Review by EJRICH

Reviewed: 08/07/07 | Updated: 01/04/10

He's big. He's bad. He's pink. What has the world come to...

There are two things that Kirby reminds me of, really three if you want to attack the main core of my persona. One, fat guys. Two, pink cream donuts. And three, oh horrific three, howling monkeys. How that last one got in there is beyond me. Needless to say, the Kirby franchise in general has been on the high rise as of late, and after many dragging months we find our pink puffball in yet another game. Only difference, however, is that instead of him (her?) appearing on a portable system, our hero is making a jump to the console world. No Nintendo console is as dominant right now as the N64, so Kirby aptly appears on the black monstrosity in none other than Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

At first glance Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards probably reminds you of one of those colorful plat-formers that’s been done a hundred times. And you’re right. Aside from the fact that Kirby is, well, Kirby, this game is every bit a plat-former as 95% of the other games on the market. Levels are done from a side perspective, with walls and other barricades to impede your progress. If you’re lucky, you may even come across a simplistic puzzle that needs to be solved in order for you to move on.

The point alone of this game following that simple of a system may be a real turn-off to some people, and I don’t really blame them. The levels aren’t going to give you much of any challenge, with the puzzles that rarely come up forcing you into some Kirby power inspired theme that doesn’t add much to the game itself. Aside from the rare jumping areas that have you racing against the screen to clear an area, you’d be hard pressed to find any difficulty whatsoever.

So then that leaves me with a question. What draws people into the Kirby franchise, even with the low difficulty level? Quite simply put, the uniqueness of it. When Kirby encounters an enemy, he’ll usually have two options to get rid of it. Either suck in air to blow a small puff to flatten it, or absorb it. Just like you can suck in air to make those small puffs, you can also suck in enemies to absorb them. When Kirby absorbs an enemy, he’ll be able to gain its distinctive power and transform into a different form. For instance, if he absorbs a fire-based enemy, he’ll become Flame Kirby and gain the ability to streak across the screen as a ball of pink donuty fire.

Unlike previous Kirby games where the fun would stop there, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards does a bit to improve on that system. Whereas Kirby would usually be able to absorb only one power, he can now take on two. This leads to an intricate combo system that has Kirby gaining some of the most powerful (and weirdest) transformations to grace a game before it. You remember that Flame Kirby transformation that I mentioned earlier? Well, now you can also do a bunch of different things with it. For instance, if he manages to absorb two flame powers, instead of just being a pink puffball on fire he’ll take on the form of a gigantic phoenix and streak across the screen in a mega powerful form.

It doesn’t just stop there, however. That flame power is only one of the dozens of abilities that Kirby can obtain, and as you could guess, that leads to a variety of game play options that the developers decided to incorporate. When Kirby gets the stone power, for example, he’ll be a small boulder that gets to walk around and crush things. Give him two stone powers and he’ll become a giant rock that can crush through the very ground beneath him (a great innovation, if I might add). Kirby can even become a refrigerator. And no, he’s not pink. And yes, you can still kill things in that form. I still say the phoenix is better.

Needless to say, just as there are a ton of powers for Kirby to use, so there are bunches of enemies to use his newly enhanced abilities on. Horrific. For every power that you obtain, there has to be an enemy that gives it. There are usually several enemies that give the same power type, each fitting into an element. Frozen enemies give Kirby the freeze power. Electric baddies obviously give Kirby a bit of a charge. Taking advantage of the unique advantages and disadvantages that come with each power can make your life either easier or harder. And believe me, some people prefer to just take the hard way to save their sanity.

It’s a shame, though. With so many enemies and unique powers to take advantage of, you think they would have bothered to take the ball and not drop it. They did, unfortunately, and it ultimately stunted the overall game play. For those of you looking to get a bit of story, however, you may be in a bit of luck. Although it isn’t groundbreaking by any means of the imagination, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards does feature a decently interesting story that drives the game play along and actually makes sense to boot.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shardes finds our pink hero sitting in a meadow of beautiful flowers. Everything seems perfect. The grass in green, the flowers are in full bloom…the sky is raining crystals. And no, we aren’t in some “Singing in the Rain” type of portrait where a guy who’s dancing around in tap shoes is singing in the rain. The sky’s really raining crystals. One such crystal hits Kirby’s poor, defenseless planet. After much observation and a bunch of senseless mumbling, Kirby finds that there’s some sort of elf on it, and then decides to help that elf save her planet which was unfortunately taken over by a bunch of black goop things with eyeballs sticking out of their sides. Bunch to take in, right? In order to save her planet, Kirby must collect the crystals located in each stage. Once he collects enough of them, he’ll be able to form a gigantic crystal which can power the planet. Sound fun?

Thankfully, it is. Although as I mentioned earlier the game can be a bit easy for most gamers to get much challenge out of, the game itself is still a colorful grip in plat-forming fun. Crystals are hidden in some of the weirdest places possible, and it adds to the riot as you’re blowing through each stage as some mega-powerful pink puff-thingy.

To tell you the truth, though, you may want to take a bit of time to enjoy the roses as you go about your business. The game features a lush graphical scheme, and the music only compliments it by introducing a toy-book style track that sets the tone for the game perfectly. The whole thing looks like a big coloring book, which is something that few games can really pull off.

Add that to the fact that there are several other things to do, such as a multiplayer mode featuring a number of mini-games (nothing really to note, you just compete in some challenges that have you tapping the A button or running around a falling block square), and you may very well end up with a classic. Were it not for the horrifically bad difficulty, this game would be a sure placer in my all time favorites. Like many other things, though, you can never really get it all. If you’re looking for a game that doesn’t present much difficulty but manages to deliver in almost everything else, then you’ve probably found your perfect match. For others, such as myself, who prefer a hardcore challenge, that question is really up in the air. If you can put up with the easy difficulty like I did and go for a perfection completion percentage, then this game may very well appeal to you just as it did to me. If not, then you may want to wait for the day when a more difficult adventure starring Nintendo’s pink puffball comes out to once again take control of the sales charts. Howling monkeys.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (US, 06/26/00)

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