Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn: Early Impressions

Image from Nintendo of Europe

When is a Kirby game not a Kirby game anymore? Because this title really stretches what such a game can be.

I’m generally against double-dipping for a game you already own (see: my reviews for Super Mario Maker for the 3DSMario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, etc.), but I missed out on Kirby’s Epic Yarn during the Nintendo Wii era, so I was genuinely curious how the game that appears to be the 3DS’s last stand measured up to its competition. I’ve always been a sucker for mainline games like Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, so this would likely be a similar experience, right?

Well…maybe.

There are certainly elements of past Kirby games here, and this entry still showcases the same cutesy charm as its predecessors. At its core, however, there are some fundamental differences (and most seem to be for the worse) that make you question whether you’re really playing a Kirby title. After a couple of hours with the game, I’m cautiously optimistic that it will turn out okay, but some changes will take some time to get used to.

My specific thoughts on the game so far are as follows:

  • The biggest difference between Extra Epic Yarn and most mainline Kirby titles is the control scheme. At its core, Kirby distinguishes himself from other platformer protagonists through two things: His infinite flying ability, and his ability to steal powers from his enemies. Here, neither ability is included: Kirby can only float slowly downwards as a parachute, and he is limited to lassoing enemies and throwing them at other baddies Yoshi-style (he has to obtain special headgear to swing swords, throw bombs, etc.). Its the lack of flying that really throws veteran players for a loop: I don’t know how many pits I fell into because I didn’t realize I couldn’t fly out of them! Additionally, using the Control Stick makes Kirby turn into a car for fast ground movement, but the controls felt incredibly twitchy and hard to control (you could use the D-Pad to slowly walk along as usual, but then it takes you forever to finish the stage), and the amount of rebound you have when you hit a wall makes aiming and falling through smaller holes in the level way more frustrating than it should be. The result is that I just don’t have the tight, responsive controls I’ve come to expect from Kirby, and makes accidentally running into enemies far more common than it should be.
  • Besides the Control Stick issue above, Extra Epic Yarn makes a fairly smooth transition to the small screen of the 3DS. Unlike with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, I never felt constrained by the smaller form factor, and while the aesthetics don’t pop like they might on the Wii, the stages remain as bright and colorful as ever (and honestly, even when things pop like they do in Yoshi’s Crafted World, the novelty wears off quickly). In terms of enemy and stage design, this felt exactly like the Kirby games of yore, and after so much success with Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, the 3DS just feels like a natural fit for the pink puffball.
  • Speaking of aesthetics: I now know why Kirby and Yoshi had to be released in different years, because they borrow a lot of elements from each other and can sometimes feel like the same darn game. Some of the sound effects here were straight-up copied by Yoshi’s Woolly World, and with their similar control schemes and loads of collectibles, this game actually feels like a better fit for Yoshi than Kirby.
  • There’s quite a bit to do here besides the main game (hide-and-seek minigames, room design/decoration that needs to be in Splatoon 3), but there are also a lot of post-Epic Yarn additions as well: A harder Devilish mode, a speedrunning DeDeDe mode, and a hack-and-slash Meta Knight Mode have all been included in the Extra portion of the game. (Some new transformations have been added as well.) Unlike the junk modes included with M + L: Superstar Saga and the excluded modes from games like Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo 3DS, this game actually feels like it’s got enough “extra” content to justify the title change. I didn’t find Devilish mode to be too compelling beyond the original Normal mode, however, so the amount of mileage you get out of all of this may vary.

I haven’t seen enough of the game to feel comfortable making a decision of whether it’s worth buying or not, but this one has more potential than some of the other 3DS ports I’ve seen. It’s about as un-Kirby a game as you could imagine (I’m hoping the controls grow on me rather than continually frustrate me), but there’s enough Kirby here to make me want to see how the whole thing turns out. For a 3DS swan song, I suppose you could do worse.