Things have been quiet for the Kirby series since the launch of Star Allies for Nintendo Switch. Super Kirby Clash was released in September 2019…but didn’t cause much of a stir. But let’s move back to Star Allies: the general consensus is that it wasn’t that great. I’ve played the game more than most can say they have; at over 150 hours (yes, you’re probably wondering how I even got that far), I have a very solid opinion of this game: it’s not great. So, then… my opinion here is in line with the general consensus.
It’s been over two years since Kirby Star Allies was released, so I figure it’s time to have another look at it. It did receive a bunch of content updates, including new characters and modes. At the time of its release, the game was most certainly not worth $60. Do these updates improve the overall experience, or are they just tiny bonuses? Most of all, do they justify that hefty price tag? The answer is no, but for this post’s sake I’ll provide a lengthy explanation.
Let’s start by discussing the game itself — we’ll get to the content updates in just a bit. Most players do not play Kirby games for their storyline. I play Kirby games for their storyline. Most of them add interesting lore to the series, and Star Allies takes this a step further and covers Kirby’s origins. There’s going to be spoilers up ahead, so if … for some reason you don’t want to be spoiled, you’ve been warned.
Now then. Just like Kirby’s Dream Land, the events of Star Allies begin with King Dedede steals all of the food in Dream Land. As fate would have it, a religious leader from far away in outer space messed up a ritual of some sort, which sent heart-shaped possessors called Jamba Hearts across the galaxy. One of these hearts possessed King Dedede, causing him to go berserk. Sure enough, Kirby beats it out of him and begins to pursue the greater threat of the Jamba Hearts. Along the way, he meets Francisca, Flamberge, and Zan Partizanne, three magical sisters who have also been tasked with collecting the Jamba Hearts. Their master is trying to bring them back to attempt his ritual once again. Kirby beats up the three sisters too, and then invades their master’s giant base. Nothing surprising yet.
Kirby and company eventually confront the sisters’ “master” – Hyness – and, as you might expect, they beat him up as well. Kirby proves to be too much for him to handle, and in a last-ditch effort to complete the ritual, Hyness sacrifices himself and the three sisters and successfully revives “the dark lord of destruction”, whose name is Void Termina. Or just Void, if you’re playing the arena mode. Void Termina’s mere existence calls so much into question. He can summon two of the Ultra Swords from Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, plus he even summons copies of the Master Crown (a powerful relic that ties into Return to Dream Land’s plot) to fire lasers. Is Void the origin of these artifacts? Is he simply copying Kirby’s memories? Nobody knows.
But then Void reveals his final phase… in which he looks almost exactly like Kirby. What does this imply? Does he actually look like that, or did Kirby just inspire him to change his appearance? The former is the commonly accepted theory, and if that’s true, even more questions are raised. Before reviving Void Termina, Hyness makes a strong implication that Void is the master of Dark Matter (the main enemy of Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards). The logical conclusion, then, is that Void might actually be the origin of Dark Matter. If this is true, it answers a question that always bugged me in Dream Land 3 and The Crystal Shards: why didn’t Dark Matter ever attempt to possess Kirby? This theory states that it’s because Kirby is some form of dark matter!
Overall, Kirby Star Allies raises more questions than it answers. I honestly think the story is its strongest suit, but that isn’t saying much; all of the lore above is only revealed or alluded to in the final thirty minutes of the game. The main campaign isn’t that long, though, so it shouldn’t take too long to experience the final boss battle for yourself. That leads me to my next point…
The gameplay. This is the biggest problem I have with Kirby Star Allies. As an avid Kirby fan who’s played almost every entry from start to finish, Star Allies is wholly lacking. Save for a few collectibles to find, story mode only lasts about four hours. It’s one of the shortest Kirby campaigns in recent years, which is especially disappointing given that Star Allies just reintroduced multiplayer (which has been absent since Return to Dream Land on the Wii). It doesn’t help that each and every level is incredibly, and almost brainlessly easy. During my time with Star Allies, I never really felt invested; playing a level for more than ten minutes just switched my brain off and put me into a mindless trance of sorts. That doesn’t make for a very pleasant gameplay experience.
Modern Kirby games usually include a gimmick of some sort. Triple Deluxe includes the Hypernova ability, and Planet Robobot introduced the Robobot Armor. Both of these gimmicks felt natural and fit in with the levels on offer. Star Allies’ gimmick? Ability combinations, kind of like in The Crystal Shards. But these abilities don’t add much to the game at all. Only a select few copy abilities can be combined, and even then, they’re only necessary for a few “puzzles” which yield mostly insignificant rewards. Kirby can throw Friend Hearts to force enemies to become allies (which is how multiplayer works here, too), but it kind of feels like a tech demo rather than a full-fledged game. Whereas ability combinations aren’t gimmicky enough, Friend Hearts seem too gimmicky. Many levels feature “puzzles” – put in quotation marks because they’re so darn easy – that require a full team of four allies. The AI does a good enough job at controlling them, but things are definitely more efficient with a team of four players. Unfortunately, the bland, straightforward and linear level design will probably cause at least one of those players to lose focus and stop playing. Luckily, the developers accounted for this and the game lets players drop out at any time.
Star Allies introduces a handful of minigames. They’re nothing special, but they are decent time wasters. Chop Champs is a four-player game where a bunch of multi-colored Kirbies compete to chop down trees, and Star Slam Heroes is a timing-based game where Kirby has to hit a meteor with a baseball bat. The games are over almost as soon as they begin, and all-in-all are rather forgettable. Star Allies also includes Guest Star ??? Star Allies Go! (a fantastic and memorable name for a game mode). In this mode, Kirby isn’t playable at all; instead, you choose one of the helper characters and speed run through the game’s main campaign, boss fights and all. I finished this mode as every character (over fifty). When you’re playing the same level for the twentieth time, you really start seeing through the cracks. We went over this in the last paragraph, but really, levels mostly consist of holding right and pressing A sometimes. I’ve watched a few others play the game, too, and I could tell there was no mental activity of any kind going on in their brain as they played. That being said, it might be good for really young kids, but let’s be real: everybody who plays Kirby games is a grown adult. This is definitely true.
To add insult to injury, Kirby Star Allies runs at 30 frames per second with occasional frame drops. In both handheld and docked modes. This is just baffling, because Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can handle eight Ice Climbers at 60 FPS. There’s one particular boss fight that dips to about ten frames per second. That’s right: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 – one of the first three-dimensional Nintendo games – occasionally runs better than Star Allies in 2018. Good grief.
When Kirby Star Allies was released, it was absolutely not worth $60. You had a four-hour story mode, two five-minute-long minigames, a boss rush, and a campaign speed run mode. So, basically, they made the story mode and then created the other game modes using the same assets — right down to identical levels and music. Personally, I believe Star Allies’ predecessor, Planet Robobot, was a high point for the series. I liked its story, gameplay, level design, and soundtrack, and it had a good bit of extra content to boot. That game was $40 and had more content than Star Allies, which is $60. It’s occasionally on sale for $40, but even that price is kind of steep.
Now, the developers did add some additional content via a series of updates. Most notably, new Dream Friends were added to the game. These were characters from previous Kirby games – examples include Marx, Daroach, and Magolor – and they were given brilliantly unique movesets that drew from their origin games. I really like the creativity behind their movesets. Even Dark Meta Knight, who is literally a darker-colored Meta Knight (from Kirby and the Amazing Mirror) is completely different from his base character. I’m honestly very impressed by the ideas they came up with for the Dream Friends, though I would have really liked to see Prince Fluff from Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Escargoon from Kirby: Right Back at Ya. The latter was always a pipe dream, though, so I’m not surprised.
That being said, then, Dream Friends don’t really amount to much. Each Dream Friend was included with their own Guest Star route, which sometimes featured a couple of newly-introduced character-specific levels. Unfortunately, I found myself playing through many of the same levels and fighting many of the same bosses even on these new routes. The new characters were certainly interesting, but if I was just using them to traverse the same old levels again, what’s the point?
Updates added two more game modes. Heroes in Another Dimension doesn’t last long, but it’s basically a collectathon with a big boss fight at the end. It only lasts a few hours, but it’s a welcome addition. The puzzles here are much more difficult than the main game, and it’s actually possible to permanently miss collectibles — which forces you to play the area over again if you had the wrong abilities. The second mode was an additional difficulty for The Ultimate Choice, the game’s boss rush mode. A few of the bosses were made harder to fight, and by that, I mean they have more HP. I completed the new difficulty as every character and did not appreciate that the bosses took much longer to fight with their increased hit points.
It’s not all bad, though, because I do think Kirby Star Allies has some strengths. Its visuals are definitely a step up for the series. A lot of the stages include colorful lighting and interesting concepts, though they do tend to be run-of-the-mill cave, volcano, and beach areas. Even so, the graphics are colorful and I’m a fan of much of the game’s soundtrack. There are certainly a few forgettable tracks, but on the whole, I’m a fan of Star Allies’ soundtrack. It’s hard to listen to its music without feeling just a little bit happy, which is definitely a good thing. It’s also interesting to note that Star Allies has the most upbeat music of any Kirby game but the darkest lore. It’s kind of an endearing contradiction. The Kirby feel is still here, but it is clouded by the game’s numerous issues.
Overall, though… I would say the Kirby Star Allies updates were appreciated but didn’t address any of the game’s core issues. They did provide a bit of extra play time, but their contents weren’t sizable enough to warrant the game’s steep initial $60 price tag. I’m definitely being a bit harsh on the game, but I am a longtime Kirby fan and hope to see the series do better in the future. As I mentioned, Robobot was my favorite game in the series, and to see such a harsh difference between the two was disappointing.
But even so, I can tell there was effort put into the game. Maybe the transition to HD hit them hard. Maybe there were time constraints and they couldn’t fully optimize the game’s level design and performance. Who knows what happened behind the scenes. I acknowledge that there was an effort here, but I feel that the team was misguided in some ways and ended up with a painfully average product. If you’re able to get this game at $25 or less somehow, I’d say go for it. But I’d only recommend paying $60 if you’ve played and enjoyed recent Kirby games. Even better: download Super Kirby Clash for free. If you like that, you’ll like Kirby Star Allies.
And hey, keep in mind that we’ve got some Star Allies guide posts, too! They’re not very easy to find, but I’ll list them all here: 100% completion, Picture Piece farming, beating the Ultimate Choice, and amiibo compatibility. If you decide to read one of them, thanks so much! These are part of the site’s lesser-known content, so I’m always happy to see people read them.
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