Kirby games have never been hard. Well, maybe they were at one point for seven-year-old me, but they have never actually been difficult. Still, there was a point where Kirby games at least didn’t just roll over and let you beat them. Kracko in Kirby’s Adventure kept me and my brother busy for days, breaking our spirits constantly with his powerful attacks. It’s not that it was all that difficult, but the game did expect us to attempt to avoid damage, to choose the right powers for the situation, and to play well. Current Kirby games have lost that, basically rolling over and letting players do whatever they want to beat the game. It’s that kind of attitude that meant that I liked Kirby: Triple Deluxe a lot, but still can’t wholeheartedly back it. It’s a great game, but its lack of any skill requirement keeps it from being a truly solid game.
It’s hard not to be charmed by what you see when you play the game. Kirby is as endearing a character as always, full of big movements and huge, adorable gestures. Seeing him in the various costumes never gets old, and is almost more appealing than gaining new powers themselves. I was a lot more excited to see what Kirby would look like with his new powers than what they’d do, and this game doesn’t disappoint. It brings back many classic powers that we saw in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland and Kirby: Super Star, adding a handful of new ones to keep newcomers happy. Having played this series for so long I hoped there would be more new powers than this, but I did enjoy the new ones we got.
The main appeal for the new powers is that they encompass several abilities all at once. That’s been one of the smarter design decisions in the series as it moved along, as many of the game’s original powers from Kirby’s Adventure and onward have been collapsed into single powers. Beam can charge a shot, do its regular stream blast, and a handful of other context-sensitive attacks. It’s nice that you can do a lot based on one power, and it’s this thinking that makes the new powers fun to watch. One of them, Beetle, seemed like an odd choice until I started skewering enemies and flinging them around. The other, Circus, was neat in that there was so much to it. I could flip and throw fire around me, or also make explosive balloon creatures if I felt like it. They’re nice, silly suits, and while I wanted a bit more from a whole new Kirby game, they do work nicely.
There was one unique power that stole the show, which was Kirby’s Supernova power. Gained from eating a weird fruit in specific spots in certain stages, it lets Kirby suck up just about everything. It’s a funny effect, letting him slowly devour huge chunks of the environment all at once as well as letting him move objects by vacuuming them along. This allows for some different puzzles involving sucking something toward you or dragging objects in the right order, and overall they’re fun sections that always had me smiling. It’s the only new power that I liked a lot, and the devs put in a lot of work to make those sections really enjoyable.
The abilities may have been lacking, but the game had no shortage of varied, vibrant locations to head to. Not even each area, but each stage seemed to have its own theme and special things going on. Some levels appeared to be weird toy factories, with hands shooting out from spring-loaded mechanisms to slam me against the screen. Another area appeared to take place in the old west, and was filled with trains rolling along across plains of red and brown sand. While few of the levels were challenging in any way, it left me free to explore each of them unhindered and really take in all of the different themes and designs the devs at HAL Labs came up with for the game.
Those hands that slapped Kirby against the game screen were part of Kirby: Triple Deluxe‘s efforts to wow players with its 3D effects. This is one of the very few games where I wished that the 3D wouldn’t give me a headache, as the stuff that happens would all look great in 3D. Objects shoot out toward the screen all the time, with obstacles and enemies moving in and out of the foreground and right out into 3D space. The game has a really nice feeling of depth due to these effects, and many of the game’s areas use it in some way to make things look unique. Also, tracking enemies moving in 3D in this game is actually kind of difficult, requiring that you really pay attention to the depth the enemy is at on-screen. I had many enemies shoot out toward me in 3D, only to have a hard time telling where they would come back when they moved out into Kirby’s plane. It’s something that could have been used to make the game challenging in a unique way, but it was kind of wasted a bit on the game’s softball difficulty.
The game also separates many levels into foreground and background, letting players switch between the two when hitting certain star symbols. Again, it adds this neat depth to the game that makes it feel really big, and adds a whole new playing field to some already-large levels. I learned not to ignore what was going on in the background, as many enemies could shoot from there onto my current plane, or there would be something back there that I’d have to deal with to finish the level. It was neat to have to watch the two spots at once, and literally added a whole new dimension to the gameplay that made the game stand out on its own in the Kirby series.
Since you have so much gameplay space to watch, it’s only natural that the devs would start hiding things in it. You have to collect sun stones while you play the game, as you need a couple of them in each stage in order to unlock the boss door. If you’re feeling energetic and collect them all, you can unlock a slightly more challenging extra stage in each area, and many of those have some of the better level gimmicks to play through so they’re worth unlocking. It’s also not all that hard to find most of the hidden sunstones in each level if you’ve been playing games for long enough. Again, I know this is a kid’s game, but some stuff in Kirby’s Dreamland 2 was hidden pretty deviously, so I expect a little something more than pushing against a wall or going left at the start of an area.
Then again, some of the better hiding spots have gone to the spotpass-linked keychains you can also collect during the stages. The basic ones aren’t hard to find either, but some of the rare ones in later stages have actually been hidden well enough that you won’t find them on your first run at a stage. They don’t have any in-game effect, but they are nice little add-ons that reference many of the past Kirby games, so series fans will like them. The ones you get randomly unlock either a rare or common keychain, though, so while they’ll add some decent replay value if you want to get them all, it can be frustrating to get the one you want.
One thing I absolutely loved about this game were its boss fights. Utilizing neat level effects and the 3D/multi-plane gameplay space the devs used so well in the other levels, they have created some really wild boss fights that have lots of different stages. My fight against the very first boss, a variant on Whispy Woods, threw a different attack for almost every single swing on his second form. All bosses hit a point when their health is down about halfway where they just go crazy – most of them unlocking so many different attacks that move in so many varied ways that’s it brutally hard to figure them all out. It’s rare that a boss uses the same attack in the same way twice when its health is down a bit, resulting in some of the most fun boss fights I’ve ever had. If only the bosses had done decent damage and been some sort of challenge then the fights would have been just incredible.
Musically, the game falls a little flat. It’s got a decent sound to it, but most of the tracks are pretty drab considering how bright the rest of the game is. The only really memorable tracks were ones that drew from past games in the series, playing as remixes with different tones. Those tracks weren’t bad, but seemed so quiet and subdued that they didn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the game’s tone. I know Kirby is a relaxed series, but some more bubbly, upbeat, and strong music would have worked with the visuals a lot better. The soundtrack in place works, but it didn’t impress me or feel like a lot of heart had gone into it.
That’s the thing that this game really seems to be full of: Heart. The graphics and varied levels show a ton of love from the devs, who obviously worked hard on each stage. Kirby’s own face, and the various effects of each power, show the work of people who are giving their all to make Kirby as funny, animated, and cute as possible. Most of the things in this game ooze creativity and variety, keeping players delighted and having fun for hours on end. Music and new costumes may be lacking, but the game more than makes up for them with its neat use of 3D and all of the other creative work that went into its stages.
That all being said, I still think Kirby: Triple Deluxe could have been made a bit more challenging and still appeal to its audience. Kirby isn’t just for kids, and while it is geared toward them, it has been geared toward them before with a slightly stiffer challenge that appealed to adults and children alike. I’d never argue that it was hard, but Kirby has at least expected me to learn some things about his powers and to avoid hits every once in a while. It wasn’t Dark Souls or even Mario 3difficult, but it wasn’t a complete pushover, either. I miss that delicate balance, and would like the game to at least demand a little bit of skill from its players instead of expecting only slightly more than what the Lego games expect (which is literally none). Kids play Mario games, guys. They can handle a little bit of challenge.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe is just too charming not to like, though, and even if it is a pushover, I still adore it. The game’s presentation and level variety made every stage a treat, and I’d be hard pressed to think of a time where playing as the pink puffball wasn’t pure fun. The game will never frustrate you in any way, and if you want something to relax with and have you grinning, you really couldn’t find something more effective than this game.