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Backlog Challenge 2014 - Kirby's Adventure

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"What's that, George? There's a Kirby game you've played and haven't completed?"

Why yes, anonymous voice. It was a weekend rental when I was 8 and I haven't really touched it since. Much of a Kirby fan as I've become in the meantime, though, I knew this was one I'd have to come back to eventually, and what better opportunity than a formal backlog challenge?

Tackling Kirby's Adventure at this point in my gaming experience only made sense considering my general trend of working backwards through various series and genres of interest, and just the same as when I challenged Kirby's Dream Land 3 last February it's been fascinating seeing the foundations for mechanics I'm familiar with in their more basic forms. We're just far enough back in the Kirby catalog that copying abilities is a relatively new thing, so instead of the suite of moves per power or the power variations born from combinations of abilities we're on a strictly one-power, one-move basis.

What's really neat about this that I feel like is lost in later games is that, along with the hidden paths usual to the series, certain powers are found much less frequently and give each stage a bit more of its own, unique identity in addition to making the powers feel like secrets themselves. The UFO ability, one of my strongest memories of my original run with the game, embodies this best: It's only found in a small handful of stages, and when its associated enemy isn't showing up for a scant few seconds in a hard-to-reach spot it's placed front-and-center because the rest of the stage is designed specifically around its use.

Speaking of secrets, what Adventure has in the way of hidden paths is about on par with what I've come to expect. This time around the hunt is for switches that reveal additional doors in the overworld, each progressive switch requiring a trickier power to carry through the stage in order to access. It's plain to see that the minigames found through these new doors were the inspirations for games later found in Kirby Super Star, specifically the old West shootout serving as a precursor to Super Star's iajutsu reflex game. Nice little retrospective touches like this are a big part of what I enjoy in these trips through the classics.

If anything in this iteration of Kirby hasn't stood up over time, though, it's the boss fights. While still solid, most fights boil down to patterns as recognizable as they are exploitable. Even Kracko, usually my personal bane in any given Kirby playthrough, seemed shallow and predictable in this appearance. It could have something to do with HAL having yet to find the proper balance in complexity since its previous outing didn't allow players the ability to deal damage at-will, but when even the final boss can be dispatched in one or two tries within as many minutes you know something in the formula still needs some fine tuning.

It's hard to be too critical of a game this early in its series, though. Everything has to start from somewhere, and as much as some of Kirby's Adventure's elements may seem simplistic a good twenty years later (Feel old yet? I know I do.) they were a step ahead of what was available at the time and played an important part in shaping the series into what it is today. Definitely a fun trip back in time, but one I'm fairly satisfied to leave as-is after completion without consulting any kind of guide for the less obvious secrets.

CHALLENGE: cleared (79%)

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