Tag Archive: HAL Laboratory


It’s hard to go wrong with a Kirby game. Everyone’s favorite little pink puffball is as consistent as any of the other major Nintendo characters, and just like Mario or Link, Kirby keeps finding new ways to breathe life into old tricks. This holds true once more in his first adventure on the Switch, Kirby Star Allies, which puts a new spin on some classic gimmicks that make this latest adventure one of Kirby’s best.

Kirby Star Allies kicks off like many of Kirby’s adventures, with him lazily sleeping under a tree in Dream Land. Unbeknownst to him, there are dark forces at work as a black, heart-shaped rock is destroyed, sending fragments of itself across the land. When these pebbles become embedded in familiar Kirby foes, their malice grows. Luckily for Kirby, a pure pink heart from the same rock has found its way to him, giving him not only the ability to battle the black hearts but also a few new tricks as well.

The biggest mechanic that Kirby Star Allies revolves around is using this pink heart power to convert enemies old and new to our hero’s cause. While Kirby turning enemies into friends has been around since the Kirby Super Star days, the fact that he can now have up to three friends in tow—and control any of them directly by riding piggyback on them—gives Kirby a bevy of new options at any given moment. It’s a rotation of abilities that he’s never really had before, and this opens up a variety of new gameplay elements and puzzles that help keep Star Allies feeling fresh across the entire experience.

Having all these frenemies alongside Kirby also allows Star Allies to introduce 4-player local co-op to the series. It’s not quite as hectic or as competitive as, say, when it was introduced back in New Super Mario Bros. Wii for that franchise, but it can still cause some fun chaos on screen as four characters bounce around in different directions. However, Kirby is still top banana, so whenever he starts moving, the other players will warp to him. Kirby can also change his friends at any time with a fickle flick of another pink heart for whatever may suit his puzzle-solving needs at the moment.

The other advantage to having a variety of friends in your entourage is that the Mix ability also returns in Star Allies. This allows Kirby—or even some of the other friends—to have new elemental abilities added to their weapons, unlocking special moves that can open up new areas of stages. For example, if Kirby has a Chilly or Burning Leo in his party after absorbing the ability of a Sir Kibble, he can get the apropos abilities of Ice or Fire Cutter respectively. If Kirby also has a Rocky in his group with that Chilly, though, he can have them work together to create a Curling ability that smashes through weak walls and flattens lesser enemies. And, with brand new powers added to the Kirby-verse like Staff and Spider on top of all the classics you’d expect, the possibilities are near endless.

If regular enemies aren’t doing it for you in Star Allies, Kirby can also unlock something called a Dream Palace in each world by finding branching paths in select levels. In each Dream Palace, Kirby can spin a wheel, and wherever it lands, Kirby will get a special ally. There are plans for some very special characters to come via free DLC post-launch, but I was able to mess around with the three Kirby icons included in the game at launch to receive Bandana Dee, King Dedede, and Meta Knight, who of course wield spear, hammer, and sword abilities respectively. While filling your party with these characters could limit your elemental options, having one or two fighting alongside Kirby at a time is a nice little nod to Kirby’s past—and it’s just fun seeing them in action here.

What might be the most impressive thing about your friendly characters in Star Allies is how easy it is to control the entire party even when just playing single player. Calling on allies to mix their powers is a cinch, and the AI-controlled characters will take it upon themselves to attack enemies or assist Kirby with puzzles that require all four characters to be working in unison in a way that feels natural and never frustrating. I was afraid that I might have to end up babysitting Kirby’s AI allies when I wasn’t playing with friends, but that was never the case. My teammates always more than held their own while never overstepping their bounds to where it felt like the game was solving puzzles or beating enemies for me. It’s a precarious balance to get right, and Star Allies does it well.

Having three friends alongside Kirby also unlocks a brand new mechanic in Star Allies when you come across special Friend Action pads. These pads provide a fun change of pace in the action, allowing your party to transform into a variety of shapes that can be used to solve puzzles. For example, maybe you’ll become a Friend Bridge to help guide Key Dees across gaps to open doors, or instead utilize the Friend Train, where Kirby throws on a conductor’s hat and you run roughshod over everything in your path.

All of these mechanics come together to really deliver one of the more complete Kirby packages. Sure, there’s not much to the story, but there rarely is. Star Allies even liberally borrows a lot of elements from past Kirby games in terms of stages and enemies, making it feel like a walk down memory lane as much as a brand new adventure at times. It’s also a bit shorter than we’re used to, not to mention a bit simple—I finished the game with more than 100 lives in the bank. Still, Star Allies excels in its gameplay, which doesn’t let up for a second and continues to deliver new mechanics right on up until the final credits roll.

The only real knock against Kirby Star Allies I have is that if you should turn the game off, whatever friends you have with you will be lost. You won’t lose your lives or anything like that, but if you’re like me, it’ll break you out of the habit of completely powering down your Switch when you’re done playing, and instead leave everything in sleep mode. So, it’s really not that big a deal in the end anyway.

And even when the credits do roll, the adventure is far from over. Like a lot of other Kirby games over the years, there are smaller game modes outside the main story that add a little extra pop to this platformer which are just as fun in 4-player co-op. Chop Champs is a wood-chopping mini-game that can be played with motion controls if you so choose to, you guessed it, chop wood faster than the other Kirbys while avoiding enemies hanging in the trees. Star Slam Heroes is a home run derby-style timing mini-game, while Ultimate Choice is a boss rush that you can choose the difficulty for before tackling it. And, finally, there’s Guest Star, where you play the main game over with different power-ups, racing against the clock, and without Kirby, putting one of the many enemies you absorb over the course of the story into the leading role.

Kirby Star Allies delivers exactly what you expect from a new Kirby game. There’s some fun puzzle solving and platforming, a collection of cute new characters to push the story along, and a new twist on some old mechanics to make everything feel fresh. It’s probably one of the more complete Kirby games I’ve played in a long time, and the addition of 4-player local co-op adds a whole new layer of fun with friends. If you’ve been a fan of the pink puffball for as long as I have, then it should be an easy decision to add this to your Switch library.

Publisher: Nintendo • Developer: HAL Laboratory • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 03.16.18
9.0
Kirby Star Allies hits all the perfect nostalgia notes you expect from a full-blown Kirby adventure, and adds just enough new twists to make something so familiar at this point feel fresh and fun again. The pink puffball has never played so well (particularly with others) before.
The Good Gameplay stays fresh, as there always seems to be a surprise for Kirby and friends around every corner.
The Bad A little short, a little simple, and you lose all your buddies if you shut the game off.
The Ugly King Dedede ‘roided out on that dark-heart magic.
Kirby Star Allies is a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
Advertisements

KirbyPlanetRobobotHeader640

Mech-Star Warrior

Whenever I think that HAL Laboratory and Nintendo are going to run out of fun gimmicks to wrap Kirby up in, they find a way to keep surprising me. Whether it’s as a pinball, a yarn creature, or riding a rainbow-painted path, part of the series’ charm has been how the gameplay always seems to be morphing into something fresh—much like Kirby himself when he copies an enemy’s ability—while still sticking to the pink puffball’s action-platforming core. The duo seem to have done it once again with Kirby’s latest outing for the 3DS, Kirby: Planet Robobot.

It’s another peaceful day on the planet Pop Star, with Kirby resting under a tree, King Dedede playing chess against a Waddle Dee, and Meta Knight patrolling the skies in the Halberd. The serenity of this scene is quickly shattered, however, when a mysterious UFO lands on the planet and begins terraforming Pop Star, transforming its inhabitants into mechanical monstrosities. Kirby immediately springs into action in order to get to the bottom of the appearance of these strange aliens and turn Pop Star back into the nature-loving home he knows.

At its core, Planet Robobot is much like any other mainline title in the series. Kirby must fight his way through a half-dozen levels, each broken into a handful of stages, and copy the abilities of the foes he comes across in order to solve puzzles, collect items, and bring the pain to the bosses he’ll face along the way. Along with that, there are several new elements that help Robobot stand out from its predecessors, and that add a lot to the game’s enjoyability.

UFO1160

Any fan that has played Kirby games before will immediately pick up on the first of these changes, which is a brand new aesthetic. The terraforming plot point means exploring locations Kirby has never dealt with before, such as casinos, roadways, trains, pipeworks, and more. These also provide Robobot with an interesting contrast in its design, with the colorful, cartoony vibe we usually get from the series crossing with an urban, mechanized motif. Even old-school bosses take advantage of the theme, with the cyborg-like Clanky Woods serving as the hardest version of Whispy Woods we’ve seen yet.

The other major changes come on the gameplay side. Planet Robobot features four new powers for Kirby to wield: Jet, Poison, ESP, and Doctor. You can roast enemies in Jet’s afterburners, throw psychic energy around a room with ESP, bounce pill projectiles at enemies with Doctor, or surf on sludge with Poison to get through a level quicker. While each power has its moments in the game, I found ESP to be the most useful of the four—both because of its offensive strength against enemies, and its ability to help with puzzles by sending projectiles through walls to hit previously-inaccessible switches.

As nice as the new powers are, the biggest gameplay change, though, comes from the fact that Kirby now can pilot his own personal mechanized robot, which he acquires early in the game and utilizes on various stages. The mech not only affords Kirby super-strength that he can use to move large set pieces around each level (opening up new puzzle and platforming opportunities), but also allows for duplicating enemy abilities much like Kirby himself. Copying the flame ability, for instance, turns the mech’s arms into a pair of flamethrowers—great for lighting cannon fuses that can open up previously-inaccessible areas or toasting enemies.

DededeClone1160

In some cases, the mech does more than just amplify Kirby’s abilities, too—it changes the very nature of the game. For example, the aforementioned Jet ability transforms the mech into a Gradius-like starship, providing some interesting side-scrolling shooter gameplay. Working in this stage variety provided a nice change of pace from the standard platforming that comprises much of the game, and had me switching powers at a far more frequent pace than when I normally play Kirby games, as I couldn’t wait to see how the mech would transform next.

As great an experience as this all provides, Planet Robobot does suffer from something that has plagued many Nintendo games in recent years: a lack of challenge. Life-hoarding became a game within the game for me, as I never died more than a couple times throughout my playthrough. HAL Laboratory tried to bump up the difficulty by adding three keys to each stage for you to collect—with you needing a certain number of said keys to unlock each boss—but aside from one or two stages, I never had an issue with collecting them all on the first go.

Lack of challenge aside, Kirby: Planet Robobot does a great job of continuing the tradition of what the best Kirby games do: provide a fun adventure that captures your imagination. The difficulty may not have been high, but it’s still a top-quality, tight-handling platformer that I couldn’t help but enjoy for the short time it lasted—and which I didn’t want to put down until I’d seen every power, solved every puzzle, and brought peace back to Pop Star. The new mech gimmick was a delight to mess around with, and in the end, Planet Robobot’s few new features paid massive dividends that any Kirby enthusiast should love to play.

BossBattle1160

Developer: HAL Laboratory • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 06.10.16
9.0
It’s probably one of the pink puffball’s shorter adventures, but the new mech gimmick provides a fun and fresh take on Kirby’s action-platforming core that I couldn’t get enough of.
The Good New mech adds a surprising amount of depth and variety to the classic Kirby gameplay.
The Bad No sense of challenge whatsoever.
The Ugly All of Pop Star and its inhabitants becoming mechanized reminded me an awful lot of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Not thinking outside the box

I pride myself on being able to find enjoyment from a ton of different gaming genres. Whether it’s shooters, fighting games, RPGs, or sports titles, you’ll likely find them somewhere in my collection. Sometimes, though, the genre that really gets me pumped up is a good old-fashioned puzzle-platformer. So, when a little passion project from longtime Nintendo developer HAL Laboratory named BoxBoy! found its way on to my 3DS, I was more than ready to give it a shot.

BoxBoy! stars a walking square named Qbby who must use his ability to make box-shaped extensions of himself to overcome nearly 200 different obstacle courses on the way to repairing his damaged homeworld. Qbby can make bridges to cross gaps, create shields to block lasers or spikes, or build makeshift stairs to reach higher areas.

Unfortunately, especially with the illustrious pedigree of HAL behind the game, I was surprised to find that BoxBoy! feels empty inside. I mean, sure, there’s technically a ton of content crammed in here: hundreds of stages, unlockable challenge levels, and a score-attack mode where you use Qbby’s powers to collect emblems. But by the time I’d reached the fourth world—or after less than an hour of playtime—I’d already grown bored.

You see, BoxBoy! does nothing to innovate on the puzzle-platformer. Admittedly, it’s not the worst thing in the world to use the same traps and gimmicks we’ve seen dozens of times before—teleporters, gravity fields, lasers, and spikes. Disappointingly, though, the game never pushes your cognitive process beyond using the same handful of box creations you learn at the beginning to overcome every situation, so the gameplay starts to feel very monotonous very quickly, even when new obstacles are introduced.

BoxBoy! doesn’t offer any depth-of-field puzzles, since the game isn’t compatible with the 3DS’ 3D feature—it’s a wholly 2D world. The game doesn’t even include any physics-based puzzles. Every time I thought I might be able to use something like momentum to get through a puzzle or place a box where I needed it to be, it would almost immediately sink down in a straight line, like throwing a crumpled-up piece of paper instead of an object that actually had some weight to it.

Eighty percent of the game just feels like HAL got into a “rinse and repeat” mindset with the stage design until they got close to a triple-digit number. Each new level introduces a new impediment, but often instead of combining them with ones seen in previous levels, you only have to bypass the latest one. This fact only compounds the monotony since it feels like you’re you’re playing the same puzzle a handful of times before being allowed to progress to the next one. The stages work, but there’s nothing truly interesting about a single one.

At least until you get close to the end of the game, that is. At that point, there’s a drastic spike in difficulty that makes the last two levels boring and hard. It’s not that I couldn’t overcome them, but after walking through the previous 15 stages like they were nothing, this sudden change of pace was jarring—and not in a good way, considering how ill prepared I felt at first.

And one would think that part of the reason BoxBoy! has such a simple motif—black-and-white settings and characters, with every object in the world including a right angle—that HAL would’ve crafted more inventive puzzles to take advantage of this and defend the decision to keep the look so modest. But everything about BoxBoy! just feels bare bones.

I honestly can’t recommend BoxBoy! even for someone who loves puzzle-platformers. There’s a clear lack of creativity here, whether it’s the art style, story (or lack thereof), gameplay, or level design. I kept wondering when the game would finally start to pick up—and then, before I knew it, it was already over, with the entire experience clocking in at only a few hours. I suppose I should be thankful it only took one sitting to beat and didn’t consume more of my time, because almost from the start, BoxBoy! felt like a waste of it.

Developer: HAL Laboratory • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 04.02.15
4.0
HAL Laboratory fails to innovate at all within the puzzle genre and throws many of the same obstacles at you over and over again—to the point where BoxBoy! is as plain a platformer as its monochromatic motif.
The Good A ton of levels and side content.
The Bad The gameplay is as plain as the design, with a surprisingly sharp spike in difficulty at the very end.
The Ugly BoxBoy! feels like it might’ve had a place on the original Game Boy—not on the 3DS.
BoxBoy! is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.

Taste the rainbow

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is the long-awaited follow-up to the offbeat Canvas Curse, which helped sell players on the concept of the Nintendo DS. Like its predecessor, Rainbow Curse begins when a massive portal opens in the skies above Dream Land. Without warning, the otherworldly gateway sucks all the color out of Kirby’s home and uses it to bring life to seven new worlds, themed after the spectrum of a rainbow. Of course, it’s up to Kirby—with a little help from his new friend, Elline, a paintbrush fairy from the other side of the dimensional opening—to conquer these seven worlds, restore the color, and save Dream Land.

Players take on the role of Elline and use the Wii U GamePad’s stylus to act as the paintbrush fairy, drawing paths for Kirby to follow in order to lead him to each respective stage’s goal. You’d think eliminating the buttons would oversimplify the gameplay, but I believe the experience might actually be more difficult in the beginning for seasoned players—it takes some time getting used to the idea that you’re not controlling the game’s main character. Instead, you’re just kind of guiding him along.

Even simple maneuvers, like turning Kirby around, can’t be done with a press on the D-pad. You have to draw a whole new path, and therein lies part of the brilliant challenge of Rainbow Curse: Right from the get-go, it challenges your thinking when it comes to how you’d normally approach a platformer or more traditional Kirby title.

Once you start getting used to the idea of being this sort of “hand of fate” and become accustomed to the controls, the game ramps up the difficulty, introducing new ways to use what you’ve learned. At one point, for example, Kirby will split into two, and you’ll have to guide both parts of him to the end goal. Rainbow Curse also sees Kirby taking on the guise of a submarine, tank, or rocket, and Nintendo’s able to squeeze a surprising amount of depth from a singular game mechanic. I was so engrossed by each new way to use the stylus—blocking lava waterfalls, guiding Kirby through a self-destructing spaceship, and so on—that the absence of his signature copying and floating abilities never even fazed me.

Part of what helps keep each stage fresh might be the fact that the game’s only 28 stages long (seven of which are dedicated solely to boss battles), which is on the short side for Nintendo platformers nowadays, if you’re just looking at the numbers. But it still feels lengthy enough because of what feels like a natural rise in difficulty all the way to the final boss. Add in a half dozen collectibles to each level and 40 extra challenge rooms, and the replayability of each world definitely helps counter the lack of total levels overall.

Another surprising strength lies in Rainbow Curse’s art style. In today’s hyper-realistic gaming world, using clay animation is brave—even for a Nintendo franchise that typically tends toward the cartoony. But the choice works well, since the clay designs give everything in Rainbow Curse a novel texture that really helps this new dimension feel uncanny and very alive. Coupled with Kirby’s typically bright color palette, everything seems to jump off the screen.

The only real downside to Rainbow Curse? As pretty as it looks in HD, I found myself hard pressed to look up from the Wii U GamePad sans the opening and ending cutscenes. In order to more accurately and successfully draw paths for Kirby to complete his adventure, I couldn’t look at the TV and draw at the same time. This forced me to play the entire game on the GamePad—not the worst experience in the world, but I think the dual-screen gimmick would’ve been better served if I’d been able to look at the TV once in a while. The only reason to play on the big screen at all is if you’re in co-op, where a second player controls a Waddle Dee with a Wiimote.

It should also be mentioned that Kirby and the Rainbow Curse features amiibo support, and while this is entirely optional, I found this element tacked on and uninspired. So, if you don’t own a Kirby, King Dedede, or Meta Knight amiibo, I can promise you that you aren’t missing much. All amiibo support does is grant players a single stat boost for one stage, once per day. King Dedede gives a health boost, Meta Knight increases your attack, and Kirby grants unlimited Star Dash special attacks. I found the effort of looking for an amiibo figure far more exhaustive than just playing the game normally.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a fine successor to Canvas Curse—it’s on par or better in many ways and should provide a potent challenge for even the most experienced platform player. It’ll also keep you on your toes as it constantly adds new elements over the course of the game’s seven worlds. And, of course, it does all that in a charming, colorful fashion that can only be decidedly described as staying true to what Kirby’s all about.

Developer: HAL Laboratory • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 02.20.15
9.0
Bright, colorful worlds brought to life by a unique art style, coupled with challenging, diverse gameplay highlights yet another successful Kirby spin-off that is as good or better in many ways than its predecessor.
The Good The stylus-based controls are simple to learn but difficult to master.
The Bad Never looking at the HD graphics besides the opening and ending cutscenes in order to see where you’re drawing on the GamePad.
The Ugly HAL Laboratory has officially run out of naming ideas. The game has seven levels, so they call the world “Seventopia”? Really?
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a Wii U exclusive. A retail copy was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review.

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
9.0
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.

In today’s Super Smash Bros. oriented Nintendo Direct, game director Masahiro Sakurai announced two separate release windows for the 3DS and Wii U versions of Nintendo’s flagship fighter.

The 3DS version of Smash Bros. will see a summer 2014 release, but in a shocking turn, the Wii U version won’t hit store shelves until Winter 2014.

While this could potentially promote consumers to buy both versions of the game and help keep Nintendo from directly competing with itself, it also looks bad for the Wii U, which desperately needs a potential system selling game like this to hit sooner rather later.

Aside from the release dates, specific game modes and new characters were also detailed during the 39-minute video presentation.

The pink puffball still packs a punch

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I first put Kirby’s Dream Land into my Game Boy and bounced the pink puffball—though he appeared more white on the limited color palette of the handheld—around Green Greens. With almost two dozen more starring roles across all of Nintendo’s platforms since then—and, of course, a couple of smaller roles in games like Super Smash Bros.—few other gaming icons are as deserving of their own celebratory collector’s edition.

Kirby’s Dream Collection compiles six of Kirby’s earliest and most iconic titles in Kirby’s Dream Land (Game Boy), Kirby’s Adventure (NES), Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Game Boy), Kirby Super Star (SNES), Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (SNES), and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64) in their completely original versions. The package also comes with a detailed art book highlighting Kirby’s designs over the past two decades; a 45-track, 60-minute-long music CD with original and remastered tracks from all of Kirby’s adventures, and three episodes of Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, the Saturday-morning cartoon Kirby starred in for 100 episodes.

Now, the skeptic would say that Nintendo simply just slapped some ROMs onto a disc in order to capitalize on Kirby’s anniversary, and they wouldn’t be completely wrong. Nintendo fanboys would say that Nintendo’s simply trying to keep the experiences authentic and preserve the classic gameplay. And they wouldn’t be wrong, either. But I know that, personally I would’ve loved some updated graphics or even some color in the Game Boy entries—and for the games to completely fit my 42-inch TV screen.

The lack of new polish on these older titles also hurts the collection’s appeal to younger gamers who may be less familiar with Kirby and want to learn about this classic gaming protagonist. Don’t worry—this won’t turn into a “back in my day!” review—but I’m sure younger gamers’ heads will explode at the concept of playing a game that looked like the original Kirby’s Dream Land compared to the kind of graphical output they may be used to with modern systems.

Now, just because the aesthetics of these classic games don’t enter the modern era in any way doesn’t mean the platforming and puzzle action don’t translate. The NES and Game Boy games feel just as tight as they did two decades ago, and they translate perfectly to the Wiimote. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the later games, especially Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, actually felt better than I remembered with the simple new Wiimote layout. Though, maybe it’s just that the Wiimote feels better in my hands than the N64 controller did.

Aside from the six original games, Kirby’s Dream Collection also features an interactive timeline showing key dates in Kirby history as well as a bevy of new challenge levels inspired by his most recent Wii adventure, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land. These unique levels have an old-school arcade feel as you specialize in one of Kirby’s powers, whether it’s Beam, Sword, Spear—or one of the many others featured in that game—and attempt to clear the level and set a high score while also beating the time limit. As you set certain scores in each level, you’ll then unlock the right to attempt other, more-difficult-to-wield abilities.

If you’re a big Kirby fan and grew up with him like I did, this is a nice total package. The games don’t completely stand the test of time, but this offers older gamers a nice chance to reminisce and see how far we’ve come. Plus, considering the $39.99 price tag and all the extra features the package comes with, Kirby’s Dream Collection reminds us that’s it OK to think pink every now and again.

SUMMARY: Not all of the games in this classic collection stand the full test of time, but for die-hard Kirby fans, the entire package is more than worth the price tag.

  • THE GOOD: Six games, an hour of music, an art book, and three cartoons makes this a sweet package.
  • THE BAD: No graphical enhancement whatsoever—really just a bunch of ROMs.
  • THE UGLY: You ever stop to think about what Kirby’s enemies must go through when they get eaten?

SCORE: 8.0

Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition is a Wii exclusive.