Kirby has made his debut on Nintendo’s latest console, But even with all his new abilities and an HD coat of paint he can’t seem to break the mold.
The story is what you’d expect if you’ve played any Kirby games in the past: a mysterious force rains down shadowy hearts onto Kirby’s world, which in turn sets him off on another adventure to save his friends. They contextualize the adventure in a fun and interesting way with hub worlds expanding from flying around Kirby’s planet, then to a large galaxy sized area to fly around in, but ultimately it’s just cool scenery. After the main quest is completed, you unlock a time trial mode that lets you play as any of the ally characters, or a boss rush mode that lets you adjust the difficulty to earn more puzzle pieces.
Kirby can still inhale and copy the abilities from enemies, but in Star Allies, Kirby can befriend certain enemies by throwing hearts at them, up to three AI partners can join you or three other players locally in Co-Op.
The allies have the same attacks Kirby does and now you can use their powers and combine them with your own. For example, When you have the sword ability, a fire ally could make a fire sword for you, which would result in doing more damage. While that sounds cool on paper, these combinations don’t really make much of a difference, besides one or two allies like the cook, most act as the same attack or effect just with a different element attached to it. Another mechanic is also introduced that has you and three allies combining to take out obstacles. In the case of the Friend Star, it changes the gameplay to a side scrolling shoot’em up, it’s a nice change of pace, but most of the other combinations were rarely used.
Having the AI controlled partners removes most of the challenge from the game. While Kirby games aren’t really known for difficulty, it’s a lot more apparent this time around. The allies are central to the gameplay, most of the time the AI partners defeated enemies, grabbed healing items, and even defeated bosses in some cases with me having to do very little besides running and jumping to the left and dodging a few attacks. This also goes for the puzzles, as long as you have an ally that can solve that certain task, they will just do it for you just by pushing the control stick up. This makes puzzles feel a lot less fun to solve because you don’t really need to figure anything out.
The rewards for completing puzzles don’t help either. There’s only two different collectables to find, puzzle pieces that unlock photos of Kirby and friends from previous games and large buttons that unlock a handful of extra stages. I’ve been a fan of the puzzle elements from previous Kirby games so it’s sad to see the potential for interesting puzzles squandered with the AI usually doing most of the work for you.
Kirby Star Allies still feels like the same game I’ve been playing for years. It’s hard not to look at Nintendo’s other big releases on the Switch and not be disappointed by premiering one of their big franchises in such an uninspired form. Kirby belongs on the Switch, but it’s time for Nintendo to rethink their approach to the series.
Review title was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on a Standard Nintendo Switch.