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Kirby's Adventure (NES) artwork

Kirby's Adventure (NES) review

"Kirby's Adventure is innocence; a reminder of a youth full of optimism and dreams where even the thought of pitfalls seemed incomprehensible. When life gets me down, it offers solace as its bright colors, wildly varying levels and unrelenting cuteness overwhelm me until I have no choice but to smile and lose myself in the game. Even after all these years, it still has that effect — something that makes me grateful. "

I should have hated Kirby's Adventure. Sure it was this really charming, cute game, but it was easy. No, it was beyond easy. The afternoon I bought it, I made it nearly all the way through the game. The next day, I finished it with the two-part TRUE final boss fight being the only opposition showing legitimate resistance. Back in my youth, that wasn't how I rolled. I looked for challenges -- even games that sucked because they were "Nintendo-hard" to the point a sane person would have discarded them as completely broken. Kirby's Adventure didn't challenge me; it rolled over, showed its belly and begged me to stick around long enough to see all it had to offer.

I didn't hate Kirby's Adventure. Sure, after beating it, I did have this momentary "That's it? Damn..." feeling, but I soon found myself playing it again. I took it to a friend's house so we could go through it together. I still find myself picking it up from time to time. Of all my NES games, it might not be the one I've spent the most time with, but it's the one I'm currently most likely to revisit.

Kirby's Adventure is innocence; a reminder of a youth full of optimism and dreams where even the thought of pitfalls seemed incomprehensible. When life gets me down, it offers solace as its bright colors, wildly varying levels and unrelenting cuteness overwhelm me until I have no choice but to smile and lose myself in the game. Even after all these years, it still has that effect -- something that makes me grateful.

The game takes place in Dream Land, where Kirby (a l'il marshmallow guy) must find all the pieces of the Star Rod, so all the Dream Land residents can dream again. As you'll find out, Dream Land is one amazing place with a huge variety of locales, many intertwined throughout various stages. At one moment, you'll be among the clouds with impressive-looking buildings in the background. Go through the front door of one such habitat and...find yourself transported to what seems to be a beach. Kirby's Adventure represents the chaotic nature of dreams, as you'll bounce from blimps to deserts to castles to star-filled skies regularly with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Every time you go through a door, it's a mystery as to where you'll wind up next. It's the sort of game that's hard to put down, as you'll always want to do one more level just to see what wild sights await you around the corner.

Sure, the game's easy, but that's part of its charm. Kirby has a six-hit life meter and there are plentiful healing items and one-ups scattered through the seven-plus worlds. It's classified as a platformer, but that's not completely accurate. Guys like Mario and Sonic had to rely on accurate jumping to stay on their platforms (as opposed to a one-way trip into a bottomless pit), but Kirby can simply inflate himself like a balloon and float over those obstacles without a care in the world. He can inhale more than air, too. By swallowing various enemies, he can gain a HUGE number of special attacks, from wielding a sword to being able to freeze enemies to turning into a rock and crashing down upon them to becoming a laser-wielding U.F.O. There are about two dozen abilities Kirby can gain and nearly all of them are at least useful at certain times.

Such as finding the secret switches. These things are in a number of levels and must be found to unlock everything in the game, including the true final boss and (after beating it) the ability to replay the game with a shorter life meter. Many times, you'll need a certain ability to access these switches -- one that might not actually be obtainable in that level.

Having to replay levels just to trip a switch could have gotten tiresome if not for how fun it is to go through this game. There simply was great programming at work in developing Kirby's Adventure. It's a late NES game that wouldn't need much upgrading to be right at home on the Super Nintendo -- heck, a few stages of the third world even include effects that could be considered an eight-bit version of Mode 7. As far as graphics go, the main difference between this game and Super Mario World is the superior color palette boasted by the SNES. Adding to the pleasure is a light-hearted, jaunty soundtrack and a surprising amount of strategy for players who really like to learn all the little ins and outs of a game.

For example: learning the best time to use a particular special attack...or to discard it and rely on Kirby's ability to inhale stuff. Let's say you have a sword and you're going up against the first world's boss -- a vaguely malevolent (yet still non-threatening) tree named Wispy Woods. All you have to do is run up to him and start swinging and he'll be bested in no time at all. Perhaps before he even gets the chance to blow a gust of wind or drop an apple on your head. Later in the game, you confront one of the game's multitude of mini-bosses; in this case, a large beetle. You run up to him and whack him a couple of times with your sword...and then it moves forward a step, grabs Kirby and proceeds to throw him around the room. Oops. Short-range attacks aren't a good idea against this fellow. However, now that you lost your weapon, you can hover around and dodge him until he pauses to emit a couple smaller bugs, inhale them and spit them back for major damage. It might not be a five-second kill like poor Wispy, but having to regularly adjust your strategy on the fly to earn victory is the sort of thing that will draw you back to Dream Land again and again.

Kirby's Adventure is an easy game, but it's the sort of easy game that players of all ages can enjoy. A younger player will love how they can continually advance through Dream Land without much frustration, while an older one such as myself can love the charm and creativity that went into crafting this masterpiece. Back when I was on break from college after freshman year, I found myself torn between loving this game and feeling a bit of shame because it was so non-challenging. As time has passed, I've realized the truth about this game. It wasn't made for the purpose of making gamers expend every last ounce of their skill -- it was made to give them something wonderful and relaxing to experience and enjoy. To create a world so fun to visit that when it's time to put the controller down, it's hard not to sigh wistfully and think for a moment how wonderful it would be if real life was more like Dream Land.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (January 08, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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SamildanachEmrys posted October 15, 2011:

Well explained. Kirby's Adventure remains among my favourite games after more than fifteen years, despite being one of the easiest I've ever played, and you really pinpoint why. It's just fun. It's not about the satisfaction of overcoming adversity, it's about just enjoying the ride.

To this day, I don't know how it manages to be so cute without being twee, and so cheery without starting to grate.
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overdrive posted October 18, 2011:

Yeah, that's the thing about the game.

When I bought it, it was mainly because I didn't have a SNES at the time and the way the hills were drawn in the background of the first world or two reminded me of the hills from Super Mario World, so I figured they'd be similar games. When I found out how much easier Kirby's Adventure was than ANY SMB game, I was a bit disappointed at first, but then found myself repeatedly playing it just because of the charm. In a way, the easiness might have helped, as it became THE attractive platformer that didn't have frustrating parts, so I could run through it anytime I felt like playing something, but didn't feel like an intense game.

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