Weekend of Kirby: Kirby’s Adventure (and others)
I spent somewhere around 10-12 hours this weekend playing Kirby games. Before Saturday, the only one of the traditional sidescrolling Kirby games I had played was Kirby’s Adventure for the NES. Over the course of Saturday I played both of the Game Boy entries, the first two Kirby’s Dream Lands, and today I played all of Kirby’s Adventure along with a sampling of Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. After all of that platforming, I think Kirby’s Adventure still stands out as my favorite.
It’s definitely not a perfect game. You can tell it’s struggling against the NES hardware on a pretty regular basis, as any time the game has to show more than ~5 sprites on the screen at the same time the whole game slows considerably. It also doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense: the stages, as in most Kirby sidescrollers, lack any kind of creative focus, instead opting to just throw together a random smattering of trees, clouds, and Roman architecture, sometimes putting stars in the background. But it controls as solidly as the Game Boy games and has a huge variety of powerups to play with. Getting one of the rarer abilities like UFO, Throw, or Body Slam is an exciting moment, whereas in the later games like Dream Land 3 and The Amazing Mirror the powerups tend to feel pretty homogenous— you just pick up whatever you can get and run with it, and abilities from pretty early on in the game like Bomb can feel overpowered.
The best part of Kirby’s Adventure is the final boss and the part leading up to it (spoilers ahead on a 19-year-old NES game): after beating King Dedede, the final boss from Kirby’s Dream Land 1 and your ever-present adversary throughout the game, you go to restore the Star Rod that he had apparently stolen(?) to its rightful place on a fountain or something. Along the way, a beaten King Dedede begs Kirby not to do it, but his pleas are ignored. When Kirby places the Rod on the fountain, an evil Nightmare is freed from the fountain (apparently King Dedede stole and broke the Star Rod to imprison this jerk) and it flies into space. King Dedede inhales Kirby and the Star Rod and spits him into space to chase after the Nightmare. The real final boss fight begins at this point, a two-stage affair with the first being a horizontally-scrolling shmup reminiscent of the blimp boss from Kirby’s Dream Land 1 and the second half being a tough boss battle against the villainous Nightmare, who now looks kind of like a cross between Count Chocula and something actually intimidating.
At this point the only Kirby game I haven’t played a few hours of is Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but I have to admit that at this point I’m a little tired— not of Kirby, but of staring at the TV screen all weekend. I think Epic Yarn, which is supposedly quite good, will have to wait while I go read a book for a little while or something.
Weekend of Kirby: Various Spinoffs
In my quest to play as many Kirby games as possible, I managed to run through varying amounts of a lot of the non-platforming Kirby games today. The pictures below that are obviously not taken with a cell phone camera are form the excellent vgmuseum.com.
Kirby’s Dream Course
Kirby’s Dream Course is a strange isometric miniature golf game where you have to attack enemies in order to create an exit point, then exit through a “hole”. Like in golf or whatever. The best part of Dream Course is that it has a two-player competitive mode, which usually devolves into knocking each other off the course as frequently as possible.
Kirby’s Block Ball
A fascinating Arkanoid clone— I played through 10 levels of this game today, reaching the “bad” ending after a couple hours and enjoying every minute of it. Reaching the “good” ending would require getting the high score on every level: not something I have time to do right now. Block Ball is a really great use of the Kirby universe and the variety of enemies and bosses once again (and this is a common thread in Kirby games) makes what could be a mediocre game charming. My biggest problem with this game is that some levels are built entirely around using a particular powerup, which if you manage to lose you have no way of getting back without losing all your lives and starting over. I really liked this game and am glad I finally played it.
Kirby’s Star Stackers
A drop-blocks-in-a-well puzzle game with a mechanic I haven’t seen repeated anywhere else (which is surprising for Nintendo), Star Stackers has you sandwiching stars and other powerups between blocks with different animals on them, chaining together combos and such. It’s a really fun mechanic that I’d like to see revived some day, and beyond the charming animations it also has weird/hilarious menus and presentation.
Kirby’s Pinball Land
I’m generally down on video game versions of pinball. It seemed a novelty when I was a kid— being able to do crazy things that a real pinball machine could never do— but looking back they seem kind of boring. Kirby’s Pinball Land is no real exception; the execution is solid but nothing really drew me to keep playing.
Kirby’s Avalanche is a Puyo Puyo game— a good one, although not as exceptional as Kirby frequently manages to take generic ideas and turn them exciting. It has the exact same narrative presentation and screen layout as any number of Nintendo-branded puzzle games— Dr. Mario 64, the Panel de Pon reskins like Tetris Attack and Pokemon Puzzle League, and Wario’s Woods. I didn’t spend much time with this one, because I have more interesting games to play.
Kirby Canvas Curse
Kirby Canvas Curse, when it came out, was hailed as one of the shining examples of the early Nintendo DS catalog that figured out how to make good use of the stylus mechanic. For me, this game suffers from Sonic Syndrome: a feeling that you’re constantly missing out on important pieces of the game by constantly moving at a fast pace from left to right. It’s still fun, and still impressive as a demonstration of how touch screen controls can really change the way you play a game, but it didn’t draw me in like Dream Course or Block Ball did.
With that, I think I’ve played at least a little bit of all of the non-platforming Kirby games! From here on out it’s all platformers.