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Kirby Air Ride (GameCube) artwork

Kirby Air Ride (GameCube) review

"How many games do you know of that an experienced, early-20s gamer and his 6-year old step-nephew can both enjoy at the same time? Not many, but one that pulls this off masterfully is 2003's Kirby Air Ride..."

How many games do you know of that an experienced, early-20s gamer and his 6-year old step-nephew can both enjoy at the same time? Not many, but one that pulls this off masterfully is 2003's Kirby Air Ride, created by HAL Laboratories for the Nintendo GameCube.

This is about as simple of a racer as is possible. There isn't even a gas button; the vehicles simply go forward by themselves. Instead, the A button does nearly everything else in the game from lowering your vehicle enough to hit boosts and switches (which is unnecessary for bikes, since they're already on the ground), to boosting around corners, to swallowing enemies and subsequently using powers picked up from those enemies.

The powers range from fire-based enemies that both leave a trail of harmful fire behind you and let you spit fireballs at racers in front of you, to a wheel that turns you into a tire and increases your speed. My personal favorite is Walky, a sentient microphone, which if swallowed, immediately lets out a violent blast of sound that causes major damage to everything in a fixed diameter, and sends them flying into the air.

There are more than 20 different vehicles to use in this game, and nearly all of them fill some type of niche. Need a vehicle that takes jumps well, but also stays on the ground? Pick up the Wheelie Scooter. How about a defensive tank with good speed? Try the Wagon Star. Maybe you need a glider with great drafting ability. The answer is the Shadow Star. No matter what you want to use, there is a vehicle that will fill your needs.

There are three modes to play through. Air Ride is the standard race. You'll compete against three other computer- or human-controlled players in two or three lap races. All of the standard cartoony race locales are featured here (a volcano, a desert, space, etc.) The courses are littered with minor enemies that can't do anything to you on their own, but if you suck them up, Kirby will copy their ability (his trademark), and use it against the opponents. There are also plenty of hidden shortcuts for you to find, and the alternate paths make the races a little more interesting.

In Top Ride, you race around much smaller, simpler tracks. Even though each of the races last six or seven laps (on the default setting), the races seldom go past 2 minutes. Top Ride is good for a quick race, especially if you're looking for a change of pace to the regular Air Ride. The unique thing about Top Ride is that the camera is positioned above the track, meaning you can see the entire track at once. There're some exclusive weapons in this mode such as the drill or the mega-cupcake, along with some recurring items from Air Ride, like the mic or the sword. And you can only race in two vehicles in Top Ride, the Free Star and the Steer Star, vehicles that are exclusive to Top Ride.

Finally, there's City Trial. This one is my favorite mode to play in. You start out in the Compact Star, but there's numerous vehicles scattered across the city for you to find. You have anywhere from 3-7 minutes to find a new vehicle, improve your vehicle with a variety of power-ups that increase speed, offense, gliding, turning, etc., and attack the other competitors to keep them from powering up their own vehicles. If it was just that, it might be a little boring, but the game livens things up with various events, like an alien invasion, a swarm of incoming asteroids, the grind stations catching on fire, or a giant armor-covered bird. Once you've collected a bunch of power-ups, and time expires, you'll have to compete in some random mini-game (you can select the specific competition, but it takes some of the excitement and tension out of the Trial part). You compete against the other racers with your beefed-up machines, and try to go for the win.

The closest thing this game has to a plot is a checklist for each mode. There’re 120 different challenges for each mode, and whenever you beat a challenge, you’ll get clues on how to unlock nearby challenges, and if you’re lucky you could find new vehicles, music, characters, or even the ability to automatically pass challenges without meeting the requirements. Challenges can involve doing a lap at a particular track within a specific time, killing a certain number of minor enemies, or trigging an event in City Trial. The list goes on and on.

The games biggest drawback is how inconsequential the game is. Similar to some sports or fighting games out there, in Kirby Air Ride, you have to find your own fun, and despite their being a lot of fun to be had here, people who are more into story-based games might not find a lot here, but if you are a fan of racing games, if you're looking for some fun mini-games, or you just think Kirby is just freakin' adorable, pick this game up. It's worth your time.


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Community review by nickyv917 (January 26, 2012)

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honestgamer posted January 27, 2012:

I only played this game briefly at a store that had a demo version running. It definitely takes some getting used to, and I was unable to do so during the brief time that I played, but your review makes me wonder if I missed something by not giving it a closer look. You definitely make it sound interesting!
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nickyv917 posted January 27, 2012:

Thanks, this is my first review, so I just wanted to get a feel for review, and I think I'll make a few more reviews in the future. But, yeah, you should definitely pick this game up. Any GameStop that still sells GameCube games usually has two or three of them.
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Roto13 posted January 27, 2012:

In a lot of ways, Air Ride is to racing games what Smash Bros. is to fighting games (Sakurai and all). I really enjoyed it.
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nickyv917 posted January 27, 2012:

Yeah, I noticed that, especially since HAL made both titles. Come to think of it, HAL's Pokemon Snap was like that for first-person shooters.
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aschultz posted January 27, 2012:

I'm not an official greeter or anything, but it's good to see someone new, so welcome! Your review makes the game sound interesting. Hope you find the time to write more when the mood strikes.
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nickyv917 posted January 28, 2012:

Thanks aschultz, I actually think I'm going to do something later this weekend.

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