Following the success of his 25th Anniversary celebrations, Kirby’s ready for his first outing on the Nintendo Switch. Determined to make his mark on the popular home console with cute capers and mimicking mischief, the titular protagonist calls on the help of his friends to bring us colourful, multiplayer fun. First unveiled at E3 in 2017, Kirby Star Allies enhances the multiplayer experience found in 1996’s Kirby Super Star (Fun Pak in European regions) on the SNES and even features copy combination mechanics seen previously in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. This lovely blend of old and new from developer HAL Laboratory creates something quite special in Star Allies, whilst bringing back the familiar light-hearted entertainment Kirby fans love.
In the first few hours of Kirby Star Allies, players will be met with the pastel-coloured, peaceful world of Dream Land, the vivid swirls of Planet Popstar and the rocky terrain of Jambastion. It’s in these worlds that something is amiss. Kirby’s nemesis, King Dedede, has stolen all of the food and is quite unlike his usual chirpy self. When Kirby sets out with his friends to take his hammer-slamming foe down a peg or two, a rather bizarre scene takes place. A flaming purple heart appears and quickly flees of its own accord in search of its master. Determined to overcome the flames of desire, Kirby continues on his journey to free Dream Land and its surrounding worlds from the Dark Curse.
For Kirby fans, Star Allies brings a little bit of everything. There’s new copy abilities, including the Artist, Spider and Broom to name but a few, plus players can combine abilities to make a flaming sword, a zap bomb and even a wind-driven air cutter. But it’s the multiplayer mode that really kicks Kirby into second gear. By splitting your Joy-Cons and Pro Controller(s), up to four Kirby fans can play at any one time and whip up all sorts of magical mischief on the colourful platformer. And although it is more fun with friends (or with family members that forget to get in barrels, push their buttons and need reviving several times), Star Allies can still be played in single player mode with up to three other CPU players joining the fray.
In true Kirby style, each level presents a new challenge in Star Allies. By using your Friend Heart ability, you can easily throw hearts to any enemy in the level and utilise their skills to chop down chains, barrel blast through rocks and freeze waterfalls to obtain hidden items. While some levels can be completed without extra team members, if you don’t pair up you’ll miss out on all the great collectibles such as extra stars, healing items and puzzle pieces. For the elusive rainbow puzzle piece, you’ll have to visit certain areas and use one or two unique abilities to uncover the reward. These mini challenges will often require combination abilities too, making for a nice twist.
Star Allies also throws some new action into the mix with Friend Abilities. To activate, players will have to find a four-player platform within a level to blow off some steam as a Friend Train, or become supportive cheerleaders by stepping on each other’s shoulders to make a Friend Bridge. Great for mixing up the pace, there are countless of these abilities to discover throughout each world.
Kirby fans will be pleased to know that bosses, such as Whispy Woods, make a comeback too. With the help of your friends, bosses are like putty in your hands. Advantageous, of course, but bosses within the first few levels are easy enough as it is. Luckily, before every boss fight there is a place where you can ditch – sorry, reset – your friends. The way we see it, you’re saving them from embarrassment at the hands of an angry Ent, rather than just taking all the glory for yourself (and his delicious apples).
But if you’re looking for fun outside of story mode, there are two mini-games unlocked from the get-go in Star Allies. Chop Champs and Star Slam Heroes are similar to the mini-games featured in Kirby Super Star. Both require skill in timing but are little more than ways to pass the time when waiting for the kettle to boil. Hopefully we’ll see a few more mini-games unlocked as we progress through the game.
With such a glorious tapestry of colours, Kirby Star Allies is a wonderfully entertaining Switch title so far. While it doesn’t seem to hit the highs of Kirby Planet Robobot just yet, there’s still time to take us to the stars on its next few stops and stop this Dark Curse, once (upon a time) and for all.
This is a preview of Kirby Star Allies (PAL version) only. A full review will follow in due course.