For years, Kirby – the pink puffball with an insatiable hunger and a devastating in-take of breath – has experimented with new mechanics. Each game since the character’s inception has had its own standout power, all the way through to Kirby’s last proper outing on the 3DS having the little guy piloting mechs. Kirby Star Allies on the other hand takes a bunch of ideas from older games and attempts to make a coherent experience.
Kirby Star Allies is more grounded to Kirby’s roots in how to play it, meaning that it is quite a simple game to understand. He still has his powers and the level structure is not all that different from the majority of the other Kirby titles available. Where things get a little more interesting is in how Kirby can not only steal enemy powers, but also recruit enemies to his cause by throwing hearts at them. This also allows the game to have drop-in/drop-out coop at any time.
Levels can separate the friends occasionally and even have Friend Abilities activated on podiums for more variety, such as the adorable Friend Train. Much like Kirby Super Star, not every enemy can be recruited, but this still gives you a wide variety of powers. In addition to the new friends, Kirby can recruit the likes of Bandana Waddle-Dee, King Dedede, and Meta-Knight randomly from the Dream Palace, in a nice nod to Return to Dreamland, but at a limit of one spin of the roulette per level completed.
Players can also combine powers by pressing up and having allies attack them with their powers, usually by imbuing weapons with an element, but there are more unique ones such as combining stone with ice to turn that character into a curling stone. While this is nowhere near the scope of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, which frankly had a more absurd and fun range, this is still highly powerful utility that adds variety to solving mid-level puzzles to gain collectables.
What are those collectables? Weirdly they take the form of jigsaw puzzles this time around. They come in blue forms that grant a random piece to a puzzle, and shiny puzzle pieces that will initially unlock pink squares in the puzzle board, but repeatedly collecting the same one is worth 3 standard puzzle pieces. If you’ve ever played the StreetPass game where you collect puzzles from passers-by, it’s exactly the same idea.
But aside from this, it’s baffling just how easy Kirby Star Allies is. I only missed one Shiny puzzle piece and died a handful of times thanks to a couple of crushing objects, and the life total was in the triple digits by the time it was all said and done. Just make sure you play this with other players if you can though as the AI is incredibly stupid when it comes to avoiding damage. Allies can be revived as long as they didn’t plummet to their death or get crushed though.
So Kirby Star Allies is very easy, but there’s no question that it does scratch a few itches when it comes down to the presentation. It’s not exactly Super Mario Odyssey in terms of visual fidelity, but there are a wide variety of environments and some neat boss designs. One power-up will even have those nostalgic for Kirby’s Dreamland 2 & 3’s animal friends catered for. Music is a mixture of new and fitting tracks, as well as nostalgic tunes from Kirby’s heyday and are a neat touch.
Despite its rather short initial run-time, there is surprisingly plenty of replay value, albeit framed in a structure familiar to Kirby fans. The obligatory “Meta-Knight” time trial mode has been replaced with “Guest Star ???? Star Allies Go!” This has players choose their main character from a range of powers. There’s also a boss rush mode where the difficulty can eventually be ramped up to frankly ludicrous levels.
As for the mini-games, even they feel a lot less experimental, opting for a competitive tree-chopping game and swinging a bat at incoming meteors to see who can smash the furthest star. It’s difficult to see how these two mini-games can really be expanded on.
Kirby Star Allies feels like a greatest hits collection rather than its own unique experience. It takes inspiration from the majority of classic Kirby games and while it doesn’t have quite the level of scope that Kirby Super Star had back in the day, there’s a great amount of fun to be had. It’s certainly more fun with friends and is well made, having plenty of nostalgia for the pink puffball’s fans, but it’s certainly the easiest Kirby game in years.