IGN Review of Kirby Super Star Ultra
More than a decade ago, back during the transition between the Super NES and the Nintendo 64, Nintendo and HAL Laboratories released Kirby Super Star for the 16-bit gaming console. That generation gap was a big one, as Kirby fell into that hole and got lost; oh, sure, Kirby fans ate it up and it's a good bet that it sold significantly better than any third-party game on the market at the time. But let's face it: the gaming world was on the move in 1996 with new consoles and updated graphic techniques (Donkey Kong Country, anyone?), so Kirby's last Super NES adventure seemed to hit the scene with very little fanfare or impact, regardless of its gameplay quality.
Nintendo thought there was enough there to give the design a second chance: Kirby's Super Star Ultra for the Nintendo DS is pretty much a remake of the Super NES title, but because of all the things done to the game, don't call it a port. And because it's one of the lesser played Kirby games it'll probably feel fresh to you, and if you were 16-bit gaming back in 1996 it'll probably make you wish you didn't miss the original design the first time around. Just make it all right again by noticing it in its second coming.
If you've ever played a Kirby game, you'll know that the whole idea of a "traditional platformer" is thrown right out the window. Though there are certainly elements of a traditional platformer in Kirby adventures, the fact that Kirby breaks from the usual run-n-jump elements with his float-n-fly abilities changes things up quite a bit. As does his ability to suck up enemies and steal their special attacks for his own benefit. Kirby Super Star Ultra brings a lot of cool ideas to the table, some of which have been abandoned in future Kirby games in favor of streamlining and simplifying his appeal. The ability to bring an enemy in as a "friend" and have him computer controlled opens up a lot of great co-op elements including special two-character attacks. This two player mode has been carried over really well on the Nintendo DS: if you've got a second system and second copy of the game you can have your own view of the action. Without a copy of the game you can sync up your system and use it as a D-pad while looking over your buddy's shoulder.
The original Kirby Super Star design was an odd segmentation of the Kirby adventure: instead of one, long platformer, it instead broke up the action into six shorter stories with events that seem to interweave between them. That is still the case in the Nintendo DS, and believe it or not this way of presentation feels way more at home for the handheld crowd. Each "game" is a short hour or two of Kirby action that fits the "pick up and play" model of the portable system. All of the adventures have their own unique hooks, whether it's a gameplay element or a level structure, but they're all, for the most part, based upon the same core, really fun Kirby gameplay mechanics.
Even though the game isn't original, Nintendo definitely put a lot of effort into making the game feel like a native Nintendo DS original. Most notably, the cartridge is chock full of high quality (though bordered) full-motion video sequences for introductions, endings and level intermissions. The touch screen is only used sparingly in the main adventures, but like in Kirby's Squeak Squad the designers throw in a few touch screen mini-games for single and multiplayer. You're not going to find any stylus controlled mini-games as creative as Kirby's Canvas Curse, but they're cool distractions for up to four players.
But do go into this game realizing that, for the most part, Kirby Super Star Ultra, is a bit on the easy side. Even when you unlock some of the harder adventures, there's really nothing here tremendously challenging: boss battles are predictable and surprisingly simple to win, and when you add the extra computer or human-controlled "friend" character it gets even easier.
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