Developer: HAL Labratory
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Released: March 16, 2018
Copy supplied by publisher
Kirby is the journeyman of Nintendo franchises, in that each game — and there are a ton of them at this point — can be relied on to be of a certain quality, though few have been truly outstanding outside of classic puzzle titles like Kirby’s Star Stacker and Kirby’s Pinball Land. Kirby’s always been at his best when the adorable pink puffball is in handheld form, as evidenced by the series’ hot streak in recent years on the 3DS, highlighted by standout titles like 2014’s Kirby Triple Deluxe and 2016’s Kirby: Planet Robobot. The newest game in the series, Kirby Star Allies, marks the franchise’s first appearance on the Nintendo Switch, a console that knows a thing or two about great handheld gaming experiences. Sporting bright, beautiful visuals and a co-op focused gameplay formula, Kirby Star Allies has the right ingredients to be a standout 2.5D platformer on the Switch, but its lack of ingenuity and anything resembling challenge makes it one of the most disappointing first-party releases on Nintendo’s hybrid console to-date.
Like most Kirby games, Star Allies has something resembling a story but it’s entirely surface level and doesn’t warrant any sort of lengthy discussion. Like most Nintendo titles, gameplay is king and the core concept at the heart of Star Allies is, well … hearts. More specifically, Kirby still has the ability to absorb the powers of enemies he swallows, but he can now befriend those same enemies by tossing a heart their way, which ropes them into a four-character team. These teammates not only help Kirby out in combat, but can combine their abilities to achieve a variety of power-ups. For instance, if Kirby is wielding a sword and has a teammate with fire abilities, he can raise his sword in the air, in which case that teammate will automatically apply flame damage to Kirby’s sword. With dozens of different powers in the game, much of the fun in Star Allies comes from experimenting with different combinations, with some puzzles requiring specific powers to solve.