wrathofconn's Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Wii Shop) review

Retro Review: Yo, it's Kirby Edition

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards marks Kirby's last platforming appearance on a home console, and with the advent of a new title in the series, I figured this was an apt opportunity for a little trip back in time.


How does it play?

Kirby 64 is a fairly standard action platformer with a fairly standard story, but these ingredients come together in the hands of a talented developer to make an above-average game. An evil force has shattered the crystal that protects Ripple Star, and a fairy named Ribbon has stumbled upon Kirby holding one of these shards. The fairy enlists his help in finding the other scattered shards of said crystal and defeating the denizens of the dark force. They embark on a journey to six separate planets, picking up familiar members of the Kirby crew as they go along, including Waddle Dee, King Dedede, and Adeleine. The main gameplay hook here is that Kirby can utilize the powers of two enemies at once, combining them into powerful new attacks. The powers are varied and fresh; most feel solid and responsive, and some are downright destructive.
 Kirby is in full effect.
The platforming itself feels just as solid, even if it's not terribly challenging. This game was certainly aimed at a younger audience, but finding all of the crystal shards in a given level takes some definite thought. There's no steep learning curve here, and once you get the hang of the controls, you'll move through stages at a quick clip. When you do get messed up real bad by an enemy (or one of your own explosive attacks) and end up losing whatever rad power you were holding on to, you'll notice a bit of a challenge in getting back in the action with another good ability.
The story is well laid out and doesn't suffer too much from the aging process. it also features some fun multiplayer minigames, but at this point you'll mainly be playing on your own. I found the game very easy to enjoy after ten years, and whether you're controlling it with a GameCube controller or the Classic Controller, the game responds sharply to your inputs and feels like a precise, coherent experience, especially when you're sticking dudes in the face with exploding ninja stars, like "UH, UH, UH, UH, UH".
 What would a good platformer be without a water level or two? The answer is not a good platformer.

How does it look?

For a game from the turn of the century, this Kirby title looks damn fresh. The 3D plane on which you're doing your 2D platforming looks sharp, and the textures don't try to outdo the technology. The character models look good and animate well, and the attacks have interesting and varied visual effects. You're never struggling to see enemies or collectibles, and the backgrounds are different and interesting throughout the many stages. Occasionally you'll see a bit of jank, with something like a boomerang returning to you through a stone stairway, but it's far from a game-breaking distraction. Overall, the style is bright and crisp, just like you'd expect, and the customizable UI adds to the overall freshness of the design.

How does it sound?

Simply put, this game sounds like a Kirby game, which is definitely not a bad thing. All the various sound effects for eating dudes, blasting dudes with rockets, and collecting things are subtle but noticeable. The sounds design is bright like the visual style, with the upbeat, grand music you want to hear in cutscenes. Overall, the game's sound design is mostly ambient, and it works well to complement the onscreen action. 

Okay, that sounds fine, but what makes the whole thing work?

This is not nearly the revolutionary platforming experience that Mario 64 was, but I don't think that's what HAL Laboratory was going for. Even if it was, that team gets a pass from me for making damn good games, and this one can still hold its own thanks to varied level design and the encouragement of diverse gameplay; you'll want to collect every last shard of that damn crystal. After playing through this game again, it's safe to say that I want more Kirby. I know what game will be spinning in my Wii later this year!

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