Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch)

Everyone’s favorite puffball is back, bringing with him the best platformer on Switch, but not the best installment in the series.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 04/27/2018 11:30 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Excellent presentation; soundtrack has some catchy remixes of classic Kirby tunes; platforming and combat are very satisfying, particularly the ability to combine abilities; tons of content; co-op is very enjoyable
Poison Mushroom for...
Will be too easy/serene for some; not a lot of new ideas here

Kirby games are tricky for some people because they go in with the wrong set of expectations. The series since its inception has never been about challenge, but rather providing an accessible and enjoyable experience. Kirby’s Dream Land, the series’ first entry, was masterminded by Masahiro Sakurai as as an entry point for players still wet behind the ears and also for those who simply wanted a less stressful game to play. Now, all these years later, we find ourselves playing the latest installment, Kirby Star Allies. The title takes the maxim of accessibility and fun and merges it with some of the best presentation values the series has ever seen, along with a nice twist on the classic gameplay formula.

Star Allies starts off establishing that a new threat has overcome Planet Popstar in the form of menacing purple hearts shown darting across the landscape. A different, pink heart lands on the nominal hero of the game, granting him the ability to instantly make his enemies friends via lobbing Friend Hearts at them. This mechanic is at the core of Star Allies, as the game is dependent on Kirby befriending his rogues and utilizing their unique skills and powers to save the day. With a simple tap of the “X” button, Kirby can hurl a pink heart at a foe and make them part of his party.

The game allows for a maximum of three allies at a time on-screen. I was amazed at the volume of different partners that could be culled from the game. Waddle Doo, Broom Hatter, Sir Kibble, and a bunch of other baddies are capable of being turned to the good side via Kirby’s Friend Hearts. Once one of these hearts makes contact, the foe it touches instantly turns to the side of the angels. It’s adorable watching all of these random Kirby villains suddenly becoming good (although, let’s be honest here, hardly anyone is truly bad in a Kirby game). Some of the enemies even sport radically different looks once they’ve been turned, adding some new variants into the mix for some of these classic characters; depending on which player slot they’re in, an ally will also have a corresponding color scheme!

When teamed, all of Kirby’s allies will follow him around on-screen. With all four buddies joined together, the action takes on an entirely new dimension. While the combat and platforming are standard Kirby fare, with these AI-controlled allies along for the ride, the action escalates quite a bit, becoming a hectic jumble of chibi bodies strewn about the screen. Granted, Star Allies does have a rather serene pace to it, but overall I felt like there was always quite a bit going on, whether running from incoming threats or taking on waves of enemies. I doubt anyone outside of a very new or young player will feel much challenge or pressure during the initial campaign, but even someone who counts themselves as a veteran gamer will find joy in the smooth, fun gameplay.

Mixing things up further in Star Allies is the ability to combine abilities. The most stock and regular example of this is to take something like Kirby’s Sword ability and meld it with an ally’s own fire skills. The result is a blade imbued with fire that not only ups Kirby’s attack power, but also allows him to burn through different things in the game world that he couldn’t before. What’s more, Kirby’s allies can mix abilities amongst themselves, meaning a wide variety of power sets can be active at any given moment. While Star Allies isn’t a very difficult game, it can be tricky trying to suss out which combination of allies and abilities are necessary to solve some of the puzzles littered throughout the game.

Diligent players will want to solve all of these head-scratchers, as they’re one of the main ways to collect the numerous puzzle pieces found in each stage. In Star Allies, players can assemble together a variety of different images called Celebration Paintings. Anyone who’s ever put together a Street Pass puzzle will immediately get the gist of things, as these Celebration Paintings are just giant puzzles missing their pieces. There’s no actual solving of the puzzle, however, as players need only collect the pieces and then the game assembles the images itself. The pieces just seem to randomly be assigned to each Celebration Painting, so collecting is a matter of simply finding pieces strewn about the game world, not finding particular ones.

Star Allies also offers some solid couch co-op that can accommodate up to four players. It can get chaotic with that many people joined in, but it’s a good, crazy flurry of rotund, cutesy Kirby pals that’s definitely worth a try. Keep in mind that it’s also possible to ally with classic characters like Meta Knight and Waddle Dee, along with new allies that will be popping up as DLC over the coming weeks. Throw in a handful of the usual extra modes that fans love, like a boss rush mode and the whimsical Chop Champ that sets players to compete at chopping down trees. None of the extras are necessarily anything to write home about, but they definitely add to the package and not detract from it.

Kirby Star Allies isn’t the greatest game in the series, nor is it the most original. Yet, with its fun gameplay, ample content and modes, and gorgeous presentation, it remains an irresistible title for Switch owners. While I hope that Hal continues to experiment with Kirby as it did in games like Planet Robobot, Star Allies remains a good, yet predictable, title that platformer fans in particular should have fun with.

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