Review: Kirby: Triple Deluxe

KirbyTripleDeluxe

Nintendo seems to have taken some marketing cues from the fast-food industry in labeling Kirby: Triple Deluxe. The latest 3DS adventure featuring everyone’s favorite floating pink ball is laden with superlatives the way a Hardee’s Six-Dollar Thickburger is drowning in condiments. You almost expect to see a subtitle proclaiming something along the lines of “Now with 100 percent more power-ups.”

‘Cause it sure feels that way once you start jumping and floating. The game’s story mode boasts a whopping 26 different boosts Kirby can slurp up to clone the powers of his enemies, ranging from the slide-and-smash power of Stone to the goofy acrobatics of Circus. It sounds fabulous and entertaining—until you realize that it renders all but a handful of boss battles easier than popping Skittles.

HAL Laboratory deserves props for finding plenty of clever and interesting ways to take advantage of 3D features to add wrinkles to each world’s levels. Most levels see Kirby using magic stars to jump back and forth between the foreground and background of the screen, Paper Mario style, to solve puzzles and unlock secrets. In one level, trains rush headlong towards you on supersize tracks, threatening to turn Kirby into a pink pancake. In several others, enemies hurl cannon and fireballs that seem to jump off the screen as they zero in on you.

As you’d expect, it’s fun as hell to Hoover up the Hypernova power-up, granting our pink pal the temporary ability to suck up objects and enemies more than ten times his size. (It feels, to be honest, like Luigi rocking the Poltergust 5000 on max power in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.) The problem for gamers who’ve been around the Kirby block a few times—and that’s most of us by now–is that there’s nothing you need do, no hidden area you need find, no boss battle you need beat to earn this supersized power-up. It’s just sitting there, hanging from a tree waiting for you to snare it. It’s a little like having the most powerful card in, say, Hearthstone, available in every booster pack you buy. If ultimate power is this easy to come by, it’s actually a lot harder to appreciate.

That easy-does–it vibe permeates most of the game’s story mode. You might nick Kirby on an enemy or environmental hazard, but it’s rare that you’ll find yourself dying and needing to reboot a level. Even tougher bosses (like Paintra, who obscures your view of the battlefield by splashing paint across it) only mount a minor challenge.
If you end up retracing levels, it’ll be to collect hidden sunstones you’ll need to open up new parts of the world, or to collect 8-bit keychains from Kirby’s long and storied list of past games. Keychain collection is entertaining and addictive, but again, awfully easy: Completing any stage allows you to use the abundant pile of coins you’ve collected along the way to simply buy up to five of them. You’ll have to complete challenges on other game modes to get the complete set, but it still feels like a cheap path to accumulation.

Speaking of those other modes, story mode’s only one of the three legs of this Kirby tripod—remember the whole triple deluxe thing. There’s also a Super Smash Bros-lite mode called Kirby Fighters that lets you test-drive most of the 26 power-ups against the CPU or up to three other friends in a mini arena. It takes no time at all to grasp that distance-attackers like Spear and Beam have a massive advantage over powers like Leaf and Ninja, but if you can ignore the unbalanced vibe, it’s still fun in short bursts. Just don’t expect a Smash Bros-level of level variety.

Leg three qualifies as something of a curveball: Dedede’s Drum Dash is a rhythm bounce-and-jump minigame that finds the roly-poly monarch leaping on a pathway of drums to collect coins. Ironically, here’s where hardened gamers finally meet the challenge that’s missing almost everywhere else. The speed, obstacles and difficulty curve spike like a backbeat beginning on the second level. Hope you brought your Amplitude skills.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe collects the series’ signature staples and packages them in some interesting and colorful ways. It’s just a shame the whole thing feels like it’s designed for a fourth grader rather than longtime Kirby fans.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Clever uses of 3D in level and gameplay design
+ Huge array of power-ups to customize your attacks
+ Keychain collection!

Cons:
– Way, way too easy to conquer story mode
– Kirby Fighters is a nice idea, but unbalanced
– Why is the game’s best power-up handed over on a platter?

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: 5/2/2014
Genre: Side-scrolling Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1 (Kirby Fighters supports 1-4 local multiplayer or download play)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.