For 26 years, Kirby has been one of Nintendo's prominent mascots. Debuting on the Game Boy with Kirby's Dream Land players were given a neat look at a platformer where your primary weapon is your mouth. Kirby has the unique power to suck any and everything in his wake and spew it back as a projectile. There are certain items he can consume that give him specific properties. In the original Game Boy release, eating the "Superspicy Curry" would allow him to spit fireballs at his enemies.
In the ever-popular brawler game, Super Smash Bros, Kirby could suck up opponents and obtain their unique abilities. This idea of assuming the skills and abilities would be a feature used in many Kirby games, and Nintendo has released a full fledge Kirby title with that as its core gameplay mechanic. Kirby Star Allies released on the Nintendo Switch in March 2018, and can be played with up to four players.
The game begins with a cutscene depicting a ritual that fragmentizes a large, dark crystal heart across all of Dream Land. The fragments corrupt any who touch it, including King Dedede and Meta Knight. A shard happened to fall onto a slumbering Kirby, however instead of corrupting him, it has given him the ability to befriend his enemies, and "hire" them to solve environment based puzzles, and hopefully right the wrongs that this mysterious dark heart has brought upon Dream Land.
Kirby Star Allies continues on Nintendo's idea of returning Kirby to his platforming roots, with a traditional 2.5D sidescroller view. There are a variety of puzzles that will require the use of you and those you befriend to collaboratively solve. The puzzles themselves range from simplistic to clever throughout the main campaign, but gradually elevate in complexity in the post-game content. This was intended to maintain Kirby's general playability for any and all ages, and to challenge and reward those who wish to continue playing after the main adventure.
Cooperation is the clear focus with Star Allies' core design, and encourages up to four players to play together. However, the game does an admirable job in offering AI that is competent enough that solo players can complete the game without feeling like they missed anything. Other games have tried to almost forcibly encourage multiplayer playthroughs to the point where certain portions of levels were locked off unless you had another player to help you. I feel like this method is far more welcoming to every player type, and doesn't depend on needing another player, when the AI performs the same tasks. That being said, there's still the "fun factor" you get with friends playing couch co-op together, and I would highly recommend you play this with your friends, your parents, your son or daughter, niece or nephew; that's the wonderful charm that this game has, it truly is meant for everyone.
By consuming certain enemies, Kirby will adopt their unique character traits. The game opens up more possibilities when you can hold up on the left stick, to prompt an ally to add their abilities onto yours. For example, you can consume a Cowboy with a Whip and ask your ally with Fire powers to lend their ability, causing your whip to be engulfed in flames. This is one of the more basic usages, but the game offers some really clever merges with powers - some are required in order to get to certain parts of the map.
The overall level design throughout is almost deliberately simplistic. The core philosophy of Kirby Star Allies is to play and experience the lost art of offline cooperative games, and one that is accessible for all ages. Kirby travels to different sectors of Dream Land, that all have their own overworld that he can fully move around in, and select levels he wishes to play. Each sector has a Dream Fortress where you can access the game's DLC, the Dream Friends. These are classic characters from some of Kirby's most memorable adventures, like Rick, Kine and Coo from Kirby's Dream Land 2 or Meta Knight. Players can only access the Dream Fortress once per level, and can reenter once they have completed any one level. The levels themselves offer helpful prompts and reminders of controls throughout each level, which could deter the veteran gamers who don't need it, but it's there for new players.
From the familiar sound bytes of Kirby's celebratory dance, to the chime you hear when you receive a 1up, Kirby's sound is tailored as being one massive nostalgia trip. For someone who grew up with the series, it was a treat to listen to the familiar audio cues that were present on the original Game Boy release. Kirby Star Allies' visual fidelity also tries to pull on the memory strings, while looking absolutely spectacular. The character models, levels, platforming pieces, and visual effects are all vibrantly coloured and wonderfully rendered. Star Allies is definitely a title that's great at showing what the Switch can do as a piece of hardware, and you can tell HAL Laboratories put a lot of time, and love into the development of the game.
Overall, Kirby Star Allies is a fun trip down memory lane, and a fantastic Co-op experience. While it may be a more simplistic platformer compared to other titles out there, it serves a myriad of functions as a result. It's a great entry point for new gamers, it's essentially universally playable for all ages, and it's the right amount of difficulty for a group of 4 to just mess around with and have fun. The levels do get more challenging after the completion of the main campaign, but I wouldn't suggest going into this expecting the "Dark Souls" of platformers. If you're interested in a shining example of couch co-op play, Kirby Star Allies is definitely for you.Kirby Star Allies was reviewed using a Switch Physical Copy provided by Nintendo. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Beautiful, vibrant visuals that really showcase the Switch's capabilities.|
|Befriending enemies and merging powers are clever gimmicks that are thoughtfully used throughout each level.|
|Couch co-op seems to be a forgotten genre, and Kirby Star Allies not only embraces it, but offers a really genuine experience for all players, and all ages.|
|While co-op is definitely encouraged, it is still just as playable for solo players as the game offers decent AI partners to help you through each level.|
|The "helpful" reminders were a little too frequent at times. I expected them to go away after completing the first sector of the game, but it was persistent throughout.|
|The game is unashamedly simple, and rather short. While I was content with it overall this may be problematic to some.|