Wednesday
Aug152018

PPR Presents Late to the Party: Kirby Star Allies

ver the years, Nintendo has been privileged with a large stable of iconic franchises, and enduring characters that have gone on to appeal to audiences across the world, both old and young alike. Among those properties is their adorable pink puff-ball hero, Kirby, a character who had a title on nearly every platform from the company since the days of the NES and GameBoy.

After a year on the market, the gluttonous do-gooder is finally making his debut on the Nintendo Switch with Kirby Star Allies, which, in a surprising twist, is an adventure that’s far more traditional with his earlier outings than some of his more recent affairs. Opting more for refinement than innovation, Star Allies may arguably play it a bit too safe to make a splash among the other stellar platformers currently offered on the new console, but the game is still amazing entry in its own right.

In this new excursion for Kirby, HAL Laboratory decided to craft an experience that took different pieces from all of the Warpstar rider’s more revered entries like Super Star, Crystal Shards, and Squeak Squad, blending them into a scheme that’s centered on teamwork. The gameplay still features the same trademark side-scrolling design, only now Kirby has a new ability; the power to charm an enemy into being an AI companion that will accompany him at all times.

Not only can the Copycat Crusader entice up to the baddies over to the side of good, but he can also make use their respective abilities in combination with whatever power he has equipped to create a new hybrid power that’s stronger and more versatile than the standard stock of powers to pick from. This new feature does turn some familiar dynamics of the series on its head as players must now micro-manage between the benefit of inhaling powers from enemies for themselves, or indoctrinating them into indentured servitude as their colleagues.  A persuaded baddie can be controlled by the AI or local multiplayer, in an effort to support Kirby with the return of hybrid powers that can be used in this cosmic quest.

Similar to the framework that was first introduced in Super Star, there are certain obstacles, puzzles, or enemies that will call for a certain combination of powers between the diminutive warrior and his cavalry of soldiers to conquer the given situation. These scenarios can range from a multitude of obstacles,  like an extension cord that can be powered by the swipe an of electrical sword, or a lit-candle can only be put out by a hydro-powered Yo-Yo. These instances are nothing new mind you, but the immaculate level design of Star Allies is deep enough to test even the sturdiest of player faculties, regardless of how well versed they may be with Kirby conventions. Like previous entries before it, Kirby’s Switch debut also introduces some new powers that can be added to the chubby guy’s arsenal.

The new powers include the Artist power, Spider Power, Staff Power, and Festival Power. The Artist and Staff abilities are easily the stand-out talents among the bunch, as the staff power has one of the most versatile move-sets for combat, while the Artist being the most innovative as far as far as level-design and experimentation with other abilities go—adversely though, the other two powers are obnoxiously boring by comparison. In addition to the unique puzzles of the game, there new team-based areas that will require a varying number of participants to engage within each level. Whether you’re rolling with two heroes, or a full set of four, there are certain set-pieces within the stage that will pair up your party in an assortment of acrobatics that will change the dynamics of movement for a short time.

These gymnastic hijinks include a giant tumbling cannon-ball that will bowl over anything in its path, forming an anthropic bridge amongst your team in order to gangplank characters over treacherous chasms, or an all-out conga-line routine that will have the allies charge through the stage like a locomotive. These instances are a refreshing change of pace to the more rational side-scrolling aspects of Star Allies, especially when they deliver frenetic moments of spectacle to engage with a pace that breaks up some of the admitted tedium that stems out of the title’s systematic hop ‘n bop platforming.

While a majority of Star Allies is more déjà vu than Jamais vu, it manages to shine at its brightest when it comes to the fanservice it offers to devotees of the franchise with the enormous ensemble of playable characters it boasts. Each hub-world contains a special stop known as a “Dream Palace” it’s here where players can choose from a wide cast of who’s who in the Kirby universe, complete with their signature moves and playstyles to compliment the mechanics of Star Allies’ side-scrolling gameplay. In a display of passion that hasn’t been seen since the likes of Kirby’s Dream Collection, the roster of faces features in Star Allies are some of the deepest cuts out of Dreamland yet from HAL Laboratory—with characters like Adeline, Rick, Coo, Kine, Daroach, Gooey, Marx, Dark Metaknight, and more. They’re presence definitely added some variety, especially in contrast to some of the lowly default goons that roam the levels of the game, offering an additional incentive to completing the levels of each world so that the palace can be unlocked for a colorful visit.

Star Allies packs even more Easter eggs in its end-game content, as the level variety and difficulty show a great deal of personality more than the first of the campaign, but therein lies the issue itself—there isn’t a whole lot of meat in Star Allies when sizing up what’s on its plate. The length of time spent completing (again, completing, not finishing) the Story Mode can be done within as little as five hours total. Don’t get me wrong—I personally think that the argument of quality versus size from a gaming experience is just blasé at this point, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the cost of admission on Star Allie’s sticker price is just a bit too steep in relation to what players actually get. The experience here is definitely one of the best that the property has to offer, but the charm of Kirby Star Allies is honestly just too short-lived in comparison to some of the stellar entries that came before it.

Overall, Kirby Star Allies is still worth a look, especially in a multiplayer household, just be sure to temper your expectations, because it’ll the fun could end sooner than you’re ready for.

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