with Kirby Star Allies, personally.
As we stated earlier, this is likely a one time play for older gamers, as there isn’t much incentive to go back and play again unless you want to snag all the puzzle pieces to complete the puzzles, including the special piece – one per level. But for younger players, there is a fair amount of content here that will be played again and again. Once the main story is complete, kids will have a great time playing Star Slam Heroes – essentially a baseball mini game where you see how far you can hit a meteor – and Chop Champs, were players compete to chop the most wood in 30 seconds. If my home is any indication, Kirby will be getting a lot of screen time across the world when it launches this Friday, at retail and in the Nintendo eShop!