So, not long before Kirby Star Allies was released, I had tried the demo. At the time, I found it kinda fun, but the demo was short enough that I didn’t know if it was worth playing the rest of the game.
Not long after its release, I had seen some reviews online. Some were saying that some cracks were starting to show in the recent Kirby game formula thanks to this game. I recently had the chance to acquire the game, and decided to find out if this was true. I find it best to experience a product for yourself in order to judge if such a statement about any product would be true.
I want to show my readers when it comes to opinions about a game, not everyone reacts to the same way to the same content. I feel this is a prime game to highlight these differences, even though I like to stay as objective as possible when doing reviews. Most importantly, I will try to highlight player preferences and play styles that may impact one’s view of this particular game.
Also, there will be some game play spoilers, but no story spoilers, at least not specifics. That being said, let’s get started!
First thing’s first, let’s look at what is unique about this game in relation to other recent Kirby games. The main hook is that Kirby can recruit up to three enemies that have copy powers as friends to travel with him by throwing hearts. These allies are either computer controlled, or by one to three other players. Of note, I have only played through by myself with the computer prior to this review.
When controlled by a computer, these companions will frequently solve puzzles or clear obstacles that require their respective powers. This game also features enemies that are more vulnerable to some powers, a feature I would have liked to have seen previous games.
The computer controlled allies are generally not that aggressive unless near an enemy that is weak to their power. Additionally CPU allies have a poor sense of self-preservation. They tend to avoid some attacks and hazards well, but most of the time they fail to dodge attacks and take easy to avoid hits.
I should also mention that every copy ability has an action that supports or co-operates with other allies. The most notable ones include adding an element, such as fire to a weapon, like a sword or hammer. The available actions don’t change much in these cases, but do power up that player’s attacks and enable some puzzle solving options. Other co-op actions include a one time combo attack, to protecting allies, or even using a friend as a projectile.
There are some locations that require two or four characters to progress. Luckily, the game gives you some nearby recruits in case you were traveling alone. When four characters are needed, they perform a friend action. These can be quite amusing to play through and watch, as they can involve a four person somersault, or the party starts acting as if they were a train.
Perhaps where Star Allies shines the most is in its visual presentation. This is the best looking Kirby game to date. Better yet, the game’s world maps actually allow free-form exploration within each world. It should be noted that you still have to finish most levels in order, but at least you can find a few hidden goodies in between the action. Each new world map is quite different too, and helps show how the game’s conflict escalates.
The game features a lot of visual humor too. Some bosses die or get injured in comical and creative ways. Some of the humor shows through in cut scenes too. These cut scenes have a tendency to play with the player’s expectations, and put a neat twist on what many might think will happen.
The level design has a tendency to do this as well. For example, early in the game you might not know if you can make a certain jump when doing a somersault until you just barely make it. The level design in general plays around with the game elements to give the player a visual feast that is fun to rush through as quickly or as slowly as you like. Most effectively, the levels with shifting platforms and walls can bend the player’s mind by showing new possibilities.
Now all that sounds great, but there’s a few downsides to this game. The first is the loading screens that occur with every level transition. The other is that the game is incredibly easy. I finished the game with 120 lives, and only had two accidental deaths on the way. I was rarely in any danger during the main story, thanks to having three helpers most of the time, even against bosses.
Bosses by the way do try to compensate for the extra players. Many of their attacks involve a wide area of effect. Others feature a ridiculous number of projectiles. In a few cases, the enemy will separate Kirby and his friends. Even so, if your allies attack the bosses quickly enough, you might not even see their full attack pattern!
Finally, let’s quickly cover the other play modes; there are some post-game spoilers here, so scroll to the bottom if you want to discover what they are by yourself.
There are two quick mini games to play with the computer or friends. They might be worth a look once or twice, but that is it.
The next mode is guest star mode, where you play a modified version of the game as the ally of your choice for the best time possible. There are pickups that enhance your speed, attack, and health, which can help improve your time. There is a lot of replay value if you want to complete this mode with every character.
And last but certainly not least, is the Ultimate Choice mode. This challenges you to run through most or all of the game’s bosses, depending on the difficulty you chose. Each difficulty keeps track of your score per difficulty, powers, and allies used. Incidentally, the highest difficulty setting here is perhaps the largest jump in challenge levels I’ve seen in any video game. It might not be the hardest video game challenge ever, but it is a sharp contrast to the rest of the game.
Here’s a list of game play recommendations to get the most of the game:
- Adjust the play settings to your taste before you begin. Be sure to choose the control option you prefer.
- Play story mode either alone, or with four friends throughout the entire game if you can.
- Either way, gather each level’s secret collectible, and if it has it, hit the secret switch before moving to the next level.
- Play the secret levels as you find them before progressing, making sure to find the secret collectibles too.
- You can skip using the dream allies (guest characters) if they do not grab your interest.
- Play the bonus level after beating story mode, as it is the best stage in the game.
- For guest star mode, play it once with the character of your choice, and before you try the ultimate choice. Only those who can’t get enough of the game would enjoy playing as all the characters in this mode.
- Play the Ultimate choice until you get the final difficulty level.
- Attempt this hardest challenge here once, and see how much it frustrates you afterwards. If you fail, and don’t feel deterred from trying again and again, be sure to play in quick bursts, and not too often, so the game doesn’t feel old after several attempts. Getting a high score here is mostly for those who are really skilled and like finding the most efficient way to play.
- If you want to do absolutely everything, gather the puzzle pieces from guest star mode after completing The Ultimate Choice, but this is by no means necessary for full satisfaction of the game.
Lastly, here’s the Pro’s and Con’s
- Excellent visuals
- Nostalgic music for Kirby fans
- Fresh presentation and humor
- Visually appealing level design
- Way too easy
- loading screens
- Game might get old by the time you get the bonus modes
So, does this game show cracks in the Kirby formula? Not exactly, as the formula still works, and is improved in some subtle ways (dodging is handled much better in this game). The presentation is quite clean, too. So I think the issue is more in execution, not the formula itself. This game is easy due to the challenges presented don’t fully compensate for four characters at once. Additionally, the puzzles are easier than in recent games, particularly when going solo and with hints are turned on. So what do I think of the game? Well, here’s it is, the Final verdict:
8/10 Short and sweet, but still great
(Author’s note about the score: I was set to give it an 8.5, but after completing all content, I grew somewhat weary of retrying the Ultimate Choice so many times. Your mileage of the game might be different. The game could be anywhere from a 7.5 to 8.5 based on preferences, play style, number of players, knowledge of Kirby games, how much you play after the story, and skill level)
I will write an article on many of the Easter eggs I found from past Kirby games I found in Star Allies, with spoilers in the near future, and may include my favorite moments as well. What did you think about Kirby Star Allies? Was there something I should have mentioned? Let me know in the comments below, I’d like to see different perspectives and why you feel that way.
Until next time, happy gaming!