A new Kirby game, a new Kirby gimmick. Where Kirby’s Epic Yarn gave us the Yarn Whip, and Kirby: Planet Robobot gave us mechs, Kirby Star Allies lets players infuse weapon based copy abilities with elemental effects. Swords, hammers, staffs, whips, and other weapons can be held up in the air and other players or AI helpers with said elements can attack to cause said infusion. Kirby creates these helpers by throwing a heart at them to befriend up to three that can be controlled by other players or the AI. If Kirby gets too far ahead, his helpers will warp to him, and if he runs out of health they have the option to revive him and vice versa.
Thankfully, the AI helpers are surprisingly smart and will help Kirby solve puzzles and fight enemies, meaning the entire game can be 100 percent completed solo. On the flip side, the game struggles to maintain its 30FPS framerate when the action gets heavy with multiple characters’ particle effects are going off at the same time; ice especially causes stuttering. That said, it isn’t enough to impact gameplay in any meaningful way—but it is still worth noting.
Aside from those gimmicks, Kirby Star Allies is Kirby as usual, with a handful of recognizable bosses as well as some newcomers strewn across 40 colourful levels split across four planets. As a veteran Kirby fan—having played the series since its iteration—I couldn’t help but feel most of the level design here is lacking, especially after coming off the heels of the vibrant and varied levels of Kirby: Planet Robobot. Levels are mostly straightforward affairs peppered with a few thoughtless puzzles that require combining the powers of nearby enemies.
Occasionally, there are sections where Kirby and his pals combine forces to take the form of a friendship circle, which basically turns the game into an endless runner for a few screens where any player can press jump to cause everyone to leap over gaps. There’s also the friendship train, which is basically the same thing as the friendship circle only it can go up walls, and the friendship bridge that has players moving up and down at the same time to make a bridge for a key carrying enemy to reach his destination. While these moments add a little variety, they aren’t enough to keep Kirby Star Allies from feeling a bit underwhelming overall.
The Kirby series has always had a stigma of being too easy, and Star Allies will do nothing to change that seeing as it is the easiest game in the series. Previous titles may have been easy to finish but they still offered some sort of challenge for completionists either in hard to obtain collectibles or sub-game modes. Star Allies, on the other hand, practically hands the player every collectible in the story mode, and the bosses and sub-game modes aren’t even remotely difficult.
Even the series staple arena boss rush mode (called The Ultimate Choice here) offers little challenge, even on the hardest difficulty. This lack of difficulty is compounded when Star Allies is played with other players since they are more aggressive than the AI companions are. Playing alone with three AI-controlled partners typically has bosses get through maybe a single wave of their attack pattern, but when playing with two or more players, most bosses practically melt in seconds, rarely even getting to complete an entire attack.
Aside from a boss rush mode, Star Allies includes a speed run mode with player one selecting any ability and using it throughout the run, while other players work the exact same as in the story mode. This mode has each world’s level combined into one continuous level with no overworld, just those pesky loading screens between each section. I suppose if you’re looking for content to grind out, this mode offers it, although it’s just repeating the same content over and over with different abilities.
Otherwise, there are two minigames on offer which are about as a deep as a basic Mario Party minigame and quite disappointing when compared to the deeper supplementary game modes in the last two Kirby games for Nintendo 3DS. Star Slam Heroes has players timing button hits multiple times as a meter fills, thus granting Kirby the power to swing a bat at an incoming meteorite with a timed swing via button or motion controls. Chop Champs has players mashing a button or swinging their JoyCon to hack chunks out of a tree. The trees are laced with enemies to avoid by moving to the left or right side of the tree. Neither of these minigames has much in the way of originality and weren’t entertaining enough to play more than a couple times on each of the three difficulties offered for these minigames exclusively.
I was easily able to get 100 percent completion on my saves file in around eight or so hours without much effort. During that time I played both solo and with friends. That amount of time is about average for a Kirby game, but I can’t help but feel unfulfilled by Kirby Star Allies. The additional minigames are so shallow and the other modes are almost totally reused content from the story mode. The only unlockables are puzzle pieces that form pictures of previous games in the series.
Don’t get me wrong, even as the shallowest and certainly easiest game in the mainline Kirby series, Star Allies is still quite enjoyable. The game practically oozes cuteness and is one of those rare games that can be 100 percent completed with four players playing the whole time in every single mode. I’d even go as far as to say that Kirby Star Allies is the best couch co-op multiplayer game available today on the Nintendo Switch, and definitely will be a blast for families with younger gamers.
Kirby has always been my favourite pink puff boy (sorry Jigglypuff) and Star Allies has done nothing to change that.
Even as the shallowest and certainly easiest game in the mainline Kirby series, Kirby Star Allies is still quite enjoyable. The game practically oozes cuteness and is one of those rare games that can be 100% completed with four players playing the whole time in every single mode. I’d even go as far as to say that Kirby Star Allies is the best couch co-op multiplayer game available today on the Nintendo Switch, and definitely will be a blast for families with younger gamers.