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Destructoid review: Kirby Super Star Ultra

2:41 PM on 10.03.2008 // Ashley Davis

If you owned a Super Nintendo growing up, it is very likely that Kirby Super Star is a game you hold very dearly to your heart. This special cart did not contain just one game, but eight (and one secret) games that were all great fun to play alone, or with a friend. Personally, I played my copy so much that the save battery is worn and now I play the entire thing in one setting every time I have to scratch that Kirby itch, both because I love it so much and because I literally can not save my progress.

After a slew of new handheld Kirby titles have popped up over the years, Nintendo finally brings us the portable remake of what is perhaps the most beloved of them all. Chances are, if you are familiar with the first game and adored it, you've probably already picked this up. But the game was released with so little fanfare, I am afraid that there are people who could have missed this title. For those who may have forgotten that this game is out now, let this serve as a reminder to you.

Now, as for those of you who are unsure or have had no prior experience with Kirby Super Star earlier on in life, you may be uncertain as to whether or not this DS port is worth your hard earned money. Is there any new content that gives it an edge on the original? If so, is it good enough to justify the purchase? How well does it work as a portable title? Do they finally let us play as helpers in a one player game? Because I've always wanted to do that.

Hit the jump and read on as I attempt to review a game that is actually more than a dozen games.

Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)
Developed by HAL Laboratory
Published by Nintendo
Released September 22, 2008 (US)

Being a pretty huge fan of the original game, I went into Kirby Super Star Ultra with high hopes, even if the game turned out to be little more than just a straight port. I was pleasantly suprised to find that there are actually a lot of new games that were created for Ultra. I was also suprised that most of them were devoid of tacked-on touch screen controls, and mesh really well with the old material. The two new platformers especially feel just as comfortable to play as the titles I had growing up.

Ultra is like most other Kirby titles in that it offers some of the purest fun to be found anywhere. But what is really special about it is that this fun comes in 15 different flavors, including all of the games that were in the original Super Star. The ones you will probably spend most of your time with are the first five platformers: Spring Breeze, Dynablade, The Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of Meta Knight, and Milky Way Wishes.

Now, don't be fooled into thinking that just because there are several games on the cart that they are hastily thrown together and all the same thing. As you progress further from Spring Breeze (which is an updated version of Kirby's Dream Land for the Gameboy), the game formulas begin to deviate ever so slightly from the normal "suck up bad guys and steal their power" thing that Kirby is most known for. For example, the main objective in The Great Cave Offensive is to solve puzzles and collect the 60 different treasures spread throughout the game. In Milky Way Wishes, the player is unable to copy abilities from enemies and must instead find them hidden throughout the game. Once an ability is obtained, the player can choose it from a menu at any time they please. Then there is Revenge of Meta Knight, which is mostly just standard Kirby fare, but with an unusual mechanical setting, higher difficulty, and humorous dialogue supplied by the crew members of the Halberd. Each game is well made and has its own special something to make it stand out from the others.

On the side are the three sub-games that are also making a return from Super Star: Gourmet Race, Samurai Kirby and Megaton Punch. The former is a three course racing/eating game, and the latter two are all about timed button presses. They serve as great little distractions when you want to take a break from the longer games. The only unfortunate thing is that in Ultra, most of these do not become unlocked until most everything else is played through. I've still yet to actually unlock Megaton Punch, and it's sort of a bummer that it nor Samurai Kirby are selectable from the start, as small (yet incredibly fun) as these games are.

As for the new material, you start out with the mostly unimpressive new sub-games which are controlled entirely by taps on the touch screen. They are the types of things you would normally think of as DS minigames, ranging from shooting suction cup darts at cutouts of enemies wearing cowboy hats to racing to tap the correct card that is displayed on the top screen before your opponents. These games could be better to play with a second player, but are disappointing in that the original sub-games are way more fun. You will likely focus your attention elsewhere after trying each of these once or twice.

Thankfully, there are also two new full games and arena modes to be unlocked. Before I stir up too much excitement, be aware that the platformers are just re-hashes of the older games. Even so, they feel like they could have been part of the original game, each bringing something different to the table. The first of the two, Revenge of the King, is (comparatively) a way more difficult version of Spring Breeze that features many "new" bosses from the handheld games, including the airship boss from Dream Land that was omitted from the re-made Float Islands level.

The second game, Meta Knightmare Ultra, is a bit more interesting, though it also takes you back through old areas: this game's five "levels" consist of the five original platformers. Only this time, you get to slash through everything as the little masked bad ass himself. Meta Knight's move set is permanently like that of Kirby's Sword ability, but he has a few different tricks up his sleeve that are fueled by defeated enemies. Each death gives you a certain amount of points. Via the touch screen, you can use these points to pull off some pretty cool moves, such as creating a Sword Knight partner, healing yourself, and a finishing move that fills the entire screen with two columns of flame. If running around the entire game and kicking ass is up your alley, Meta Knightmare Ultra is a great new addition, though it does run a bit long and might get old after playing through the first few levels if only because Meta Knight is such a cheaply powerful character. If nothing else, it's worth getting through for the final boss, who is one of the most difficult foes that Ultra has to offer.

But wait, there is still more! In addition to all of these games, there are three arena modes to fight your way through. The Arena contains all the original bosses from Super Star, The True Arena pits you against all the new bosses, and Helper to Hero allows you to play as any of the helpers and fight bosses who are slightly modified to more match their strength. These boss rushes are probably the hardest of all the games, but you may get tired of seeing the same bosses over and over after a while, as many of them repeat several times in other places.

Speaking of difficulty, if it's a really challenging game you are looking for, you probably want to look elsewhere. Ultra, like most other Kirby games, never gets too terribly hard. Even though the game is jam packed with material, the content can be gone through in its entirety in just a few hours. However, there is a lot of replay value to be found, especially if you are trying for 100 percent file completion. As most people who have played the original will tell you, there is just something special about the games that will draw you back in for repeated play throughs.

As far as controls go, Ultra plays as well as a Kirby game ought to. The game is displayed on the top screen and is played with the d-pad and buttons, while the touch screen is used to display stats that change slightly from game to game (for example, The Great Cave Offensive displays a list of treasures found, Dynablade displays a map, and so on). Though the screen is little more than a display in most situations, the few times that selectable options are there, the need to pull out the stylus every time you want to choose an ability (or special move, in Meta Knight's case) disrupts the flow of the game. I ended up just using my thumbs through Meta Knightmare Ultra, which did the trick, but I felt like these menus could have been handled a little better as to not slow the game down in this manner.

Kirby Super Star Ultra is just plain nice to both your eyes and ears. As one of the last games made for the Super Nintendo, Super Star was a beautiful game, and that beauty has been carried on and improved upon. All of the original music has been reworked and the characters have been given extra frames of animation so that every motion looks incredibly fluid. Everything is bright, colorful, and easily distinguishable from each other. The only graphical element of Ultra that is radically different from the original game are the brand new 3D animated cut scenes. Unfortunately, the effort seems to be a bit lost, as these cutscenes just feel a bit out of place when sandwiched in between the gorgeous 2D graphics of the rest of the game.

Two player mode was one of the most fun things about the original game, and Ultra brings it back with full force. Every game, including the sub-games and arenas,  can be played by two human players (with the exception of the three new touch screen games, which can have up to four players). Unfortunately, to play any of the platformers with someone, both people must have a copy of the game, making it a little tougher to find a helper on the spot. What's even more of a bummer is that The Great Cave Offensive has a few puzzles that can only be solved with another person to, say, help trigger a timed switch that is too far away from the door that it opens. Those who are looking to fully complete the game and know no one else with the cart might find it a little irritating that it is impossible to do alone. EDIT: Apparently, these puzzles aren't impossible to do by yourself, but they still take a lot of work on your own. I guess I'm not as good at the game as I thought I was. Sorry guys!

Even though it has its problems, Kirby Super Star Ultra is a well done remake of a great old game. It doesn't do a whole lot more than what was done in the original, but what has always been there has withstood the test of time so well, and most of the new content is just as fun as the old. I almost feel as if it is an even better experience as a handheld game, like Kirby Super Star was originally made with portability in mind. Not only is it extremely easy to just pick up and play any time, but it works so well as something really fun to take along with you wherever you go. Both the old fans and platforming lovers who missed out on the original Kirby Super Star would be doing themselves a great favor by picking this game up. I am certain that, much like the original is almost permanently stuck in my Super Nintendo, Kirby Super Star Ultra will remain in your DS for a good long time.

Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Ashley Davis,
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