Kirby and the Beanstalk

Someone at Nintendo sure loves Kirby. Ever since the Pink Puffball first debuted back in 1992 on the original Game Boy (he was white back then because of the system’s limited color palette), if we count collections and spin-offs, the most recognizable figure on Popstar has had 23 games starring him come out over the past 22 years. But what’s even more amazing is that people haven’t gotten tired of him. I believe a large part of this is because the Kirby series always finds a way to make the simple characters shine, and the core gameplay mechanics of sucking up enemies and stealing their powers feel fresh and new each time. Kirby: Triple Deluxe, his 3DS debut, is no different.

Triple Deluxe begins with Kirby resting peacefully at his Dream Land home, when all of a sudden a giant beanstalk (appropriately called the Dreamstalk) erupts from the ground, lifting Kirby’s home and Castle Dedede into the night sky. Assuming King Dedede is up to some new mischief, Kirby floats over to the castle. When he arrives, though, he is shocked by the sight of unconscious Waddle Dees scattered about the place and a new foe, a spider named Taranza, carting King Dedede away in a magical web. Putting past transgressions aside, Kirby knows he has to save King Dedede and stop Taranza.

On the surface, Kirby still has his same classic powers of sucking up enemies and copying some of their abilities. To help him quell this new threat, however, he has several new hats to wear as a result of his copying prowess. Archer allows Kirby to fire arrows in a 360-degree arc; Bell gives Kirby the ability to use a pair of bells as blunt objects as well as to stun enemies with soundwaves; Beetle sees Kirby impale and throw enemies around with a special rhinoceros beetle horn; And Circus has Kirby turn into a clown who can throw flaming bowling pins or balance on a ball to roll over enemies with. The new powers are a lot of fun—and very useful in several situations—but they don’t hold a candle to the single most powerful new skill Kirby can acquire: the Hypernova.

By eating a Miracle Seed, Kirby will gleam like a rainbow in Hypernova form, giving him the ability to eat massive objects in one swallow. From mini-bosses to obstacles like fallen trees, nothing is too big for Kirby to gulp down. The Hypernova form allows Kirby to literally change the terrain around him to fit his needs while continuing on his adventure. This new ability is so powerful, though, Kirby can only use it for the rest of the stage he is on and not carry it with him like his other copy abilities.

Along with these new powers, the 3DS affords Kirby some new gameplay mechanics, especially when it comes to puzzle solving. Taking advantage of the system’s gyroscope, you can manually aim rocket launchers and cannons to destroy enemies and blocked pathways, or slide specially marked blocks around to help Kirby get past traps and the like.

The 3D feature is also a huge boon for Triple Deluxe; Not only does the game look great, with bright pigments punctuating each landscape, but also the 3D is subtle enough most of the time as to not be a distraction. Meanwhile, several puzzles take advantage of the depth of field the 3D provides to create hurdles Kirby has never really had to deal with before. So, by utilizing some 3DS hardware features (and not shoving them down our throats to feel “gimmicky”) and combining them with the classic platforming action the Kirby franchise is known for, Triple Deluxe provides a huge variety of unique challenges for Kirby to tackle.

For all the new things that this game added, there are also a lot of nice little nods to Kirby’s history, scratching that nostalgia itch older fans of the series may have. Not only are there 20 old-school copy abilities this time around—like Wheel and Needle—but also a lot of the bosses are takes on some of Kirby’s most iconic foes. From the return of Kracko to Flowery Woods (a larger, more difficult take on Whispy Woods), many of the bosses, and even a couple of the stages, are nothing but direct nods to what’s come before in the series.

If that’s not enough for you, there is also a new “Keychain” system. In the single player game, you can collect keychains that represent special scenes or characters from Kirby’s entire 22-year history in games. They don’t do anything in particular, but they’re nice to have. If you don’t want to spend time searching for them in the campaign, you can also spend 3DS coins (three at a time) to receive a random pick, or trade unneeded keychains with other players via StreetPass (a great way to get rid of any duplicates).

Not everything is perfect in Dream Land, though. The Kirby games have never really been that difficult, and Triple Deluxe is no different. If it takes you more than eight hours to find every collectible (that isn’t a randomized keychain) and beat the story, I’d be shocked. Also, I never liked the resetting of your lives and powers every time you exit the game. I know, this is something that has gone on for a long time in the series, but it still bothers me as it makes star collecting and 1-ups completely pointless—simply by exiting the game, you’ll be back to having seven lives. I get that it’s one way to get around an issue many other Nintendo platformers run into—the stockpiling of lives—but why not make a game that’s a little harder then?

Of course, Triple Deluxe is named that for a reason: the single-player campaign is just one of three included modes. The first added game mode is Dedede’s Drum Dash, a music rhythm game that has you hit the A button in time with the music as you try to maneuver King Dedede across a bunch of giant bongos. Honestly, this was a bit of a throwaway experience, as neither the interface nor the music are all that good.

The second extra game, Kirby Fighters, is far better—and actually might serve as a nice warm-up to the Smash Bros. games coming later this year. Up to four players can battle it out in the arenas inspired by classic Kirby locales, using special attacks to whittle away opponent’s lifebars while trying to maintain their own by eating food. As a twist, you can select from all of the powers from the single-player campaign to customize your Kirby, opening up possible match-ups such as Ninja Kirby vs. Bell Kirby vs. Beam Kirby vs. Leaf Kirby. This mode is so deep, it even has a single-player arcade ladder system, where you can try to see how fast you can make your way through seven different matches.

In the end, Kirby: Triple Deluxe is another fine addition to the long line of stellar handheld games in the series. A couple of outdated practices and a forgettable mini-game were not enough to stop me from feeling immensely satisfied with my experience after polishing off the final boss. New powers and well-executed use of the 3DS’ peripheral features added just a bit of freshness to keep this old formula working well, giving the Pink Puffball yet another successful debut on another Nintendo console.

Developer: HAL Laboratory, Inc. • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 05.02.14
Kirby’s debut on the 3DS could not have been better as new powers and puzzles complement classic Kirby gameplay to provide an experience both fresh and familiar to longtime fans.
The Good Inventive puzzles and new powers complement classic Kirby gameplay.
The Bad The resetting of lives and powers each time you exit the game; Dedede’s Drum Dash mini-game.
The Ugly The fact that the main bad guy is based off a spider, but only has six legs, bothers me a lot.
Kirby Triple Deluxe is a 3DS exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.