- Developer: HAL Laboratory
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Platform: Switch
- Release Date: 16 March 2018
- MSRP: $59.99
Nintendo seems to love this pink puff ball. Kirby sees a new release almost every year. The Kirby franchise always delivers simple fun and sometimes goes into experimental territory. My personal experience with the Kirby franchise has only been limited to Kirby 64 and the original Kirby’s Dreamland (and Super Smash Bros.), so I’m not super attached to the series. Kirby Star Allies is Kirby’s first entry on the Switch. It is very similar to other games in series, like Kirby Super Star and Return to Dreamland.
One day Kirby is minding his own business when suddenly, evil happens. Kirby is awoken from his nap to find not all is well in Dreamland. Alien wizards have attacked are trying to bring back Void Termina after a failed ritual sent the Jamba Heart scattering throughout the solar system. Kirby and friends must put a stop the Hyness and his three adorable generals. Simple but good enough to justify a game. You probably aren’t playing Kirby games for the story.
If there’s one thing you probably know about Kirby, it is his signature copy ability. Kirby swallows his enemies and steals their power. This pink puff ball lives only to consume everything in sight. Don’t look too deep into those huge empty eyes. You may be his next victim. Kirby Star Allies puts an interesting spin on Kirby’s copy ability. The player can now recruit enemies to join teams with Kirby by throwing hearts at them. They suddenly have a heel-face turn and high five each other. This may seem cute on the surface, but it has horrifying implications. Kirby is capable of mind control all to satiate his insatiable hunger. When your team is full (4), you can replace one of your allies or take the enemies ability by throwing the heart. The player can combine abilities between team allies for unique attacks, like a flame sword or transforming into a curling rock. Along with enemies, Kirby can also enlist the help of the likes of King Dedede, Meta Knight, or Bandana Waddle Dee (AKA the best one). When you shut off the game, the allies disappear, and Kirby must find new friends.
Kirby and the three allies must traverse through 2.5D platforming sections by destroying everything in sight and solving puzzles. The puzzles are simplistic and require the use of your friends. Certain parts require all 4-character slots to be filled. You will now be able to perform abilities that use all 4 team members. These are called Friend Action, which sounds suggestive if you ask me. The Friend Circle allows Kirby and pals to form a circle and continuously roll, murdering all cute critters that happened to be in the way. The Friend Star give your team the ability to fly around. Friend Bridge closes a gap and allows for Key Dees to unlock doors. The Friend Train (George Takei: Oh my!) runs a train on Kirby and plows through everything in sight. There will be plenty of genocide to go around. Combining abilities is another key element of puzzle solving. The game keeps the specific enemies you need nearby, so you don’t get stuck. If you kill them, they will respawn.
Puzzle solving will give you access to bonus levels by finding hidden switches. Exploring the secrets will grant you rewards, such as stars that add up to give additional lives or puzzle pieces that put together pictures of Kirby and friends playing happily together. A nice little fanservice bonus.
Controlling the AI can be a little troubling. Having a four-person team makes things very chaotic on screen. You can easily lose track of what you’re doing. Another somewhat wonky mechanic is getting your CPU allies to do what you want. Sometimes it will take several attempts before they understand the task. The framerate could be better but isn’t terrible considering how chaotic things get on screen. Despite the wonky AI, the game will not be difficult. A common complaint levied against the Kirby series is the games are too easy. Sure, they may not be Dark Souls, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Being challenging isn’t the only way for a game to be fun. Sometimes you’re looking for something casual to have a laidback, warm experience. And that is exactly what Kirby Star Allies is, just pure old-fashioned fun. I know casual can be seen as a dirty word in our community but there’s nothing inherently wrong with casual games. That said, it can sometimes be too easy. There are times when you can sit back and let your friends do all the work. Then reap the rewards for their labor like the filthy capitalist you are. Collecting stars will give you more lives. The amount of times I died was scarce. By the end of my playthrough, I had almost 80 lives. If you’re looking for a challenge, Kirby Star Allies will be a disappointment.
The graphics and sound design add so much more charm to the game. Many of the backgrounds have very impressive attention to detail. While the framerate isn’t spectacular, Kirby Star Allies is a beautiful game. The water and fire effects are incredible. Every level is filled with so many minor details and is gorgeous to the eye. Stylized, cartoony graphics truly showcase the power of High Definition. The colors just jump out at you. Realistic graphics don’t quite do that in my eye. They lack in color compared to games like Kirby Star Allies. Excellent art direction will always beat technical superiority. The music is as you would expect from a Kirby game, happy and bouncy. There is a mix of old and new music. Epic moments see a change to more intense hard rock that gets your blood pumped.
Kirby Star Allies is intended to play with friends so as to make communication far easier. The problem is, you need friends, of which I’m in short supply of these days (hooray for unwarranted self-pity!). Many of the wonks are worked out when you have humans to work with. Maybe have a few adult beverages or special brownies if its legal in your state and have a good time.
Kirby Star Allies is simply a fun game. It doesn’t do anything ground breaking but will leave you smiling at its cuteness (despite horrifying implications). If you love Kirby or casual platformers, I would recommend picking this game up. If you’re looking for a real challenge, look elsewhere. What did you expect from a Kirby game? This game may be slightly less polished compared to other Kirby games, but provides for chaotic fun.