After the enjoyable but initially lacking Kirby Star Allies and the mobile game inspired Super Kirby Clash, we were overdue for another serving of Dream Land’s pink, puffy, and powerful hero. Powerful is right this time too, as HAL has revisited a 3DS era subgame once again to bring us Kirby Fighters 2. While it’s a fun, bite sized morsel of Kirby versus Kirby and friends (and certainly fares better than the more minigame centric Kirby Battle Royale) it doesn’t dive deep enough into the genre to keep the hits coming round after round.
Many people compare this and the previous Kirby Fighters games to Super Smash Bros., and there are definitely similarities. Fights play out in stages with background hazards and changing elements, and items appear to shake things up. That said, Kirby doesn’t play like he does in Smash and the feel is closer to the slower Kirby Star Allies. The engine works, though as someone who prefers speedier and more precise fighting games and loves Kirby games, I’m here more for the latter.
Rise to the Top
The set up for the Kirby Fighters 2 story mode is that King Dedede and Meta Knight, Kirby’s most recurring rivals, have teamed up and taken residence in Buddy Fighters Tower. They’ve issued a challenge to Kirby, daring him to come and face them with Bandana Waddle Dee at his side. There’s really nothing here to write home about, as it exists to give Kirby and a partner of his own an excuse to take on stage after stage of fights. That said, there are some satisfying Kirby callbacks, such as in the music arrangements and in the ultimate showdowns with King Dedede and Meta Knight.
Really though, the story mode would be more aptly titled survival or gauntlet. After each fight against randomized opponents, you recover a bit of health and select an item to bolster your stats or capabilities. These range from increased attack power and revival speed to improved partner AI and various passives and resistances to the items that appear mid-fight. These build up across the various Chapters of the story mode, where the amount of floors/stages you have to get through increases.
The tricky balance and why I think a name change is in order here is that as you select each chapter, the amount of stages increases. The earliest ones don’t give you enough chances to really improve Kirby and are over quickly. The longest, most difficult one instead allows you to really improve your stats but becomes repetitive, with the rewarded stat boosts not being enough to warrant replaying. It’s in the middlemost difficulties that things click best, though for all you Arena completionists out there you’ll be pleased to know records are saved across the different copy abilities.
A little Kirby for everyone
Those copy abilities are the real star here, with some new contenders stepping into the ring along with the batch that was featured in Kirby Fighters Deluxe. Yo-Yo, Artist, Staff, and Water add some variety to the previous twelve (some of which weren’t in Star Allies) and are joined by a copy ability invented just for this game. Wrestler Kirby takes inspiration from the old Backdrop ability but with plenty of its own flair and personality, and I hope it can make the jump to the main series next time around.
That flash and substance is doled out across the abilities in unequal measure, though. While the variety is welcome and true to Kirby, some abilities (particularly in the vacuum of the game’s single player modes) feel less potent. Yo-Yo is one of my favorite abilities in the whole series, but compared to the varied and powerful Wrestler and Fighter abilities it just isn’t as impactful. Thankfully it’s felt with the other playable characters, like the earlier mentioned Bandana Dee as well as Gooey and Magolor.
Outside of story and the standard multiplayer battles (both local and online), you can take on Single-Handed Mode, where you fight solo against a series of different enemies. This is similar to the original Kirby Fighters’ single player mode, or to continue the Smash comparisons, Classic Mode. Playing across Fighters 2’s modes will also increase your Fighters Rank. Doing this unlocks new copy abilities, special hats, stages, music, and more. While it’s fun to have your continued play rewarded, and getting through story mode will have all the copy abilities and characters playable, it’s a shame you can’t jump into multiplayer with the full cast.
Punching below its weight
I’ve spent a lot of time playing and meditating on Kirby Fighters 2, and while I had fun playing through it I wouldn’t count it among the series’ best. Seeing Kirby Fighters grow from a 3DS subgame to its current state draws comparisons to Super Kirby Clash, which I was drawn more into for far longer. Structurally the games are completely different, and normally I’d say the more copy abilities the better, but it’s what the games do with those abilities that make the difference.
Kirby Clash puts your mastery of a few to the test, while Fighters offers a small collection and says have at it with each other. Still, with how long Kirby has been around it feels like the idea of a Kirby fighting game could be done much more strongly. The same could be said for Fighters 2’s story mode, as outside of Dedede and Meta Knight you’ll only find a couple other boss fights that repeat on each difficulty level. With the wealth of characters and enemies at their disposal, this eShop offering barely scratches the surface.
At the end of the day, Kirby Fighters 2 gave me a fun time and a slice of Dream Land that I’d been starving for. Younger players that can’t grasp Smash or more traditional 2D fighting games fully could definitely use this as a stepping stone, but I’d recommend it most for Kirby fans. Even then I’d tell them to check their expectations, but if you’re able to play with some friends or just love chasing that 100% in the corner, Kirby Fighters 2 can keep you busy until a more solid hit arrives.Leave a Comment
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 24, 2020
Developer: HAL Laboratory, Inc / Vanpool