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Review: Kirby Battle Royale

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Or as they call it in Paris, Kirby Battle Quarter Pounder

When the December 2017 NPD Group data came out earlier this month, the biggest surprise wasn’t that the Switch sold 1.5 million units in the US. That was expected given its meteoric rise. No, the biggest surprise was the 3DS family, a group of handhelds everyone assumed was on the way out the door, sold a massive 700,000 units. That’s a crazy high amount this late in its life and proof there are still gamers willing to give Nintendo's near seven-year-old system a chance.

If these new 3DS owners are looking for that great first title to pick up, I would absolutely suggest getting a Kirby game. Just not this one.

Kirby Battle Royale (Nintendo 3DS) 
Developer: HAL Laboratory 
Publisher: Nintendo 
Released: January 19, 2018 (NA), November 3, 2017 (EU) 
MSRP: $39.99

Kirby and mini-games go together like Nutella and raspberry jam. Since Kirby’s Adventure, just about every game in the series has included a handful of sub-games. Kirby’s adventures have never been that long, so it’s always nice to see HAL pack as many of these fun additions as it can into every release. Of course, nobody is buying a Kirby title for these little diversions. They're there to complement the cute, charming story modes to work through that are the main draw of each entry. Without that, would anyone bother with Kirby?

Nintendo is betting the answer to that question is 'yes' with Kirby Battle Royale. Don’t get me wrong there is a story mode here, but it’s made up entirely of the 10 mini-games that are at the front and center of the package. The campaign is pretty much only there to prepare me for head-to-head action in the local and online multiplayer modes. Throughout the story, I replay all of the mini-games a handful of times with slight adjustments made to the rules for added challenge. These rule changes are never overly cumbersome -- it’s still a Kirby game -- but they sometimes get me to develop new strategies I can take online.

The 10 included are Battle Arena, Apple Scramble, Coin Clash, Crazy Theater, Attack Riders, Rocket Rumble, Ore Express, Robo Bonkers, Slam Hockey, and Flagball. The quality varies greatly between them, and several times over my weekend of play I find myself having to choose between three I just don’t enjoy. For the sake of this review, it’s probably best I rate each game individually.

With that in mind:

  • Battle Arena – Battle Royale at its most rudimentary. Either by myself or with a partner, I have to beat the heck out of my opponents and knock them all into the ground before they can recover. Matches can be over in as little as 20 seconds and some of Kirby’s powers are utterly useless here. 4/10
  • Apple Scramble – If you tried the demo you’ve seen everything this game has to offer. A simple collecting challenge where a team of two work together to gather the most apples. Story mode offers interesting challenges with the set-up, but otherwise just an okay game. 6/10
  • Coin Clash – My favorite of all the mini-games. Players compete against one another to collect the most coins in a haunted house. Coins appear on the ground or in giant pots I have to attack. There is also a ghost that can possess me and the other players that slowly drains us of our coins. To get rid of it, I have to pass it on to another player. It’s fast-paced, frantic, and fun whether playing against AI or online. 8.5/10
  • Crazy Theater – Similar to Battle Area, but with a stronger objective. I still have to knock the heck out of my opponents on a small stage, but also complete whatever task I am given at the start of each round. This can be anything from "stand on the correct answer for simple math problems" to "avoid the meteorites." Not only do I have to complete the task, but I have to attack my opponents to keep them from doing the same. AI is a bit too dumb in the campaign, but it gets hectic when playing online. 6/10
  • Attack Riders – Like Battle Arena but as a side-scrolling mini-game. I beat the snot out of my opponents to collect their poker chips and get some added firepower when I take control of one of the vehicles added to the stage. Can be slightly interesting, but mostly underwhelming. 5/10
  • Rocket Rumble – Another top-down beat-'em-up like Battle Arena, but with more strategy. Players have to collect fuel blocks for their spaceships and the player who soars highest into the sky at the end of the time limit wins. In addition to attacking other players, I can attack opponent spaceships to drain them of fuel I can steal. More cute than fun, it’s still a step up on Battle Area. 6 /10
  • Ore Express – Players collect ore on an auto-scrolling top-down stage and throw them into the open carriages of a passing train. Similar to Rocket Rumble, but with a diversity in stage design that can really mix the challenge up. Very replayable. 7/10
  • Robo Bonkers – A competitive co-op game, players work together to defeat the massive robotic gorilla in the center of the stage while also trying to secure the most points for themselves. The robot must first be attacked with missiles and then clobbered when it’s knocked out. Easily the most fun mini-game in the package and also the one that saw the most slowdown while playing online. 8/10
  • Slam Hockey – Just the worst. The object of it is to knock the puck into my opponents. I can either hit it with my copy ability or pick it up and throw it at them. Whether playing online or against the AI it’s never a challenge. 2/10
  • Flagball – Perhaps the most unique of all the included games, Flagball is a blast against real players but mostly boring in the story mode. Teams of two try to throw the ball into their corresponding flag. Both the ball and the flags can be picked up leading to some madcap matches. Halfway through the match the flags, which are separate, can combine into a single object that completely changes how I have to approach the game. 7/10

Despite each of these games having different goals, and 14 different copy abilities to experiment with, the way I win remains the same through nearly all of them: I just beat the hell out of my opponents. That’s perhaps where I find this whole package disappointing. 10 mini-games is not a lot and that number feels smaller when several of the games are so similar. Battle Arena, Rocket Rumble, Ore Express, Coin Clash, Crazy Theater, and Slam Hockey are all cut from the same cloth and my strategy of “mindless attacking” remains suitable in each of those games. More diverse challenges like Flagball and Robo Bonkers would have done this title well.

Taking them online doesn’t exactly turn every turd into a diamond, but I find the addition of real people greatly affects a game for the better. This is where the long-term potential of Battle Royale lies. Playing against three other players online works swimmingly with only small bits of slowdown to contend with on certain games. When I win, I raise my rank and score me coins I can use to unlock extra costumes, music, power-ups, and more.

I’ll admit right now I know I’m not the target demographic for this game. It’s for kids, but just because something is aimed at a younger generation doesn’t mean it shouldn’t put forth its very best effort to be a worthwhile experience. This isn't a bad game and some of the activities can be quite fun when played with real people. But these sub-games have always been the side-dish to the single-player main course, and without a worthwhile entrée, Kirby Battle Royale feels deficient.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Kirby Battle Royale reviewed by CJ Andriessen

5.5

MEDIOCRE

An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenFeatures Editor   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games. Also, I backed that Bloodstained game. more + disclosures


 



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    Filed under... #3DS #HAL Laboratory #Kirby #Mini-games #multiplayer #Nintendo #reviews

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