Review by Tenshi No Shi
The pink-powerpuff sucks in the Nintendo 64... in a good way!
I seem to recall, almost like a distant dream, the mention of a Kirby title back when the Nintendo 64 launched in Japan. Years passed with no sign of the pink power-puff's debut on Nintendo's failing console. A glimmer of hope arose when he was found to be dueling it out with other Nintendo mascots in Super Smash Bros. Melee, but no title of his own surfaced. It would seem Kirby's Air Ride (was it was then called) was no more. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards appeared on release list and there was much rejoicing among fans of the tiny titan.
Kirby 64's plot is typical 'Knight-in- Shining-Armor-helps-Damsel-in-Distress' pulp. Ripple Star, a planet filled with fairies, is attacked on day by a force know only as Dark Matter. Ribbon, one of the fairies, grabs the source of power on the planet (a crystal) and flees the encroaching darkness. Her efforts are thwarted by three dark clouds that capture her, causing the crystal to shatter across several planets in the galaxy. Kirby finds Ribbon and one of the crystal shards, agreeing to help her after hearing her woeful tale. That's where you, the player, come in. Not a terribly original or compelling story, but unique in its own way.
For those of you familiar with Nintendo's previous side-scrolling effort, Yoshi's Story, Kirby 64 should not be unfamiliar territory. The style of graphics employed, often referred to as '2 1/2-D', are actually 3-D graphics that move (mostly) on a 2-D plane. I say mostly because there are times when your character moves towards and away from the screen and the camera will shift accordingly. The effects, even with the smaller polygon counts and simpler textures of the Nintendo 64, makes for great eye-candy. Crystal Shards also employs a stylized menu screen that I feel compelled to point out due to its uniqueness and ease of navigation.
I have to say I came away from Kirby 64 feeling a little let down by its sound. I've come to expect a certain level of quality from Nintendo mascot games, a level that just wasn't present in this title. The music was adequate enough, but simple (and sometimes even a little boring) by design. It eventually became an annoyance, like Baby Mario in Yoshi's Island. Audio effects were equally as unimpressive and uninteresting- a standard issue palette of cued noises found in most of the 'cute' platform games on the market today. A wholly disappointing offering by and otherwise impressive game.
Kirby 64 controls just like you suspect it would- a little loose on the execution but solid overall. Your arsenal of moves includes jumping, inhaling, throwing, ducking and an attack or action depending on the ability (or abilities) Kirby as absorbed. These abilities are represented by seven categories: Burn, Stone, Ice, Needle, Bomb, Spark and Cutter. You can combine any two of these abilities (or two of the same) for new attacks that will help you smite your enemies and solve various puzzles. It is this aspect of gameplay that shows Kirby 64 is more than just a mindless platform title.
The thing I found most surprising about Crystal Shards (besides it finally being released) was the wide array of bonuses and secrets to be unlocked. There are three Mario Party-like mini-games hidden away on the cartridge, along with a collection of enemy info cards that reveal what abilities (if any) Kirby can absorb from that particular monster. But the most important bonus to be found is available once you've collected all of the Crystal Shards- You're give the opportunity to face the evil responsible for the invasion of Ripple Star. This a great way to encourage people into replaying the game's stages so that they can enjoy Kirby 64's entire story.
If platformers are your thing, then you need look no further that Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. I should mention that this game was a tad (read: very) on the easy side, though that doesn't make it any less enjoyable (just short). Bottom line: a thoroughly fun playing experience worth the price of admission.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (US, 06/26/00)
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