Whenever a new Nintendo system is released, it's inevitable that a Kirby game will appear on it. Whether it's a console or a portable, or that game is a racing, golf, or standard platformer is uncertain, but you will get Kirby in some form or another.
The 3DS' gift is Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which closely resembles the SNES classic Kirby Super Star, albeit with a few less minigames packed in. But with the strong showing of a fun casual Smash Bros. clone and a King Dedede rhythm game, this is one of Kirby's strongest showings yet.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released: May 2, 2014
Like a typical Mario game, it only takes a few seconds to get in the right frame of mind for a Kirby game setup. Put simply, Kirby awakens one day to find that his home, as well as frenemy Dedede's castle have taken to the skies due to a giant beanstalk growth below the world's surface. A mysterious villain appears, and Dedede is taken. Always the hero, Kirby is off to save him across multiple worlds.
These worlds will be familiar to fans of the series, consisting of various platforming challenges as well as miniature puzzles. There's a few tiny nuances like a friendly "Bandana Waddle Dee" giving out items in certain levels, but for the most part, this is the same Kirby experience you can expect from past entries.
The controls are well done, and Kirby still has his float, spit, inhale, dash, and slide powers. There's some tilt controls every so often (mostly for canon puzzles), but they're inoffensive, and don't ruin the game in the slightest. Speaking of inhaling, Kirby has access to powers from his fallen enemies, and they're as deep as ever -- especially the Bell and Archer powers, which have become two of my all-time favorites next to the classic Sword.
Bell Kirby functions a lot like a fighting game character, showing off both projectile and hand-to-hand combos effortlessly in tandem. As I flipped page by page through the Bell's tutorial screens, I quickly realized how detailed every power is. The Archer is even better, as he has access to a number of unique ranged abilities, with the chance to charge them up at the risk of standing still.
You'll also have access to a "Hypernova" power by way of Miracle Fruit, which basically act like the Mega powers in the Wii's Kirby's Return to Dreamland. These portions aren't all that deep as Kirby can just suck up larger pieces of the set like giant trees and the like, but they're fun enough, and never feel like a pacing hindrance.
Triple Deluxe itself looks great, as the 3DS' processing power lends itself well to the simple, yet colorful visuals -- essentially a portable rendition of the Return to Dreamland engine. The 3D is also in full effect here, and since the game shoots to and fro from the foreground and the background often, it looks all the more dazzling. I really hope that Nintendo delivers this same style to a home console experience in the future, as it has the potential to look just as beautiful as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
So what about those extras? Like any Kirby game, Triple Deluxe is pretty packed with ancillary treats that will please fans long after the core story has its curtain call. Dedede's Drum Dash is a perfect example of that, delivering a miniature rhythm experience within the confines of a game that's otherwise platform-centric. Like most rhyhthm games it's extremely easy to pick up, as the only controls are movement from left to right, and the A button -- which bumps up Dedede right as he touches the ground, and allows him to "backbeat," which essentially translates to clapping at the peak of a leap.
As you can expect from the title Dedede is jumping from drum to drum, which creates the beat over the melody of three different songs, with a crescendo of difficulty. While the first level is easy enough, the latter two can get particularly devious with more enemies dotting the landscape, and you'll have to jump, backbeat, and dodge perfectly to the beat. It's not a system selling minigame by any means, but it's definitely worth revisiting, and will last you roughly an hour or so even if you never return to it.
The real draw here is Kirby Fighters, which is like a pared down version of Smash Bros. with smaller levels, and just Kirby on the roster. It can be played both solo and with friends (!), and it even has a training mode, 10 full powers to choose from, difficulty settings, and seven stages. The kicker? It has download play, so a single cart can beam the experience to friends -- I love it when Nintendo includes this feature.
What I love most about Kirby Fighters though is how deep the combat is -- because when I say 10 "full" powers, I really mean it. Every available morph power has all of its 10+ moves at its disposal, and fights can get really interesting when they're all mixed together. My personal favorite is the Archer, which has some sneaky moves up his sleeve, including the "blend" ability that lets him hide beneath a makeshift shrubbery.
The levels aren't just lazy arenas either, as they range from classic locales like Castle Lolo (with hazards in tow), and there's even a Final Destination homage for those who are interested. Even if you don't have friends to play with locally it's still worth jacking up the difficulty and messing around in, and it's a perfect way to ease the wait of the next Smash Bros.
If you're not satisfied there's a handful of keychains to collect throughout each level, most of which show off classic art from past games. There's also StreetPass functionality here where you can mix and match chains, as well as the heavily underused Play Coin mechanic -- if you wish you can spend five coins for a chain, and get a new one every day. There's also a huge bonus at the end that will make Triple Deluxe worth replaying again that I won't spoil here. Oh, and the classic arena mode and true arena also return, on top of everything else.
Kirby:Triple Deluxe is yet another winning entry in the franchise. It delivers the core Kirby experience alongside of a few very well done extras, which is pretty much everything a fan could ask for. While the Kirby formula could easily be getting stale for some, it still represents a whimsical corner of platforming games that's centered around one central ideal -- fun.