This year may have seen many new classic games materialise from the aether, but 2017, in Europe at least, also has another claim to fame. It’s the year that no less than three Kirby games were released for the 3DS. None of these are mainstream titles and two of them were actually based on mini-games found in last year’s Kirby: Planet Robobot, but Kirby: Battle Royale is a whole new experience. It’s just a shame that it’s about as shallow as the other two games of 2017.
Despite first appearances indicating otherwise, Kirby: Battle Royale is more of a glorified mini-game collection that can be played against AI, with friends over the 3DS’ multi-play, or online in ranked matches. While the option is always nice, online had nobody playing at the time of testing and really didn’t show much signs of player retention.
Arenas look aesthetically pleasing, but if you’ve seen and heard one Kirby game on the 3DS over the past few years, you’ve pretty much seen and heard them all. With its top-down perspective, at least everything is easy to see, but it’s frankly unremarkable.
Kirby: Battle Royale’s marquee mode is the Story Mode in which King Dedede holds a tournament where the prize is a massive cake. Naturally Kirby wants in on the gargantuan patisserie and sets off with his pal Bandana Waddle Dee. King Dedede also has a cloning machine churning out Kirbys with different colours, which act as opponents along the way. It’s light-hearted in nature and generally there to set the gameplay in motion.
During each rank, the player is tasked with completing mini-games to unlock new powers. Later on this also is how single-use perks are unlocked, but the goal is to fill the experience bar in order to take on the ranking challenge. Later on the game will put Kirby at a distinct disadvantage that must be overcome in order to beat the challenge, which prevents the game from being an absolute cakewalk, but it’s still somewhat repetitive.
As for the mini-games themselves, they range from straight up fights where the last man standing wins – this is as close as the game gets to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – to more complex ones such as gathering apples or one where various mini challenges appear in the course of one round. They’re introduced steadily as the campaign progresses, giving time to get accustomed to them before more complex ones show up.
Yet once you’ve seen all the mini-games once, even if there’s a tiny bit of map variety, you’ve seen all Kirby: Battle Royale has to offer. The AI in the campaign is for the most part as dumb as a brick, with even the final challenges in the Story Mode being pretty easy – King Dedede’s ability to play one mini-game is unnatural however.
Rewards for progressing through the Story Mode include the ability to unlock more mini-games and powers for use in the offline modes. Coins earned for completing certain challenges are in plentiful supply. However, with a campaign clocking in at just short of a few hours, give or take your experience with King Dedede, there isn’t much on offer. If you have Kirby Amiibo, the most you’ll unlock is exclusive headgear.
While a fun distraction, there’s little to recommend wholeheartedly when it comes to Kirby: Battle Royale. Its mini-games are well designed, but with a short Story Mode and limited replay value for its other modes, it becomes clear that this is not a stellar addition to an already bulging line-up. Kirby fans are probably better off saving for a Switch as the pink puffball is heading there next year.