The first time I ever played a Kirby game was when I was a contestant on “Video and Arcade Top 10.” They had brought us into the green-room to demo what we would be playing on the show, and for 10 minutes we played Kirby’s Super Star before someone told us it was the wrong game—we were actually playing Timon and Pumbaa’s Jungle Games, which we only found out after an additional 10 minutes of playing the Lion King game for SNES.
But that 10 minutes was all I needed to be completely hooked on Kirby, and while Metroid still holds the high honours of my favorite game series, Kirby comes in pretty close, with Super Star being one of my most-played games on SNES. Throughout the years, Kirby has maintained a consistent level of quality even with its more daring ventures like Mass Attack and Canvas Curse, his latest entry though is a bit of a mixed bag.
Kirby: Battle Royale sees our pink hero drawn into a coliseum-esque tournament held by King Dedede. With the grand prize being a cake of unimaginable splendor, the voracious puffball is determined to win, but Dedede has some tricks up his sleeve with a Kirby Copy Machine producing several clone Kirbys’ for the real deal to battle. As far as story goes, it’s a cute little justification for the game’s existence and it shows the commitment to creativity and fun even in smaller projects like this that HAL and Nintendo has.
Gameplay is where Kirby: Battle Royale loses a bit of steam, consisting of a collection of small, mini game-style modes, rather than a fully-fledged game. Players can play through them against AI opponents in the story mode, however, much like Mario Party: The Top 100, you can tell this game exists mainly as a multiplayer experience and I can’t say they have much staying power. The games themselves are alright, mostly being a few melee modes and a lot of collect-a-thon style games, and in each mode players have to battle it out using a variety of Copy Abilities. However, the abilities themselves are pretty paired down and lack a lot of the creative depth that they possessed in the main Kirby games where they’ve been drawn from, making combat a pretty weak and a repetitive affair.
Some of the modes are fun for a little while—I particularly liked “Ore Express” where players chase a train, attempting to throw crystals into it—but any mode that isn’t a direct combat challenge is basically “throw thing into thing.” “Apple Scramble” involves collecting apples from mini Whispy Woods and throwing them into your goal area, “Rocket Rumble” involves throwing fuel into your rocket before the timer runs out, even “Robo Bonkers” which involves fighting a giant robot involves grabbing rockets and throwing them into a cannon. It’s a lot of grab a thing and try not to get hit. Unfortunately, this being a review copy means I couldn’t try the multiplayer with any humans, Kirby: Battle Royale does feature local and online multiplayer, however, even playing online or with friends, I can see this getting very boring very fast.
It just feels like very little is actually on offer for a full priced 3DS game. If even half of the 10 mini games were included as part of a fully realized Kirby game, much like the mini games in the multiplayer mode of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, then it might have been acceptable. But as a fully priced game, I’d say you can skip this and just wait for Kirby: Star Allies on the Switch.