Quality Time: Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)

There is perhaps no better way to wrap up the Kirby Blitz than with what might be the best Kirby game ever made.

 

But to truly understand Kirby Super Star Ultra, we must first turn our attention back to 1996. At this point, the Kirby series was starting to find its footing. It had gone from an unassuming game about eating and spitting out enemies into one about taking on the powers of those enemies and turning them against them, with titles like Kirby’s Adventure and Kirby’s Dream Land 2 exploring the fledgling concept in short, fun adventures. The gradual evolution of the series was easy to follow, but when Kirby decided to go on his first true adventure on the Super Nintendo, things took an unexpectedly enormous leap forward in design.

Kirby Super Star wasn’t just iterating on the ideas of the previous titles… it evolved them in an unprecedented manner. Kirby Super Star wasn’t just one game either. Kirby Super Star burst onto the scene boasting 9 different ways to play, the box claiming only 8, but either way you split it, there was an incredible amount of variety on offer here, even if those numbers were bolstered a bit by counting the minigames as well. Still, 7 authentic, full, and varied experiences played with the Kirby formula in new ways, each one almost substantial enough to serve as a basis for a full title, and some future games did even build off of ideas toyed with here. The power system was revamped, cooperative play was implemented in every mode, the graphics got kicked up a notch on the new more powerful game system… Kirby Super Star went the extra mile and then some when it didn’t even need to, but that incredible effort definitely paid off with a game that stands as one of the best Kirby games and one of the best Super Nintendo titles.

 

Kirby games since its release haven’t really tried to match it, trying to be excellent in their own ways with more focused directions. It seemed like Kirby Super Star would always, quite appropriately, be the shining star of the series, an insurmountable package of quality.

 

There was a game that would top it though. As it turns out, the game that would outdo the excellence of Kirby Super Star… is itself.

Kirby Super Star Ultra is the 2008 remake of Kirby Super Star, the remake updating the visuals, adding new modes, tightening the translation, and just all around taking an already impressive base product and heaping on even more goodies to swell the game into an even more enjoyable celebration of what the Kirby series can be.

 

With four new games and three new minigames to add to the original’s already impressive batch, there is certainly a lot of ground to cover as we take an in-depth look at what makes Kirby Super Star Ultra the definitive Kirby experience, but there is one near universal element that helps make this game work as well as it does, and its one the Kirby series is well known for: the copy powers.

 

COPY ABILITIES

Kirby Super Star Ultra’s platforming adventures carry over the pink puffball’s ability to absorb enemies for their powers, and not counting the special boss-only ability, there is a selection of 24 available here. This number might not seem too substantial on first look, especially since game’s like Kirby’s Dream Land 3 technically have more if you mix in the Animal Friends, but an ability in Kirby Super Star Ultra isn’t just a single styled attack. When Kirby has a power, it can have a multitude of uses and attacks to it, finally paring down abilities like Burning and Fire into one slot and making each power more versatile and fun to experiment with than ever before.

 

One excellent example of this is the Beam power-up. In older titles, Beam involved you pressing a button to have Kirby sweep a little beam of energy down like he was swinging a blade. This beam whip is simple and useful, but now, you can also hold the button to fire a long range blast, you can grab an enemy and launch them with the beam, you can run forward and send a swirling blue cyclone of beams out in front of you, and you can jump and do a downwards diagonal beam blast. This simple power now has plenty of ways to approach an enemy with, each one giving it some new utility so that you’ll want to use Beam for longer instead of tossing it out for a new power after the basic attack gets old.

 

Beam isn’t unique either. Nearly every power you acquire has a variety of commands, many of them simple enough to stumble into through a little of testing, to make them feel much more than just a single new skill to use in battle. Plasma is an electrical attack you can charge up by moving around, each new level of charge giving it a new shot type. Sword, Hammer, and Parasol, traditionally abilities meant for swinging your weapon to damage foes, all have new extra skills to vary your attack types. Many moves like Ice have aerial variations, and while some like Stone are still simple, they can carve out a unique niche despite each power having so many capabilities. Even screen clears like the explosive Crash, Cook, and Mike are differentiated from each other, one being simple destruction, another giving you healing food items after you cook up the enemies, and the last having three steadily stronger versions of Kirby screaming into a microphone, ending with him taking on a mohawk for a killer yell.

 

The familiar powers are also joined by a batch that was new in the original Kirby Super Star. Fighter is an excellent demonstration of move variety, this ability letting Kirby punch and kick in a variety of different manners. Kirby gets the ability to throw bombs with Bomb, fly and fire feathers with Wing, swing a yo-yo like a weapon with Yo-Yo, fire himself forward with the jetpacks from Jet, throw and slash kunai knives with Ninja, and play around with duplicates and mirror shards with Mirror. An emphasis on movement can be found in some of these powers, and while Kirby can inflate and fly around like usual, Jetpack provides more abrupt bursts of flight speed, Wing lets you move in a different and quicker way, Wheel is back as fast ground movement, Ninja can cling to walls, and Parasol will let him drift around in the air calmly.

 

Your bound to find preferences in the selection, some certainly offering more than others, but rarely will it feel like you’re stuck with any one ability. Every mode that uses the copy power system is happy to offer you options. Even the mode constructed to limit your copy abilities doles them out at a nice pace so you can have variety and capability both. While it is unfortunate that this version of the power system would be shelved for years, most of the second era of the Kirby series essentially only having Kirby Super Star Ultra truly embrace it, this design is actually now a standard feature of the games in the third era that began with Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on the Wii. The shadow of Super Star’s power system hung over the series for years, players often wondering why they didn’t have the same level of variety with skills from these games, cementing just how revolutionary it felt to have such complex powers at your disposal and how much it advanced the copy system in general.

Kirby Super Star Ultra’s use of powers doesn’t end there though. Again, most of the modes that feature copy abilities also have a secondary aspect to these powers. With almost any power, you may discard it and have it transform into a helper! You can only have one helper at a time, but this means that most powers also come with that implicit ability to have a second character join you at any time to help you fight bosses, navigate levels, and if you have a human friend along with you, perhaps take the entire adventure alongside you.

 

These helpers all take on the appearance of a definitive enemy that carried the power. Beam goes to Waddle Doo, the first copy power character many people would encounter, and Parasol is carried by the Parasol Waddle Dee who has appeared frequently whenever an umbrella is around. The game does give you their traditional appearance, meaning to set them apart the game colors all instances of them as enemies a different shade, which is an odd but wise choice that might take a second to get used to. The most important details about these helpers though is that they have all the abilities their power would have if used by Kirby. Knuckle Joe can throw all the punches Kirby can when he’s a Fighter, and Gim is just as adept at swinging his yo-yo around. Wheelie comes with a neat feature, Kirby able to hop aboard Wheel’s representation and use him as a bike, and if you or the friend get hurt, you can share healing items you just picked up with a hug to ensure you’re both on the top of your game. When the game is controlling them, the helpers aren’t so smart as to be good human substitutes, but you can count on them to stick around for a while, the player free to replace them if they please. You can think of your helper as an extra ally in a boss battle, a way of keeping a useful power on hand, or just a bumbling buddy who does its best to keep up, but it’s an excellent way of adding just another useful skill to Kirby’s already sizeable bunch.

 

Even without a power though, Kirby’s not useless. As you might expect, the slide kick is here, the air bullet from deflating is also available, and you can always choose to spit out an enemy as a star that can hurt other characters, but one seemingly simple skill also increases how the game can design its bosses, and that’s the guard ability. L or R will make Kirby raises his defense, becoming almost invincible as he does so. Regular attacks will touch him without dealing damage, more powerful skills will just take a sliver off instead of knocking Kirby around and tearing a huge chunk from his life bar, and while they are rare, the game gives its tougher foes the ability to damage you through your guard, ensuring this invaluable skill isn’t just a perfect means of waiting out any attack. While dodging is still often a good option, the guard button allows Kirby Super Star Ultra to throw bosses at you that can afford to be more aggressive and dangerous, the game not needing to worry about giving the player as much space for some of its larger opponents.

 

Kirby’s copy system here improves the platforming play to a considerable degree, giving young players the means to put up a fight and older players plenty to play with as they take on the tougher modes. In fact, the fleshing out of the copy system is partially why so many different modes can be added without bogging the game down with repetition, but the modes do plenty on their own to differentiate themselves already, so it’s about time to take a look at them.

 

GAME 1: SPRING BREEZE

We’ll begin first with the games that were featured originally in Kirby Super Star, just as its remake does. Kirby Super Star Ultra first presents you with Spring Breeze, a game that is essentially a remake of Kirby’s Dream Land but with updated graphics and the copy system it never had. The simple, easy designs of the first game are an excellent area to serve as essentially your learning grounds for the copy powers and general mode of play before it begins to be twisted into new shapes in the other modes.

 

Just as in Kirby’s Dream Land, King Dedede has taken the food of the Dream Landers, Kirby setting off to get it back. Levels have been rearranged and added to some, particularly to give you more opportunities to suck up bad guys and take their powers, as the original Dream Land only had a few potential power sources along its journey since that wasn’t even a consideration back then. An odd choice was removing the entirety of the Castle Lololo stage and the Kabula boss battle, so while it’s not a full on recreation of the first game with the features it was missing, it does serve as a nostalgic romp for those who recognize it and a fine introductory mode that doesn’t push the player to learn anything outside of the core mechanics.

Spring Breeze’s name is a bit of clue that it’s meant to be a quick and easy game, and it feels that role well. Already, this opening game at least puts it on par if not better than the original Kirby game, but a Kirby’s Dream Land remake is essentially just gravy on top of the game’s original modes, a way to catch you up on what came before it starts introducing the new material

 

GAME 2: DYNA BLADE

Despite being the first bit of new content the game introduces, Dyna Blade is a bit odd to figure out. It is, essentially, just a new Kirby adventure, which is definitely not a bad thing, but most of the modes in this game tinker with new ideas or gimmicks. Dyna Blade feels like an idea that was perhaps a bit too small to justify making a full game around, but it does technically have one thing that sets it apart from the others, that being… a world map? It’s not a big addition nor does it change how you play Dyna Blade all that much, but it does have a few branches to unlock and a wandering mini-boss to make the map more meaningful than just a way to replay levels if you wish.

Dyna Blade is the name of a giant red bird that is terrorizing Dream Land by destroying all its crops, Kirby being the natural hero to head off an investigate any threat to the land’s food supply. The reason she’s attacking is a bit of a common trope with bird based baddies, that being she was just trying to get food for her chicks, but Kirby doesn’t learn this until he’s already cleared a path through Dream Land’s bad guys and beat up the big bird herself. Dyna Blade is actually the only true boss in this mode, the regular levels being mostly about overcoming regular baddies and taking down minibosses instead. If there had been a sequel to Dream Land on Game Boy before Dream Land 2, this game almost feels like it could have been it, although it would likely have a bit more content if it was a standalone experience. As it stands, Kirby Super Star Ultra is still easing you into its game, both of the first two modes short and enjoyable adventures. Once you’ve taken down Dyna Blade and made reparations by taking care of her babies as she recovers, new modes unlock that really begin to shift how you tackle Kirby’s already unique platform game design.

 

GAME 3: GOURMET RACE

Here we find our first unique approach to how you tackle levels, all with one of the series’s most well-known songs playing in a game and series that already features plenty of excellent, energetic, and memorable pieces of music. King Dedede is none too pleased that you managed to defeat him and take back the food he stole, but rather than taking a violent approach to getting back at you, he instead challenges Kirby to a race. This race to regain lost pride isn’t just about getting to the end as quick as possible though, the course has plenty of food scattered around it, floating high and hidden in branching paths. There are three different courses to the Gourmet Race, each one being quick to move through but offering many opportunities to go off the beaten path to grab extra grub.

Finishing a race before Dedede does grant some bonus points, but Dedede will be snatching up food on his path to the finish line, meaning that he can make up a deficit if you don’t try to eat a lot on your way to the end. You can’t interfere with him, although there are moments where blocks needs to be cleared where you can take advantage of his ability to break them quickly with his hammer. You don’t actually have access to powers here, meaning it’s all about good flying and movement. Defeating Dedede in the race isn’t too hard as long as you try to balance speed running with speed eating, but the game does encourage you to go for a best time or highest score. Really, Gourmet Race is basically a minigame with enough to it that it can at least pass as one of the games the box boasts about. This may sound like a common refrain, but we are at least moving away from this design philosophy. It is very likely that even the meatier modes could be better if produced as the focus of their own game instead of a supplement to a packed collection like this, but an important thing to notice is that none of these modes are stinkers. Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, and Gourmet Race rely on simplicity, but they have the mechanical strength of the core game and level designs to make them enjoyable Kirby experiences. Moving ahead though, we’ll find what Kirby Super Star Ultra really brings to the table.

 

GAME 4: THE GREAT CAVE OFFENSIVE

Now we’re talking! Here, Kirby really begins to experiment with what it can be, and we’d even see the idea laid out in this mode fleshed into a full game in the form of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, but even a full game can’t capture the concise and smart design this single mode offers.

 

Kirby is strolling along one day and falls in a hole. It’s not really a glamorous set-up for such a mode, but in Kirby Super Star Ultra, the game does try to have all its cutscenes presented in colorful 3D cutscenes. Kirby’s graphics here are a stellar continuation to the series’s commitment to be bright and adorable, the excellent spritework being a natural update of Super Star’s while the 3D scenes were on par with Kirby’s look on the home consoles then as well, even avoiding dating themselves because such rounded and soft designs lend themselves well to a timeless cartoon look. The cave system Kirby fell into isn’t just a subterranean world of dark caves surprisingly, each leg of his journey to find his way to the top having a design direction to make them distinct visually and even in their layout.

 

The big change to the gameplay found here is how you approach the underground domain of the Great Cave Offensive. If you approach this mode with the idea of just getting to the end, you’ll find it doesn’t offer a lot of resistance comparatively. There’s a few bosses and some rough rooms, but you can skip swathes of it by picking the right door, exiting the underground and moving onto other modes. However, that’s not what this game is about. The Great Cave Offensive is all about exploration, the tunnels beneath Dream Land packed full of treasures hidden behind puzzles and in challenging rooms that you must go off the beaten path to find and collect. There are 60 total treasures to find, some classic swag like gold coins and artifacts, but many of them are shout-outs to other Kirby games or Nintendo franchises, with objects from Metroid, Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, and more all found in chest hidden behind challenges.

Kirby Super Star Ultra won’t go out of its way to make you grab these treasures, but it does have some helpful things on the touch screen to reference in your quest, such as subdividing them based on where they are found so you know if you’ve cleared out a subsection of the cavern of all its loot.  Looking around for the treasures is certainly where the fun comes from in this mode, and it actually seems to do a better job of implementing copy powers in the search than Amazing Mirror does. Many of the small challenges involve approaching a problem properly or losing out on your chance to grab the treasure, although you can reset a room by returning to it later and the whole of the underground is connected so backtracking isn’t impossible. Enemies or pedestals with copy powers are often placed near areas where the power can prove useful, but figuring out what you need to do or how to safely approach it can be difficult in some cases. A close eye for odd environmental details is a must, the focus of area design being less about bad guys trying to hurt you and more about making you think about how to get to a certain treasure. There are boss battles as mentioned and there will still be enemies milling about as either copy power sources or just minor obstacles, so it’s not just a series of puzzles all the time.

 

The Great Cave Offensive may be one of the best instances the Kirby series has of implementing its powers into the navigation. Even if they only get a brief moment to shine, many of the powers can find a purpose in opening the way to a treasure, with there not really being a Swiss army knife that’s best to hang on to. Despite being the first truly different substantial mode the game throws at you, it’s fairly real realized and offers an entirely different degree of challenge, one that rewards the experienced player without holding back a player who just thinks the end of the cave is the goal. The Kirby series would eventually fully embrace the idea that every game should be easy for young players to beat and offer harder objectives for full completion to experienced gamers, and The Great Cave Offensive is an exaggerated example of that, almost too easy if you aren’t focused on the treasures but a great challenge if you are. Super Star Ultra in general is a game that is a blast and a task to 100% across all its modes, but thanks to different ideas of how those modes are determined complete such as snagging all the treasures here, that also gets to feel just as varied as the individual games on offer.

 

GAME 5: REVENGE OF META KNIGHT

Meta Knight is Kirby’s similarly shaped rival, the blue orb preferring to wear a silver mask, don a dramatic cape, and wield a sword to make himself look tougher. Kirby’s Adventure did much to build him up as a threat and an honorable opponent, but he was a silent opponent then. Here is where Meta Knight truly establishes himself though, as the mode based around him actually features more of a focus on story than any other moment in the Kirby series.

 

By now, you’ve read a few brief summaries of Kirby plots here, and most of the time, there is barely anything more than a set-up and an ending. You might have one twist along the way, but you learn what the game is about, and then you wrap things up at the end, any cutscene in between mostly just a silly bit of fun with the characters. Revenge of Meta Knight goes for a different approach. Meta Knight has created an enormous flying warship called the Halberd, the flying fortress packing powerful armaments and crewed by plenty of Kirby’s frequent foes. Meta Knight aims to prove his power to Dream Land with his new warship, but Kirby comes to put a stop to it before it can even really get going. Now if this was a regular plot, the description would end there, but on the bottom screen as you play, Meta Knight and his crew are actually reacting to your efforts. Kirby gradually wears down the Halberd, destroying its systems and crew, and we get to see the main members of Meta Knight’s team react to it. We’ll see them change plans as they lose systems, panic or relax based on how Kirby’s advancing or getting set back, and their tactics actually make sense as part of their attempt to stay functional and powerful as Kirby continues to wreck their ride. Near the end, when their hopes of the Halberd completing its quest are going down the drain, they can actually be quite sympathetic, the weaker members of Meta Knight’s crew actually crying and trying to keep him from abandoning hope even as the cause is lost. Kirby isn’t asked to actually kill these characters thankfully, making it easier to justify beating them up as they cry for you to stop their plans of world domination, but they do manage to establish a bit of personality as they react to your quest to take them down.

Kirby Super Star Ultra actually bills this mode’s unique trait as a race against the clock, as each segment of the game has a timer ticking down which, if it runs out, you’ve failed. Time gets added to it as you take down parts of the Halberd, but there are times you are chucked from the surface of the enormous battleship, needing to make your way back in time to keep up the assault before it’s too late. You likely won’t feel the timer’s pressure at all if Dyna Blade was already easy for you, but it does lend more authenticity to your adventure’s stakes and discourages lolly-gagging. The design of the Halberd portions actually tries to mirror the idea you’re inside or on the exterior of the vessel, outside areas having plenty of deadly drops to avoid and the insides being mechanical and cramped. The Heavy Lobster boss crops up repeatedly as a mechanical weapon the Meta Knights use in varying ways as well, chasing you through the cramped cargo hold and fighting you near the engines. This is one of the lengthier games in Super Star Ultra, so you can expect more difficult bosses, more detailed levels, and a greater level of challenge than the previous modes, this mode really standing out as part of the pair that defines this title’s place in the series. Powers aren’t played with here much but of course find their purpose in taking on enemies and overcoming the level design, but for the most part, it is focused on making this feel like a proper story with clear objectives, Kirby’s usual bumbling into areas to fight bosses swapped out for a constant assault against consistent foes.

 

GAME 6: MILKY WAY WISHES

Revenge of Meta Knight may embrace its story more heavily than other modes, but what stands out as the definitive tale told in this game is perhaps the one established here in Milky Way Wishes, partially because the plot blends in so well with the structure of the rest of the series. The sun and moon are fighting in the sky of Planet Pop Star, the world that contains Dream Land, and Kirby doesn’t seem to know how to stop it… until an odd new face approaches. Bouncing on a ball and wearing a jester’s cap, a character named Marx informs Kirby that there is a mechanical comet in space called Nova that can grant wishes, and Kirby could wish for the celestial bodies to stop their scuffle so long as he creates a path to the comet by visiting some other worlds and connecting their energies. Kirby sets off to complete this quest and almost succeeds, floating before Nova itself and ready to make the wish at the end of this game… but Marx reveals his true colors here, wishing for the power to rule over Pop Star and being twisted into a crazy bat creature to fight Kirby as the final boss. This is a twist the Kirby series doesn’t really try to hide these days and the series in general really does enjoy having twists to their villains in general, but the set up has a much larger scale and serves as an excellent end to the core content of the original Kirby Super Star, only the subgames still waiting if you have the SNES version instead of this remake.

 

The main change to the gameplay here isn’t that story though. When Kirby takes off to explore other planets… he can’t absorb the power’s of his enemies. Well… he can absorb a few, those being the screen clearing skills like Crash, Cook, and Paint, but to get his regular abilities, to be able to make helpers, and to have that edge in regular battles, Kirby must find Copy Essence Deluxes hidden on the planets. Once he does find these powers though, Kirby gets a very interesting skill, that being that at any moment, you may choose one of the powers you’ve found the essence for from the touch screen to assume. Rather than needing to inhale an enemy to have any chance of using them, they’re now available right after you grab their essence, meaning it’s easy to keep a helper around, you can have your preferred power around as you like, and if you need a skill for a situation, just tap the symbol on the bottom screen and you have it. If you find the hidden planet with the Copy ability you can sort of cheat and still copy enemy powers, but once you’ve got a few essences, it’s inferior to the opportunities opened up by such accessibility.

This shift away from providing powers in the form of enemies means the areas you explore can place their enemies more as obstacles than power sources, but the planets you explore already try new designs even before you consider that new level of freedom. The planets follow pretty familiar theming angles, there being things like a lava world, a water world, and a grass world, but the designs of these stages aren’t just about getting to the end. Besides having split paths to search for essences in, the levels try to have unique gimmicks to their navigation. For example, Floria is all about seasons, the planet changing as you enter doors between the four seasons and having paths open up based on water freezing or plants dying. Mekkai may be the mechanical world, but its elevator section contains multiple rooms to explore, each one containing some battle or diversion as you search for the way onward or the copy power hidden there. Aquarius and Hotbeat feature their water and lava respectively in how they’re designed, Aquarius containing a water maze and Hotbeat featuring changing lava landscapes and points of no return if you unleash the wrong lava flows. This means, even outside their usefulness in being levels where copy powers are hidden to add to your collection, they still have distinct identities as level challenges, and since each world has a boss battle and there are minibosses on the way, you can still find use for your collected powers in challenging battles.

 

Perhaps the better place to talk about bosses though comes in the form of the last major mode featured in the original Kirby Super Star…

 

GAME 7: THE ARENA

So you’ve beaten all the story content, conquered all the level-based modes… well it’s time for you to really see how good you are at fighting foes with Kirby’s complex copy abilities. Every mini-boss and boss you’ve fought so far awaits you in the arena, a sequence of battles where Kirby must overcome his enemies back to back with only limited chances to heal and limited access to new copy abilities. At the start, you may pick any you like and even make a helper if you wish, but once you’ve started your first fight, your options will be limited, only finding new options in between rounds in a room with limited healing items.

 

Here is where Kirby’s incredibly useful guard ability definitely earns the praise I gave it. Back to back battles with everybody you’ve fought before needs something to make it survivable other than impeccable dodging skill, and being able to raise a pretty sturdy guard against some of the attacks makes this a bit less demanding. Here you can really see that the bosses were allowed to get a bit tougher to accommodate your guard though. Many large foes move around and could bump into you easily if you didn’t have that option, and many also pack some sort of grab to punish you if you just stand in place trying to block all damage. Much like the game in general, there is plenty of variety in who you face. Stationary foes with powerful attack, mobile monsters that you have to strike when you have the chance… a regular Waddle Dee that is just a joke fight. Some foes like Computer Virus are slow to fight as it’s a cute shout-out to turn based Japanese RPGs, but the cute text boxes accompanying the battle slow things down. Meanwhile, you have two mid-boss rushes to beat, meaning that the fight shifts because the foe you fight is swapped out after the last one is defeated. None of the midbosses are actually too concerning, but in a row they can shave some health off you if you get sloppy.

Although the chance to swap powers does appear between rounds, the powers aren’t necessarily the ones you’d want, so holding onto the one you start with is important. Sure, you can fight the bosses with Suplex, but something like Hammer or Fighter is definitely more versatile. You can even fight them powerless, but no matter how you go, it takes a few hits to remove a power or a sufficiently hard one, and you do have the chance to suck it back in and keep it if you’re quick. Keeping a power can almost be just as important as managing your health, the room between battles offering a few tomatoes for heals but there being 19 fights total can make it challenging even with that cushion.

 

And if you had been playing the original version of Kirby Super Star… things end here. This is the final challenge to tackle and a pretty good closer. A rematch with all your toughest old foes one after another. Technically, I’ve left the two minigames from the original out, as we’ll tackle those all together later since they’re pretty small, but already, on this alone, Kirby Super Star has already offered incredible diversity and one of the best executions of the Kirby series’s core mechanics to date… but we’ve got a few more games to look at, as while Super Star Ultra does polish these original modes some, it’s bigger additions are, of course, more ways to experience the game!

 

GAME 8: REVENGE OF THE KING

His food stealing quest was foiled in Spring Breeze, he lost the Gourmet Race, but now, King Dedede has had enough. To prove himself superior to the pink puffball who ruins the plans of any evildoer on Pop Star, the king has whipped out all the stops all in his singular quest to get revenge on Kirby. This is… Revenge of the King.

And it is, in essence, another remake, although this time of Kirby’s Dream Land’s Extra mode. Spring Breeze was deliberately easy and quick, but for Revenge of the King, it gets the same difficulty revamp that the Extra mode added to the original game. Enemies in Revenge of the King of are more aggressive and more powerful, with even the bosses revamped to have new moves and strategies. Midbosses have been swapped out with characters from Kirby’s Nightmare in Dream Land to put up more of a fight, and Kabula, the flying airship, was added, as well as Dedede revamping himself as Masked Dedede to pack more punch. This time around, you even get to see Dedede react to your accomplishments much like Revenge of Meta Knight did with its crew, the king a bit less honorable and a lot more emotional than the cool-headed masked knight. Stages are lengthened as well to make it last a bit longer, but it is really best described as a hard mode for Spring Breeze, one that adds some enjoyable twists to that mode to make it feel new on this more difficult visit.

 

Many of Super Star Ultra’s new games are about twisting the old designs into something new, but the new mode goes the extra mile in that regard.

 

GAME 9: META KNIGHTMARE ULTRA

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land offered players the chance to play as Kirby’s rival Meta Knight through the entirety of the game in one quick forward adventure. Meta Knightmare Ultra, quite appropriately, takes that idea and makes it even crazier. Meta Knight isn’t just going through one adventure of Kirby’s… he’s tackling FIVE of them!

 

Stringed together in one long blitz, Meta Knight will fight his way through Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, The Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of Meta Knight, and Milky Way Wishes, the small knight only barely having their design adjusted to facilitate his limited abilities and the idea of it being a straight shot from start to finish rather than him embracing the unique designs of the different modes. For example, The Great Cave Offensive won’t let him get sidetracked, closing off rooms meant only for the treasure hunt, but Meta Knight will still destroy his own Halberd in the mode he was originally the antagonist of. Ultimately, when Meta Knight reaches the end of Milky Way Wishes and speaks with Nova, he actually gets to make his wish, that being to prove his power… and here he faces Galacta Knight, a powerful hot pink counterpart to Meta Knight that serves as his greatest challenge yet.

Meta Knight, on the surface, seems to have similar powers to Kirby’s Sword ability. His swings are the same, and Meta Knight can even flap bat-like wings to fly like Kirby does when he’s puffed up, but Meta Knight’s rush through the compact version of most of the game’s modes comes with a twist that makes it more than just a Sword-only solo run. When he kills an enemy, they are converted into points stored on the bottom screen which can power one of four abilities. Meta Knight can carry up to 50 points at a time, turning in 8 for a movement boost with Meta Quick, turning in 2 to have a sword-wielding helper appear, spending 10 to get a full heal for him and his partner, and able to cash in 30 for a screen-clearing attack called Mach Tornado. The ability to heal for a pretty small amount of points does mean that this particular Meta Knightmare isn’t too challenging but more of a power trip, the player able to tear through the game with ease thanks to the character’s strength and access to helpful powers. You could almost consider it a victory tour of sorts, taking on foes that might have troubled Kirby but can barely last against the power of this character, and the focus on speed is certainly intentional as the game urges you to better how quickly you can beat it.

 

GAME 10: HELPER TO HERO

Continuing the trend of playing someone new, Helper to Hero keeps Kirby on the sidelines as the partners formed out of the copy powers take the stage. In essence, this a special version of The Arena. Rather than having access to multiple powers and a helper, you must fly solo with one set of skills, meaning characters like TAC and Buggzy who had powers not really designed for boss battles are going to prove an interesting and difficult challenge. The game urges you to beat its 14 bosses here with every helper if you can, meaning that learning boss patterns and the capabilities of each ability is more important than ever if you want to succeed at that goal.

This is definitely where each power having multiple uses comes into play the most, and where it’s most felt when a power has only a few options. The game even limits its healing items to be less than The Arena, but if you have a friend with the game, you two can take it on together to ease some of that difficulty. You only need to beat it once to earn completion points technically, so if the task is daunting, you only really have to take one of the stronger friends through, which is achievable despite the game really attempting to test your mettle here.

 

The boss rush arrangement does leave me with little to say that wasn’t said in the Arena section or the powers section in reference to helper capabilities… so for the last major game found in Kirby Super Star Ultra, we have… another boss rush!

 

GAME 11: THE TRUE ARENA

Kirby Super Star Ultra is done fooling around. For your final challenge, you must face all the harder bosses introduced in the Ultra’s new modes, meaning that not only do you fight the revamped bosses from Revenge of the King, but Masked Dedede, Galacta Knight, and the special end to Helper to Hero, a retooling of a boss named Wham Bam Jewel, all stand in your path… before Marx returns with a new harder Soul form. There are fewer bosses than the other boss rushes, but they’re more difficult and the healing items between rounds are now considerably smaller, requiring more careful play against tougher enemies. You can have a helper along for the ride, but their limited AI doesn’t really prepare them well for… well, what might be one of the toughest challenges in the entire Kirby series!

These bosses expect you to guard, expect you to be using a great power, and expect you to know them well. And the funny thing is… people have done it without a power, helper, and without taking damage, but that’s just a testament not only to the love people have for this game, but the fair design that also pushes players to get incredibly good at battles in a game that is marketed towards children and designed to be cute and friendly. No stronger can the dichotomy between the challenges offered for experienced players and the accessible design meant for young gamers be felt than going from Spring Breeze to True Arena.

 

…But we aren’t technically done looking at all Kirby Super Star Ultra has to offer yet! Earlier I mentioned the mini-games, those nebulous little additions that shouldn’t really be counted as full on games if you’re tallying them up but still add yet another thing to do into an already stuffed package. Before we wrap things up here, let’s marathon the mini-games really quick…

 

GAMES… WELL… COUNT THEM AS YOU PLEASE: THE MINI-GAMES

Super Star Ultra features five minigames, or as it calls them, sub-games, but the classification of games is already murky here. How can Kirby Super Star Ultra be multiple games in one when they exist solely in its confines rather than it being a compilation of previously existing titles? What determines what is a game, a mini-game, or a mode or a game? Rather than getting caught up on word choice, let’s take a look at these games. Super Star Ultra actually puts it three new minigames forward first rather than presenting the two that appeared in the SNES game forward with the other older modes. These modes take full advantage of the DS touch screen and actually have somewhat decent designs that make them worth more than just a single trip to check them out, especially since all three have different difficulty levels to determine what you face and how the computer players compete against you in them.  The first is Kirby Card Swipe, a game meant to test your reaction speed as it reveals a set of cards with Kirby characters on them and waits to spring a design on you on the top screen. The first player to touch the card that matches it wins that round, players aiming to win three, but the cards can vary in number or even orientation to make them harder to immediately match with the top screen card in later levels.

Kirby on the Draw is a shooting gallery, targets of Kirby enemies in cowboy gear popping up and the player who shoots them quickly enough knocking them down and getting points based on which enemy it was, losing some if it was the explosive Bomber enemy. You just need to be quick on the tap here to get the targets first, although reloading is necessary so you can’t conceivably just tap the screen wildly to shoot anything and everything.

Snack Tracks embraces Kirby’s love for eating, food rolling in on conveyor belts but having a few surprises pop up along the way. The goal is to eat as much food consecutively without accidentally swallowing a worm, rock, or bomb, the player able to tap those offensive items to destroy them or in the case of the bomb, pitch them into someone else conveyor belt to deal with.

While the touch screen games have a bit more variability and thus longevity than the original Super Star subgames/minigames/whatevergames, we still can access Samurai Kirby eventually, a game all about being quicker to draw your blade than a computer controlled opponent. When the game gives the signal, you need to press the button as fast you can, trying to land your strike before the opponent. The final duel requires expert reaction speed, but the rest build up to it well enough. Still, it’s sort of a “can you or can’t you” kind of game that doesn’t call you back as much as the touch screen games but does serve as a quick amusement.

The last of the bunch is Megaton Punch. Rather than timing one A press, here, you must time three! Press the button when the Power Gauge is as full as possible, the targets are lined up properly, and a pendulum is in the very center, and you’ve got a punch that not only splits the bricks you’re punching, but can break through the planet itself! This is a contest against a computer player, but they never push you to be perfect, only just really good at each step of the punch. Again, the same design concept as Samurai Kirby, being about a quick test of reflex instead of a varying contest, but just like it, having a quick but fun minigame only helps sweeten the already delicious pot that is Kirby Super Star Ultra.

 

GAME 0: KIRBY SUPER STAR ULTRA AS A WHOLE

So now we’ve seen everything packed into Kirby Super Star Ultra. We have traditional platforming challenges, explorative quests for treasure, plenty of boss rushes and minigames, and modes that toy with the central mechanic of copy powers. Ones that aim to be easy, simple trips any one can play, and ones that are some of the toughest a Kirby game has ever asked a player to overcome. We’ve been a pink puffball, a sword-wielding knight, and tons of little former enemies with unique powers. Kirby Super Star Ultra is a combination of a diverse set of ideas on how a Kirby game can be experienced, advancing the power system to be multifaceted and allowing the game to explore new depths and new levels of difficulty.  It took an already amazing game and added even more to it, forming what might be the best expression of what a Kirby game is and can be.

 

Complexity and diversity are words I bring up a lot as signs of a game’s ability to keep a player engaged and interested in its design, and Kirby Super Star Ultra embodies these ideas. It keeps pitching new things at you while making sure it’s still built on a solid base that is expressed through the rest of the game. Even when things are tough or a part of the typical formula is changed in Kirby Super Star Ultra, it still draws from the same well, meaning that nothing feels alien. So many ideas here could be split off into their own good game, great game, or maybe even a fantastic title, but lumping them all together into one package means it was almost inevitable this game would be so stellar. There really isn’t much to point at as a flaw besides some generic ideas about game length in subgames like Spring Breeze and the low difficulty at the start, but ease doesn’t always mean something’s boring. If a game is easy, it must entertain, and Kirby has been able to do so by offering you powers to play with in colorful and inviting levels.

 

Kirby Super Star Ultra isn’t just a really good Kirby game… it’s a game so wonderful that I broke out the new review type for it. Quality Time is the opposite of a Disaster Report, where I aim to highlight a game that achieved excellence in such a splendid manner that I wish to share it with you in-depth. After seeing the many ways Kirby games have captivated players in the past with the Kirby Blitz, there was no more fitting finale for that review series and now more fitting beginning to this new review type than the game that exemplifies all the Kirby series can achieve. So long as we never get something akin to a Kirby Super Star Ultra Supreme or something, this brilliant little game will continue to shine as the best way to experience one of the best titles Kirby has ever starred in.

Share this page!

One thought on “Quality Time: Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)

  • December 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm
    Permalink

    Yep, this is the golden child, alright. A game that captures the heart and never lets go. It’s hard to top this game, even after a leap onto a new system. It’s the kind of game you’d break out the ol DS for to show your grandchild how great it is.

    Also to show that Beam and Mirror are the best abilities, and if they say otherwise, they’re grounded. :U

    This, along with KDL3, basically defined my childhood. Some of the best memories I have involve these two games. Kinda weird how hype I was for Kirby games then, only to kinda struggle to get through the newer games now. Maybe that’s just me having a busy life, though.

    Thank you kindly for the Kirby Blitz, and here’s hoping for many more blitzes to come~

    Reply

Leave a Reply