Kirby Super Star
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 03/21/1996
    • US 09/20/1996
    • UK 01/23/1997
Score: 95%

This review was published on 06/18/2013.

Kirby Super Star is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It's the first, true Kirby game to make it to the 16-bit Super Nintendo, not including Kirby's Dream Course, which was more like a Kirby themed golf game. The first three Kirby games made a zigzag motion between being released on the portable Game Boy and the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, probably confusing anyone that followed the Kirby series up until this point. Kirby Super Star had the unfortunate misfortune to be released really close to the Nintendo 64's launch, so the game was mostly overshadowed by the impending launch of a 3-D capable console. The Super Nintendo didn't last very long after the Nintendo 64's release, either, and that added insult to injury to Kirby Super Star's legacy. It's a terrible shame, because Kirby Super Star is easily the best Kirby game in the whole series. The bright side is that a lot of people today do seem to acknowledge how good of a game Kirby Super Star is, and Nintendo also acknowledges it by trying to recreate similar experiences. Modern iterations of Kirby try really hard to replicate the formula of Kirby Super Star with mixed results. The closest you'll get to a modern incarnation of Kirby Super Star is the Nintendo DS remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra. It's not a bad deal if you never played the original and have a DS. The Super Nintendo version is just as good, though.

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The box of Kirby Super Star advertises that there are 8 games in one, but that's not entirely accurate. Some of these "games" are mini-games, and some of them are too short to constitute a single game. Despite that, Kirby Super Star is indeed choke-full of content and will provide many hours of entertainment. You're still getting one of the longest Kirby games ever made, even if it doesn't quite live up to the advertisement on the box. Not all 8 of these games are accessible right from the beginning; you have to unlock the future ones by completing the select few you start out with. The nice thing is that you start off with a small handful, so you still have a few options right from the get go. There is no overall story to Kirby Super Star, because each individual game has its own miniature story going for it. Some of them don't have a story at all. It really boils down to whether a story is appropriate for the given game. What's nice is that there is a lot of variety here, as each one of the 8 games has something different to offer. Many of them play like a straight up platform game, but there's always something that stands out one game from the rest. You can replay any game as many times as you'd like, and it's possible to revisit a game right from where you left off. This is possible because every game has its own save files. There are also a number of competitive multiplayer games that are best played with two players, though it's possible for a single player to enjoy these games against the AI. Variety is the spice of life, and Kirby Super Star knows that. This game provides an incredible value with all the things you can do in it.

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Kirby retains most of his innate abilities from the last few games; he can suck enemies into his mouth and blow them out as projectiles, he can inhale some air to float around like an inflated balloon, and he has a slide kick move similar to Mega Man. The pink puffball can dash if you double tap the control pad in a particular direction, and this can have an effect on some of his other abilities. As always, the main thing about Kirby is his ability to copy abilities. If you eat certain enemies, Kirby will steal their power for his own. Eating a knight gives Kirby a sword, swallowing a fiery foe gives Kirby fire powers, and so on. A nice touch new to this game is how each power gives Kirby a unique hat to wear, like how Sword Kirby wears a cap similar to Link from The Legend of Zelda series. Kirby Super Star differs from past Kirby games in that copy abilities are no longer one-button attacks, but they now come with their own specific move sets. In the previous Kirby games, something like the fire ability would have Kirby breathe fire when the attack button is pressed, and that's it. In this one, Fire Kirby can breathe fire, blast off as a fireball, transform into a fiery wheel that rolls along the ground, etc. Sword Kirby can do a dashing stab attack, a regular sword swing, a jumping spin slash, a downward thrust, and some other cool moves. The move sets for some of these copy abilities are fairly intricate and it can take some time to learn all the different things you can do with a single power. You can press start to access a screen that will give you detailed explanations on how to perform all the different moves for the given copy ability Kirby has equipped, kind of like in a fighting game. There's so much detail put into every single power that you can practically beat the entire game using only a single one, but there's no need to limit yourself in that fashion. On top of that, this game adds many new powers not seen in previous games, adding up to one of the largest ability sets out of any Kirby game in the series. Kirby Super Star takes the core concept of Kirby and refines it to absolute perfection.

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A major addition to this game that changes everything is the "helper" system. Whenever Kirby is equipped with copy ability, he can create a helper to help him out. Kirby sacrifices whatever copy ability he currently has in order to create helpers, so he must get a new one for himself after giving birth. Helpers will take the shape of the enemy that contains that particular copy ability, and they are controlled by the horrible AI during single player mode. Here's the kicker: plugging in a second controller allows a real person to take control of whatever helper is currently following Kirby. Yes, that's right; this game has cooperative multiplayer. Helpers can do everything Kirby can, except eat other enemies to steal powers. A helper can be created at any time during any mode, provided Kirby has a copy ability, which makes the co-op very flexible. If a helper takes too much damage and dies, Kirby can simply create a new one. This does have the consequence of ruining the game's balance a bit, but it's so enjoyable that it really doesn't matter. Kirby Super Star provides some of the best co-op multiplayer action of any game ever.

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Spring Breeze is the name of the first game available to you in Kirby Super Star. The story behind this one is that King Dedede, long time antagonist of the Kirby series, has stolen all the food in Dream Land. It's up to Kirby to trounce the gluttonous king and return all of the food to its rightful eaters. For the most part, Spring Breeze is like a remake of the very first Kirby game, Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy. That game was really short and could be completed in around 30 minutes with ease, and that's probably why this one ended up being the first game in Kirby Super Star. The levels in Spring Breeze are more or less faithful recreations of the ones in Kirby's Dream Land, except everything is using the amazing graphics and sound only possible on the Super Nintendo. Another major difference from the original is that Kirby can actually use his copy abilities in this one. That's a really nice change that greatly improves on the original. A Kirby game just isn't a Kirby game without his copy abilities, I always say. Spring Breeze probably won't hold your interest as it doesn't provide much of a meaty experience, but it's not really supposed to. It's obvious that this first game is meant to ease you into the mechanics of Kirby with something that is neither long nor challenging. You could say that Spring Breeze is a breeze. Spring Breeze only gives you a small taste of all the different copy abilities that are in the game, too. I kind of like that, because it sets you up for surprises later in the game when you get access to the more sophisticated copy abilities. Spring Breeze is a nice way to start off your long journey in Kirby Super Star.

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After finishing the appetizer that is the Spring Breeze, you should get started on the meatier Dyna Blade. This is where the game truly begins. It's still not terribly long, but it's a log longer than Spring Breeze. The story now revolves around a giant bird named Dyna Blade that is wreaking havoc upon the citizens of Dream Land. As usual, it's up to Kirby to put a stop to this new menace. The gimmick with Dyna Blade's story mode is that you have a world map screen similar to Super Mario World. Don't get too excited, though, because this map screen is nowhere near as big or complex as the one in Super Mario World. One thing it does have in common with Super Mario World's map is that there are some alternate paths that unlock secret areas on the map. It's nothing major, but a nice feature nonetheless. When it comes right down to it, this mode isn't that much different from Spring Breeze, except it's longer and more challenging. You also get to see a lot more of Kirby's copy abilities in this one. The climax is the battle with Dyna Blade, which is pretty darn cool. Dyna Blade is huge and very graphically impressive, though unfortunately the fight won't last long. I do like the ending to the story in this one. It's pretty cute. The Dyna Blade mode does a good job of showing you more of what the game is capable of, but the best is yet to come in Kirby Super Star.

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Gourmet Race is a race. I bet you weren't expecting that. This one isn't much of a full game and is more along the lines of a mini-game. It's still pretty fun, though. In Gourmet Race, Kirby must race against King Dedede while attempting to eat as much food as possible. Does that sound ridiculous? Well, that's because it is ridiculous. There's no plot to this one; it's just a friendly race born out of the rivalry between Kirby and King Dedede. The race takes place across three levels, with a score recording how much food each player has ate. Extra points are awarded for whenever a player gets first place in a race, but simply getting first place isn't always a sure path to victory. It does provide a huge point advantage, though. You can try to eat enough food to offset any losses, but the best method is to try and maintain a balance between eating food and winning races; don't go back to get food, but also try not to miss food. Gourmet Race is a lot of fun, but unfortunately, it lacks multiplayer functionality. I really would have liked to play this one in two player mode. Oh well, you can't have everything, I suppose. Gourmet Race provides a nice break in between the action of the other modes, so it's a welcome addition to Kirby Super Star.

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The Great Cave Offensive is the second largest game in Kirby Super Star. It's also the second greatest, though some might consider this to be the greatest one. The concept is simple: you explore a giant cave in search for treasure, complete with Indiana Jones inspired music. All the treasures are technically optional collectibles, but the whole point of this mode is to collect as many treasures as possible before you make it to the end. Treasures are contained inside of treasure chests, and they range from being out in the open to deviously hidden. Often times a treasure chest will require a puzzle to be solved before you can access its juicy goods. Most of the puzzles are fairly simple, but some of them are incredibly difficult to solve. Obtaining all the treasures in the game is quite an ordeal. As important as the treasures are, they don't actually do anything. You can check to see the total value of what all the treasures you've collected are worth, and this number increases each time you get a new treasure, but that's about it. The true reward lies in the neat descriptions. Almost every treasure is a reference to some other Nintendo game, like the Triforce from Zelda, a barrel from Donkey Kong Country, and a Mr. Saturn from EarthBound. Catching all the little references is pretty fun. Besides, the actual act of collecting the treasures is also fun, and isn't that what truly counts? I think so. As for the title, don't worry; even though it's referred to as The Great Cave Offensive, you do explore a lot more than caves in this mode. You'll encounter wondrous environments like subterranean castles, jungles, ancient ruins, metallic fortresses, and even a starry area that looks like outer space. The environments are varied despite the title, is what I'm getting at here. The Great Cave Offensive feels like a whole game by itself and adds an incredible amount of content to Kirby Super Star.

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Revenge of Meta Knight is all about the enigmatic knight known as Meta Knight. In this one, Meta Knight attempts to conquer Dream Land aboard his giant airship, the Halberd. If you ever played Super Smash Bros. Brawl and wondered where the Halberd came from, well, now you know. This mode is longer than Spring Breeze and Dyna Blade, but not quite as long as The Great Cave Offensive. The thing about Revenge of Meta Knight is that there is a time limit in every area, giving this one a greater sense of urgency. Meta Knight is on his way to conquer Dream Land, after all, so Kirby needs to stop him in time. The other interesting thing about Revenge of Meta Knight is that it's a lot more focused on the plot than any of the other games in Kirby Super Star. You'll frequently get snippets of dialogue from Meta Knight and his crew as you're playing the game. While the dialogue is never particularly poignant, I do like how it sets up the atmosphere. As Kirby makes his way onto the ship and starts foiling their plans, Meta Knight's crew will change their dialogue to reflect what's going on. Basically, they totally freak out. Also, the sword dual at the end between Meta Knight in Kirby is one of the most awesome things ever. The very end consists of an incredible segment where you try to ride a motorcycle off the Halberd before it crashes into the sea and explodes. Some of the game's best music is in here, too. For a cutesy Kirby game, Kirby Super Star is pretty freaking cool.

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Milky Way Wishes is one of the last games you unlock in Kirby Super Star, and it's the largest one in the whole collection. It's also the best one. This mode really does feel like a whole other game on its own. The timing behind when you unlock this one is perfect, too; Milky Way Wishes is unlocked at a point in the game where it feels as if the end is drawing near. In reality, however, a whole new journey awaits. The story to this mode is that the Sun and Moon are locked in combat above the star-shaped planet of Popstar, and Kirby must bring peace between these opposing forces. A strange fellow named Marx (not Karl Marx) informs Kirby that he must travel the galaxy visiting planets to revive a giant clock thing referred to as NOVA, which is said to grant any wish. Yeah, the story in this one is weird, but that's not important. This is easily the most unique mode out of all of them. In this mode, Kirby actually can't steal copy abilities from his enemies. Instead, Kirby must locate items hidden throughout the environment that will permanently add a given copy ability to his arsenal. Yes, you read that right; you get to keep these abilities permanently. You can access a menu at any time to select any of the abilities you currently have in your possession, which is sort of every Kirby player's dream come true. Admittedly this completely destroys any semblance of balance the game has, but it's so much fun that it doesn't matter. This mode combined with co-op multiplayer is a nirvana of entertainment.

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The Arena is where you'll go for a true challenge, provided you've conquered all the other challenges Kirby Super Star has to offer. It's no secret that Kirby games tend to be easy, and Kirby Super Star is no different, for the most part. That changes with this particular game mode. Kirby Super Star can be a deviously difficult game when it wants to be, and that's what it does here. Inside this mode, you are pitted against every major boss of the entire game in an intense endurance match. If you die at any point during this mode, it's all the way back to the beginning for you. The mode starts off by letting you select any power you want in the game, but after that, you're on your own. To make things a little fairer, you get to enter a small rest area in between bosses where you can refill on health and change your copy abilities. The catch is that you only have a limited amount of life restores and the copy abilities you can choose are random. Speaking of random, the bosses you face are shuffled into a random order, which can catch you off guard. This whole mode will catch you off guard if you're expecting it to be just as easy as the rest of the game. No individual boss in Kirby Super Star is too tough, but fighting all the bosses with limited health is a very tough challenge. If you're still itching for more after clearing everything else Kirby Super Star has to offer, then The Arena is for you.

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Samurai Kirby and Megaton Punch are competitive mini-games that can either be played against the computer or with two players. They're easily the least impressive part of Kirby Super Star, but they are capable of providing a lot more entertainment than you'd expect. Samurai Kirby is all about timing; you have to wait for a timer to slowly count down before you press the button. The player that presses the button first wins, but pressing the button before the timer counts all the way down is a penalty. It's kind of like the Quick Draw mini-game from Kirby's Adventure. This mini-game isn't terribly fun against the computer, but it can be really enjoyable with a friend. As for Megaton Punch, that one is my personal favorite. The concept here is that there are two opponents facing off in a karate chop match where they must chop thick, concrete blocks with their bare hands. Each player is rated by how much damage they do, and the one with the biggest damage attains victory. In order to actually smash the blocks, you'll have to match up a series of meters and such by pressing buttons with the proper timing. Again, this mode is absolutely no fun at all when up against the computer, but has the potential for being big fun when facing a real human opponent. In all honesty, these short mini-games are a lot more entertaining than they ought to be.

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Kirby Super Star brings many new things to the table while refining all of the old things to perfection. The graphics and music are absolutely amazing and both of them have aged incredibly well, Kirby has a ton of copy abilities with added depth, the multiple game modes add a huge amount of variety to the experience, and this is one of the best co-op games ever made. Without a shadow of a doubt, Kirby Super Star is the best Kirby game ever released, and it's one of the best games on the Super Nintendo. No matter how many times you play through this game, it just never gets old. That's a sign of a timeless classic.

Word Count: 3,475

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