Confession time: I have never played a Kirby game before now. But if they are even half as well done as Kirby: Triple Deluxe, I really need to do the entire back catalogue.
Good — Power-ups Galore
Kirby's trademark attack is inhaling his opponents and then copying their powers. Kirby has 26 different powers he can copy in Triple Deluxe — six of them are completely new to the series. These powers turn Kirby into everything from a swordsman and a karate fighter to a jester and a Japanese kabuto beetle.
Of course, the most awesome power-up in the game doesn't come from an enemy, but a plant which increases Kirby sucking power 10-fold — enough to suck in bosses whole and tear apart most levels. While the power-up is pretty much an "I win" button, every time it appears you just feel unstoppably awesome.
The best thing about these powers is that each of the 26 has its own unique moveset — and thus each feels distinct with its own strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, as your equipped power stays with you until you replace it, it's possible to bring a non-native power into any given level and potentially overwhelm the enemies. In other words, there is a lot of strategy when it comes to swapping out Kirby's powers.
Good — A Different, Yet Still Fun Game to Play Sans Power-ups
Of course, it is possible to be without a power-up if you are hit and lose it down a bottomless pit before you are able to retrieve it. Thus you play as normal Kirby. What's most interesting about normal Kirby is that he is just as strong, if not stronger, than the vast majority of power-ups. Inhaling an enemy and then shooting it out at the other enemies is almost always useful — and incredibly powerful.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game's boss battles. When Kirby has a power-up, you simply attack the boss with it. However, if you lose that power, the way the boss battle plays changes completely. Now, instead of just whaling on the boss, you spend your time dodging it, inhaling the stars it creates, and then shooting them at the boss at the right moment. It's a totally different way of playing yet just as much fun.
Good — Forces You to Change It Up
As a gamer, once I find a tactic I like, a weapon I like, or a power-up I like, I tend to stick with it — for the whole game if I can. Experimenting is never as much fun for me as using what works to devastating effect. Of course, this means I often miss out on some of the most powerful and/or entertaining power-ups in any given game.
But, while Kirby does allow you to stick with a power-up through multiple stages if you prefer, every once in a while you come upon a stage that gives you the hypernova super-sucking ability — and only a fool would pass that up. Of course, once that level ends, you are no longer hypernova Kirby and you return to your normal form, with no choice but to go back to an old level to get the power-up you like, or to just continue on playing, absorbing new powers. Thanks to this system, I tried out the vast majority of powers which, in turn, changed up the gameplay, keeping it constantly fresh and new.
Good — Lots of Extra Modes
The single-player Kirby adventure is hardly all there is to Triple Deluxe. There are several other modes to play around in. One is a four-player Smash Bros. -style deathmatch while another is a rhythm game where King Dedede jumps from drum to drum collecting coins. There are also two forms of the boss area and a different version of the game where you play as King Dedede instead of Kirby — which includes a new final boss. So while the normal single-player part of the game takes only six or so hours to beat, that is just the beginning of the game, not its sum total.
Good — A Great Use of 3D
While I've played a fair amount of games on my 3DS (though admittedly not Super Mario 3D Land), all of them seem to use the 3D as a screen filter and nothing more. In Triple Deluxe, however, the 3D feels vital.
The game is presented in two layers, the background and foreground. Using special stars, Kirby can switch between them. However, the enemies don't require stars and can attack from the background and foreground as well as go between them at will. This means that depth perception is needed to know exactly where the enemies are in relation to Kirby at any given moment. In other words, this was the first 3DS game I have ever played where I actually kept the 3D effect on the entire time I played.
Mixed — The Endgame Difficulty Spike
The only real complaint I have about the game is its sudden difficulty spike when you reach the final boss. Over the course of the whole game, I died perhaps twice — maybe three times. While fun, the game was rarely difficult enough to kill me. Then came the final boss battle.
Now, not only are there several new boss fights strung together in this final encounter, but each of these bosses also has several forms apiece based on their remaining HP. The final stage rearranges itself to have gaping holes in the middle and sides of the screen. This basically means that getting hit by any attack will cause you to be stunned, fall into a hole and die; it's a one-hit kill basically.
While it's annoying to start that section of the boss battle over from its start again and again, at least you don't have to start over at the beginning of the boss battle chain. Instead, you start the stage again, and you are given a choice of a power-up and the option of starting at any point in the final boss chain you've gotten to so far. So, while dying in one hit is still a bit cheap, at least your downtime between tries is minimal — and it allows you to pick a power-up back up.
When it comes down to it, Kirby Triple Deluxe is a fun little platformer packed to the brim with variety. Moreover, the parallax 3D is an integral part of the gameplay and the extra modes — especially the King Dedede single-player mode — add a lot of value to the overall package. And while I was rarely challenged in the general game, just exploring and looking for all the little collectibles was more than enough to keep me playing.
Simply put, as an introduction to the Kirby franchise, it did its job and left me wanting more.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe was released on January 11, 2014, in Japan for the Nintendo 3DS. It is scheduled for a Western release sometime in 2014.