Last Friday marked the launch of Kirby Star Allies, the latest entry in the character’s long-running series of fairly simple but incredibly imaginative platforming games. It’s the pink puffball’s debut adventure on the Nintendo Switch and as expected, Star Allies is sharp, colorful, and, unsurprisingly, adorable. As far as Kirby games go, this is one of the best in the series and should please old and new fans alike – that is, if you can get past one incredible flaw.
Kirby Star Allies is a game that’s best described as a fun, family, multi-player sidescroller, with a heavy emphasis on the word family. Like the previous installments, the same core gameplay of Kirby applies here. And like any Kirby game, Nintendo’s big marquee release of March suffers from how incredibly easy it is to beat. Kirby games have never exactly been challenging due to the fact that Kirby himself is always overpowered – but in Kirby Star Allies, the titular young, pink, spherical hero also has up to three friends helping him every step of the way. If anything, it makes an already breezy game a lot easier to finish since a squad of four characters can easily defeat any boss and enemy without ever breaking a sweat.
For the most part, I knew this was to be expected, but what I didn’t anticipate is how fun the game actually is. And while the game is incredibly easy to beat, I’d argue the game can also be somewhat overwhelming for anyone who lacks familiarity with the Kirby series. There’s just so much going on in this exhilarating and fizzy adventure, that trying to keep up with the madness unfolding onscreen feels like you’ve drunk way too much pink Champagne. And that’s what makes Star Allies truly compelling – the chaos that ensues thanks partly to cooperative play for up to four people.
You see, this time around, Kirby has a new power in the form of a big pink star that he can toss at an enemy in order to befriend it. In doing so, he can recruit up to three allies who will follow him around and help him fight every enemy who comes his way. If you enjoyed how Super Mario Odyssey allows Mario to possess almost every character in the game, there’s a good chance you’ll like Kirby Star Allies. Much like Odyssey, Kirby can control just about everyone he encounters including mid-bosses and even Kirby’s most famous rivals such as King Dedede, Whispy Woods and Meta Knight, to name a few. And that’s not all – building on top of this mechanic Kirby and his allies can combine their powers and abilities to overcome various obstacles. There are times when the characters will climb on top of each other to form a bridge and other times in which they’ll create a vacuum or catapult each other across the stage.
This is not the first four-player Kirby platformer, but given the Switch’s design, Kirby Star Allies is easily one of the best multiplayer Kirby games made to date. Or at least, it’s blessed with landing on a console that allows its multiplayer feature to shine in various ways. As mentioned above, up to four players can easily jump in, and the only accessory needed for a maximum multiplayer session is an extra set of Joy-Cons. Everyone plays together in the same space, at the same pace, whenever and wherever they want – and if you don’t have anyone to play with, there’s no need to worry since they’re all controlled by the A.I. In a time when too many games rely on the online multiplayer action in where your teammates can be sitting halfway around the world, Kirby Star Allies is a welcome addition to my gaming library and something I know I can always turn to when inviting friends or family over.
It helps too that the game oozes with charm, not to mention this is the first mainline Kirby game to make the jump to HD (although it bears mentioning, the game appears to perform at just 30fps). Whether you’re playing portable or docked, Kirby Star Allies is a gleaming, candy-colored fantasy that teems with mad invention and a great game for young kids and anyone new to the series. Though the campaign may be on the short side (the story mode consists of only four worlds), the post-game content is arguably where the real fun begins. And believe me, there is a lot of bonus material to dig into!
I wouldn’t go so far to say Star Allies is a great game, but director Shinya Kumazaki injects such charm and wit, such personality and nostalgia — evident in the animation, storybook settings and pitch-perfect use of the remixed Kirby tunes — that it’s easy to forgive its shortcomings. If anything, it’s a perfect game for children and if its target audience is indeed young gamers, it hits the mark.
– Ricky D