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Poor Kirby gets no respect.
I mean, when you think of top-tier Nintendo franchises, I’m sure you immediately think of heavy-hitters like Mario and Zelda. But what about Kirby? The little puffball has starred in plenty of great games, but he seems forever overshadowed by plumbers and pocket monsters.
Well, that’s no longer the case. Kirby: Triple Deluxe, out on May 2 for the Nintendo 3DS, is actually a better 2D platformer than New Super Mario Bros. 2, Yoshi’s New Island, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, and every other such recent Nintendo takes.
What you’ll like
Triple Deluxe plays like most Kirby games. You inhale enemies to steal their powers, like fire or stone (which gives you new moves based on those properties), and then use them to navigate stages full of platforming hazards and bad guys. While this is far from the first time we’ve played a Kirby game like this, the excellent level design makes this the best execution the series has seen since 1996’s Kirby Super Star on the Super Nintendo.
Stages hide plenty of secrets and challenges, and the colorful, energetic worlds you explore feel vibrant and lively. The powers are a lot of fun to use, and you’ll find plenty of new ones, like archery (self-explanatory) and circus (which lets you jump around like an acrobat). Each ability also gives you different dashing, aerial, projectile, and ground attacks. Although some skills work better for certain situations, none of them feel underpowered or useless.
But the hypernova ability stands out as the most significant and best addition. During certain levels, Kirby will eat a fruit that greatly amplifies his inhaling ability, letting him suck in pretty much anyone and anything. You feel empowered, and you use the ability for some fun puzzles (like inhaling giant missiles to fire back at other enemies). Plus, the death-by-sucking animations of larger enemies and structures are incredibly clever and hilarious.
Also, while the series has a reputation for being too easy, Triple Deluxe can offer a decent challenge. OK, the game is still on the easier side, and you’ll probably beat it with more than 30 extra lives. Still, you can’t just turn your brain off and fly over every obstacle. Deaths never feel cheap, and you’ll never get frustrated. This is a leisurely adventure, not a hardcore test of endurance.
Each world consists or about five stages, and each stage has a few Sun Stones hidden throughout them. While you don’t need to find the stones to beat the individual levels, you do need a bunch of them to unlock the boss of each world. Getting the Sun Stones usually requires a bit more cunning and careful observation than you’d normally need to beat a Kirby game. They’re fun to search for and find. Plus, you can unlock extra levels if you discover all of them in a world.
Keychains are sometimes even harder to uncover. While you don’t need them like Sun Stones, they’re fun collectibles that reference Kirby’s past. It’s a nice treat for fans of the franchise.
Great use of the 3D effect
Triple Deluxe handles the 3D-projecting ability of the 3DS spectacularly. While Kirby can only move on a 2D plane, he often jumps back and forth between the background and foreground (usually via transporting stars). You can see attacks coming from off in the distance. Sometimes a mirror will show you running across both the background and foreground, but only one of the planes shows you where the real pitfalls and enemies are. You also have to use cannons to blast objects on the other plane. Bosses especially love to dance around the screen, making your battles with them some of the most creative and memorable in the series’ history.
Of course, those with a Nintendo 2DS can still enjoy this game, but they won’t experience the 3D functionality. It will still work fine, but you’ll definitely be missing out on one if its most charming elements.
The bonus modes
Outside of the main campaign, Triple Deluxe has a few extra modes. The coolest of them is Kirby Fighters, a sort of simpler version of the Super Smash Bros. fighting series but with everyone playing as a Kirby that has one ability. King Dedede, once the villain of the series, also stars in a rhythm-based minigame where he bounces around on drums to the beat of popular Kirby songs. It’s not as substantial as Kirby Fighters, but it’s a fun addition. You’ll unlock a better mode after beating the campaign that allows you to play through a condensed version of the main story as Dedede, who has his own set of attacks.
What you won’t like
It’s still a Kirby game
As with a lot of Nintendo’s long-running franchises, you will find a sense of familiarity here. While some Kirby games completely buck tradition for entirely new mechanics, like Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii and Kirby: Canvas Curse on the original DS, Triple Deluxe sticks with tradition (essentially the tenth game of the main series). It’s not a huge mark against it, especially since I think that it adds enough new ideas and executes the old ones well enough, but even a perfect Kirby game can feel like another Kirby game.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe looks like just another entry in an old series if you only peek at screenshots and trailers, but this is the best 2D platformer I’ve played on the 3DS. Levels offer tons of secrets and hidden items to find, and the game’s use of the portable’s 3D effect is delightfully clever. It’s nice to see charm and wit take center stage in this beautiful adventure.
If you ever enjoyed a Kirby game, you really should check this one out.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe is out on the 3DS on May 2. Nintendo provided us with a retail download code for the purposes of this review.