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Kirby Super Star (SNES) artwork

Kirby Super Star (SNES) review


"With eight games stuffed in the cart, Kirby Super Star looks like precisely what it is: A compilation game. But this isnít some mega-collection of past Kirby games, this is a tour de force of Kirby; Bohemian Rhapsody in videogame form. It starts out slow, gains momentum, brings out the electric guitar and ends with speakers blasting. "



Kirbyís one of the greatest gaming heroes ever, but most people will never know it. Most people glance at the Little Creampuff that Could and see a lame-ass Pokemon reject, with his blushing cheeks and his shiny eyes. They see him taking on a fat penguin named King Dedede and saving the sugar-sweet world of Dreamland from utter annihilation. They see him fighting cute foes with cute powers in cute levels, and they just automatically assume that Kirby is meant for children.

Theyíve got it pretty much right; Kirbyís style is aimed at kids. Only an idiotic, moronic, foolís fool could believe different. But does that mean you canít dig Kirby if the puberty fairyís already paid you a visit? No, nein, nyet. For those that look past the saccharine shell, Kirby games have more meat than almost any other platformer. The best example: Kirby Super Star.

With eight games stuffed in the cart, Kirby Super Star looks like precisely what it is: A compilation game. But this isnít some mega-collection of past Kirby games, this is a tour de force of Kirby; Bohemian Rhapsody in videogame form. It starts out slow, gains momentum, brings out the electric guitar and ends with speakers blasting.

It all starts with the mild melody that is Spring Breeze, a series of simple stages to teach you the controls, starting you down the path of platforming zen. Donít think this is skip-worthy if youíve played past Kirby games, though; Kirby Super Star puts new flavor in your ear: Movelists.

When Kirby usually sucks an enemy into his massive maw, he gains one power and one power only from the victim. No more, not here. In Kirby Super Star, each enemy eaten offers Kirby a list of abilities. Swallow a ninja and watch Kirby transform into a dark demon of the night. He sticks to wall. He vanishes, disappears into a smoke cloud. He strikes with the speed and the skill and the ferocity of one Ryu Hayabusa, dispatching foes with agile aggression. Gobbling down a fighter turns Kirby into a punishing pink pugilist, throwing out punches with machine-gun speed. A wrestler, a motorcyclist, an iron chef, and many more powers left unmentioned; Kirby is the Swiss Army Knife of platforming heroes, with versatility that would shame even the likes of Kid Chameleon.

Awesome that may be, but itís not the limit. Not only can he absorb powers, but by mixing the DNA in his body, he can crap out an instant copy of whatever enemy he just ate, a willing slave that will fight alongside him, take hits for him, even die for him should the occasion call. Or, if youíve got a spare controller and a willing friend, you can engage in some old-school two-player co-op shenanigans, the best youíll find in a 2D platformerÖnot like thereís much competition.

Once the Spring Breeze warms you up, itís time to hit Dyna Blade, a slightly harder, slightly longer romp that sees Kirby scaling up a mountain, sucking up enemies and moving towards a confrontation with a very large bird.

Mild fun; good times. But not as good as the Great Cave Offensive.

Picture this: A massive cave, ridiculously huge, a world within the world. A start, a finish, dozens of ways to get from point A to point B. Sixty items to collect, ranging from a lowly coin to the Triforce itself, nodding to Legend of Zelda. Some items are obvious, easy to pick. Most arenít. Most put you in tests of speed and strength. Most force you to jump through hoops. Most require you to think, get creative, look for the one ability that can get the job done. We got hidden paths, we got bosses, we got hidden paths with hidden bosses waiting to flatten Kirby under their mighty thumbs, their mighty bellies, or whatever mighty body parts they find convenient to squash with at the moment.

The Great Cave Offensive is one of the shiniest moments in Kirby-dom, prime for playing over and over, discovering new paths and new foes and new items, coming closer to completion everytime. But itís something else, too: More practice. Once Kirby emerges from the cave, the gameís done fucking around.

First challenge: The Revenge of MetaKnight. Kirbyís in his native habitat, engaging in old-school hero shenanigans; MetaKnight, your typical masked villain with a cape, a sword, and an irrational grudge against the world, launches a massive airship with the sole intention of blowing the bejezzus out of anyone and everyone whoíd dare oppose him. Since that number includes Kirby, he sets out to stick his pink boot up Meta-Knightís ironclad candy-ass.

The fight is fierce; Kirby lands on the airship, gets kicked off, lands on it again, and fight hordes of enemies every step of the way. Big bosses battles; going toe-to-claw with a giant, fire-spewing metal lobster, facing the shipís cannon head on, even picking up the sword for a final, fateful duel with MetaKnight. Text screens lighten the mood, as you listen in on the airshipís crew, gawking, laughing, and eventually panicking as Kirby lays generous amounts of the smack down all over them. The story progresses with each stage to give the game movement, raising the immediacy; every level feels like youíre actually doing something, like youíre actually bringing the fight to MetaKnight in real time. A blazing soundtrack keeps the blood pumping; music that would only fit better with Sonic the Hedgehog.

Itís got action, itís got style, itís got a venue radically different from the rest of the game; the rusted airshipís innards are a sharp contrast to the hippy-happy world below. But the one thing it doesnít have is innovation; the gameplayís basically Spring Breeze and Dyna Blade on adrenaline. Faster pace, harder setting, same gameplay. No, if you want one more twist on the old formula, youíve got to survive the Revenge of MetaKnight and make your way to challenge number two, the grand finale.

In Milky Way Wishes, the sun and moon are brutally engaged in mortal combat, disrupting the balance of not just Dreamland, but the surrounding worlds as well. Kirby has to find out why. Dumb the title may be, as may be the story. But, two flaws aside, Milky Way Wishes is the last, triumphant crescendo of the great symphony that is Kirby Super Star.

See, thereís a catch: When Kirby eats an enemy in Milky Way Wishes, all he does is fart out dust. You canít absorb enemy powers here. Never.

Not all the news is bad news, though: Kirby canít absorb powers anymore, but if he does some searching and finds certain idols laying about, heíll be able to use certain powers againÖpermanently. The powers stay with him, available for switching on the fly, bringing them up for any situation. A blockade in the way? Kirby switches to his Bomb powers and bombards it, turning rocks to pebbles and enemies to ashes. Something needs cutting? He brings out the sword and slices through with a snicker-snack of his vorpal blade. Lines of enemies stand in the way? He switches to his static powers, erects an electric field around his body, and barrels through, leaving a bunch of Kentucky Fried Waddle Dees in the wake.

It gives the gameplay a new spin, a welcome one, one that makes you rethink approaches and take on challenges with bolder strategies in mind. Itís needed, too; the levels range from mines to frozen wastelands to the burning pits of a volcano. The enemies come often and come big, boasting the baddest bosses Kirbyís ever beaten. Itís the roughest, toughest adventures heís ever been through, as varied as the little puffball himself.

Kirby Super Star has some side attractions to keep you busy once youíre done wishing about the Milky Way. Megaton Punch and Samurai Kirby are both push button games, reflex-testing diddies; the formerís a brick-crushing test of strength; the latterís a sword-swinging test of speed. Cute for two minutes, annoying at three. Gourmet Race pits Kirby against his arch nemesis, an overweight penguin with delusions of grandeur named King Dedede, in a simple foot-race. Gobble as much food as you can, reach the finish line first, score the most points and win. Meaningless diversions, annoying.

At least, theyíd be annoying if the game forced you to play them. It doesnít.

Kirby Super Star gives you a parting gift in the form of the Arena; a gauntlet with twenty of Kirbyís foes coming at him, one at a time, random order. You get it when you beat Milky Way Wishes, and itíll be well-earned: Kirby Super Star isnít the kind of game you beat in a day. Well, you could, but it would be a tiring, exhausting day that would no doubt see you skipping meals and possibly pissing your pants. Why even try? You wouldnít chug a martini. Kirby Super Star is meant to be played in bursts, savored, enjoyed piece by piece by piece by piece. Itís one of the best platformers ever made; cute in style, kickass in substance.

Rating: 9/10

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Staff review by Zack Little (January 11, 2006)

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