REVIEW-Kirby Triple Deluxe

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Let’s get something out of the way early; Kirby games are intentionally made to be easy to play. While not a genre, in the traditional sense, the approachability of Kirby games is a part of the series’ DNA. As such, I go into playing any Kirby title with my expectations set accordingly. I don’t pigheadedly declare that Kirby has to be harder, just like how I don’t decide that a first-person shooter shouldn’t have shooting, or that a racing game should have much less driving. I don’t think it’s right to slam a game for not being what I want it to be; a game should be reviewed for what it is and if the developers made their vision into a reality.

With that out of the way, let’s return to Kirby Triple Deluxe, the latest platformer from the talented folks at HAL Laboratory. Like 2011′s Kirby’s Return to Dream Land for Wii, Triple Deluxe is a traditional 2D Kirby platformer, with the usual dynamic compliment of copy abilities, inhaling, and floating in tow. Players are cast as Kirby, who finds his world being pulled skyward by a mysterious, giant beanstalk (called a Dreamstalk), and his arch-nemesis/sometimes-buddy King Dedede being carried away by a mysterious figure. The chase is on to find out where the stalk is from and who’s abducted Dedede! Kirby games do a good job of balancing between recycling plots and characters of old while also introducing new ones, and Triple Deluxe is no different. It’s no Shakespeare, but I was genuinely curious to find out who was causing all the mayhem.

3DS continues to amaze me with the quality of visuals it’s capable of producing. Triple Deluxe is a triumph of art direction and graphics that ranks right up there with Kid Icarus: Uprising and Super Mario 3D Land. I don’t know if it’s a company mandate that Nintendo platformers no longer stick to worlds with specific themes (ice, lava, forest, etc.), but continuing the trend was a brilliant move, as Triple Deluxe is a visual feast as a result. Levels float freely between different types of hazards and aesthetics, which helps keep gameplay varied and interesting. One level featured pillars of water shooting from the background forwards, surrounded on all sides by pools of magma. The texture work is stunning, and the animations of Kirby and his enemies fills the game with life. If there’s one weak link in the presentation, it’s the music. While it’s not as sickeningly saccharine as more recent soundtracks in the series (which I appreciated), it’s pretty by the numbers. There are some memorable tracks, but I wasn’t wowed by it, for the most part.

Along with Kirby’s Hypernova powers (which we’ll get to in a bit), the game’s primary gameplay hook is the ability to swap between the background and foreground of the environment. Similar to Donkey Kong Kong Country Returns, the game’s camera will often remain stationary as Kirby shrinks into the background, where gameplay continues unabated. HAL really had some fun with the new play control dynamic, as there are a ton of new challenges centered around switching back and forth. It’s never treated arbitrarily or abused, either; the use of swapping is expertly balanced so it that never feels like a gimmick. Unlike many of the more recent releases on 3DS, Triple Deluxe relishes in the 3D capabilities of 3DS. Switching planes is one aspect of the game that really benefits from the visual trickery, and while not necessary (2DS users will be able to play just fine), it adds some flair to the already beautiful graphics.

There are other areas where the level design shines, in particular the mini-boss and boss battles. The mini-boss battles, I’d like to point out, aren’t limited to the usual encounters with bulkier baddies like Mr. Frosty, for instance, but full-on fights. The battles are impromptu and kept me on my toes, as I never knew when to expect them. Each successive fight had me grinning from ear to ear as I learned to lob things into the screen to hit the enemy on the background plane, or whatever unique stratagem was needed to come out victorious.  One tool that came in handy during some of these battles was the aforementioned Hypernova ability. Granted by a piece of fruit that appears in certain stages, it allows Kirby to inhale godly sums of items and enemies, regardless of size. While perhaps not the most original move added to Kirby’s repertoire, HAL employed some wonderful uses of Hypernova. It was fun using Kirby’s giant maw to pull back on a ball and chain to destroy obstacles, as well as inhale gargantuan eels. I hope Hypernova finds its way into future Kirby games.

In the spirit of Return to Dream Land‘s Energy Spheres, Triple Deluxe has a number of Sun Stones to find in each stage. The final stage in a level can only be reached if a certain number of them have been gathered, and those who make the effort to find all of them are rewarded with an extra stage. Along with the Sun Stones, there is also a whole host of 8 and 16-bit keychains to obtain throughout the adventure. The trinkets range from common to rare, and are randomly awarded at the end of each stage. As I mentioned earlier, Kirby games aren’t known for their difficulty, but coupled with its excellent level design and some truly dastardly Sun Stones to retrieve, Triple Deluxe is no pushover. Boss battles in particular can be quite beastly if a less than optimal copy ability is equipped beforehand! Between the Sun Stones, keychains, and smart level and boss designs, even hardcore players will face a respectable challenge. I will note, though, that sometimes the boss fights spike the difficulty level a bit out of the blue, and with ability selection being something of a crapshoot, it made some altercations unfairly cumbersome. It’s not game breaking, but I think that HAL could have done better, here.

Beyond the single player campaign, Triple Deluxe also offers a handful of other modes. Kirby Fighters is a fighting mini-game that plays somewhat like a scaled-down Super Smash Bros., and Dedede’s Drum Dash, a rhythm-platform mini-game. While not beefy enough to warrant their own full games, both are excellent diversions and time killers. I was particularly taken by Drum Dash, which offered a  potent mixture of game mechanics. Finally, StreePass is devoted to swapping keychains with other players. The keychains, by the way, act almost like the trophies in Smash Bros., as they’re each based on a character or enemy from past Kirby games, recreated pixel by pixel. StreetPass should neatly assist satisfying what will surely become an addiction for many fans! Altogether, there is a ton of content to experience in Triple Deluxe that will keep players busy well beyond the conclusion of the main game. This is a game easily worth any player’s time, be they a rookie or veteran player. Make your day deluxe and buy a copy of Kirby’s latest game!

Score: 8.7/10

+ Excellent graphics and art direction; Level design is brilliant and varied; Hypernova ability and keychain collecting; Plane swapping provides for some clever battles and puzzles.

– Some boss battles arbitrarily ramp up the difficulty level, with players unable to compensate with at least a favorable ability equipped.

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