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Kirby Star Allies Review

The puffy, pink balloon known as Kirby is back for another platforming journey. The Kirby series has been going strong since 1992, and now fans get to play as the transforming critter for the first time on the Nintendo Switch.

Kirby Star Allies begins with a ritual being performed by a mysterious figure, and a large crystal heart shattering as a result. These heart fragments drift away and make their way to Kirby’s home world.

Some well-known character in the Kirby series, such as King Dedede and Meta Knight, come into contact with these fragments and become possessed by them.

Kirby also comes into contact with a fragment, but strangely enough, gains the power to befriend enemies. From here, Kirby notices the strange behaviour of the possessed and decides to investigate, and that’s where his adventure begins.

Popular characters such as Meta Knight make their return.

This game does look beautiful. From the background views to the well modeled characters, it is easy on the eyes. The animations all move smoothly and look great for all characters.

There are a decent variety of worlds to play through, so you’ll see nice beach views, forests, caves, and even outer space. There’s a generous amount of colour and brightness in every level, so you can tell they were going for a ‘cute’ aesthetic.

As good as the visuals are, sadly, that’s where the praise ends for this game. Maybe it’s because I’m new to this series, but where was the fun?

The whole time I played through this game, I was actually bored the entire time. Boredom and Nintendo are not words I would normally associate with each other. So where do I start?

Kirby and his allies can form a ‘Friend Star’ to freely flying through the level.

Firstly, Kirby Star Allies plays out like any other platformer by making your way through the level, avoiding obstacles and defeating enemies, and then reaching the end goal.

My biggest complaint about this game (among many) is that basically every level lacks any kind of creative level design. Nintendo platformers are known for being original, fresh, and always throwing something new at you.

In Kirby Star Allies, there’s very little platforming, and I rarely felt any of my skills being tested. There was maybe one moment I felt I needed a bit of good timing, but this should happen every level, and not just once or twice.

Maybe it’s because you can constantly press jump in mid-air to float, so it’s harder for the game to have decent platforming, but it does claim to be a platformer so it needs to act like it. There could have been more aerial platforming, having obstacles you’ll need to float around and dodge, and it would have been a lot more enjoyable. There are actually a couple of moments like that, but no way near enough.

The vast majority of levels just have you trudging along, beating up enemies, and floating over the level. Where level design is one of the most important aspects of platformers, Kirby Star Allies just fails miserably.

Another problem is that Kirby is just far too slow. If you want to run, you’ll need to double tap in the direction you want to go in. This is not good for those moment where you need to move fast and respond quickly. So not only does Kirby move slowly, you have to move slowly with him.

One of the few moments you’ll need to carefully consider which allies to bring along.

One of Kirby most well-known features is his ability to suck enemies in and absorb their skills. This was one of the few slightly shining lights in the game. Having a good variety of enemies meant there were a variety of skills to experiment with. Some enemies gave you the use of a sword for simple combat, others gave you the ability to become rock hard and stomp on the ground.

Of course some skills were more useful than others, and I often just went with the sword or staff attacks. Some skills will help you get through certain situations too, but as much potential as this had, it still felt so lacking.

For anyone who’s played Super Mario Odyssey, whenever you capture an enemy or object to gain an ability, you feel its usefulness. It feels so satisfying because whole sections of gameplay are dedicated to these gained abilities, whereas in Kirby Star Allies, it doesn’t seem well thought out at all. Plus if you have a friend in your team with the required skill, they can just do it for you.

There are some interesting skills that Kirby can gain.

To add to gaining new skills, you can actually combine these skills with other characters in your team. You simply hold the up button to request this combination and you’ll be treated to a cool animation of the skills being combined.

For example, if I had a friend who has fire attacks, I can raise my sword and before you know it I’ll be wielding a cool fire sword. Trying to have the right elemental attack will help with certain enemies and certain scenarios. If there’s a large bomb with its fuse just lying around, you’ll want the fire power to light it up and blow up a secret path.

As great as this skill combination sounds, it still felt underwhelming overall. It could have been utilized so much better and more often, but lazy game design prevented this from happening.

Another major feature of Kirby Star Allies is the ability to recruit your own enemies as friends. Kirby can throw a love heart at eligible enemies and they suddenly become your ally. From here they’ll fight with you and help you out throughout the level.

The AI can be quite good, as they’ll work out by themselves if they have the necessary skills to get through a particular section. Though sometimes they’re a little too reckless, and will quickly kill enemies I want to recruit, which was an annoyance.

Combining skills is a great concept that wasn’t utilized to its potential.

You can recruit up to 3 allies at one time. But having such a large team, combined with enemies on the screen, meant there was a lot of clutter. It was fairly difficult to make out what was going on and was very chaotic. Trying to get myself involved in the action was a challenge because I just couldn’t see where Kirby was.

Another problem was that because you recruit enemies, it was hard to tell the difference between them and your allies. Occasionally there were markers above your allies’ heads, but when they disappeared, it made things confusing.

On a lighter note, sometimes I questioned whether Kirby was the villain of the game. To Kirby, his friends were very disposable and could easily suck them up and steal their abilities. Questioning Kirby’s morals was one of the fun times I did have with this game.

Being able to recruit so many allies showed that this game was built for co-op. This is on the Switch after all, and co-op play is always encouraged. I mainly played it solo though, which is maybe why my experience was so hollow.

I did end up trying co-op, but sadly it was only marginally better, but that’s not saying much. It was still hard to make out who was who. On the plus side, any players that are too slow will be pulled along to not slow the action down.

There is occasional teamwork you’ll need to perform.

Yet another complaint I have is that this game is far too easy. Having your team of allies meant you could sit back and watch them take out enemies. With the weak platforming as well, there wasn’t much to challenge me. By the end of the game, I had around 70 lives, with no stress of losing them.

A couple of bosses did give me trouble, but that was mainly because of Kirby’s slow movement and slow reaction times, so it was more frustrating than anything. The bosses themselves weren’t anything special. They were mostly forgettable and just hack and slack fights with a little bit of dodging.

The game is also on the short side, but I would consider this a plus because it meant less time spent on the game. There are collectibles in each stage and bonus levels to unlock which can increase the game’s longevity.

There are a couple of fun mini-games to play and I enjoyed them more than the main game. You can access them anytime from the main menu and are fun to play with friends. There are only 2 mini-games (with 3 difficulties in each), but they’ll only keep you going for so long. Better just to wait for the next Mario Party.

Co-op is a passable experience, but is the slightly better option than solo play.

Ultimately though, I just didn’t have fun on this game. You may enjoy it if you’re a long-time, hardcore Kirby fan, but otherwise you should give it a miss.

There’s not enough bang for your buck here, and with little to no creativity in the levels, you’ll most likely be bored like I was. Combine that with the painfully slow movements, lack of challenge, and short length, I can’t recommend this to anyone.

There was potential for this to be great with the ideas it had, but fell so very flat.

Score: 5.5/10

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