Watch me on Twitch!

Streaming whenever I can.
(Sorry, that's the reality of working at night. Subscribe to my channel to get notifications!)

May 20, 2016

Kirby Super Star (Part 1)

The good news is that I only have two Kirby games left to review, after which I’ll write a final post about Kirby’s Dream Collection and I’ll be done with it. And today, I am not reviewing a single Kirby game… well, I am. But that game contains multiple smaller games. And… wait a second, am I talking about Kirby Super Star or Kirby’s Dream Collection? Wow, there’s like an Inception thing going on. There’s this game that is a collection of smaller games, and one of those smaller games is also a collection of smaller games! It’s like Matryoshka dolls!

I'm glad to see the job center has a lot more Kirby.
That's neat.
Kirby Super Star (also known as Kirby’s Fun Pak in Japan) was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System on September 20th, 1996 in America. The game’s box proudly proclaims “8 games in one”! It contains an updated re-release of the first Kirby’s Dream Land, and seven more games. Also, all the adventure games in this collection let Kirby use his famed copy abilities, along with an all-new mechanic: The Helpers. You see, when Kirby inhales an enemy with an ability, he can keep that ability, or he can sacrifice that ability to summon a Helper of the same species as the monster he inhaled. That Helper can them follow Kirby around and attack the other enemies in the way. Of course, Helpers can take damage, so you still need to be careful not to lose them in a tight spot. They're not always useful, but they can often make the difference between victory and defeat in some levels and against some bosses.

Everyone knows more feet equals more buttkicking.
Although neither really attacks by kicking...
Kirby Super Star was also the first Kirby game to feature a health bar, which means Kirby had a lot more hit points than in other Kirby games. The Helpers also have health bars, though they have less HP than Kirby. To balance things out, the enemies also have increased life points, which is a pretty neat idea.

As for how this review is going to work, I think I’ll split it between games. Oh no, I won’t post eight different articles. But I’ll separate this review among the eight games, starting with the ones that are unlocked at the beginning and moving forward until all have been covered, with my thoughts on a game at the end of its section.

Let’s jump right into this!

Spring Breeze

In this remake of Kirby’s Dream Land, we control Kirby as he heads out into the not-so-dangerous realms of Dream Land on a quest to retrieve the food King Dedede stole from the land’s inhabitants. If you want, you can go read my review of the original game. Obviously I won’t spend a lot of time explaining this one.

First Kirby makes his way through Green Greens. Note that, while this game does follow the same basic structure as Kirby’s Dream Land, the layout of each level has been altered. It’s not a direct copy of the first Kirby game. Although, obviously, Kirby has yet again to fight Whispy Wood at the end of this level. Because of course he has to. I mean, that tree can take all the damage our little puffball can inflict, it’s a giant tree. It’ll only stop being the first boss when Kirby suddenly develops a Chainsaw copy ability. Hm… Chainsaw Kirby… I kinda want to see that.

Castle Lololo is mysteriously absent; I guess Kirby didn’t have to stop by the castle for a reason or another. Instead, we move on directly to the Float Islands. Kabula, who used to be fought in a bizarre shoot-em up, is absent; instead, we see Lololo and Lalala again. Good to know those two aren’t actually gone. The game would suffer so much without those nods to HAL Laboratory’s short-lived game series Eggerland Mystery!

The third level takes place in the bubbly clouds again, and when Kirby is in a cloudy land, you know what that means: Friggin’ Kracko! Yep, even in easier games this damned cyclopean cloud will not leave me alone! Well, at least you can make quick work of it thanks to Kirby’s copy abilities.

Finally, we get to the final level, Mount Dedede. This time around, instead of having to battle the previous levels’ bosses again, Kirby has direct access to Dedede’s boxing ring. And what a battle, ladies and gentlemen! Kirby kicks Dedede’s sorry penguin butt! Yeah, the Copy Abilities make this battle really easy, compared to the original Dedede fight where Kirby had to rely on inhaling collision stars and toss them at the King in order to hurt him. Once more, Kirby collects the Sparkling Stars and grows the size of a hot-air balloon, uprooting the castle and raining food all over Dream Land. And inflation fans rejoiced.

This is the easiest game in this collection, so short you can beat it in less than 10 minutes. I guess it was the point; this being the shortest and easiest game, as an introduction to Kirby’s many abilities, allowing players new to the series to get a good grasp of its features. The enemies and bosses also tend to behave a little different from their versions of the first K’sDL. Although I have to wonder if it wasn’t made too easy. With the new system, I think we could have had a complete remake of Kirby’s Dream Land and its difficulty would still have been just fine.

Megaton Punch

Outside of the main six games, there are two mini-games available from the start; I’ll discuss them both here then continue with the other sub-games in this collection.

This mini-game is split in three levels, and in each level you face three enemies with increasing difficulty. Megaton Punch is really a timing challenge, as you need precision to tap the A button at just the right moment. Kirby and the challenger arrive at the contest and place themselves over rock platforms. There are three steps to this, and if you perform better at each step than your opponent, you beat them. The best score possible is 201, and the final enemies score between 180 and 190. Oh, by the way, this contest almost breaks Pop Star in two. Every time. I’d hate to be the construction enterprise that repairs the planet after this competition! Oh, by the way, hello Mario, Luigi and Birdo in the audience! I think the Bros. are just there to take notes on that Kirby guy they’ll be facing soon in Super Smash Bros. for the N64 (since the first SSB came out 3 years after this game).

Samurai Kirby

Another timing mini-game, very similar to the Cowboy Kirby mini-game from Kirby’s Adventure. Samurai Kirby and an opponent face each other. When an exclamation mark appears on the screen, be quick to press the A button. The first opponent to draw its sword wins the encounter. There is a tiny time window in this mini-game, thus it’s really difficult to get to the end. There’s the Beginner, Novice and Expert difficulties, each with five opponent (Waddle Doo, Wheelie, the Chef, King Dedede and Meta Knight). Good luck beating Meta Knight!

Dyna Blade

Someone has been stealing the crops around Dream Land! Dammit, Dedede is that you again? No? It turns out that the real culprit, this time around, may be a giant bird of prey that goes by the name Dyna Blade. And yet, she was a very peaceful bird before! Why did she start attacking the crops? Kirby sets out to solve this mystery.

This one is a little more difficult than Spring Breeze, but still nothing too tough. Unlike Spring Breeze, this is a completely new game, and the levels may contain copy ability puzzles that take Kirby either to healing items or extra lives; thus it pays to visit every corner. Kirby games, in general, tend to favor exploration. However, most levels here don’t feature full-on bosses, and instead Kirby has to fight bigger and stronger versions of previous enemies.

Kirby starts this quest in a Green Greens-like level, after which he makes his way through a castle. In the castle, there’s a hidden switch that you can activate, letting Kirby access a bonus room on the world map. That bonus zone contains trophies of various enemies granting Kirby copy abilities. You can use one to create a Helper, then get a Copy Ability. Hm, I wonder if these trophies were the inspiration for Assist Trophies in Brawl…

Level 3 takes place in a cave, and Level 4 in a place that combines water sectors and magma sectors. Also, at the end of Level 4, there’s a quick Boss Rush with about four bosses. Ah, the Kirby series sure loves that trope… After which we get to Level 5, just a hill leading to the battle with Dyna Blade. That’s one giant, colorful bird. She’s not all that difficult to defeat, although only hitting her head will deal her any damage. With a strong Helper and a good copy ability, Dyna Blade goes down. Oh no! Don’t worry, Kirby wounded her pretty bad but she’s still alive. Kirby goes to the right and finds a nest with three Dyna chicks. At first he’s irritated by their constant chirping and, realizing that they’re probably hungry and their mother can’t take care of them at the moment, he decides to do so in her place. He feeds them Whispy’s apples, teaches them to fly, and this short game ends with a nice shot of Dyna Blade and her now grown chicks flying off into the sunset. D’awwww.

Since this one is just a little harder than Spring Breeze, it represents some kind of difficulty curve akin to those in normal platform games; so far, Kirby Super Star feels as though a platform game with many worlds actually had each world be a game with a distinct story. It also becomes more important to learn how to use every ability to its full potential (a copy ability can have a number of special attacks) and to learn how to use a Helper to get the best results.

Gourmet Race

Yes, the game that caused this ear worm to exist.

God I love the Brawl version.

Beating  fat penguin in a race?
Piece of cake!
Frankly, I could just keep posting examples of Gourmet Race remixes, but we have a sub-game to look at. Kirby is running in Gourmet World, when his arch-enemy shows up and taunts him. Annoyed – and hungry due to seeing all the food available here – Kirby and King Dedede decide to settle their feud. With not any challenge, either; a Gourmet Race! Split in three levels, this race has the two fighting to be the first to reach the Finish line, but that’s not all; on the way, they must also stuff themselves with all the delicious foods floating around.

Um... not as easy as it seemed at
first... whoops...
The challenge is double; will you slow yourself down to eat more food? Or will you concentrate on reaching the end before Dedede? It’s difficult because King Dedede is controlled by a very smart AI that makes very few mistakes, especially in the second and third levels. The first level is pretty straightforward, the second level includes a bit more platforming, and the third level is very platforming-heavy, with a lot of water sections. The third level does include some copy ability trophies that Kirby can use, to hopefully be faster than his lifelong rival. But remember; Dedede eats a lot on his way, so you can’t just concentrate on reaching the Finish line!

Nope, it's still perfectly possible to win.

This is a pretty challenging sub-game. You actually need talent to win this, as the CPU Dedede is really good. Better get some speedrun skills. The concept is pretty novel, this is a neat sub-game. In fact, I should probably call it a mini-game since it takes under three minutes to complete all three levels. It’s a good exercise in controlling Kirby.

The Great Cave Offensive

Not to be mistaken with that underground base with a lot of unpleasant and insulting pictures hanged to the walls; that’s the great offensive cave.

Kirby fell into a large cave and somehow forgot he could just fly out. Or maybe he doesn’t want to fly out… after all, it’s been said that this great cave is filled to the brim with treasure… And Kirby is going to do everything he can to get out with all of them!

So many sections to explore.
While a lot of Kirby games have this little puzzle element that encourages one to explore every corner and test out different abilities, all of this is far more encouraged here. Some treasure chests are in plain sight, but some others are cleverly hidden around the levels; and others are hidden behind puzzles that Kirby must solve, using copy abilities gained from nearby enemies. A chest usually contains a more expensive item if it’s hard to find. Also of note, this game is the closest to a Metroidvania that the Kirby series will ever get. You are allowed free exploration of the entire world, you are given access to every room, back and forth. However, just because you’re allowed to travel across the whole thing doesn’t mean there won’t be bosses to fight! And those bosses can get pretty nasty!

To access some particular treasure chests, you need a certain combination of abilities. You use Kirby’s ability, then he rids himself of that ability, and can either take back his current helper’s ability as his own or trust that his helper will do the right thing. In some cases, you have to backtrack across a large section of a level to get the ability and/or Helper you need to get one particular treasure chest.

By the way, I know it’s kind of childish, but I will always find it very funny how Kirby kisses his Helper no matter what Helper it is, whenever either of them gets a healing item; this way, the health bars of both characters refill a little (or entirely with a Maxim Tomato). Is there anything you’d like to tell us, Kirby? Oh right, you don’t talk. Oh well, it’s not a problem. Either he's discovering things about himself or he's just really affectionate. Guess that’s the only way they found to get both characters to heal. How does it work anyway? Some Helpers don't even have mouths!

I think we're still a long way from
getting an actual Kirby RPG...

This large cave takes them to a lake where they fight a whale, then into a place where they battle… an RPG system?? Yep. That’s a boss featuring three different enemies that Kirby has to fight. Then we get to an underground castle and Kirby beats up a chameleon that can turn invisible. Finally we get to a Garden Area with a lot of cloudy, sky-like sections…. still underground… okay… with a lot more treasure chests to find.

One funny thing about the treasures in this game is how many of them are references to other Nintendo games. Kirby, Captain Falcon called, he wanted his helmet back. Oh, and be sure to hand that Triforce back to Link when you two see each other in the next Smash game. You can keep the DK barrel, though, Donkey Kong still has plenty of those. He doesn’t care about barrels nearly as much as he cares for his banana hoard.

Finally, Kirby reaches the very bottom of the cave and fights Wham Back Rock, facial features without a head, and a hand without an arm. Hm, it looks like that damned gloved hand from a certain fighting game… Is it just me or Masahiro Sakurai is just stealing ideas from himself? I mean, everybody knows Master Hand, who knew Wham Bam Rock?

After this final boss is defeated, Kirby goes through a couple of rooms, uses elevators, breaks some stone blocks and finds himself back at the entrance of the entire cave. He blasts through the rocks blocking the way out, and flies back home, with all the treasure he collected (a total booty worth 9,999,990G!). The last image for The Great Cave Offensive is Kirby surrounded by riches.

One of the best games in Kirby Super Star. Well, actually, they’re all good games, it’s just that this one in particular has greater depth, better ideas, than the first ones I’ve looked at. The interest of Kirby Super Star is how it features a bunch of games, always with Kirby as main focus, and six of those sub-games are platformers with either mini-game elements (in the case of Gourmet Race) or a little something more that separates that game from the others. In the case of the Great Cave Offensive, the focus is not on the platforming but on the puzzle elements. Alright, the platforming part can still get really tricky at times, but everything about the platforming here revolves around finding the collectibles. Hell, after you defeat Wham Bam Rock and find yourself back at the beginning, you can just go through the whole place again to look for whatever treasure chests you missed! Exploring is encouraged and there’s always something nearby that allows you to get a treasure chest, usually without too much trouble. The Save points are also placed perfectly, and it’s easy to find them – or to go back to them, since they’re always located in hub-like sections. If I do have one point of criticism, it would be that a few treasure chests outright require the Helper to be controlled by a second player, because the CPU Helper’s AI follows Kirby around and some switch puzzles require that Helpers actually stay in a certain spot. But you can use a second remote in those sections, it works too.

And that’s all for today. I’ll be continuing this Monday with Revenge of Meta Knight and Milky Way Wishes. See you then!