Mario and Zelda are undeniably Nintendo’s 1-A and 1-B. Secretly, though, we all know their systems don’t become legit until a Kirby game hits them. After all, seemingly dozens of them tend to populate their platforms. Kirby Star Allies marks the pink ball of adorable’s first Switch appearance. Launching Friday, March 16, a free demo hit the eShop beforehand. After taking it for a whirl, here are my thoughts.
After much deliberation I can confidently confirm that Star Allies is indeed another Kirby game. If you’ve played any installment since, well, ever, you probably shouldn’t expect too many surprises here. You’ll jump, you’ll float, you’ll suck (up enemies). Platforming is a piece of cake and the presentation could melt a White Walker’s heart. Star Alllies’ big hook, though, is the ability to recruit up to three enemies to aid Kirby.
Tossing a heart to foes instantly convinces them that Kirby’s on the right side of history. Fully behind your cause, they’ll attack enemies on your behalf. That may sound cool on paper, but I found it takes away much of the fun behind combat. My party often obliterated dudes without me having to lift a finger.
Kirby games are easy enough when I’m the lone hero, let alone having a wrecking crew behind me. Sure, I can beat them to the punch and destroy baddies myself. However, then the party would lose much of its purpose. This hopefully changes later in the game, but the demo rarely presented opposition that felt worthy of my party’s might. This made boss battles a welcome event. Throwing everything we had at a damage sponge like swole King Dedede felt befitting of my group’s prowess.
Another problem is how messy combat can get. Chaos regularly erupts with four characters spewing fire and tossing bombs at once. I could barely make out what was happening on screen half of the time. I do like the idea of combining Kirby’s powers with those of his buddies. As Sword Kirby, I had a Burning Leo ignite my sword, adding the power of flame to my strikes.
While combat has its issues, I found puzzle-solving more fitting of my allies’ presence. Activating four-person switches may not be complex but at least it was something I couldn’t do on my own. Segments when the group must split into two pairs offered the most interesting scenarios in the demo. Sometimes the A.I. team had to perform actions on their own to open up paths for my team to progress. I’d like to see how these situations evolve over time as they offer the most creative wrinkles I’ve seeen.
My excitement for Star Allies sits at about lukewarm on my fictional scale of hotness (for video games). It plays like any given Kirby game except the allies often rob you of the joy of battle. On the flip side, utilizing the crew in exploration-focused situations could lead to cool moments. I’m not convinced to spend $59.99 to find out how everything comes together. But when the game gets a steep discount in about five years, I may recruit Star Allies to my library.