Kirby Fighters 2 – A Promising Step Forward

Kirby Fighters 2 had a strange release schedule… in that it didn’t have a release schedule at all. It popped up on Nintendo’s website all of a sudden, and Kirby fans around the world took notice of its appearance almost instantaneously. And then the game was released quietly just a few short days later. Nintendo didn’t give us much notice on this one, to say the least. But they knew what they were doing: Kirby fans will buy anything with Kirby’s face on the cover, and they took full advantage of this fact.

As someone who’s played and enjoyed many Kirby games, I picked up Kirby Fighters 2 on frame one. But for those who aren’t die-hard Kirby fans, is this game even worth getting? Especially given the fact that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been available for several years now.

Introduction

The original Kirby Fighters wasn’t even a standalone game: it was a minigame that appeared in Kirby: Triple Deluxe for Nintendo 3DS. By sub-game standards, though, Kirby Fighters boasted quite a bit of content. There were several abilities to use, a simple single-player campaign, and local multiplayer capabilities. Not bad for a simple minigame! Eventually, Kirby Fighters Deluxe was released on its own on the 3DS eShop. It included extra stages, modes, costumes, and abilities. And it was pretty inexpensive, which definitely helped it perform better sales-wise.

So, let’s talk about what Kirby Fighters 2 actually is. It’s a fighting game. Wow! Basically, you choose an ability (there are over twenty in this game), pick a stage, and then fight against a CPU or human opponent who has also selected a Kirby copy ability to play as. Then you attack them until their health bar depletes. Kind of like Super Smash Bros., you can guard, and if you guard too much, you’ll be stunned for a short time. And then you can “grab” opponents via Inhale, which is effective against guarding enemies, too. This is the first time I’ve seen Kirby inhale while having an active copy ability. It’s worth noting that you can’t copy your opponent’s ability via inhaling them; you can only spit them out. Oh, and there’s online multiplayer now! You can play with friends or against random players.

That’s just a basic overview of the game, though. We’ll go into more details in just a bit. Something else Kirby Fighters 2 has in its favor is its price: thankfully, it isn’t $60; it’s only $20. Charging full price for this game would have been kind of steep, so it’s good that they decided to make it extra affordable. Said affordability helps cement Kirby Fighters 2 as a title that’s easy to pick up and play in short bursts.

Story & Presentation

The Kirby series has always been rather interesting in the context of storylines. On the surface, you wouldn’t think Kirby games have much lore. That’s because most of Kirby’s lore is implied or only shown on pause screen descriptions. Each game – especially Triple Deluxe, Planet Robobot, and Star Allies – has a lot to unpack when you start looking. Now, Kirby Fighters 2 isn’t a main series game, so it’s probably not canon in the grand scheme of things. As a result, Fighters 2 goes lighter on lore than usual. King Dedede and Meta Knight challenge Kirby to a battle, and he has to climb a tower to eventually face off against them. Nothing too out there… or interesting… but it works for a game like this.

As you can see, there’s not much story to discuss. But the game’s presentation is something else entirely, because in this case, there is a lot to discuss. First, Kirby Fighters 2 is using Kirby Star Allies’ engine as well as a lot of its graphics. So Kirby and co. look exactly the same as in Star Allies — huge eyes and all. The game’s art style isn’t too defined; it’s kind of like Super Mario Odyssey where everything is cleanly modeled. As opposed to something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild where everything is stylized to look cel-shaded.

But the menus. As you can see above, they’re really, really cool-looking. Everything appears to be hand-drawn (or at least shaded in a unique way), and each menu has a different setup. I personally think Kirby Fighters 2 features some of the strongest menu design in the entire series; perhaps it even has the strongest menu design out of all of the games I’ve played. They’re animated, too, making the menus look even smoother on actual Switch hardware (as opposed to screenshots of the game).

As usual for the Kirby series, the soundtrack is solid. This one relies on remixes a bit more heavily than previous titles, which is fine. There’s a lot of them I was happy to hear for the first time, including remastered Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards tracks, among others. Each of the game’s stages has different tracks, so they don’t get repetitive unless you keep playing on the same stage over and over again. Which is fine.

I was a bit worried when I saw that Kirby Fighters 2 was running on Star Allies’ engine. Not that I was surprised – not at all – but Kirby games on the Switch haven’t been all that great. One of my major problems with Kirby Star Allies, as I say in my recent post, is that the game only runs at 30 frames per second. Kirby’s gameplay is already kind of mindless – again, specifically in the series’ Switch games – so running at 30 FPS makes the games feel even choppier and less connected. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Kirby Fighters 2 runs at a fluid 60 FPS, and I noticed the difference right away. This might mean that they’ve optimized the Kirby engine on Switch. And while I’m not expecting a 60 FPS update for Star Allies, I am a bit more hopeful that future Kirby games on Switch will feel as involved as they did during the 3DS days.

Overall, though, Kirby Fighters 2 has a solid presentation. Again, I really like the menus, and the game running at 60 FPS helps wrap the presentation together a bit more cohesively. It’s definitely an improvement over Star Allies. I really hope upcoming Kirby games have menus as cool as they are here!

Gameplay

I touched a bit on the gameplay earlier, but we’ll go into more detail here. First up, you can play rounds against friends, either locally or online. Fighting isn’t anywhere near as complex as it can get in Super Smash Bros., but there are still copy ability-specific combos and such that you can learn. There’s over twenty abilities in the game, including the brand-new Wrestler ability, which I found fun to use! I’m personally fine with the gameplay, but I definitely feel like this isn’t the kind of game to form a competitive scene. So don’t expect any training guides here. The online mode is smoother than Ultimate’s, by the way, which… is really kind of sad when you think about it.

Much of the game’s content is locked from the beginning, though, including copy abilities, stages, and music. You can unlock these by raising your Fighter Rank, which increases through story mode, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer. If you’re not too interested in story mode, you can just play a bunch of matches locally or online to raise your Fighter Rank. I will say that there’s not as much possibilities in matches as there are in Smash, so you might find yourself getting bored somewhat quickly. I’d say this game is more worth a purchase if you’ve got a friend or two to play with. But then again, you’re better off playing Smash if you’re looking for a party game. But then again again, if you all like Kirby, this game is a fine option too.

Story mode is a little bit barebones. You have to scale a tower, and on each floor, you’ll be faced with a different opponent. Most of the time, it’s just a Kirby with a copy ability. You can bring an ally with you, too, and you have the option of making it a human player (local co-op) or an AI player. The AI is… not great. So I’d recommend bringing a friend along for this one. Every once in a while, a floor will “switch things up” by only making one kind of item appear all game, or by making the opponents deal more damage. Nothing too interesting, honestly, but it helps break up the repetition just a little bit. And then there’s bosses, and the boss variety in this game… isn’t good. You’ll only fight a few unique bosses, and most of them are rather similar to each other. You have to climb a lot of floors to beat story mode, so you’re going to have to be okay with having similar fights over and over again.

If this game were $60, I’d be ripping into it just as much as I did with Star Allies. But it isn’t, which makes a lot of the game’s shortcomings a bit more okay. The gameplay isn’t all that engaging, and ultimately, you might find it a bit forgettable. This seems like the kind of game somebody would play for ten to fifteen hours before either taking a break or stopping entirely.

The Verdict

For what it is, Kirby Fighters 2 is fine. The presentation is top-notch, but everything else is somewhere between average and above average. If you like Kirby games, you’ll definitely find enjoyment here. If you’re on the fence and don’t particularly enjoy Kirby games, though, you might find yourself getting bored faster than you’d like. Even though Kirby Fighters 2 is nothing groundbreaking, it’s a nice little game that can be played in short bursts. And as is usual for recent Kirby games, it’s better with friends around. I think $20 is a very reasonable asking price, honestly, as there’s a fair amount of content here for that price.

In any case, I’m really curious to learn what the next Kirby game might be. As I stated in my Star Allies post (linked above), the current Kirby formula is not only getting stale, but is worsening over time. Kirby Fighters 2 is a nice – albeit small – change of pace. It’s clear that the presentation and frame rate were heavily prioritized, so I’m hopeful that the next main series Kirby game will innovate the franchise in a way we haven’t seen before. Kirby Fighters 2 supposedly contained references to a 3D Kirby game that wasn’t related to any previous title (not even Kirby’s Blowout Blast, which was 3D). Maybe our next game will be the 3D Kirby we’ve always wanted! In the meantime, Kirby Fighters 2 is a good way for Kirby fans to keep busy. Also, all of the screenshots are menus because I like them so much.

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