AN ALL POWERFUL, CLUMSY PROTAGONIST
A nightmare has descended into Dream Land, and I don’t mean Kirby, who can fly, swim, devour enemies, spit out stars and steal all sorts of powers in this side scrolling adventure. After having a great, but short debut on the Game Boy, the pink puffer has its own NES game. The game came late to the NES library like many games that were born on the Game Boy, so a lot of people either missed it or they didn’t want to put up with Kirby’s cuteness like myself. Kirby’s adventure is an enjoyable game with a lot of cute charm and gameplay diversity since now it can swallow enemies to gain their power.
Kirby is a different kind of side scrolling protagonist, it can jump and suck in air or enemies. Pressing up will let you fly through the air where you’re much slower and larger, but you have a lot of control. Sucking in an enemy will let you shoot it out as a star projectile with the same B button. Pressing down with an enemy in your maw, will devour it and most enemies will now grant you that enemy’s power. Taking damage will lose the power and send a star bouncing out of your rotund pink body. Consuming the star again will give you the power.
With so many abilities, health and powers, coupled with level design with less pits, Kirby’s Adventure feels like a much easier game than its contemporaries. It’s like a game for kids, but I assure you that it will get far more difficult past the first three out of eight lands.
Kirby is a clumsy character, leaping or falling too high will have it fall face first like a belly flop. This is good for killing enemies under your weight. Turning is an issue, because Kirby is a bit slippery, even before the ice levels. For the most part, there’s no reason to really turn around since most levels are straight forward.
ENEMIES & GAINING ABILITIES
Enemies are everywhere and frequently slow down the console. Sucking in air will cause a slowdown as well. Perhaps blinking sprites would have prevented the chug. They’re on the ground, in the air, hanging from trees, bouncing around, gliding with umbrellas and so much more. Kirby’s Adventure has a lot of enemy diversity.
Consuming wheeled enemies lets Kirby have a wheel to drive fast. Eating a knight gives you a sword. Besting a fire breathing porcupine gives you the ability to spit fire. There are all sorts of abilities to change the gameplay. An electric shock that holds you still as you sputter off sparks. A fire dash that launches you forward through the air. A bomb that can be used once will send Kirby into a frenzy destroying everything on screen . Umbrellas let Kirby bat enemies and glide slowly down from the air. There are even abilities to back drop enemies or launch foes rather than suck them up.
Each ability has its own graphic at the bottom of the screen in the heads up display. It makes everything clear beyond in game coloring Kirby a different color, or giving him an item.
Of all the abilities, the high jump feels like the most useless. You can normally press A to jump and up to fly, but with this you can press B to leap toward the top of the screen.
As you progress, there are tougher foes, such as spikes that cannot be consumed for obvious reasons. Cannons that will launch projectiles at the pink protagonist. Hover cats that can be dispatched with a puff of air, because trying to absorb them will get you hurt. The list goes on and on.
The game is broken into eight lands, with the final being more of a boss fight than a land. Everything has a great name and couldn’t be better: Vegetable Valley, Ice Cream Island, Butter Building, Grape Garden, Yogurt Yard, Orange Ocean, Rainbow Resort and whatever the final land was named.
Each land is a side-scrolling hub world consisting of several doors. These doors lead to either levels or bonus games. Completing a level will mark it with a flag, while bonus game doors will be boarded up once you’re done. Further doors in each land are marked as a warp zone so you can visit previous lands without having to go back through several doors. Then the final door of each land is a boss fight.
LEVELS AND MECHANICS
Each land has four or six levels that are unlocked when you complete the previous level. These levels have multiple sections marked by doors and stars that will soar you into the sky. The levels are brief like most are on the console, but there are so many parts and facets to each one. You’ll encounter a few doors to explore that can contain health, extra lives or giant buttons that will unlock bonus games in the hub land.
Throughout the game there’s a lot of fun diversity. Kirby will slide down slopes, move slower up hill, dive underwater to squirt enemies, suck in boxes to shoot stars. You can light a fuse then race to a cannon where once the burning fuse gets there, it will launch Kirby from within to bonus areas.
You’ll visit ice lands, green islands, interiors, caves, palaces, the stars and several less stereotypical areas. It feels like some of these areas have too much going on in the background. Other games of the generation have single color backgrounds with sparse decorations so nothing gets in the way of the action happening. Since this game pushes the system to its limits, maybe having more detailed was part of that choice. Kirby’s Adventure also manages to have some ugly and undesirable colors as well.
Death sets you back to the start of the section you were on. This further makes Kirby a forgiving game. When you run out of lives, it might be game over, but you can continue from the beginning of the level you left off.
BOSSES & MINI BOSSES
Most levels have mandatory mini bosses or fights against multiple enemies. The mini bosses are big and you’ll see their health below Kirby’s. You’ll face a ground pounding ape with a hammer that will reach behind and throw a coconut every so often. There’s a turtle that will wrestle you. A dancing bomb thrower, a leaping lion and so many more. Later levels have you face two mini bosses at the same time. Once each mini boss is defeated, you can suck in its power to gain their abilities.
Both bosses and mini bosses will often launch either enemies or stars. Slamming on to the ground creates stars. Dropping from the sky? Stars. Everything turns into your window of opportunity to turn these stars and enemies into projectiles.
As for the game’s actual bosses, they only appear at the end of each land. Familiar foes like Whispy Woods, the tree that drops apples and Kracko the cloud eye make their appearances from Kirby’s Dream Land. You’ll have a sword fight against Meta Knight and it all builds up to another fight against the penguin King Dedede.
It’s the boss fights that reveal the game’s biggest flaws and that’s Kirby’s clumsiness. Turning around requires a second of time. So if you’re twitchy and expect to turn on a dime to pull in a projectile or turn around to shoot something, you’ll need to wait. It’s that second that can become frustrating when so many enemies have such a small window to get a projectile or shoot a projectile.
Kirby’s Adventure drips with charm. Each level starts with a fun, but brief cut scene that reveals the land’s name. Even completing a level will reward you with a bonus that if timed right can net you an extra life. This bonus game shows off the charm as Kirby will have a victory dance that’s different depending how far you launched up the screen. Some levels will bluntly drop Kirby on its face to start things off.
There are several bonus games held within bonus rooms. There’s a museum with a docile enemy for you to consume for it’s power. The crane game lets you hoist up Kirby dolls… or other Kirby’s for extra lives. A quick draw game that forces you to press a button before an enemy shoots its boxing glove gun, but only after it draws on you. Quick Draw feels like the most fun out of any other mini games.
A GAME SO ADVANCED
Since this game was released at the end of the console’s life, the demo does a lot to impress. It explains everything you’ll need to know to play the game and its controls. It even shows off many of the game’s abilities. After that, it hits you with the game’s story. Seeing all these details in game is absolutely amazing for the era. Even games from later consoles never go beyond a pack-in manual or a demonstration showing off what the game has.
100% THE GAME
With Kirby’s Adventure being so big, there’s a battery save with three slots. The game even shows your progress and once you’ve completed the game, you can still play on to find all those secrets.
Once you’ve completed the game, new menu options will open up. The first of which is to play bonus games, this includes the three mini games and a boss rush. Another option is to “play an extra game” which is the game’s hard mode that will start you off with half health. It’s perfectly doable even if the enemies are slightly tweaked to be a big more difficult. The last option is “listen to sounds” which turns into a sound and music select screen.
A GRAND GAME
Despite the game’s flaws such as slowdown, it’s a true classic for the NES. Its only sin is being too cute and late in the system’s life for many people to say now that’s a game I want to play. In a system full of shooting, dark adventures, plumbers and licensed shovel ware, it was tough for Kirby to stand out. It was a fun, and enjoyable play through, and something that I’d want to play a sequel for, but nothing I’d go rushing back to play.