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May 1, 2015

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Part 1)

Hey, everyone: This is officially the 64th review I’m writing! If we count only the different reviews I’ve been doing (including VGFlicks and Top 12s), and not the total number of posts I have written, we get 64. I was tempted to review a long, complex Nintendo 64 game… but after a big month like April, I’m in the mood for something simpler. And the only simple Nintendo 64 game I have on my Wii is Kirby and the Crystal Shards. …You know, all things considered, I have reviewed only one Kirby game so far… Now’s the perfect time to review another one!

This little face here is too much kawaii
for a single man to enjoy.
For those who don’t know, Kirby was created by Masahiro Sakurai, and the little pink puffball’s first game came out in 1992. That would make Kirby about just as old as me; and now I’m picturing a 22yo Kirby, with a beard and adult mannerisms, and it’s just wrong. Anyway, his humble beginnings didn’t even include the ability to inhale other enemies’ capabilities, something that became his trademark starting with the second Kirby game. Clearly, Sakurai loves his Kirby series, going as far as to pretty much giving King Dedede the role of "Almighty Savior Of All That Exists" in the universe of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Adventure Mode. Unless it’s a simple coincidence and not blatant, obvious creator preference. Anyway, the teams behind the Kirby games always have a lot of fun giving him new abilities at every turn. That’s the core point of the series, so it’s just logical that the programmers would put a lot of effort on that aspect and how it impacts the gameplay. A new form means a new appearance and a new attack that goes with it. However, one can safely say the game that cemented the creativity of the Kirby series when it comes to forms is Kirby and the Crystal Shards. Sakurai has been experimenting with new ways to use Kirby. That’s part of the reason we got games like Kirby's Canvas Curse (in which Kirby is controlled by the stylus, and you draw lines to make him move through the levels and avoid enemy attacks) and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse; Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, where Kirby ends up with four clones… and Kirby Mass Attack, where Kirby is split in 10 smaller versions of himself; Kirby’s Epic Yarn, where Kirby visits a land of fabric where he can’t inhale enemies…

However, unlike the titles I mentioned, which remove Kirby’s power-copying ability, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards went and did the opposite. Now, not only can Kirby inhale abilities… he can COMBINE THEM! The result is an impressive amount of abilities (35!), in a normal platforming game that also includes a bit of logical thinking. But, you might ask me, what is the story?

That's a lot of pink,

I wouldn't go as far as to say crashing into someone is the best
way to meet them... but in fiction, it sometimes is.
As silly as it seems.
In a little world shaped like a heart, lived a species of fairies nothing could take apart. Then, out of nowhere, darkness arrives. The citizens of the peaceful world fear for their lives- You know what, I’ll stop the rhyming. A little fairy called Ribbon goes to her higher-ups, who give her an important mission: Get away with the crystal that gives power and protection to their world, and hide it in a safe place, for that’s what Dark Matter is chasing. Ribbon takes flight moments before her world goes black, but one-eyed disciples of Dark Matter chase after her! They knock her down! The crystal breaks in numerous pieces! Ribbon falls to Planet Popstar, barely feet away from Kirby. She explains the situation, Kirby finds a shard, and the two go on a quest to retrieve all the other pieces.

Looks like Ribbon drew these world maps herself.
Unless it was Adeleine.
So, there’s about five levels in every world, with at least one of them being only a boss fight. There are three shards hidden in every level (except bosses who, of course, award only one crystal shard each). Heck, on the world map, when you hover over a level, you’ll see the three shards that have to be found, and the ones that were found are darkened. In other words, you can tell which shards are missing, whether it’s the first, the second and/or the third, and if you remember where you got the ones you found in said level, you can tell where, approximately, the other/s can be found. While replaying a level, a found shard will be replaced by a blue star. Along with those, Kirby can collect numerous small yellow stars; those get added to a bar at the bottom of the screen; when Kirby fills said bad with star energy, he gains an extra life!

Never go into an adventure with an empty stomach!
Also, many levels will have a mini-boss somewhere in them. They’re just larger versions of normal enemies, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to beat. At the end of every level, you’ll see Kirby and his allies around a picnic (I suppose Kirby’s hunger is so great they need to stop to picnic very often). This is a minigame where Kirby has to jump on the picnic tablecloth, which is covered with objects that replenish health, others that award a few more yellow stars, a strange card with a question mark on it, and a 1-Up. First you press A to decide the direction Kirby will jump to, and then how far he’ll jump. Get a good prize and you’ll have an advantage! Be lucky! For added challenge, try to get the question mark card instead of any useful item.

As an example, Curling Stone Kirby is obtailed by combining
the Rock and Ice abilities.
Yes, Curling Stone Kirby.
And while I’m covering all the important parts, here’s how Kirby’s copy ability works here: As usual, Kirby can inhale an enemy and gain its ability when you press Down. However, you can make him “regurgitate” that ability, and Kirby will hold it over his head. After which, he’s free to gulp it back down (I swear, this is much better than it sounds when I say it), or he can toss it to another enemy who has an ability; that enemy will be destroyed and its ability will combine with the one you threw. After which, Kirby is free to gulp the result down to gain a combined ability! For the same result, he can inhale two enemies with special abilities at once. Kirby can thus use seven different base forms (Fire, Rock, Ice, Needle, Bomb, Spark and Cutter), and combine them to form twenty-eight different combination forms! I’m covering a few of them in my Top 12 Kirby Copy Abilities list. A big part of the fun in this game is to try and find all of these abilities, which is harder than it looks.

Back to the plot… At the end of the first level, we see a lil’ Waddle Dee finding a crystal shard. He gets quickly possessed by Dark Matter, becoming a Waddle Doo (never mind that this transformation makes no sense). When Kirby arrives, he has to battle the Waddle Doo. Thankfully, upon defeat, Dark Matter leaves, and the Waddle Dee decides to accompany Kirby on his quest. Well, that was weird.

Kirby goes through the second level, and then encounters a little girl who was possessed by the evil being. She’s a painter, an artist, so she keeps on creating enemies so that Kirby will defeat them. First it’s a couple creatures that will be defeated in a single hit, then she summons monsters with more hit points, and finally she attacks. A single hit and bam, she’s down, and she’s freed from the ancient evil. The young girl, called Adeleine, joins the group. For those who didn’t know, Adeleine was a recurring character in the now-defunct webcomic Brawl in the Family.

Comic #55 of Brawl In The Family. Read it here, and look around for more
appearances by Adeleine!

The next level is King Dedede’s Castle. King Dedede finds a shard (just as the heroes reach him), and promptly gets possessed by the monstrous shadow. Dedede isn't the toughest opponent, but he still puts up a fight. After evil gets out of him, Dedede shows himself reluctant in following the others on their quest, but he finally decides to go help them anyway. You can see him pigging out on chicken wings during the picnic at the end of each level. ....wait a second... a penguin eating CHICKEN WINGS????

All of a sudden, this debonair penguin appears a bit more deranged.
Don't you tell me it's beef! That still means it's still animal meat!

Whispy has offsprings? Bizarre.
Pop Star is such a small world: Three levels in, and we already have to fight against a boss! And of course, this is the Kirby series, so we’re going to face another famous character of the Kirby series… Whispy Woods! To defeat it, Kirby first has to defeat the three smaller tree creatures running around Whispy (Whispy is in the center of a circle, and Kirby can’t approach him, he can just move around that circle). Once the creatures are defeated, Whispy attacks with roots coming out of the ground. Kirby attacks them and defeats Whispy Woods. As a result, the heroes get another crystal shard. Somehow, these shards open a portal to another planet in the Kirbyverse… that’s where the next ones can be found! The group gets sent into the second world, Rock Star. There better be a song with electric guitar in there!

Well, this world appears to be resting in pieces.
Sadly, no, this is an Egyptian-themed world, with pyramids, pillars, sand, that kind of stuff. It’s a pretty basic world. It also lets us see a couple of additional features in this game: Your allies aren’t just there for show, you know. Adeleine will be there every once in a while to create an item for you or help with a puzzle. For once, art creates life! Sorta. Ribbon will always show up when you pick up a Crystal Shard, since she’s the one who stores them. Waddle Dee knows how to operate just about every single machine that comes their way (I suppose that explains why Dedede keeps them as underlings even if they are useless in battle). And when brawns are needed, King Dedede shows up with his trusty hammer and breaks through the walls blocking the way. That’s pretty clever.

Never thought I would be attacked by colored prisms today.
Yet, that second world takes a turn for the unexpected once we see a black pyramid rise up from the ground, like a spaceship, with very futuristic designs on the inside. Whoa, I never saw it coming. I guess it’s true, after all: Aliens did build the pyramids. It’s just that nobody knows where the controls are. Heck, the boss at the end of this world is a trio of colored diamonds. At first, all Kirby can do is try to avoid their attacks, but after a while he can strike back. Soon enough, the diamonds are defeated and Kirby gets another shard. After that, we see the group walking in the desert. Kirby is exhausted, so the five pals stop for yet another picnic. Because of course they do. After this little obligatory break, Ribbon transports the group to Aqua Star, the third world.

As the title heavily implies, this is a watery world, with multiple sections where Kirby is swimming. I’m thankful Kirby never has to breathe underwater – and hey, he can still inhale enemies while underwater. I can’t imagine how much water he inhales at the same time. And of course, there are plenty of Gordos on the way, and strong water currents that push you directly into them… Hurray. There’s a reason I’m not a fan of underwater levels. I dunno, there’s some kind of subconscious reason for my hatred of them…

You know what that means: Beach Party! Get out your old
surf rock records!
…I never forgot those numerous parts, in Donkey Kong Country, where terrifying octopi would see Donkey or Diddy coming their way, and they would start spinning around… Those were so scary… And indestructible… They scarred me forever… Not even the protection of Enguarde the swordfish managed to reassure me… Goddamn Croctopus. And please, don’t remind me of the Squidges! For the love of all that is watery, don’t remind me of the Squidges!

Oh, whatever. The boss at the end of Aqua Star is a shark that spits out torpedoes and Gordos. I’m thankful it isn’t also shooting freaking laser beams… Oh, and guess what? The whole fight takes place underwater. Oh wait, there’s worse: Once you defeat it once, it appears to fall to its doom, but then Kirby has to go up to escape, and the shark chases after him again! And you have to defeat it a second time, where it’s even more difficult to do! Hope you’ve got many spare lives, you’ll need them…

And surprisingly enough, there was no tension buildup before
getting to this boss; no scary music, no preview of a fin
coming out of the water...

After this tough boss fight, Kirby is seen with the others on a beach, having a contest, trying to see who would throw stones in the ocean the farthest. While Kirby is getting ready to toss, the others run away, because a giant wave is coming. Kirby doesn’t have time to throw, he gets caught in the wave. When he resurfaces on the beach, he sees the others leaving for the next world… Neo Star!

...Keanu blame me for making this joke?

No, not that Neo.

Ah, that's more like it.

 It’s a rather odd world; hard to classify it as one type of land or another. I mean, video games will often have levels based on types of terrains (grasslands, deserts, oceans, islands, skies, icy worlds, caverns, fiery places), and stick to one type for the duration of the world. Here, Neo Star begins around a mountain area, and ends in a volcano. Phew, is it just me or it’s getting hot in here?

Freaing Magman... Just go away, you Blargg wannabe!
Oh wait, it gets worse. The boss at the end of this world is also very difficult. It’s a lava monster staying at a distance, so Kirby is unable to go and attack it directly. However, that monster frequently attacks with waves of lava coming towards Kirby like tentacles… and you can attack those, thus decreasing the boss’s life bar. Six hits this way, and the boss is defeated! Phew, that was hard, but it didn’t seem that bad… wait a second… it’s coming! Before you know it, the giant lava monster comes towards Kirby and chases him! Thankfully, it stops after a bit… only to gain a second life bar, which you must also deplete. I sincerely hope you got an ability that doesn’t put you in direct contact with the boss, because it’s gonna hurt the little puffball if he rams into a lava monster. Personally, I’m not a fan of this boss fight, but it could be worse.

After defeating this mighty monster, Kirby and Co are seen picnicking near the volcano. It erupts, forcing them to run away to the next world…

Come back this Monday for Part 2!