March 15, 2018

Kirby Star Allies - Review

Kirby is one of those characters that has a bit of a following, but has never broken into the mainstream, no matter what games he is in, but does his latest entry allow for that to change?

As with all Kirby games, there is a little bit of a story and what is there is basic, as Kirby is napping, something he does a lot, an unknown figure approaches a giant purple heart, that is encased in a glass shell. But as they begin to chant, the glass shatters and the heart explodes, sending pieces throughout the cosmos, including Dreamland and one of those pieces lands near King Dedede and that is what causes Kirby to take notice, as the Waddle-Dee’s are taking all the food in the kingdom towards the castle. The problem is, that is pretty much all the story you get, until you get towards the end of the second world and even then, its only minor and even by this point there is little explanation about anything that happened thus far. As you progress, you get to learn more about it, but even the big reason is never revealed, it just happens because someone wanted it to happen.

The gameplay is much the same, apart from a few little tutorials, the game just sends you out without much instruction and while Kirby now is still very much what it was back in the original game, there are a few new tricks here, that would have benefitted from some extra tutorials. The big change up to the game is you can now befriend enemies, at least certain enemies, by throwing a large heart at them, basically you throw some kindness their way and they join your gang. With this mechanic being part of the core, the game is best experienced with people for sure, however if you play on your own, the computer will take control of any partners you have. The problem with this is that for the most part, while they will just follow you about, but when there is something their particular talent can interact with, they tend to run right at it, regardless of what is going on. Thankfully, you can stop them from doing that by moving away, but it’s a frustrating thing to happen.

The other core part of the gameplay is the blending of abilities, Kirby can still inhale enemies and shoot them back out, or if they have an ability, can absorb it, giving him that power. Something I leaned by accident, you can even inhale your friends and steal powers that way, which was fun to discover in a boss fight. Once you have an ability, like the Sword or Hammer, you can use that attack and dish out damage, however if you have anyone with you, that happens to have an elemental power, fire, ice, electricity or such, you can imbue your weapon with that power, so your Sword becomes and Ice Sword or your Hammer becomes a Spark Hammer. With the elemental effects, there are two uses for them, the best is the amount of damage that a weapon can do is increased, so taking them into battle is great, the second is perhaps much more interesting. Through out the world, you will discover items that can be interacted with, strings cut and so on, and with the right ability you can cut the rope, but if you happen to come across a chain that is on fire, you need the water or ice element on top of your sword or spear to break through. These moments will usually lead to a secret space, sometimes its just a small collection of stars or puzzle pieces, but occasionally it will lead to a secret switch, which when pressed will open up a hidden stage, the challenge comes from having the right ability at the right stage.

For all the secrets and collectables that are around, the game still feels empty, there are maybe 40 levels in total, counting the secrets ones, but with how the game handles the loading of each stage, the result is a sense of not a lot of content. As you transition between on part of a level to another, you get a loading screen, complete with prompt about something, the problem is the are large and in your face style screens and while each only lasts for maybe 8 seconds, add 4 or 5 per level, then the loading into special rooms, the level itself and back to the map and you can see how they add up. The problem is that each time I got a load screen, I felt disconnected from the experience, because they happen way more in levels than out, it really impacted how I was feeling about the game and given that each playable section is maybe 2 minutes in length before you get another load screen, the result is a game that feels empty as well as short.

One aspect that I really enjoyed was the visuals, the game still looks like Kirby, not counting Epic Yarn of course, Kirby is still as basic as he can be, the other characters, some of which are just as basic still look like their original designs. The newer characters fit the existing design, but have enough of a new twist, so they stand out from the rest, so it’s a testament to the design team on them. The stages are the stock standard sadly, some grass stages, some ice ones, the occasional lava level and while the worlds themselves are interesting, the Jambastion itself especially, they stick pretty close to the formula we know. Sound wise, the music is good, but not something I would want to listen to on its own, this could be due to how its presented, or something else, but nothing really grabbed me.

Kirby Star Allies is a game that you need to play with at least one other person, on your own, it is still fine to play, but you miss out on the joy of the game. Basic character and level design don’t help when playing solo either, though combining all sorts of weapons and elements to create some truly incredible weapons, looking at you Spark Bombs, can’t help but put a smile on your face.

Review copy provided by Nintendo

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