Now that Nintendo is on record saying the 3DS isn’t going anywhere for a while, I think it’s time to dig into the system’s back catalog and revisit some classic titles to see if they still deserve your love/dollars. For my money, there’s no better place to start than everyone’s favorite amorphous pink ball of death Jigglypuff Kirby!
The dirty secret of the Kirby franchise is that its mainline games are incredibly formulaic: flying, copying abilities, simple gameplay with minimal challenge, a sudden stake-raising moment at the end that leads to an epic boss fight, and some tough-as-nails postgame content. Once you’ve played one of these games, you’ve basically played them all, give or take an occasional title-specific gimmick (I’m still waiting for playable Nago to come back). “Formulaic,” however, does not mean “not fun to play,” and in general Kirby games inhabit that same magical place that Pokémon games do: You might do the same thing 100 times, but it’s just as fun to do the last time as it is the first.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe was the pink puffball’s first foray onto the 3DS (outside of a bunch of Virtual Console releases), and it’s exactly what you’d expect a Kirby game to be. A few new copy abilities have been introduced (Archer being the most useful for its range, but also Beetle, Bell, and Circus), and aside from Sleep (which is meant to be a trap), all of them end up having enough utility to grab in a pinch. There are a few small puzzles scattered around the game (mostly tied to the collectables, and some of which make use of the 3DS’s gyro controls), but by and large it’s your typical Kirby platforming experience, with the usual level and enemy design (most of the mini-bosses have been around since Kirby’s Adventure, and Whispy Woods, Kracko, and King DeDeDe all return as world bosses).
Triple Deluxe‘s primary gimmick the Hypernova ability, which increases Kirby’s suction power and lets him inhale bosses, large objects and even pieces of the background in a single gulp. It only appears in certain stages, but it fits seamlessly within the rest of the gameplay and was a ton of fun to use (inhaling four mini-bosses in one go was particularly cathartic). I actually preferred Hypernova to the robot armor of Planet Robobot (it felt more natural and didn’t restrict the rest of Kirby’s moveset), but it led to an ending sequence that didn’t feel as satisfying.
There are two primary collectibles to find here: Sun stones, which unlock secret stages within each world, and “keychains” of different characters from past Kirby games. They’re not terribly hard to find (although locating the rare keychains make take a bit of sleuthing), and aside from the boss stages requiring a certain number of stones to unlock, they don’t impact the gameplay at all.
The game comes with two additional game modes from the start: Kirby Fighters, which is basically a watered-down version of Kirby Battle Royale (which I wasn’t that impressed with), and Dedede’s Drum Dash, a rhythm that forces you to bounce along a drum course while collecting coins, avoiding enemies, and clapping along with the beat. Neither minigame is worth writing home about, but they do seem to be required for a 100% completion rating. The unlockable modes, however, are a bit more interesting:
- Dededetour: Lets you play through a harder version of the main campaign as King Dedede.
- The Arena: The usual Kirby boss rush with limited health and abilities.
- The True Arena: The usual Kirby boss rush, but with the harder version of the bosses from Dededetour. This is where things get real.
For those of you looking for a bit more pain and challenge from your Kirby experience, this’ll cover you.
Given all this, we need to answer the following questions:
- Is this game worth buying? If you’re a fan of Kirby or platforming in general, yes. This game delivers everything you want from a 2D platformer, including (eventually) a nasty-hard test of mettle. It’s a game I would especially recommend for younger or newer players, as a) Kirby’s flight ability let you bypass any non-boss situation you might have trouble with, and b) it’s a gently-sloped difficulty curve that’s much more considerate of your ego/confidence level than a game like Breath of the Wild.
- Should I buy this game or Planet Robobot? From a gameplay perspective, it’s a “six of one, a half dozen of the other” situation. Outside of a few tweaks, the game are basically the exact same. However, there is one notable meta difference: As a “Nintendo Select” title, Triple Deluxe now retails for half the price of Planet Robobot ($20 as compared to $40). If you only want one of the two, Triple Deluxe is definitely the better value.
As someone who hadn’t played a Kirby title since Kirby’s Dream Land 3, I really enjoyed both Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot. Both were great experiences, but Triple Deluxe‘s reduced price make it a much better investment. (Now let’s see if Kirby: Star Allies can meet the same standard.)