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Kirby Star Allies review

Kirby’s mainline games have always been good. While the series peaked at Super Star on the SNES, subsequent games were still solid, and still brought new ideas forward so, despite not being as good as Super Star, still gave us really good experiences.

Kirby Star Allies is the latest one, and it’s one I avoided information for as much as possible before release, outside of the reveal trailer I didn’t really pay attention to it. I knew it was a 4-player game, or at least let you get up to 3 followers at once if you played alone. It sounded interesting, but the few small clips I got a glimpse at made it look kinda weird to me.

Let’s go!

Developer: HAL Labs
Publisher: Nintendo
Date of Release: March 16th 2018
Platform: Switch
Genre: Side-scrolling Platformer

Rated E10+ for Everyone over 10

Presentation

This is definitely the best-looking Kirby game at a technical level (though Kirby’s model is a bit lower-poly than I expected, from close-up there’s some visible jaggies). It kinda goes without saying. It takes on a semi-realistic style, but with areas and characters that are way cartoony, and it really works. It’s as colorful and fun to look at as Kirby’s ever been. There’s not really much to say about Kirby that hasn’t been said a million times visually. It looks very good, and the camera is far enough for the gameplay if you ask me, so even when it gets a bit busy you still get a decent view of things.

On the sound side, it’s all the standard always-reused Kirby sounds. Lots of the music is also re-used from older games, with a handful of new tunes. The new stuff (or at least I think it’s new) is really nice.

The story is… basically nothing. Some dark heart-shaped things are falling around dreamland and corrupting things, Kirby is sleeping while the chaos is happening because of course he is, he wakes up and saves the world from a group of mages who want to revive their dark lord with those dark heart things. Really nothing to write home about.

I mean, what is there to say about the presentation in Kirby? It’s always good.

Gameplay

The core gameplay is basically what you know about Kirby already. Jump/fly around, inhale enemies, transfer the enemies into energy to use their souls as different powers, fight shit.

In this game, much like in some of the previous games, Kirby can also convert the powers into allies that will (barely) help him fight. Here he can throw hearts at enemies with powers and make them into allies right away. And the new thing this game, you can hold Up on the d-pad or joystick to get allies to use their powers on you to new effects. If you have a weapon-type power (cutter, sword, hammer, yo-yo, staff) you can get elemental effects added to them, if you have an elemental power (fire, ice, water, bird, plasma) you can use super special attacks with the help of other elements, and there’s more physical-fighting powers (broom (which also counts as elemental), throw, fighter) you can grab allies and throw them at shit because why not. Rock can be combined with some elements to turn Kirby into a curling stone. Some powers have new things they can do too, like parasol being able to make one big useless parasol to stop water… Okay (ice works too so eh).

So the big thing here is that, unlike other Kirby games, you can get up to 3 allies rather than the usual 1. This means you just have a bunch of stupid idiots following you around not really doing much of note. In boss battles they’re very useful… too useful. Useful to the point of annoyance because you can legit beat most bosses without any real effort. The 4 character party will occasionally have moments where you need them to team up (4 switches or 4 cannons), but this could be done with just one… And there’s these platforms that give you a friend form of sorts. The train is only in one level I think, it moves you automatically and lets you climb walls. The rolling thing is in a few levels, it’s like the train. The bridge is… a bridge. You get to basically build a path for an NPC to walk on (and you can move the bridge to solve some puzzles). Last one is a warp star thing that lets you shoot projectiles, you can switch between the “leader” of that ship to shoot different kinds of projectiles, there’s not really much to these sections. Oh, and if an ally dies you can revive them at half health, so you’re rarely in any danger of losing a life unless you fall in a hole (which is pretty much impossible) or you keep taking hits yourself.

Outside of the 4-player aspect, the game is basically like every post-Super Star Kirby game. You get powers, use them to fight, and have fairly large movesets (moreso with the added friend moves on some of them). Its biggest problem is the massive lack of content. I thought I was halfway through the game in the fourth world, even if the world I was in was pretty large and interesting (it was built like Milky Way Wishes in Super Star, including some of the level ideas) I figured there were 2-3 more left… but then I fought the boss of the world, and suddenly I was fighting the final boss… wait what? Yeah so there’s only 4 worlds in this game. The second 2 are a little bit bigger than the first 2, mostly due to the over-abundance of repeat bosses in the last world. There’s a bit of post-game content, but not really as much as I’d wish (considering I’m 2 pickups away from getting everything).

As for the multiplayer, which I did play literally half the game with someone else (I didn’t think we had played that much considering I was expecting more than 4 worlds)… it felt exactly like playing it alone. There’s too many characters on screen at a time to really know what kind of impact a second player is having, if any. That’s why it should’ve kept it to one ally, not 3.

Yo-yo with fire is the best power for boss battles btw, that vertical spinning attack that shoots fireballs melts them.

Overall

This might be the weakest Kirby in a good while. Robobot and Triple Deluxe were definitely better games. My “distaste” here comes largely from the fact that the new gimmick (the 3 allies) is not particularly interesting or fun. There’s not much to it, 3 dudes follow you and help you out if they feel like it, and you get a few new special attacks and power-ups… eh. The 4-character special moves are just… boring. I’m sure they could do the rolling thing without 4 characters (bowling ball?), the train thing without 4 characters (a train monster?), the flying thing without 4 characters (a warp star, or that fighter ship from Super Star) and… just no friend bridge, fuck the friend bridge. Kirby Star Allies is still a solid game, no doubt about it, but it’s the least excited I’ve been about a mainline Kirby… ever. Also it’s shorter than I was expecting, and I almost 100%’d it on my first go through.

Honestly the game would’ve been largely unchanged, maybe even better, if they kept the regular 1 ally thing. I like the variety that having several allies enables/forces, but at the same time… it’s not terribly interesting. A lot of it boils down to “here’s 4 thingies, hope your CPU-controlled allies do what they should”, and it’s not really any more meaningful than lighting up fuses going into cannons in the other games. Needing specific elements and weapon types at kinda random times makes it impossible to always have what you need without them straight up providing it to you… which they frequently will, usually in the same rooms.

I may sound negative about this game, but let’s not go too crazy here. It’s still Kirby so it’s still solid. It’s fun to play and there’s a bit of extra stuff to do here once you’re done with the game… 100% all the levels, true arena, 2 minigames, a mode where you play only as allies… which doesn’t lengthen it much. But it’s also by far the easiest game in the series (you can totally beat most bosses without attacking them yourself), and it does nothing to add to the core gameplay of the series, all it has is a lazy gimmick that could easily be replaced with things other entries in the series have.

I was expecting more from Kirby, but it’s still a good game. Maybe just get it when it’s on sale. It’s pretty sad for the first Switch entry in a series like Kirby to be so weak. In a series that is as consistently strong as Kirby is, this is the first one I can say for sure doesn’t live up to the rest of the series.

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