Review by KillAllPopStars

Reviewed: 03/06/06

Sometimes, More Of The Same Can Be Like A Trusted Old Friend!

I have been a huge fan of the Kirby series since I first played "Kirby's Adventure" for the NES in the early '90s. I love the colorful characters, quirky gameplay, and Lush worlds that have consistently defined the series, and the cute, instantly lovable hero is, in my opinion, one of the most creative and original in all of the gaming world. Having said that, I was still a bit skeptical when I heard about the release of "Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards" for the Nintendo 64. I mean, let's face it, the catalog of games for the system, with a very few notable exceptions, was rather lackluster and lacking in any really stand out franchise titles. However, I decided, being a devoted Kirby fan, that I’d give the game a try anyway. Immediately upon putting my cartridge into the system, I came across one pleasant surprise after another. Kirby 64 was actually a great franchise title for the N64! The game itself retains the feel of the "Dreamland" series and is one of the best sidescrollers to be released in recent years. It is graphically lush and beautiful, and manages to seem new and fresh, while retaining all of the elements that made the series so great in the first place. Not to mention, it features what is, in my opinion, the greatest final boss battle of any Kirby game to date. Here's a more detailed breakdown of the game...

Plot 8/10
The plot is very basic. On a planet inhabited by faeries called Ripple Star, there was a huge crystal that provided happiness and light for the inhabitants. One day, a huge black cloud called Dark Matter came to take over the planet and make it a realm of darkness and despair. A faerie named Ripple knew what Dark Matter was up to and attempted to take the crystal away, but she didn't get far before Dark Matter caught up with her and attacked. The impact of the attack shattered the crystal into a hundred pieces, which were scattered about several planets. Ribbon herself crashed down on Pop Star, as luck would have it, right on the head of everyone's favorite brave little windbag, Kirby. Kirby, ever the hero, decided to help her find the shards. This game is about Kirby's quest to find the shards and defeat Dark Matter, thus saving the land of the faeries. The story is simple, cute, and kitschy, but it works well with the game. As in most sidescrolling platform games, the plot is just a device to facilitate the action, but, in the case of Kirby 64, it provides us with several cut scenes, which are very cute and, at times, quite funny. The plot is lighthearted and fun, which just emphasizes the quirkiness of the game as a whole. In short, the plot is simple but fun, and that's the way it should be in this type of game.

Gameplay 8/10
This game might as well be called Kirby's Dreamland 4, because it plays and feels just like the games in that series. It is a sidescroller seek-and-find that has an odd, almost 3-D feel at times. The goal is to find all of the crystal shards, then defeat Dark Matter. As usual, you progress through the game by sucking up enemies and either absorbing their special abilities or spitting them back out at other enemies. For the most part, the gameplay sticks to the tried and true formula of the rest of the series. However, the ability to create combo abilities by sucking up two enemies at a time has been added. In order to find all of the crystal shards, you must learn to use some of these abilities quite well, which, in and of itself, is fun. Many of the abilities are hilarious, but learning where to use them all and locating the proper combination of enemies needed to create a combo ability can be quite tedious at times. This fact is redeemed only by the incredibly small scope of the game. Kirby 64 is unbelievably short, almost too short. This is only a small deterrent though. The Old School style platforming aspects, simplicity, and standard bag of tricks that have made so many Kirby games great over the years shine through here. The action is kind of slow, but, generally speaking, this can be overlooked as a good way to take in the lush, atmospheric scenery around you.

Graphics 9/10
This game is visually beautiful. The environments are lush, colorful, well rendered, and very deep. Despite being a sidescroller, there is a strong feel of three fully interactive dimensions. This is because of the depth of the backgrounds and their full interaction with the characters and objects in the foreground. The design is ingenious. The sprites themselves are rather static and occasionally look a bit too polygonal, but, for the most part, are just as beautifully rendered as the backgrounds. The enemies, especially, look great. The graphical highlight has to be the cut scenes though. There is no speaking, but they are Graphically incredible and quite funny. They convey the generally light nature of the game quite well. In a few places, the game is subject to a slight slow down, but it is only momentary. However, the standard frame rate seems a little slow in general, but not enough to deter much from the lush, well conceived, and constantly shifting visuals. All in all, "Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards" is far from a graphical powerhouse, but it looks beautiful despite a few minor problems.

Sound 9/10
The sound is just as good, and highly complimentary to, the graphics. The music is about what you would expect from a Kirby game: light, jaunty tunes for the levels and frantic little ditties for the bosses. Several standard Kirby themes recur in some of the most unexpected places, and the soundtrack, as a whole, is quite well done. The sound effects are not incredibly original but they are well placed and perfectly fit the action or environment that they go with. while not, by any stretch of the imagination, innovative, the sound is very effective and well crafted. No major complaints.

Replay Value 8/10
The replay value of this game is considerably high. The short length and fun, addicting gameplay that has endeared the Kirby series to its fans over the years make this game just as enjoyable to play through multiple times. It does get redundant after a while, but, at some point, what game doesn’t?

Content / Extras 8/10
If you complete the game 100%, that is you find all the jewel shards then defeat the final boss, you unlock a boss battle arena similar to the one in "Kirby Super Star." You have to fight all of the level bosses, then the final boss, in succession. It takes a lot of practice to beat, and is just as frustrating as it is fun. You can also unlock a couple of multi-player mini games. They are fun for a while, but very quickly loose their appeal. There are also enemy cards to collect. If you are anal retentive about collecting EVERYTHING in the game, you can go back and get all of these, but, since you can only get one at the end of any given stage, providing that you play the picnic mini game perfectly, getting them becomes a rather tedious chore. However, there is enough extra material here to warrant at least an 8.

Overall Rating 8/10
"Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards" is a game well worth playing to any fan of the series. It has all of the elements that have made the previous games so successful, but not much new was added. This is a good thing though, rather than a deterrent. While not as perfectly honed as "Kirby's Adventure" or as innovative as "Kirby Superstar," Kirby 64 manages to hold its own quite well and is a welcome addition to the series. If you aren't already familiar to the series, one of the above mentioned titles would be a better recommendation. However, this is a must play title for anyone who is already familiar with the Kirby universe.

Buy/ Rent/ Ignore?
I would say rent this game first. Its low difficulty level and short length make it a game that can be beaten very quickly. If you like it enough to play it again, then, by all means, buy it.

Bottom Line
The tag line says it all. This game is a great reminder that more of the same truly can be like a trusted old friend.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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