16 games for the price of one – how can you resist?
How much do you love Kirby? If your response lies anywhere above "a little, I guess," then Super Star Ultra is a must buy, period. None of its 16 minigames would fair well alone, but as part of an all-Kirby-all-the-time package, they create a cutesy compilation too robust to miss. Most of the bundled games follow the typical Kirby setup (bound through easygoing levels while chowing down on enemies, gaining their powers in the process) though each manages to tweak one crucial aspect that changes gameplay just enough to keep you interested; nothing feels tacked on just so they can say "16 games in 1!" on the box.
The best way to illustrate this point is to break down each game. Note we didn't say "minigame" again, because most of these simply don't qualify, as they're somewhere in between the latter and full-blown game. Plus, in these shadowy days of the Wii and DS Minigame Avalanche, we’d like to avoid that word as much as possible.
A super-easy introductory course to Kirby’s power-stealing ways. Float through a set of way-lax levels, fight a boss at the end of each and watch the credits roll by. It's a prettier take on the very first Game Boy title, from way back in 1992, which is a nice way of saying it’s extremely basic in every sense, from level design to boss battles. The irresistible cuteness and inherent fun of stealing enemy abilities wards off any major complaints though.
Spring Breeze is the only main game unlocked and ready to play right from the start, and chances are that's the only time you'll bother.
More linear running and jumping that's quite easy for anyone with two functional hands. Ultra's 3D cutscenes, added just for the DS version, factor in a bit more here than in Spring Breeze, but the surprisingly small view window had us skipping them just to get back to the gameplay.
There’s no real difference between Dyna Blade and Spring Breeze save a slightly increased difficulty, so these could probably have been one larger entry.
A three-level race to the finish line with DeDeDe, the series' main villain and recent Smash Bros. co-star. Fun in an old-school, 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog kind of way, but two-player races would have been better (and more appropriate, given the platform). Biggest claim to fame has to be the music, which led to this Snoop Dogg mashup.
THE GREAT CAVE OFFENSIVE
Probably the most robust, almost-a-whole-game idea in the set. Take Kirby through a vast underground labyrinth in search of treasures, most of which are deviously obscured by confusing hallways and power-specific puzzles. This is the only game where you really have to pick and choose which abilities you need for a given area, as well as which helper buddy you should bring along. See, some of the puzzles require you to release your swallowed power, turning it into a helpful ally that can use his power in places you can't. Example: Kirby can't use his fire attack underwater, but if you regurgitate your fire power into a fire helper, he can set things ablaze you normally couldn’t.
Like we said, it's a good idea, but with no real map and only 60 treasures that don't do a damn thing except sit there and look pretty, it's hard to keep your attention focused on one game when several others are on the same cart. With a bit more substance this could have been a full release, a fun mix of Metroid/Castlevania adventure and saccharine Kirby cuteness. As it is... close, but mildly frustrating due to lack of map and no incentive to keep going.
REVENGE OF META KNIGHT
Smash Bros. newest Kirby character becomes the main villain in this traditionally minded side scroller. There's a timer that's ticking away the entire game, trying to convey a sense of urgency, but everything's still so easy there's little chance you won't make it all the way through to Meta Knight for the final showdown. We'll give it credit for the presentation though, with lots of dialogue between Meta Knight and his crew freaking out as Kirby slowly destroys their flying fortress. More of the same, but competently put together.
MILKY WAY WISHES
Eight more levels of just about the same stuff, though this time you can't steal powers from regular enemies - you have to find their "essences" hidden in each world. Once you find them, you can call upon them at any time, as many times as you like. Initially we were entranced with the idea of finding each essence (three per world), but again the game's so easy all we needed were two decent powers and the rest of the game fell in line. Collecting them all is sort of fun, but what's the point when there's no reward and all these powers are freely available on any of the other games?