Review: Kirby Super Star (SNES)

In this game, we dust off our copying skills before we take on the SNES game Kirby Super Star. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1996 and would be another addition to an already growing franchise. Previously, we played Kirby’s Block Ball and were surprised at how well it played as it got a great score here. We also reviewed Kirby’s Avalanche and found the game to be rather mediocre. Meanwhile, Kirby’s Dream Course got a great score, Kirby’s Dream Land 2 got a very good score, Kirby’s Adventure scored the best in the series thus far, Kirby’s Pinball Land got a pretty good score, and Kirby’s Dream Land scored slightly better. One thing is for sure, we are quite familiar with the series already and curiously continue on to see how this entry added to the series.

The game is, in some ways, a throwback to the Atari days where you’d technically have multiple games in a single game. It’s bold in that the games aren’t just a slight alteration of the rules or visualizations like the Atari days. There was much more to the different games then that. While the game does advertise 8 games, there are technically 9 games in all. While that sounds even more impressive, there is a catch in that 4 of these games are technically mini-games as opposed to full-fledged games. You do get a few games right away, but the games you unlock will be more difficult. Each game has a star rating: the more stars there are on the opening slate, the more difficult the game actually is.

The first accessible game that you’d likely play is Spring Breeze. The story goes that King Dedede has stolen all the food in dream land. Kirby must follow the trail of food back to his castle and reclaim the food for all of dreamland. This game plays a lot like the classic Kirby game. You have the ability to copy an enemies special ability by sucking them up and pressing down. While not all enemies can be “copied”, some can. The goal is to make it to the end of the various levels and defeat the bosses as you encounter them until you ultimately take on Dedede himself. A new ability that hasn’t necessarily been seen before is the ability to get a “helper”. This helper resembles the enemy that you copied previously. This helper will assist you in attacking enemies as you come across them. The added ability that most enemies don’t have is the ability to not only swim under water, but also use the ability under water (something Kirby can’t do as Kirby will just revert to a default water blast while under water. While the helper can increase your odds of survival, the AI does leave a lot to be desired as you’ll constantly have a need to help recharge your helpers health or even just constantly replacing that helper with another one. One thing to note, however, is the fact that this game does emphasize co-operative play. If you have a friend join in, that player can take over the “helper”s roll and make your life significantly easier. Still, it is more than possible to complete every game with just one player, though it will be more challenging. One thing of note is the fact that co-operative play isn’t necessarily new. In Kirby’s Dream Land 2, there was the use of other animals that “helped” you as well. While these helpers enhanced Kirby’s abilities, they didn’t have the basic AI like this game did, so this game is really a major enhancement to this concept.

Along with this game are three of the four mini-games. You can set the difficulty at the beginning of the game. The first game is the megaton punch. While this game suggests this game being all about strength, this game is ultimately all about timing. You have to time a meter so that you select it right when it reaches maximum. The second phase is getting it so that the two targets line up. The final phase is the sort of tempo meter. You have to get the gold disc inside the green circle. If you manage to time everything perfectly, you’ll get to punch with the maximum force. Every little bit you are off deducts how much power in total you’ll punch with. The idea is that you go up against three opponents one at a time. The ultimate goal is to have a more powerful punch than the opponent. Defeat all three opponents and you’ll win the game.

The second minigame is Samurai Kirby. Like megaton punch, you can set the difficult at the beginning of the game. This game is even more straight forward. You take on a certain number of opponents. How many you take on depends on the difficulty you set at the beginning. The harder the difficulty, the more opponents you take on. The idea is that you square off against an opponent. You wait for the signal to appear. Once the signal appears, you have to hit the attack button as quickly as possible before your opponent. In short, all it is is a duel. If you jump the gun, you’ll get a penalty. Get three penalties, and you are disqualified. In the harder difficulties, this game can be quite challenging.

The third minigame that is immediately available is the Gourmet race. The game doesn’t have any difficulty settings associated with it. Instead, you just square off against King Dedede. The idea is that you do play a footrace against Dedede. First one to the finish line wins. Of course, this game isn’t quite as simple as that. Each win counts as major bonus points, but isn’t the only factor. Along the way, there are food items that you can collect. Each item of food counts towards your final score. So, you need to collect as much food as you can before crossing the finish line. Naturally, the famous tomato will net a nice sizable amount of points. There is a total of three races. At the end of the third race, the points are tallied. Get more points than King Dedede and you win.

A second full-fledged game available is the Dyna Blade game. This game operates a lot like Spring Breeze, but with a few subtle differences. Dyna Blade is a massive bird that is causing havoc in Dream Land. It us up to Kirby to stop Dyna Blade. What makes this game different from Spring Breeze is the fact that you get to play with a world map between levels. After completing a few levels, you also have an “E” icon which is a mini-boss that you can fight by moving Kirby towards it. Complete every level and defeat Dyna Blade at the end and beat the game.

The third major game of the game is the Great Cave Offensive. This will likely be the biggest time sink in the entire game. The reason for that is that your objective is to make your way through a massive cave and collect as many treasures as possible before completing the game. In total, there is a whopping 60 pieces of treasure of varying value. Some of these treasures are quite straight forward to find. Others require some serious problem solving. Others are tucked away in very well hidden locations. Some require specific timing. A few of them are extremely difficult to get to. While beating this game is rather straight forward, beating this game collecting all 60 treasures is anything but. Arguably, this game also has the largest level real-estate in the entire game as well. The levels are so large, that this is the only game that incorporates save points in the various levels. Each save point is located behind a shimmering star door. The save points contain a tomato and a platform that triggers the save dialogue.

The fourth game that is available right away is Revenge of the Meta Knight. Meta Knight, along with several others, has created a massive flying battleship. Their mission is to conquer Dream Land. Kirby’s mission is to stop the plot and destroy the Halberd. What’s unique to this game is the use of a time limit. Kirby only has a limited amount of time to compete each level. If you time out on a level, Kirby loses a life. Another interesting feature is the fact that the game is very plot driven with the various crewmen talking in each level. Their dialogue is found along the bottom of the screen where the lower stats banner is located. Usually, the dialogue portions appear at the beginning of each level, so they actually don’t interrupt a whole lot. Defeat the various bosses and escape the Halberd before it is destroyed to beat the game. A great aspect of this is the fact that Dyna Blade makes a cameo appearance in this game.

If you are able to complete all of these games, you’ll begin unlocking other games. The first unlockable game is the Milky Way Wishes. This is actually the final full-fledged game you play. In this game, the sun and moon are fighting. Kirby needs to find a way to get them to stop fighting. So, he decides to obtain various powers from other planets so he can awaken the NOVA. The idea is that if he awakens the NOVA, he can use the wish it offers to get them to stop fighting. Being that this is one of the last games the player plays, there is a unique rule in this game that, at the very least, makes the beginning much more challenging: you can’t copy an enemies special ability. Instead, you obtain your abilities through deluxe power pedestals. Obtain this power and you get to keep this power throughout the entire game. You can access this power at any time by either scrolling through them with the power select button or you can use the menu to navigate through the list you have collected this far and use that ability. While that is restrictive, it is more or less possible to circumvent this restriction via your helper. If your helper loses all health, you can get that helper to touch an enemy with a special ability. The helper will copy that ability and obtain full health. While this is an interesting quirk in the game, this is ultimately only mildly helpful in the grand scheme of things. Another interesting feature is the fact that, towards the end of the game, you get to play a side scrolling shooter game. It’s unexpected, but manages to work anyway.

If you complete every game thus far, you’ll unlock one last mini-game: The Arena. In this game, you start off with any ability you care to choose. The idea is that you square off against every boss in the entire game and a few other enemies in the process one at a time. In total, you have 19 rounds to go through. Between each round, you get to access a special room between rounds. You can obtain a few per-determined special abilities, but the selection is generally very limited. There are 5 tomoatoes present, but be warned that if you use a tomato at any time, that tomato is gone permanently. So, using the tomatoes sparingly for most players is a must. The last thing most players want is having all 5 tomatoes used up and you still have 10 rounds to go. If you die, your run ends and you get treated to a score of how many victories you got “straight”. If, however, you manage to defeat every enemy, you’ll unlock one last feature: the music menu.

The one thing that is impressive about this game is the fact that this game uses many variations of the rules around Kirby, yet makes it all flow smoothly between each game. There’s no frustration in figuring out what has changed and what hasn’t between each game. This is largely in thanks to the fact that the rules change very gradually. The rules and difficulty between Spring Breeze and Milky Way Wishes are pretty big, but the changes are not that noticeable if you play the game in order. Plus, you’ll likely be practiced up sufficiently to handle the increasing difficulties as you progress.

Some criticized this game as being too easy. I don’t really agree with this assessment. The reason is that while there is large portions that are very easy, this game also manages to challenge players as well. I would say trying to get all 60 treasures in the great Cave Offensive, beating Samurai Kirby on the hardest setting, or challenging the arena isn’t exactly a walk through the park. It really depends on how you play this game, though. If you beat Spring Breeze and Dyna Blade, it’ll be very easy to conclude that the difficulty is too easy. Unfortunately, you aren’t playing the entire game. If anything, this is probably one of the most approachable Kirby games in the entire series. In fact, in spite of so much evolution throughout the series up to this point, I would say that if you are new to this series, this is probably one of the best games to start off with because it doesn’t treat the player like you’ve breezed through 7 other games previously. It treats the player as if they are new and have no idea what Kirby is all about.

Having said that, this game isn’t perfect. My main criticism for this game is directed at the helper AI. At times, your helper will die way too easily. I’ve encountered levels where I just carefully navigated between dangerous floors and ceilings. While my path is really obvious for the AI to follow, the helper simply waltzes over the damaging floor, takes a hit, tries to fly up and hits the ceiling, taking another hit, etc. I found it almost next to impossible to guide a helper through certain areas in the game without the helper dying – even with full health. Still, I think that is the only criticism I can really level against this game.

I really liked the references to other games. The side scrolling level towards the end of the game was a nice tribute to the Gradius series. The overworld screen in Dyna Blade and the time limit in The Revenge of the Meta Knight game were interesting references to games like Super Mario Bros 3. The Battle Windows boss was a fun reference to RPG games in general. Probably the most obvious references were found in the Great Cave Offensive with the various pieces of treasure being found in other games. The Mr. Saturn treasure was a reference to Earthbound, the Screwball was a reference to the Metroid series, the Turtle Shell was a clear reference to the Super Mario series, and the Triforce was a reference to The Legend of Zelda series to name a number of them. It was entertaining to see so many tributes to other games buried in this game.

In spite of all the references, this game still remains a distinctly Kirby game. It gives a nod to the past with all the minigames since this series has gone off the beaten path numerous times up until now. It still stays true to the adventure game spirit with a vast majority of the game dedicated to the typical Kirby adventure game. As a result, this game manages to take a lot of the basic concepts of the past and wrap them up so nicely into a single game. An accomplishment to say the least.

Generally speaking, this game delivers a lot. There a very approachable difficulty curve that will challenge players, but also welcome new players to the series. There was a lot of variety found in this game with the gradual tweaking of the rules as you go along. The minigames also helped spice things up. Really, the only criticism I had was that the AI for the helper left a lot to be desired. Otherwise, with the references to other games as a nice final touch, this was an excellent game.

The graphics were actually very well done. There were plenty of environments to be had as well as countless enemies. Everything was very nicely drawn if you ask me. The small animations made in the game just made the graphics that much better. The cutscenes that were thrown in were nicely thought of. The endings were well done. The banner along the bottom, while always having the same kind of information in each game, also applied very nicely to each game. You had the mechanical and computerized banner during the Revenge of the Meta Knight game. Meanwhile, you had the treasure map style during the Great Cave Offensive. The corkboard screen was easy to understand. In all honesty, I have no complaints for this game in this department. It was all very well done.

The music was yet another strong element. The sound effects were nicely done and both carried over the sound effects from previous games all the while updating them to make them appropriate for the SNES environment. Meanwhile, the music was also nicely done. You sometimes don’t even notice, but the library for music was massive. Not only was it massive, but it also had some great and memorable music such as the two tracks on the Halberd levels as well as the NOVA boss fight. Even better, the end credits very nicely wrapped up the game. Overall, it was all very well done.

Overall, this was the best in the series, only tying the NES version, Kirby’s Adventure, for the best game in the series up to this point. The game takes a bunch of game and manages to weave each game nicely into one very well thought out package. It has a very approachable difficulty curve that does challenge players. The continual evolution of each game as you make your way through each game helped keep the game fresh and the references to other games was a very nice touch. The graphics were very nicely done between the well done characters, the interesting environments, and nicely done cut-scenes. The audio was also spot on with great sound effects and an impressive music library. Overall, this was an excellent game to play. A highly recommended play.

Won every game, though curiously only got a 95% completion rating. Not entirely sure why given that I got every treasure piece in the Great Cave Offensive in the process.

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 10/10
Graphics: 10/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 96%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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