Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kirby Super Star (SNES) Retro Review

Retro Review Month rolls on with Kirby Super Star, one of the most popular games in the Kirby franchise. If you don't care to track down a used Super Nintendo copy, why not just download the Wii Virtual Console version? It's just as good. Nonetheless, before you do, read my retro review of the game in question.

This SNES Game Is "Pak-ed" 

Nintendo's stable of memorable, lovable characters and mascots is insanely large. It has Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Yoshi, Samus Aran, Pit, and yes, the absolutely adorable Kirby. Kirby is generally the character who receives the most experimental games. For example, drawing rainbow-colored lines to guide the pink puffball in Kirby: Canvas Curse, jostling your Game Boy Color around to move Kirby through mazes and elevated levels in Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble, and reflecting the charming blob into breakable blocks a la Breakout in Kirby's Block Ball are all instances of this. Perhaps what could be considered another experiment is putting Kirby into eight different games on one Super Nintendo cartridge. The end result is Kirby Super Star (aka Kirby's Fun Pak in European areas). Does this collection of games make Kirby deserve his super star moniker?

Unlike every other Kirby game in existence, Kirby Super Star is not one epic adventure. It is actually a compendium of all-new standalone games that are to be played. Starting off with Spring Breeze, a 16-bit version of the original Kirby game, Kirby's Dream Land on the Game Boy, minus one level, players embark on their quest to opening up every game in the collection by completing a game or combination of games. (Games can last anywhere between ten minutes to over an hour.) This all takes a part in leading up to and culminating with playing Milky Way Wishes and besting The Arena, a 20+ round coliseum-style romp with all of the major enemies of the entire game to vanquish. Think the odds are against you? Well, between battles there's a tree that has six health-restoring Maxim Tomatoes to eat when you're feeling low.

If you have played a standard Kirby game, you probably know what to expect in nearly all of the available games. The gameplay in most of the game involve Kirby gobbling up enemies and assuming their abilities. For instance, if you suck up a bird baddie, Kirby will gain the power to fling feathers at foes as well as fly in the air with more control. Without any abilities, Kirby is still a competent character. He can suck up enemies, and shoot them in star form out of his mouth. If a power isn't quite working out, it can be removed. (Powers are forcibly removed if Kirby takes too much damage.)

Kirby's face is beaming as he uses the Beam power.
One of the greatest features of Kirby Super Star is most games allow for two player support. All that is required of player one is for them to have a power, press a button to turn it into a sidekick character, or helper, controlled by the CPU, and then have the second player take control of it through also pressing a button. The second player takes damage just like Kirby does, but unlike Kirby when he loses a life, player two can come back as many times as he or she desires. Players can share food which restores health by hugging one another, performed by being close to one another after food has been consumed.

Dyna Blade's no match for Kirby
because Kirby is the bomb.
After Spring Breeze, the easiest game in the collection, is completed, two more open up: Dyna Blade and Gourmet Race. Dyna Blade is a beefier Spring Breeze with original levels, two secret levels accessed through stepping on hidden switches, and an overworld map. Meanwhile, Gourmet Race is a racing affair which has Kirby trying to speed through three different obstacle courses before King Dedede can reach the finish line. Along the way, Kirby can digest food scattered around the courses to earn points. The racer with the most points at the conclusion of the three races is determined the victor.
It doesn't count as exercise if while you
are running you eat everything in sight.
Another available game is Revenge of Meta Knight which takes you through multiple parts of Meta Knight's airship as well as through land areas in your pursuit of Meta Knight. You are constantly timed in this mode, though the timer resets after each completed portion of this mode. I found Revenge of Meta Knight to be the most difficult game in Kirby Super Star, despite it being listed in the game as less difficult than others in the collection.

Nonetheless, two of my favorite games of Kirby Super Star are both ones where you have to find a bunch of items hidden across the levels. The first is The Great Cave Offensive, and while you are only in an actual cave setting for 1/4 of this game, it is mighty fun. The goal here is to come across sixty treasure chests strewn all across the four major sections of the game. Inside each treasure chest is a... well... treasure that adds to your money total. These are items as cheap as a bedpan to items as valuable as a katana blade. Nintendo fans will dig that there are Nintendo-related items to be found as well, including a DK Barrel, Samus Aran's Screw Attack ball, and Earthbound's Mr. Saturn.

At first The Great Cave Offensive seems pretty linear, but after you enter the second main area, everything opens up considerably. There's multiple paths, multiple rooms, and multiple obstacles and enemies to overcome to find glorious booty. Some treasures are easier to reach than others. One tricks you into entering a room that automatically begins scrolling to the right. If you don't collect the treasure inside the trap room and vamoose in time, you will be crushed by the screen.

Go on a treasure hunt in The Great Cave Offensive.
The Great Cave Offensive can actually be beaten in 15-20 minutes if you are just skipping most exploration. Areas are interconnected with mine cart segments that require no finesse whatsoever, and each area concludes with a boss battle. Regardless, collecting all sixty treasures within their chest prisons is the only way to fully complete the mode. And it is a wild ride and quite the accomplishment, too.

The latter game that is similar to The Great Cave Offensive opens up after the primary six modes have been finished off. It is Milky Way Wishes where the sun and moon clash for supremacy. It is unlike any other mode as Kirby cannot suck up foes and then copy their powers. Instead, Kirby must find 16 or so powers within the multiple planet levels (able to be chosen in any order) to be able to switch forms. There's usually 2-3 abilities per planet, and each planet has its own environmental theme, from a journey on top of the clouds to an expedition within a volcano. After the initial planets are completed, the final battle against the true foe begins.

Rounding out Kirby Super Star are the Sound Test (opens after all eight main games are completed) and two mini-games: one where you try to draw your sword before your opponent when the on-screen prompt shows up, and one where you face off against an adversary in hopes of creating a bigger crack in the ground than they do. These mini-games can be played against the computer or against a second player.

Become a gladiator of good in The Arena mode.
Kirby Super Star is a darling of a game in the looks department. The crisp colors of characters and beautiful backgrounds which are full of life are truly something special to behold. The color palette is highly varied and the character design is spectacular, especially the larger sprites. If you're a sucker for 2D sprites like me, you'll no doubt adore what you see with Kirby Super Star. Moving from sights to sounds, the soundtrack of the game is full of all the catchy melodies and accompaniments you've grown to expect from the Kirby series. And if you're new to the franchise, you'll see why so many revere the scores to Kirby games.

By far one of the best values in a Kirby game, Kirby Super Star is an terrific proposition for someone who is new to the franchise or, like a sizable chunk of the world, is enamored with the pink puffball. These are games that you will want to play through again and again, trying to do better each time. If I had a complaint, it is that an initial go-through of all of the games doesn't last too long which might put off some gamers who beat a game once and move on to the next thing. Regardless, others will love Kirby Super Star. It's a highly competent collection of individual games starring Kirby. Forget WWE wrestlers; Kirby is the true superstar.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

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