Review: Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

Nintendo’s tough cream puff returns in one of his best adventurers ever!

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 06/28/2016 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gorgeous visuals; great use of 3D; catchy music; perfect Kirby gameplay; Robobot armor is a nice addition
Poison Mushroom for...
A little on the short side

When it comes to Kirby, Nintendo has never shied away from experimentation. Whether it’s a game where the titular hero is made of yarn, or one where he’s completely controlled by a stylus, Kirby’s adventures rarely feel the same from one game to the next. That said, the perfect mix between that experimental nature and the core gameplay of the series has sometimes eluded Nintendo. Thankfully, Kirby: Planet Robobot not only finds that sweet spot, it also delivers one of the very best Kirby experiences to date.

Kirby: Planet Robobot finds Dreamland under invasion, this time from a mechanical force bent on colonizing the world and stripping it of its resources. As a result, Dreamland looks much more mechanical this time around, and Kirby has to utilize a robotic battle suit to defend his home. The Robobot armor is a nice addition, giving Kirby some extra strength in certain sections of the game. Like Kirby himself, the Robobot armor can copy abilities by scanning opponents, rather than swallowing them. The armor’s presence in the title’s advertising can be a bit misleading: it’s in the game quite a bit, but it never takes over gameplay quite like, say, the stylus in Rainbow Curse. Make no mistake: Planet Robobot is a classic Kirby platforming game, complete with the all of the familiar franchise staples: Kirby floats, swallows bad guys, and steals power-ups. The Robobot armor is simply a new hook, and one that works very well.

The first thing most players will notice about Kirby: Planet Robobot is just how visually impressive it is. Continuing in the tradition of games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Rainbow Curse, Planet Robobot pushes the limits of the 3DS hardware. Developer HAL Laboratory has used the mechanical aspect of the game’s story to show some strong creativity. Classic Kirby enemies have been reimagined as cyborgs and technologically-enhanced opponents, but they still fit well with the series’ aesthetic. The levels themselves really shine in this regard with some truly stunning locales. Some stages even begin with dynamic camera angles seemingly just to show how impressive this re-imagination of Dreamland is.

Even more impressive is the game’s use of 3D. As 3DS nears the end of its lifespan, it seems fewer games are really putting much stock into the feature, but Planet Robobot practically demands its use. This is easily the best 3D implementation on the handheld since Super Mario 3D Land. Like that particular title, the 3D isn’t just a gimmick: it’s well integrated into the gameplay itself. Enemies move back and forth from the background to the foreground and, at times, puzzles revolve around working between both ends. It’s clever yet also intuitive, and it results in some fantastic game design.

Unsurprisingly, the game’s sound is impressive as ever. Considering music has always been a highlight of the Kirby franchise, it’s nice to see that composers Hirokazu Ando and Jun Ishikawa continue the tradition. Planet Robobot features a number of catchy new tracks as well as classic Kirby songs remixed to fit the game’s mechanical motif.

The title also offers Amiibo support, with certain Amiibo unlocking power-ups when scanned. The majority of these simply unlock moves that can be acquired throughout the game, though they’ve been smartly paired with appropriate Amiibo. For example, the Link Amiibo unlocks Kirby’s Sword ability, while the Dr. Mario Amiibo unlocks Kirby’s new Doctor ability. The Kirby character Amiibo all unlock exclusives, however. Amiibo completists will even be pleased to find that the versions of Kirby, Meta Knight, and King Dedede from the Super Smash Bros. series unlock different abilities from the newer Amiibo releases. In the case of Meta Knight and Dedede, the differences are minor, but both Kirby figures offer their own distinct abilities. None of it is particularly necessary, but it does provide one of the nicer unlockable features Amiibo have provided thus far.

In addition to the main game, Planet Robobot offers two additional minigames: Kirby 3D Rumble and Team Kirby Clash. 3D Rumble is a fun diversion that features Kirby battling opponents in isometric stages akin to games like Sonic 3D Blast or Super Mario 3D World. Team Kirby Clash, on the other hand, offers a light, RPG-inspired experience for up to four players. In this mode, players choose from different character classes and team up to take down bosses while gaining experience. Neither mode is worth the price of admission alone, but they work quite well as the icing on an already delicious Kirby cake.

Above all things, former Nintendo president and HAL developer Satoru Iwata considered himself a gamer at heart. As the first Kirby game since his untimely passing, there can be no greater honor than a game that would make him proud. Kirby: Planet Robobot delivers, with a wonderful experience for Kirby fans of all ages. The game’s controls, sound, and visuals are pitch perfect, and the gameplay is classic Kirby. It’s over a little too quickly, but the pink puffball’s adventures have never overstayed their welcome. It’s a small gripe for an otherwise fantastic game.

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