Game Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch)

Game Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch)

The Kirby series has been going strong for 25-plus years. Over 20 titles. Over 30 million units sold. It’s been a bonafide staple of the Nintendo library since Kirby’s Dream Land graced the Game Boy in the Summer of 1992. In the last few years, however, the franchise has moved away from a traditional 2D platformer and gotten more gimmicky. Robots, yarn, drawing on canvas. Lots of interesting ideas. Nothing that really stuck with me though.

Kirby Star Allies for the Nintendo Switch happens to be a perfect blend of the old platforming you’ve come to expect from the franchise and a tiny gimmick that encourages a multiplayer experience. Yes, you can still thoroughly enjoy a single player experience but HAL Laboratory created this game with your real-life friends in mind.

Welcome to the World of Peace. Dream Land. I was hanging out near the Dream Palace, trying to get King Dedede to join my stable of awesomeness. He declined. I got stuck with Bandana Waddle Dee instead. The map is easy to navigate and there are a few stars hidden throughout for you to find. This “game board” look should feel familiar if you’ve played a Mario, Yoshi or Kirby game in the past decade.

Before we get to that part of the game, lets talk about the plot a little. Far away from Kirby’s home, on the planet known as Jambastion, there’s a dark crystal heart that explodes as a result of a weird ritual. Fragments, called Jamba Hearts, are sent hurling into space and some characters you might know like King Dedede and Meta Knight become possessed after investigating these Jamba Hearts. Kirby gets hit with one of these hearts as well but your favorite pink puffball perseveres and is now able to befriend his enemies by throws hearts at them. You know, because “reasons.” From there, tons of Waddle Dees find themselves bringing food to Castle Dedede and Kirby goes in to investigate. A battle ensues. Kirby defeats Meta Knight and King Dedede, frees them from the Jamba Hearts’ spell and then a large fortress land on Planet Popstar.

I already had a Sword ability. A friend wanted to light my sword on fire. Sizzle Sword time! Maybe my ally serves the Lord of Light! Thank goodness this isn’t a Game of Thrones-themed Kirby title. Cersei Lannister would end up being the one boss Kirby couldn’t beat.

The adventuring takes off from there.

Lets get back to the “friends” part of the equation for a second. In Kirby Star Allies, there are a total of 24 enemies you can turn into allies (everything from Blade Knight to Waddle Doo) and a total of 28 Copy Abilities. Each of these friends has a unique power that will enable you to complete certain tasks or combine abilities together for Friend Abilities. There are also Dream Friends – new to the Kirby series – that act as special friends and foes from past Kirby entries. These allies can be recruited only by using the Dream Rod in the Dream Palace. When the Dream Rod gets used, a roulette pops up and whichever Dream Friend the roulette stops on is the one that Kirby gets to have on his squad. It’s a pretty cool twist on the already new “Allies” spin. One minute you are fighting with King Dedede, the next minute he’s on your team, smashing baddies to bits. It works really well.

Between levels and loading screens, Kirby Star Allies teaches you how to play the game. It also spits life wisdom at you. Press L + Y to select a friend to say “peace out” to. You then no longer follow them on Facebook or Twitter! Hooray! Thanks Kirby.

I should say, in the interest of transparency, that I’ve only played this game by myself. I can imagine the experience on a large TV, with friends, would be really special. The ultimate Kirby party game. Get a group of friends together, throw back a few drinks and join forces to complete the levels and progress through the game. It sounds like a blast and probably was exactly what this title was intended for. There’s been some rumor and chatter that Kirby Star Allies bears a striking resemblance to an unreleased/canceled Kirby title for the Gamecube that was shown at E3 in 2005. It’s possible that KSA draws much influence from one of the fabled “Three Lost Kirby Games” and if that’s the case, longtime Kirby fans will not be disappointed with the end result.

I’m shamelessly showing you the only time I reached the top level of clouds after beating a level. All of my friends made it out alive and I timed my jump just right. Once. In 100 times. I need to work on that.

The music in the game is, as always, very Kirby-like. Peppy, fun, nostalgic. Everything you’ve come to expect. There are mid-bosses and level bosses scattered throughout, the end of the levels have your traditional Kirby springboard that gets you more stars and points the higher you jump and the level design is top notch with different environments adding a distinctly unique feel. Your goal of collecting puzzle pieces to complete puzzle pictures never gets too stale because of this quality level design. You find yourself replaying levels because you need to AND because they are quite charming.

The best mini-game – Chop Champs. 25 seconds to cut as much wood as you can. Avoid the bugs on the side of the tree. I think Blue Kirby beat me. He looks like a little cheater though, doesn’t he?

Also – there’s two welcome mini-games you can access from the title screen. “Chop Champs” lets you compete with three CPUs (or three friends) to chop down trees as fast as you can. The trees are lined with dangerous bugs and you’ve got to chop on the correct side. Whoever chops the most tree in the time given wins. It’s simple but really fun. The other mini-game, “Star Slam Heroes,” is a little less fun. It’s a sci-fi play on the Home Run Derby. You fill your meter when it reaches the top, get ready to hit an asteroid and see who hits theirs the furthest. This mini-game is just okay. It doesn’t have the staying power of Chop Champs but they are both nice changes of pace from the main story if you find yourself needing a break.

The last two tertiary things I’ll mention are the amiibo support and DLC. While playing Story Mode, you can scan a Kirby-related amiibo and receive two Point Stars, an item and two Picture Pieces. Scan a non-Kirby amiibo to get two Point Stars, an item and one Picture Piece. You can only scan up to seven different amiibos per stage. Nothing major but still worth noting.

As far as I’m concerned, these levels are gorgeous to look at. Great colors. Notice how all the info is on the screen for you. Drop ability, make friend. It’s all there. Even useless Parasol Waddle Dee.

As far as DLC goes, Update 2.0 on March 28 brought a decent amount of content to the game. There’s now a new celebration puzzle picture, free DLC characters to recruit, visual tweaks and more. I have no idea if Nintendo plans to bring more updates to the game but I wasn’t expecting any when I bought the game and new content is just really cool to see. Cross your fingers for more fun additions in the future.

If I had one major gripe with Kirby Star Allies, it’s the difficulty. Kirby games are notoriously relaxing and easy. This one, however, takes the cake. Bosses just don’t feel like bosses. In the past, Kirby would be competing solo (or with a gimmick) to help him get past a boss or mid-boss. Now, either in single player or multiplayer, he gets three additional friends to aid him in the battle. Is it pretty cool to see your gang of ruffians pour it on an overwhelmed boss? You bet. Is it a little unfair? Absolutely. While I can see boss fights being a charming multiplayer experience with friends, in single player, I just found myself feeling a little guilty. The bad guys in Kirby Star Allies never really stand a chance.

The Good:

So many characters to play as and with
Fun, engaging multiplayer opportunities
Traditional charming Kirby style

The Bad:

A little ridiculously easy
The whole “collect puzzle pieces” thing feels played out

Final Thoughts:

Kirby Star Allies is my favorite entry into the Kirby series since Kirby’s Dream Collection hit the Wii in 2012 and is the best standalone Kirby title I’ve played in quite a while. It does a lot of things really well and rewards players for having friends they can adventure with. The endless amount of abilities to copy is enjoyable and silly, the levels bring you a sophisticated 2.5D look and feel and, for me, the game never stops being fun. I honestly wish I had people to play it with. Big TV. Switch Pro Controllers. Tacos and tequila. A night of butt-kicking Kirby debauchery. Released on March 16, this is the Kirby party game you’ve been waiting for and didn’t know you needed. And if this is the glorious end result of the Gamecube game shown at E3 some 13 years ago, HAL Laboratory and Nintendo can pat themselves on the back. Job well done.

Soup Verdict:

A big ole’ bowl of Chicken & Stars. Silly, fun and you can eat it with your three best friends.

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