"I must confess a predisposition to certain things that we in the west generally consider sickeningly adorable. The very idea of a pink, balloon-like creature with stubby little arms and those cute little eyes just makes me want to run out and hug something. Some may say that the appropriate audience for such a game is clearly pre-adolescent, and that to hug other Kirby 64 players would make a pedophile, to which I would retort that anyone under the age of 15 probably has no idea what an..."
I must confess a predisposition to certain things that we in the west generally consider sickeningly adorable. The very idea of a pink, balloon-like creature with stubby little arms and those cute little eyes just makes me want to run out and hug something. Some may say that the appropriate audience for such a game is clearly pre-adolescent, and that to hug other Kirby 64 players would make a pedophile, to which I would retort that anyone under the age of 15 probably has no idea what an N64 is, and that I suspect that the average six year old is an Xbox Live user and has little time for Kirby anyway. Children aren't as likely to play Kirby 64 as, say, someone who played Kirby's Adventure for the NES and is now in their twenties.
The most immediate difference between Kirby 64 and Kirby without 64 is the relative speed at which everything moves, which is about 1/2 the speed at which everything should be moving. Apparently all that eating has finally caught up with our pink little cream puff, as the best he can seem to muster now is some gentle waddling and the occasional lumbering. I found myself constantly wanting the fire weapon because it allowed me to dash across the screen quicker – and by dash, I mean turn into a slow moving bird. Kirby's jumps are equally lethargic, as is his ability to fly. He ascends at the same rate as a helium balloon before running out of energy and falling gracefully back to the ground – a far cry from the Kirby who used to dash around Dreamland and hop like he could walk on air.
It isn't just Kirby that is out of shape either. All of his foes move like they are swimming underwater. “Oh no!” said I as a little pink bird swooped towards me. “That bird is moving pretty fast. I should get out of the way before it hits me. I'm going to move. That's what I'm going to do; it has been decided. First I will pick up the controller. Next I will position my hands over the buttons. Finally, I will push this button to make Kirby parry this dreadful attack. I think this is the best course of action. Alright, I shall perform what I have heretofore decided. But first, I shall do my taxes...” This may seem like an exaggeration, but I assure you that considering your movements as though the game is nearly turn-based is entirely plausible. Well over 3/4 of the damage that Kirby will suffer as you adventure forth will be due to impatience as the player tries to run (or rather, jog slowly) rather than stopping to thwart his or her adorable adversaries.
In fact, that's about the only challenge Kirby 64 can muster. There's a boss rush mode, which is probably the most difficult feat one can accomplish here, and which I completed in three tries. With a mere two dozen stages barely posing enough of a threat to require the player to be conscious, your adventure proper will be over in just a few hours. Returning to stages to find all three hidden crystals (and by hidden I mean very obvious and easy to find), which when united into a complete collection, allows one to fight the true final boss: a disembodied eyeball with wings, a halo, and a green thorn growing out of its backside. By the way, in case that description didn't tip you off, there isn't much of a narrative to scrape up here – there's some faerie thing, some crystals, and darkness. Or something. Don't worry about it.
Anyway, with these faults said, Kirby 64 still manages to have a number of virtues that, while perhaps not redeeming the dreadfully boring core for some players, may completely save the experience for others. Its most powerful force is clearly its 2.5D aesthetic, which combines the simplicity of 2D gameplay and the dynamic camera of 3D adventures. A hard person indeed one must be to deny the charm of such such colorful scenes as the camera shifts fluidly when Kirby's waddling along. This use of quasi-3D environments can make for some surprisingly clever moments, which are epitomized by the inventive boss encounters. For example, the first boss has Kirby following a continuous, circular path, with the vengeful Whispy Tree in the center. Then there is a giant robot that hovers above our hero before dropping down to the ground and chasing him along a highway. And let's not forget that shark that chases Creamy McPuffs-a-lot through an underwater cavern. The use of 2D and 3D mechanics works so well here that it's a surprise that no newer games have attempted to expand on it.
The other main appeal to Kirby 64 is it's method for handling Kirby's signature copy ability. Our creamy and puffy friend can now regurgitate swallowed enemies and throw them at other enemies, which, rather than creating the icky mess that the image may conjure in the reader's mind, will combine the power-ups of both enemies into a brand new ability. Discovering the different combinations that are possible can be surprisingly fun. For example, cutter + fire allows Kirby to materialize a giant, flaming sword; ice + electricity allows one to morph into a refrigerator and hurl frozen treats at one's adversaries; and ice + bomb allows Kirby to turn into an exploding snowman on skis. There are 35 in total, and it takes more than one playthrough before the joy of discovering new ones grows old.
After one has completed every level and collected every crystal, one can still continue playing in order to collect cards that can be earned in a mini-game at the end of each stage. These cards add new enemies to a small encyclopedia, which may very well be the most adorable reference volume ever conceived. You can also try your luck at the three mini games tucked away in the options menu. The one with paintbrushes is kind of lame, but the leapfrog scenario and the one where the player must collect pink, heart-shaped fruits are surprisingly addictive. My best leapfrog time is 0:27:78; I encourage the reader to beat it if they dare.
On one occasion I invited a friend to join me for some multiplayer, leapfrog mayhem, and it would not be inaccurate to say that we played for about 15 minutes or so and concluded with a general feeling of satisfaction. Neither of us proclaimed it to be an overwhelmingly brilliant experience, nor did we debate the intricacies of the leapfrog game's narrative or play mechanics. There really isn't anything overwhelmingly brilliant about any aspect of Kirby 64 as a whole either, and in fact many will understandably find its over-simplicity flat out boring. There is still something neat to be had here nonetheless, and for those who approach it with the proper mindset – and preferably with a mild kawaii fetish – that something should not be too difficult to obtain.
Community review by dagoss (August 05, 2008)
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