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May 4, 2015

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Part 2)

Ready to continue this review? I sure am! Let’s see what happens to our team of heroes! The next world happens to Shiv-aaaaaa Shive---- Shi--- Shiv-ATCHOO! I meant Shiver Star. It’s a world of ice, in case the title didn’t make it obvious. And since our heroes just left Neo Star, and the boss right before was a living puddle of lava, I expect the quick change in temperature is going to cause the five heroes to catch a mighty cold.

Well, gee, that continent on Shiver Star appears to be shaped
pretty much like America! What if....? ... Is it... ...Nah!

You should know that factories always mean trouble in video
games!
Cold… Shiver Star… That pun wasn’t intended. Although, it’s kinda odd how this fifth world suddenly goes from a cold land to an industrial world; the last two levels take place in a factory! Oh, and the boss in that world? A giant robot. Not any giant robot; a tough giant robot that attacks with its two pole arms and a mean head laser. Still not enough for you? When you defeat it while it’s in a humanoid form, it transforms into a spaceship from which you must escape, unless you want it to send you down into an endless pit! Oh, and of course, it’s armed with rockets. Because of course it is. Dangit, why is it that the bosses in this game are so difficult? Anyway, Kirby manages to defeat it (I noticed it was easier to beat if Kirby didn’t have any abilities with him; you could just inhale his rockets and toss them back at it), and so we’re treated to a small cutscene.

Frickin' robot... why are all robots so dangerous these days?

After Kirby picks up the crystal shard guarded by the robot, the group meets up in the cold lands outside. The portal opens, revealing Ripple Star, Ribbon’s home world… it’s being devoured by darkness! Oh, snap. Thankfully, her four friends make it clear she can count on them. Hop, Ribbon, Kirby, Waddle Dee, Adeleine and Dedede jump in the portal. Direction: Ripple Star!

Here, monsters eat cuteness and puke quadruple rainbows.
Their farts sound like an orchestra in the middle of a movement.
We make our first steps through Ripple Star, and I’ve got to admit, it’s kinda weird… I mean, aside from the proliferation of baddies around here, the place looks downright heavenly! Cute and sweet to such a sickening degree that I’m half-expecting cartoon ponies to show up. The first level is so easy it’s almost a joke, compared to the ones that came right before, on Shiver Star. The second level is a tad less reassuring, since it’s an underground cave with spooky music, but it’s still pretty easy. The third level is a lot trickier: It’s a tower with rooms separated by staircases, and in every room, Kirby encounters nmultiple baddies that he must eliminate. If Kirby is equipped with just the right ability, this is not much of a challenge, though it can still be difficult if you’re not careful. Still, at least there’s no tough platforming to do here, just smash and smash till you reach the exit!

Seven forms. You better learn their atterns, unless you want this
boss to be extremely long to beat.
After which you unlock the final level of Ripple Star… or, rather, the boss of Ripple Star. Miracle Matter. It’s a very tough one, because it transforms to use all seven of Kirby’s basic abilities… and it’s only weak to an ability while it is transformed into said ability. It’s only weak to rock while it’s a rock, it’s only weak to electricity when it’s a ball of electricity, it’s only weak to fire while it’s a ball of fire… Makes little sense, but that does make it pretty challenging to beat. Never mind the fact that it transforms back into its invincible form pretty quickly, so you need to hurry if you want to inflict some damage to Miracle Matter! Oh, and did I mention that it has an awful lot of hit points? Still, that felt deceptively generic for a final boss…

So, Kirby defeats Miracle Matter, and we get a nice scene of Ripple Star. Fairy children are running around. The place is peaceful again. The queen of fairies thanks the game’s cast, and then Kirby leaves with Waddle Dee, Adeleine and King Dedede in a UFO going back to Pop Star. As Ribbon waves to her friends, we see the Queen of fairies looking at the camera… Holy damn, what’s wrong with her eyes?????


Alright, those of you who’ve been following my site for a while know that I know what’s going on here. I listed it as part of one of the scariest Nintendo moments. The Queen is possessed by the very spirit of that darkness Kirby and Co. have supposedly repelled. It’s not over. For this game to end, you need to collect every single crystal shard. Only once this mission is complete will you access the true final boss.

Oops. Kirby has been turned to stone. You know what that
means. LET'S ROCK.
This is a LONG quest, not just because you’re searching everywhere for shards. Let’s just say that some shards are VERY difficult to get. Oh, it’s not that they’re hidden THAT well. However, some of them are placed in locations where basic Kirby cannot go. Because he needs abilities. Oh, you might think he just needs to inhale the closest enemy and get its ability, right? Nope! These shards are blocked by obstacles of certain colors. The only way to destroy them is to use the ability with the corresponding color (black, red, yellow, green, pale blue, brown, orange). Oh wait, there’s more! To make it even more complicated, most obstacles will have two colors and Kirby will need exactly the combined copy ability needed (as an example, he needs to combine Bomb, the black ability, and Arrow, the orange ability, to cause a black and orange block to disappear). Still not enough? Usually, those blocks are not located near the beginning of a level; they can be placed around the middle, or near the end. Yep, you’ll often need to complete a level with one ability in particular in order to get a certain shard. Oh, you want MORE? MORE MOAR MORE? Some of the abilities required to get shards are less versatile, or less useful, or less battle-efficient… and if the problematic crystal shard is located at the end of a difficult level, you have to go through it without getting hurt much (because Kirby will expel the ability and might be unable to retrieve it). Have fun!

Fortunately, there is an easy way around this: Keep in mind what the first enemy in every level has as an ability (make a list), inhale an enemy with one of the required abilities, leave the level, go to another level where an enemy with the required second ability is found near the start, toss the first ability into it, inhale the resulting ability, and there you go. Did that sound complicated? Why, yes, yes it is. I’m surprised a game from the Kirby series turns out to require, *gasp!*, strategy! But the entire idea is to get the power combo you need without having to go through whole levels.

Oooh. Pretty.

It’s long and difficult, but Kirby manages to get all the crystal shards there is to find. Now, he has to fight against Miracle Matter once again. Once that’s done, the group gets around the final crystal shard of the game. It blasts the Queen of Ripple Star, and while she faints, we see a dark entity leaving her body. Oh no. This is the real final boss… Zero Two (0²).

Artwork drawn by x-EBee-x, published on DeviantArt.

AAAAAAAH! Is that… frickin’ BLOOD? Coming from this monster’s eye? Holy crap! I thought this was a game for kids!

And of course, you end up having to use abilities you never
had before. You never even get to train.
If you thought that was scary, wait until you see how that thing is fought. The gameplay changes all of a sudden, and we’re brought to something that wouldn’t feel out of place in the first Star Fox, for the Super NES. Kirby, flying thanks to Ribbon, is shooting the crystal shards towards Zero Two. You have to be ultra-careful not to get hit by 0²’s beams. Thankfully, you don’t need to aim, the shards will all go towards 0²’s eye. Simple. After a bit, its eye will close, its halo will change color. That means you must move to the top of 0²’s head and attack the… Is that a Band-Aid? That looks like a Band-Aid. Our little darklord angel has a widdle bump and a widdle plaster on its heady-head? Does it hurt, 0²? Does it hurt? Come on, let me RIP IT OFF! Shoot the plaster numerous times, and a… vine will sprout under 0², like it came out of his… His... You know what, I’m not doing that joke. But you get the point. Take note that 0²’s Life Bar depletes only when you’re attacking that spiky bush, and it’s impossible to do it all in one shot, so you’ll have to go through the numerous steps leading to it once more, possibly twice.

Is that what you call an epic fail, or mere slapstick?
So, 0² is defeated, once and for all. Dark Matter explodes in a majestic supernova, while Ribbon and Kirby return to safety on Ripple Star. The people of Ripple Star celebrate Kirby and the others' victory, offering each of them a crystal shard as a medal of sorts. Ribbon puts the medal around Kirby and then kisses him on the “cheek”. Infatuated (??), Kirby steps back… and falls down the stairs behind him. Ah, Kirby, always the one who gets made fun of, even if you saved their world – though, to be fair, you brought it to yourself by being so ditzy. Don't be sad. We love to make fun of you, but we're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you. Roll credits!

And yet Meta Knight wasn't in Kirby 64, which was
Adeleine's sole canon appearance in the game series.
Still, awwww.

Now, there’s a few more things to discuss in this game. On the file selection menu, you can access a bonus section that includes minigames, a theater and a glossary. Here’s what they are.
-100-Yard Hop: The main characters (minus Ribbon) are racing on a straight line made of a hundred circles. They jump two spaces forward when you press A, and only one when you press B. Some of the circles are filled with water, so the characters have to jump over them. Likewise, sometimes frogs will be passing in the circles, and the characters must not crush them. Whichever characters reaches the finish line first wins.
Two Dededes? Sakurai's on Cloud Nine!
-Bumper-Crop Bump: The characters are fighting to get as many fruits in their basket as possible! They can move left and right to do so, but they can also switch places with another character. At the end, whoever has the most fruits in their basket wins.
-Checker Board Chase: The characters are moving around a checker board. At any time, they can press A to break a row or column of blocks. Any character that is sent falling down (due to standing over a line of blocks that disappears) loses a Hit Point. All the players have three Hit Points; a character that loses all three Hit Points is taken out, and the whole board becomes smaller. The last player standing wins.
-Enemy Info: A glossary of all the enemies in the game. How to fill it up? When Kirby ends a level, there’s food, stars and a 1-Up on the picnic tablecloth, but there’s also an odd card. Pick it up, and you’ll get info on an enemy in the game. You can access that info in the Enemy Info mode. There are 81 cards to pick up, including enemies and bosses, and the card you get during a picnic is always randomized. You never know what you’re gonna get. Hell, you could get 0²’s card before you even know that thing is in the game. It’s a fun additional challenge, not required to get 100% completion, but if you want to spend more time playing this game, I definitely recommend trying to complete this sidequest.
-Theater: Watch all the cutscenes you’ve unlocked thus far.
-Settings: Change the sound from mono to stereo, and select a type of display (the in-game menu where we see Kirby’s number of lives, remaining HP, number of stars collected before he gets another 1-Up, and the currently used ability/combo.

It's a Dededestruction!

There’s a final mode unlocked when you beat 0²: A Boss Endurance Mode, where Kirby has to try and defeat all of the game’s bosses without getting defeated. I haven’t had the chance to try it, but considering my experience, I can tell it’s probably an insanely hard challenge.

Waddle Dees can operate EVERYTHING. If  it can be driven,
they'll drive it. But they might crash it. Poor Kirby.
Well, that covers everything I had to say about this one. Final thoughts? That’s a pretty great game. Oh, sure, the story is very basic, but it covers everything that has to be covered: Darkness invades a faraway world, in their attempts to save it something worse happens, Ribbon finds Kirby and the puffball decides to offer his help. After which we encounter three additional characters who were possessed, Kirby saves them, they join the team and prove to be very useful. Between each world, we get some funny antics between these characters, and then we get to the final part, where Kirby saves the endangered world AND smashes the evil entity to bits. That’s all there is to this game’s story, and that’s all we need. It’s also pretty great to see Waddle Dee, Adeleine, Ribbon and Dedede helping Kirby through this adventure.

The gameplay is pretty neat. Kirby can accomplish a lot of things while he isn’t using an ability. As usual, he can jump and float, he can also inhale enemies and spit them out, he can use them as temporary allies when you press R, he can also steal their abilities… The main draw of many Kirby games is exactly that: Being able to steal an enemy’s ability so that Kirby can use it as his own... This game expands on the idea, offering the possibility to combine two such abilities, leading to no less than 35 forms Kirby can use. That’s seriously impressive. Almost every ability can be used and mastered to a point where Kirby could technically beat the entire game with it (well, except Miracle Matter and 0², because of how those battles work). Many of these abilities are extremely powerful, so even beginner players are bound to find a combo that works well for them, one that they’ll use repeatedly.

Baa-aaaaaaaaaa-ye!
As for the difficulty of this game, since this is part of the Kirby series, I was kind of expecting levels easier than those I’ve played. That might be a misconception on my part. Still, I was surprised at the sudden spike in the difficulty of the levels in Neo Star and Shiver Star. I was less surprised by the difficulty of the bosses, as the Kirby series is usually known for having relatively easy levels and much, much harder bosses.

I also enjoy the bonus quests in this game. Looking for all the crystal shards takes a while, it’s sure to keep you busy. Getting all the enemies in the glossary is also an arduous task (since you need to catch the card on the picnic cloth at the end of every level, and nothing else). The Boss Rush must be extremely challenging, but I’m sure someone with dedication and fast reflexes – and a good ability combo – can do it.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is beautiful. The worlds are a treat, the simpler 3D (a characteristic of most N64 games) gives it just the child-friendly feel a Kirby game needs to have. It’s so very colorful, too, and the levels are much more detailed than necessary, which is a good thing; the designers took the look of their game seriously. Of course, the music is also very good. A lot of tunes in the soundtrack will stay in your head.

I'm kinda sad that this review is over, now...
Hey look, Dedede is still eating beef!

So, all in all, an excellent Kirby game. One that I can now cross off my list of Kirby games to review. Let’s see, in the 20th anniversary Kirby game, there are five additional games, a special mode and three episodes of the TV show… Maybe I’ll write about Kirby: Right Back At Ya someday. But that will be later. This Friday, tune in for a Top 12 list of my favorite bonus challenges in Nintendo series.