Kirby Star Allies is the latest entry in the pink glutton’s franchise, the first on a Nintendo main home console in roughly three years. With Nintendo more than willing to innovate and risk new visions for established franchises on their new hybrid console, lets see if they apply this to Kirby or if they play it safe with the tried and true method this now twenty-six-year-old franchise has utilized in the past.
Release date: March 16th 2018
Approximate Size: 2.8 GB
Genre: 2D Platformer
Developed by HAL Laboratory
Published by Nintendo
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch; Console Exclusive
The story is presented in simple fashion and the plot isn’t overly deep, but I don’t expect that from a Kirby game. The general plot is that a masked figure uses sorcery on a crystal heart, causing corrupt Jamba Heart pieces to be created and scatter across the galaxy. These corrupt hearts begin to descend upon Dream Land and corrupt everyone they touch. The only exception being our hero, Kirby. Instead of succumbing to the corruption, Kirby received the ability to befriend anyone he throws his new ability at, an ability called Friend Heart. At first it seems that the nucleus of the darkness that has befallen the land is located at King Dedede’s castle but over the course of the game, the journey expands larger than anticipated.
Overall, the story is light hearted and presented to give a reason for why you are doing what you are doing. A nice tale of saving your friends, turning your enemies into friends, and bringing peace to the galaxy. Kirby Star Allies has a story, like nearly all aspects of the game, that is simple and easy to follow without much difficulty in interpreting. Yes, scale and scope will grow but the way it is presented doesn’t feel overwhelming and, much to my surprise, it doesn’t come off as underwhelming either. It safely balances between the two to present an easy to follow adventure with some returning characters. I enjoyed what it was but, like the gameplay, I wish something drastic and new was brought into the franchise.
Kirby Star Allies goes back to a more traditional approach to its gameplay but with tweaks and new mechanics. Before beginning a level, the player will choose where to go on the over world map. Over the course of the game it’ll expand to world’s thus attempting to make this adventure seem grand in scope. What this does accomplish is show signs of progression of things getting worse the closer you get to the end but little more than that. Once a level is selected, you are platforming through the levels using classic Kirby gameplay.
This 2D platform progresses how you would imagine, fighting against enemies to reach the end of the stage. The game does have secrets hidden throughout the levels, sometimes requiring a certain power to get them, but the game goes out of its way to make sure those powers are in close proximity. The levels themselves are also used to take advantage of abilities to access other areas. For example, you may need a blade to cut a rope or an element to counteract another. It’s all designed well and fluid and that’s important for a platformer. Never does the world feel like it’s against you but rather it’s all been designed to benefit the player.
Speaking of powers, that’s the biggest addition to the game. Traditional powers return, such as the fire ability and the sword but now you can combine certain powers to create new ones. For example, there is a staff weapon that can be combined with the electrical ability to enable it to fire off shocks of electricity and you can create the Blizzard Sword with the sword ability mixed with ice. Some combinations are expected, some are new takes on classics, and some are new abilities. One of the highlights of these new abilities comes in the form of the Artist skill. At first glance it is a simple brush that can hit an enemy at close range but as you further explore the power, you learn you can do some nifty things with it. Some of things you can do is create a sculpture and slam it on enemy heads or Kirby will paint an image of an in-game enemy and they will run forward a few feet attacking. Players can get really creative on how they choose to attack with not only the abilities mentioned above but with other playable characters.
Besides eating an enemy to get these abilities, Kirby has a new ability in which he can throw a heart at an enemy and get them, and their abilities, to join him in the fight. This allows the player to have more powers and gameplay options at their disposal at all times and takes away the stress of possibly not having as certain ability readily available. On the other side, it can cause players to become dependent on the same abilities and not be more open to experimentation because the tried and truth methods are literally a button away. Some abilities cannot be used back to back and some are used at certain points, changing up the gameplay with some more unique sections. These abilities include: Friend Train, Friend Star, and Friend Circle. Friend Train has your group of four form a train as they run forward and plow through all obstacles and enemies in their path, defying gravity and all. Friend Star, my favorite of the three, has the four jump on a star and turns the game into a shooter as you fire energy at enemies and obstacles alike. Friend Circle acts similar to Friend Train only this time your squad forms a wheel as it heads forward and destroys the map and enemies in its way. Each ability and power serves it’s purpose and they all have a wonderful animation to accompany them for the first time.
The boss fights in this game are standout additions that switch up the formula and show more behind the team’s creativity. It’s no secret I adore boss fights and games that have them, which this game offers in abundance, making the experience more enjoyable to me, especially when executed correctly, which this game does. Some are completely new to the franchise and some are new takes on classics, but each offers its own tactics and gameplay elements. One surprising edition I didn’t expect but had me wanting to try new abilities against, is how elements react to one another. Without going into much spoilers, boss can be frozen or burned if you have the right ability and there are many options left to be discovered on how to more effectively tackle them. Experimentation is encouraged and it’s just a blast to play. Amiibo are also supported but they only offer some healing items or puzzle pieces that are also scattered and hidden throughout the world.
The game offers a lot in terms of unlockables. Some are passive things with nothing but to be viewed, for example art pieces, and some offer more engaging things like game modes.
Competitively, there are two mini games that have players battling each other for the highest score. One such game is Chomp Champ. This mode has players competing against one another in a wood chopping contest utilizing the Joy Con’s motion controls. Motion control performance has come along way from the Wii and though I had my doubts initially attempting it, I had more fun than I could have ever imagined. The other mode was Star Slam Heroes, a mode in which every player tries to hit the ball with a bat the highest to get the highest score. Neither game mode is dense but it’s fun for a couple of minutes or hours to mess around with family.
Another available mode is: Guest Star ???? Star Allies Go! And its purpose is to have the player complete the game as quickly as possible without being able to play as Kirby. It’s an interesting take as you go through these levels again but nothing overly challenging and more could have been done to make it so. For those looking for challenge, there is a mode designed for them. The Ultimate Choice. This is a boss rush mode in which you quickly get to a boss and fight him. Different difficulties have different amounts of bosses and makes them more durable for battle. Completing this mode and the others throughout the game unlocks even harder difficulties and is, in my opinion, the best mode in the game and the one with the most challenge available.
All of the modes available in the game can be played with up to four local players, either on one Switch or utilizing four separate Switch consoles. There is no online whatsoever, and couch co-op was the priority. It seems everything about the game was designed and thought for cooperative play and this makes this game more rewarding for those, and less so for single player gamers. The reason for this is the game’s difficulty, the biggest hindrance to the game.
Kirby Star Allies is a fun game designed for couch co-op. Unlike the latest Zelda and Mario, the formula to the game isn’t changed or redefined and this is most upsetting about the game to me. I expected, since it was done with Nintendo’s biggest franchises, for this game to have a drastic change in how it plays… But it doesn’t.
Another area in which players might find disappointment in this game is the difficulty. Kirby Star Allies is too easy, there is no way around it. The chaos cooperative play adds makes the game somewhat difficult because communication is needed on how to proceed forward. Despite all of this, the game is fun. Returning fans will find enjoyment with the familiar formula and this is who this game is targeted to; long time fans of the franchise or new players who have never experienced trademark Kirby.
I had a great time with the game, I have been with the franchise since the beginning and knowing what I was getting into. The fact the game is easy makes the entire experience more relaxing and with not having a lot of time to play games any more and wanting to play something occasionally without much risk of concern, the game works for me. I still have hope that the next entry in this franchise will be more innovate and not everyone is in the same situation as me. Couch co-op being emphasized and treated well makes this game have an infinite amount of replay value and is a reminder that this type of cooperative play is always a benefit and highlight to a game. The lack of any online multiplayer doesn’t hurt the game or experience, but some players might be disappointment with this omission. But, hey, DLC is free with new characters from the classics.
If there is one thing Kirby absolutely nails, it’s the graphics. Kirby Star Allies is outstandingly gorgeous to look at and it shows that realism isn’t the end all be all for graphical capabilities in gaming. The stages are varied and full of color that pops out and captivates the viewer’s eyes. It truly is a testament to how great Nintendo’s art style is and how capable the Switch is. There are too many times to count where I stopped and took it all in, marveling at how beautiful it was. The team got creative in some areas and each stage offers its own stunning visual flair. The over world also utilizes story elements, as mentioned before, in its graphics. It shows the progression of how much worse things are getting the closer you get to the source of evil. It’s not a new concept but it’s the kind of graphical subtle I can appreciate when implemented correctly.
Character models look fantastic. Classic enemies and characters return but they’ve never looked this good. The amount of detail that has gone through each of them is wonderful and really shows that the developers have put their all into the art of the game. Even Kirby in his simple design shows how detailed he is in a higher resolution and on more capable hardware. The enemies have gotten more love and care than prior entries because now they can be turned into allies. The highlight of the enemies are the bosses who are colorful and intimidating, beautiful and challenging in some cases. This also ties into the effects of the game and they are great. The way the water flows in the game and you use an umbrella to protect yourself and friends from getting wet, that small display of realism and insignificant mechanic is beautiful. Fire balls, electrical charges, ice attacks, they are all crafted with beauty. The three main friend powers that enable you to cause grand scale chaos as you plow through the map, it’s a spectacular visual feat.
I could go on and on about what a visual feast the game is. I saw no performance issues, whether in single player or with friends, and every aspect of the games visuals are as near as perfect as possible. The art style is strong and won’t have a problem aging over time, enemy designs and boss are visually appealing. Look, the game is gorgeous.
The game has great music. You’ll find new musical melodies, remixes of classics, and untouched originals. Each song sounds amazing, great upbeat melody that motivates the player in proceeding forward and never stealing the attention away from the gameplay. I mentioned earlier where I found myself stopping and taking in the wonderful graphics, well the soundtrack added to that experience. Kirby surprised me in this area because I wasn’t expecting anything other than serviceable but I’m glad I was wrong. Musically, Kirby Star Allies does more than use audio to make the experience an enjoyable one. It’s also worth noting that there are some atmospheric elements that enrich it but the music is the highlight. The effects, attacks, and gameplay all offer the satisfying sounds one expects when engaging in combat. Audiophiles will be happy with the product. Like the graphics, I can praise the games sounds without end.
Kirby Star Allies is a gorgeous game to look at with a great soundtrack and some new gameplay elements. The game is a ton of fun to play and the boss fights and powers are a true high point for the game and the franchise as a whole. Where this game will fall flat for many is that the game is, frankly, too easy. Those seeking a challenge will be left disappointed regardless of whatever mode they play. Those who get this game for the reasons I did will have a blast: cooperative gameplay and a nice light adventure to play on the go without worry of difficulty and with the enjoyment of 2D platforming. Playing alone and playing with friends is where this game shines the brightest and Kirby absolute nails it. If you can look past the easy difficulty and take it for what it is, you’ll have a grand time.