A lot of things have changed in 25 years, but Kirby’s not one of them. While his overall look has evolved, the formula of stress-free platforming and fun copy abilities has made him one of Nintendo’s most reliable. His titles are consistently “good” games that allow any and all to pick up controllers and see their way through. Sometimes these games end up outright incredible, offering lots to do and see wrapped up in a great big pink bow.
With an extra polished look and plenty of friendly support, Star Allies wants you to remember all the good times you’ve had with its cuddly pink hero. While it does its best to aim for the stars, there are some times when it falls short of its pedigree. These minor moments aside, there’s plenty here to light up your heart and remind you why Kirby’s one of Nintendo’s best and deserves a whole game to celebrate his anniversary.
Kirby doing what he does best
Star Allies, in proud Kirby tradition, is fairly light on story. Things do pick up in that department after the first half of the game, once some new characters arrive and the game’s scale opens up to the farther reaches of the galaxy. The narrative and dialogue are mostly light and fun, and for those who are after a little more, you’ll be happy to know that you can hit the pause button to read up on copy abilities, bosses, and more depending where you’re at. You can even expect shoutouts to old games and some insight into Kirby lore for your efforts.
Just like with Planet Robobot, I have to give special praise to the game’s finale, which manages to push the power of friendship to its limits and meet my (high) Kirby fan expectations. No spoilers here, but it brings the kinds of moments that put a big, stupid grin on my face as I remember why I love this series so much. It’s over-the-top and might even tie in several corners of Kirby history, but even without those bits it was extra fun to see and play through. Not to mention everything I said about the game’s story goes double for the climax, offering some surprising bits of knowledge and potential hints about the series.
Open your heart and make some friends
When it comes to gameplay, Kirby has his usual selection of default moves along with 28 copy abilities to play with. As someone who’s played a lot of Kirby, when I first started this one his dashing and jumping felt just a bit off. That could have to do with this being the first console Kirby in several years, but I got used to it fairly quickly. Copy ability based attacks and powers feel great all the way through. With a handful of new and long-lost abilities, the overall selection is fantastic, with shoutouts to Artist, Cleaning, and Yo-yo in particular.
The main feature of the game is Kirby’s ability to toss friend hearts at enemies to make them switch sides and join in on his tour of Dream Land. These Friends are an update to Super Star’s Helper system and offer four player co-op play in the main series for the first time since the Wii. While there are limitations, such as the camera’s focus or there being no real easy way to swap abilities, the drop-in, drop-out multiplayer works and can be a ton of fun.
The other hook is mixing abilities together. This isn’t so much Crystal Shards’ combination system though. Instead you can grant weapons elemental boosts like fire and water, or get some great interactions like the much loved curling stone, and more. Puzzles based around them encourage changing your lineup of abilities and communicating with each other regularly, rewarding players for having a rotating group and also adapting as the pink puffball himself.
These two new additions have an unfortunate side effect of making things just a little too easy at times. The Friends’ AI means that they can occasionally solve puzzles for you, and with a party of four even in single-player there’s rarely any tension during boss fights. Add in a smaller number of stages and hidden collectibles, and you have one of the easiest Kirby games in a while — and that’s saying something. There’s still some tough fights to be found in post-game content, just so long as you go at ‘em alone instead of with a full team of Friends.
The biggest shortcomings with the game are its starting sub games and amiibo support. Nothing forces you to play Star Slam Heroes and Chop Champs other than going for 100% completion, and now that I’ve done that I just don’t feel I’ll be revisiting them. As for amiibo, they merely speed up the hunt for puzzle pieces to finish special (adorable) gallery art and offer healing items. The pieces can be gathered through normal gameplay anyway, and when compared to Planet Robobot’s more themed amiibo support, it’s definitely a letdown.
Presto, it’s Kirby!
With most parts of the game having some flaws, I’m pleased to say that the presentation is amazing throughout. Kirby’s world has never looked more dreamy, with impressive backgrounds and lighting making the game worth keeping on the big screen. The music is similarly fantastic, with plenty of addicting melodies and Kirby callbacks carrying the experience. You can always count on that trademark Kirby charm to work its way into every corner of the game, boosting even some of its weaker moments by sheer likability.
More than a game, Kirby Star Allies is a fond reminder of all things great about Kirby. It’s full of references and homages to past adventures, making for a super star experience with a crystal clear message: Kirby (and his Friends) are one of Nintendo’s best. While there are some slight missteps, Star Allies is no less lovable for it, and when played with a squad of friends, the game can be outright amazing.
It might not end up as fondly remembered as what it’s reminding you of, but Star Allies is worth your time. As a breezy platformer full of delight, it’s a stress-free reminder of why games don’t need to be overly complicated. This is classic Kirby as you’ve known him for 25 years — with all the ups and downs that it brings, you can count on this newest adventure when it comes to charm and fun. The bosses and secrets aren’t as tricky or plentiful, but that doesn’t make them less enjoyable. Don’t let the criticisms scare you off, because playing this one still guarantees a great big smile.
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System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 16, 2018
Categories: Action, Platformer
Developer: HAL Laboratory, Inc.