Kirby: everyone’s favorite little pink ball of…something. Today the little guy is one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters and IPs, But in the very beginning, Kirby wasn’t even going to be the star of his own games. He originated as a “dummy character,” or a placeholder character used by developers until they could find a more developed protagonist for their game. However, said designers ended up loving the cute little pink ball, and decided to make him the star. From there, Kirby starred in a number of adventures in the magical world of Dream Land. But by far, his most famous adventures are from Kirby Super Star.
Kirby Super Star is actually a collection of 8 separate games, so you can think of the "story" as more of a series of stories rather than one cohesive, overarching tale At the beginning of the game, only 6 of the 8 games are available to play. "Spring Breeze" is a remake of the very first Kirby game, Kirby's Adventure, in which you must defeat the evil King Dedede and reclaim all the food the greedy king stole. In "Dyna Blade," you are tasked with stopping the giant rainbow bird Dyna Blade from wrecking havoc all across Dream Land. "Gourmet Race" is just what it sounds like: a series of races between Kirby and Dedede to beat each other to the goal while eating as much food as possible. In "The Great Cave Offensive," Kirby explores a massive cave in search of all the treasure he can get his hands on. The two unlockable games are "Revenge Of Meta Knight," in which Kirby must destroy the titular Meta Knight's battle ship Halbred, and "Milky Way Wishes," the largest game in the collection which has Kirby traveling to 9 different planets in order to rebuild a wish-granting comet.
In addition to the "core" games, there are also 2 extra mini-games: "Samurai Kirby" and "Megaton Punch." Both game require prefect timing and sharp reflexes in order to win. And finally, once you've beaten all 8 games, you will unlock one final challenge: "The Arena." The Arena is a massive endurance gauntlet in which you must battle every boss in the game one more time - without dying.
While the stories and objectives of the core games vary, the gameplay is always the same. You control Kirby as he runs, swims, and floats through Dream Land. You can access new areas by going through golden doorways, and you can sometimes find secret doorways that will lead to food, 1-UPs, or even giant switches that can open up brand new levels. There are also little bonus games at the end of each level that don't really do much, but are a nice break from the game.
But the trademark power of any Kirby game is the Copy ability. Kirby can gain access to any number of different powers and abilities, either by touching special pedestals or, more commonly, by inhaling his enemies and swallowing them whole. There are about 20 different abilities Kirby can use, each with their own style and strategy. For example, Sword Kirby has a powerful blade that's perfect for close combat and even comes with a stylish green hat. (that looks suspiciously like another sword-wielding Nintendo hero's hat...) Bomb Kirby can throw bombs to blow up various obstacles and baddies, Ice Kirby can freeze enemies and send them sliding away, Wheel Kirby can go zooming along the stage, and through baddies, at high speeds, and so on. There are also rarer abilities like Cook, Crash and Microphone that can clear the screen of all enemies at once.
One of the unique features of this particular game, or games, is the helper feature. When Kirby gains an ability, he can either keep it for himself, or by pressing the A button, turn it into a friendly version of the enemy that originally had the ability that will attack enemies on sight. In single-player, these helpers are controlled by the computer, but if you have a second controller plugged in, your buddy can take control of the helper character. You can also change helpers on the fly. Kirby can choose a new helper by inhaling a new ability, or turning the helper into a power-up that Kirby can then use for himself. Both Kirby and his helper have separate health bars, which can be refilled by eating the various food and treats scattered throughout the level. Once a helper character's health bar is depleted, Kirby has a short amount of time to find his helper a new ability and restoring the helper's health completely. However, if Kirby's health bar is depleted, he loses a life and you must start over from the last door you went through.
There's really only one way to describe a Kirby game: cute. Let's face it, when your protagonist is a little pink smiling bouncy ball, there's really not too many directions you can go but cute. The characters are charming, the stages are bright and colorful, and the music is cheery and catchy, with many songs in this game like Green Greens and Gourmet Race becoming classic Kirby tunes. Even the bad guys are adorable and hardly threatening at all. The Kirby games were originally designed for a younger audience, and the style definitely shows it.
That being said, however, I like to think of Kirby games as "deceptively simple." Sure, it's easy to just keep holding right and breeze through all the stages no problem. But there's also a great exploration aspect to the games, particularly with The Great Cave Offensive. Every level is jam-packed with secrets to find, hidden doorways to discover and secret paths to stumble upon. Discovering everything that these levels have to offer requires you to be very selective with your abilities, as many of these secrets can only be accessed using a specific ability like Fire or Hammer. And just when you think you’ve found everything, there’s always something new to discover.
No matter how many times I play Kirby Super Star, it never gets old. Despite the basic gameplay being the same across most of the games, there’s still enough variety in the stories and objectives to keep things interesting. You can play through any game any way you want, in any order you want, so your playthrough can vary each and every time you play it. Also, another factor that makes the game so re-playable is the multiplayer. Virtually every game in this collection can be played with two people, either co-op through the helper system or through player vs. player. This is the perfect game to play with, say, a younger sibling or a non-gamer friend, as the pick up and play style is super easy to get the hang of, yet is still tons of fun to play.
The Test of Time
Kirby has had plenty of adventures prior to Super Star, but it was his big SNES adventure that really put him on the map, so to speak. So many of thing things we know about Kirby today: the classic songs, the trademark abilities, the modes of play, all of it originated here. It’s no surprise why this game is such a classic, and even today remains perfectly playable and one of the most fun Kirby games in the entire series.
Kirby Super Star is available on the Wii Virtual Console. Or for a more updated version of the game, check out the remade Kirby Super Star Ultra on the Nintendo DS.