The Kirby franchise is one that refuses to die. Since Masahiro Sakurai’s accomplishment in creating the single most anticipated Nintendo game of all time, Super Smash Bros., the Kirby series rose with it. This isn’t to say that the Kirby series is bad, yet it’s clear that after everyone’s reactions to a certain flaming ball of fire that Smash’s hype train is one for the record books. As the first of Sakurai’s brainchildren are brought into the new generation, we see what works, what doesn’t and why some ideas need to be left in the trash. Kirby Super Star Allies arrives on the Switch, met with anticipation and, of course, very few people buying the game.
I’m not sure what it is lately, but ever since Kirby returned to dreamland on the Wii, the game has decisively divided the populace of Kirby fans. There were those who loved Kirby 64, the most outlandish Kirby game of the bunch, there are those who like the GBA games, those who enjoy the three Gameboy games, and everybody else. Yet, after the Wii, every single sequel has followed the same format of style, which has chased some away. This format is, essentially, that Kirby, in his new design, fights a new enemy based on some contrived plot with a new gimmick, such as becoming a dark hole, Gurren Lagann, and multiplayer.
That said, the graphics may be in the same style, yet the Switch shows it nothing but love. These graphics range from insanely flashy to cute and cuddly, essentially everything that you would expect from our cute crusader. The map not only looks great, but allows for interactivity, the implementation of secret stages forcing you to explore every nook and cranny — with guidance. The music is always top-notch, and combat/gameplay is just as great as you remember. In fact, it’s better, not only have new moves been added, but the theme of the game dictates that this game is the most accessible for 4 players to play on simultaneously! Innovation, you’re always right on time, aren’t you?
Due to the plot, you can either eat enemies or, if they have a special ability, turn them into allies that aid you in combat! These can be changed at any time, yet they can also be mixed! Mid-battle, you can either mix your abilities for a single, effective attack, or to permanently upgrade an ability (mostly weapons) with elemental properties! This incorporates not only Return to Dreamland’s super ability mechanic, but also Squeak Squads ability combination mechanic with the fire, thunder, and ice alternatives. You can also form a big happy wheel of friendship to obliterate enemies to replace the robot montage sections of Kirby Planet Robobot.
Puzzles, secrets and physical puzzle pieces galore keep you engaged in each level as you obliterate every enemy. If you are playing alone, your allies will operate on their own, and while they will end up taking damage and have a hard time dodging, their health bars are so huge and they deal with enemies so well that this doesn’t matter all that much. The game is easy, covered in checkpoints, and filled with extra lives. It gets boring, to be quite honest, but when the second half of the game arrives and the difficulty increases, you feel just as happy as you are annoyed, as repeat bosses make you think “why weren’t you here earlier? We literally just fought and this is just taking up time.” I’m trying my best not to spoil, but there’s a fair amount of repetition involved in this difficulty increase.
Now, as you could probably already tell, bosses are where things begin to get rough. You fight Whispy Woods. Check. Dedede’s fight has him become a muscular bear. Aroused but check. Meta Knight splits into four and you can’t find where your character is. Check? Where is my character? I understand the same man who created 8-player smash also made this game but I would really enjoy the ability to see my character. End this storyline with three elemental ladies and a crazy ghost man and that’s the whole game. The elemental ladies are clearly there just to drive the plot and make you think, “Hey, I infused my items with those same elements! Okay… Cool.”
You’re at the final battle and BAM! It’s a shooter. In the final seconds of the game, you are introduced to a completely new game style. Not only is this unfair, as this means you cannot prepare for this battle with skill or experience, but if you’re playing the entire game with friends, this leaves three people with nothing to do but watch until you’re done with the obligatory minigame — I mean final battle from left field — I mean final battle. It’s not interesting, it’s not intense, and it’s barely fun. Not to mention uninspired.
Void Termina is literally just Majora’s Mask, check out the Titans and masks from that game as well as the shape of Majora’s Mask and you’ll get what I mean. Hyness also makes reference to this by being twitchy and generally erratic/disturbed, following the themes of that Legend of Zelda game. “Hey kids, remember the big baddie freaking out and spouting 18 auto-skipping text boxes before transforming into a nightmare?” Yes, Kirby, we all remember Skull Kid, please move on. These are not imaginative creations, and the fact that the boss’s core is just another Dark Matter doesn’t help the, well, matter. The ending has Kirby literally shooting a Kamehameha in a scene reminiscent of Goku vs Vegeta in Dragonball Z, complete with Kirby ending the quick-time event with a “HAAA!!” reminiscent of the anime. That’s great and all, yet if every subsequent Kirby game has an anime reference, I could just, you know, watch anime and not spend $60 on this video game. Just like I could go ahead and play Majora’s Mask, but, guess what, I wanted to play a Kirby game. My mistake, I guess.
The main story isn’t all this game has to offer, and thank god for that. Multiplayer minigames are quality, meteorite baseball along with a bizarre lumberjack minigame are as fun as an average WarioWare game. That said, they don’t hold the attention of you and your friends for long. On the single-player side, completing the game offers you a mode where you play as one of your minions and speedrun the entire game, an event that’s usually Meta Knight’s thing. What this mode introduces is a lack of healing items, harder bosses (THANK JESUS), and the introduction of temporary stat boosters. Considering a regular playtime session will give you 150 lives on average with checkpoints up the wazoo, this is a welcome challenge, and this mode seamlessly links all of the game’s levels together in a one-hour montage that makes you remember why you liked Kirby games in the first place.
At the end of this mode, however, you are rewarded for your efforts by fighting Morpho Knight, a powered up version of Galacta Knight making his first appearance in this game. This seems crazy cool until you realize he’s just the first ever concept art released for Meta Knight, as most Project M players will know. In fact, if you look at old Nintendo Power issues, this game has actually been postponed and scrapped over and over again — initially thought to be released on the Gamecube. Yeah, can you believe it? From elemental Kirby 64 powers to concepts explored exactly one year ago, the entire game is just a mish-mosh of old ideas thrown together in the hope of creating something new. I hate to say it but, guess what, giving Dedede pecs is nothing new. Believe me, I’ve been on Deviantart before. It’s not pretty.
Overall, Kirby Super Allies is an idea that has been in the over since the release of Kirby Air Ride — and it shows. Nothing is truly that interesting unless you’ve never played a Kirby game, and even then it’s not the best example of a Kirby game. It’s not a failure, it’s not even bad. It’s just short and dull, the one thing that Kirby games can’t afford to be. As Nintendo forgets what it means to create fun games, we can only wish that the next Kirby game picks up where this one left off. Just wait another year, I’m sure the next Smash Bros. won’t postpone it.