Kirby Star Allies Review (Switch)

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Kirby Star Allies for Nintendo Switch

Kirby gets by with a little help from his friends in his Nintendo Switch debut, Kirby Star Allies. It’s a game full of charm and style that focuses on delivering a joyful experience within its short playtime. Series fans will appreciate the classic Kirby gameplay spiced up with a few interesting twists on the formula, while newcomers will get a strong first impression from this colourful and adorable entry. It’s an especially fun game when you have people to play multiplayer with, but the experience isn’t hampered much for those who don’t. Star Allies is a strong first outing for the pink puffball on the Switch.

In Star Allies, Kirby travels across worlds to find the source of mysterious black hearts that are turning the citizens of Dreamland evil. Kirby’s moveset is interesting for a platformer protagonist because he can puff himself up to float through the air with no limits, which means that level designs and enemy layouts are quite different to other 2D side-scrolling games. Kirby’s signature ability is to inhale enemies and absorb their powers, which grants him access to a variety of new movesets. Each one has a few basic moves you can rely on to get you through the levels, but most of these Copy Abilities have some more complicated abilities you can use that make combat more engaging and empowering once you get the hang of them. My favourite is the Yo-Yo ability that lets you fling a yo-yo around as a ranged attack and then pull off tricks like ‘walking the dog’ to constantly damage anything in front of you as you move around. These combat-oriented movesets, as well as basic movement, feel so good because the game runs nice and smoothly. Everything responds the way you’d expect it to.

Star Allies expands on the concept of enemies with different abilities by allowing you to recruit up to 3 enemies into your party. Other players can take control of any of these recruited (in same-screen play only, no online or wireless play) and play as them just like they would control Kirby with a Copy Ability, but otherwise the AI will handle them. Things are more fun (and hectic) with player-controlled allies, but the AI do a good enough job of helping out. They’re able to recognise when their powers are needed to take out a specific enemy or to solve a section of a puzzle, and will act accordingly.

What’s really exciting about this new ally system is that certain powers are able to be combined into even stronger ones. The Yo-Yo ability that I mentioned earlier can be combined with elemental powers to change how its attacks operate. Combine the Yo-Yo with a fire ability and ‘walking the dog’ will now leave a trail of fire behind the yo-yo as you move around, damaging enemies that move into it. You can also fling the flaming yo-yo to hit flammable items that are just out of reach, which can assist in puzzles. The combinations aren’t just “X power but on fire or electrified now”, they actually change how each power plays both in and out of combat.

The system isn’t perfect, and runs into some issues that are especially prevalent when relying on the AI. The first is that it’s really easy for allies to lose their abilities. When certain enemies are defeated, an item will drop to the floor that gives you their ability when picked up. If players don’t want that ability then they can just avoid the item, but AI partners will regularly walk into them and change into a different character. Quitting the game will also leave you with an empty party next time you boot the game up. If you’ve got allies with different elemental abilities then it can also be hard to guarantee that the right ally combines their element with the right partner’s ability. Instead of getting an ally with a flaming weapon to give another ally a flame ability, your electrified ally might override the flaming weapon with their own element. It’s never frustrating to the point where you get angry at the game, but it’s a regular annoyance nonetheless.

Kirby Star Allies for Nintendo Switch

The abilities really shine in the boss battles. Your team’s attacks paint the screen with all sorts of effects while the boss flies around firing off attacks of their own. You need to dodge things coming from all over the screen and work out the best opportunity to counter-attack. Some boss battles have some extra interactions available if you or your team have certain abilities equipped. If you go up against a boss wielding a sword while you’re using the Sword ability, you might be able to block the enemy’s attacks by swinging your sword. There’s another boss who’s a giant tree, and if enough of your team attacks it with fire attacks at the same time, you can light it on fire and deal major damage. These provide exciting interludes and capstones to a lot of the levels.

One of Star Allies’ biggest strengths is its charm. The game is full of bright colours that bring the worlds and characters to life. The characters are well animated as well, it’s great seeing the baddies from past Kirby games become your smiling, dancing buddies in this one. And they kiss each other to pass on healing effects. So cute! The levels feature some stunning sights and vistas, and sport a great variety in both their themes and their designs. There’s a good mix of platforming, combat, and puzzles that hide secrets and collectibles. These puzzles need you to make use of ability combinations, but generally it’ll provide the exact abilities you need to use in the same room. It leaves nothing to the imagination and there’s no challenge to them when the abilities are provided for you, risk-free.

That’s a common theme throughout the game – it’s easy. I don’t think I even died until I reached the final world of levels. Thankfully it doesn’t reach the point where it becomes rote and unengaging, but it does toe the line at some points early on. Things kick up a lot more in the second half, which sounds bad but the game is only about 5 or 6 hours long. The final world has some particularly tough levels, but overall it’s a more chilled experience that would be great for younger gamers to take on.

Kirby Star Allies for Nintendo Switch

Outside of the main game there’s a few minigames to play as well. Two of them are rather basic and won’t get played much outside of multiplayer nights, but once you’ve beaten the game you’ll unlock two more substantial ones that give you something to do when the game is done. The first is a time attack where you pick which character you want to play as and get timed as you play through a selection of the game’s levels. It puts an interesting twist on the game when you can’t change abilities at will and have to rely on teammates for additional powers. The second one is a boss rush. You assemble a party out of whichever abilities you like, and then have to face off against a series of bosses with limited healing items to help you. The bosses are some of the game’s biggest highlights game so this is a great mode to play.

The amiibo usage in Star Allies isn’t all that exciting. Tapping an amiibo gives you a selection of healing items and a puzzle piece collectible. Tapping a figure of Kirby or Boxboy characters will give you more items and puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces can all be earned in-game by picking them up in levels, achieving the top score in the end-of-level Goal Game and by playing minigames. Collecting every puzzle piece will reward you with a piece of art featuring characters from the Kirby series. amiibo help reduce the grind a bit while not allowing you to complete every puzzle without playing the game, because each puzzle has special rare pieces hidden within the game’s levels that can’t be unlocked through amiibo. Outside of a few bosses I didn’t find the game difficult enough to need the health items from tapping amiibo, and even then I decided not to use them because I wanted the challenge.

Kirby Star Allies for Nintendo Switch

Kirby Star Allies is just the kind of game I was after at the moment – a fun time that I can get through in a single weekend. It just wants to make you feel good, and it’s successful at that. It’s even more fun if you’ve got some friends to play with, as the hectic action gets even more frantic with colours and effects overwhelming the screen. There’s a decent amount of things to do after you’ve finished it, too, as you get to explore the potential of each set of abilities in post-game content. Just make sure to set your expectations appropriately; it’s not hard and it’s not a long, emotional narrative journey. It’s a short and sweet adventure.

 

This review was written based off a game or game content provided by the publisher. We don’t assign review scores to game reviews.

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Summary
Kirby Star Allies is just the kind of game I was after at the moment - a fun time that I can get through in a single weekend. It just wants to make you feel good, and it’s successful at that. It’s even more fun if you’ve got some friends to play with, as the hectic action gets even more frantic with colours and effects overwhelming the screen. There’s a decent amount of things to do after you’ve finished it, too, as you get to explore the potential of each set of abilities in post-game content. Just make sure to set your expectations appropriately; it’s not hard and it’s not a long, emotional narrative journey. It’s a short and sweet adventure.
Pros
Super charming
Abilities feel great to use
Exciting boss fights
Cons
A bit too easy
Combining abilities can be finnicky
Some of the minigames feel extraneous
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