Review: Kirby Super Star Ultra (Nintendo DS)

In this review, we play the pink super hero in the Nintendo DS game Kirby Super Star Ultra. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2008. It is a remake of the SNES title, Kirby Super Star. That game got an excellent review, so we were curious is this remake would carry the same quality.

A lot of what was in the previous version is found in this game, so we decided to simply focus on the differences between the two games in this review.

All the classic games are there. These classic games are Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, Great Cave Offensive, Gourmet Race, Revenge of the Meta Knight, Milky Way Wishes, and Arena. In the previous game, you also have Samurai Kirby and Megaton Punch right away, but these minigames in this version are now locked. You need to get a fair bit into the game before you get these games. Both games now have the suffix “nostalgia” and are the only two games that are most left untouched.

In this game, there are an additional number of games. The first new non-mini game is Revenge of the King. This game features 5 levels complete with mini-bosses and final bosses. Everything also features a major makeover. In short, it’s probably the most different adventure game here as far as looks are concerned. The game isn’t exactly long, but it does add to the overall experience.

The second full game you get is Mete Knightmare Ultra. In this game, you play the character Meta Knight. you go through all of the original Super Star levels as this character. These levels are Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of Mete Knight, and Milky Way Wishes. Between each game, you’ll get a time. How well you did is based on the total time of all 5 levels. Some levels are abbreviated (namely Great Cave Offensive since you aren’t collecting the treasure a second time). Probably the biggest weakness of this game is the storyline. Even though you destroyed the Halberd in the original Revenge of Meta Knight game, you still get to go through the whole ship and destroy it as well (???).

When you play Meta Knight, the game rules are different. Since you aren’t Kirby, you lack the copy ability. So, instead, you get a whole arsenal of moves including the bat wings for flight and a host of sword techniques. The big advantage you have (arguably overpowering) is the training ability. As you defeat enemies with your sword, you’ll get points. Sometimes you only get 1 point. Other times, you can get a whopping 5 points. In total, you get get up to 50 points.

With these points, you can spend them on special abilities. There is the quick knight ability (which I never used). A second possibility is the Call Knight ability. This ability allows you to get a second knight as a helper. At just 2 points, this ability is quite the bargain. A third ability that I freely abused was the heal ability. While it is 10 points, this allows you to fully heal yourself and your helper (if you have one). In this game, collecting 10 points is a breeze. The final ability, weighing in at 30 points, is the hurricane ability (again, something I never used). With these abilities available at the tap of a stylus pen, this game is likely far easier than the game would suggest.

If you complete that game, you’ll unlock From Helper to Hero. This is basically arena, only you play the helper only. You also only have 3 tomatoes instead of 5. There are fewer battles, but this one can be quite difficult. I made the mistake of being gutsy and playing Parasol Waddle Doo and died on the second to last fight. Oh well.

Apparently, if you complete that game, you’ll unlock True Arena which features more battles. I didn’t get this far, but that’s what is suggested.

There are three additional mini-games. The first game is Kirby on the Tracks. In this game, you are pitted against three other players. You are parked at the end of a large conveyor belt. The goal is to eat as much food as possible. The player who eats the most food wins. This game, like the other new mini-games, utilizes the touch screen. You have to tap on bad things that happen to come down the conveyor belt. There are bugs which cause you to stop and lose points. If you tap the bug, you kill it and make it disappear. The other bad thing is bombs. If you click on the bomb, you’ll have it tossed to another random competitor. If anyone swallows a bomb, everything that is visible on that players conveyor belt blows up. It then takes a moment for that player to recover.

The second mini-game is Kirby on the Draw. This is essentially a shooting gallery mini-game. A number of targets will appear randomly on the mini-screen. Whoever shoots the target gets the points. If a player shoots the bomb guy, then the player loses 50 points. You have limited ammo. If you tap on the ammo bar, then you’ll get to reload. The player with the highest score wins.

The third and final min-game is Kirby Swipe. In this game, all four players see a board of cards. The cards will first reveal themselves as to what they are. They are various enemies found throughout the game. After this, players will focus on the top portion of the screen. Eventually, the correct card will show itself. The first person who taps the correct card on the board (the one that matches the top car) wins a point. The cards change configuration, number, and type between each draw. First player to three points wins.

In terms of changes, there actually isn’t a whole lot of them. In the original games, at most, there are a few minor edits done to the levels, but nothing that most players would even notice. There is, however, an improvement in helper AI. This revolves more around how well the helper moves around obstacles and danger spots. It is now more than possible for the helper to survive the fire corridors in Milky Way Wishes. They still hurt themselves plenty on enemies, but an improvement is an improvement. As far as mini-game unlocking is concerned, the unlocking system does make sense. Having the old games come back later is certainly logical.

This leaves the new additions. The only real “new” game is Revenge of the King. At a mere 5 levels, that isn’t a whole lot of new content. In fact, you’ll probably breeze through that game in less than 20 minutes. All of the other new games is just a recycling of pre-existing content. That is ultimately a disappointment because I was hoping for whole new chunks of game to be added. Unfortunately, players only get a small sliver.

Probably the biggest innovation revolved around the use of the touch screen. This was surprisingly useful during Milky Way Wishes. Instead of going through a sub-menu in the pause screen, players can simply cycle through them with the stylus. Since the game pauses, you can peruse them at your convenience. In Meta Knightmare Ultra, this screen is used again. While not quite as convenient, it is still workable. Regardless, this feature doesn’t seem forced like it does in other games. As a result, I never found this feature to be offensive or stuck on for the sake of use.

There were some edits to the dialogue during The revenge of Meta Knight. As a result, the dialogue ends up being worse off than had it been left untouched. A great example of this is when you blow up the second wing. In the original, the captain exclaims that at least balance has been regained. Meta Knight, meanwhile, gives a “…” response. A very amusing moment during the SNES version. In the DS version, the captain exclaims that at least blowing up the second wing solved their problems. Meta Knight gives the same response. This change means that the joke will go over peoples heads far more easily. In fact, had I not played the original SNES version, I wouldn’t have even figured out what they were talking about. Dialogue should have been left alone.

Probably the worst offense in this game for me is the heavy recycling of content. The few things that were added were either not properly balanced or simply bland. Not the greatest thing in the world.

The cut-scenes in the original SNES worked extremely well. In the DS version, the cut-scenes were replaced by 3D cut-scenes. It’s understandable that a maker would want to make full 3D cut-scenes in 2008, but the problem is that it doesn’t jive well with the original content. A game that focuses so heavily on 2D sprites and 2D adventure having full 3D cut-scenes can make the 3D cut-scenes seem out of place. In this case, it did exactly that. It wasn’t the highest quality 3D animations in the world. I would say the game would have been better off if the developers risked making the game look dated than slapping on out of place cinematics that don’t end up adding much to the game.

The games strongest feature was the original content. Everything that was left more or less intact still made for an excellent game experience. It’s unfortunate that some of the tweaks made it lose some of its charm. Still, players can get a fairly good idea of what the original game was like in portable form. Not a bad thing.

Generally speaking, this game ends up being a case of “what’s old is solid and what’s new is bland”. The best part of what was added is the Meta Knight abilities. Even then, it seems overpowering an unbalanced for the game in question. The mini-games weren’t anything big. Some of the edits are strange and there’s not a lot of new content. The cut-scenes end up having an out of place feel to them given how much this game revolves around 2D platforming. Still, newer players have access to a game that gives you a good idea of what was so great about the SNES version. So, while it is not as strong as the original SNES title, it still ends up being a great game.

Graphically speaking, a lot of tweaks happened. Every sprite received a huge makeover. I have to say, the sprites end up having too much movement. As a result, the graphics come off as fixing what isn’t broken. They are worse off in this remake. The crash ability, for instance, was an excellent display of special effects and personality animated into Kirby in the SNES version. In the DS version, it’s just expanding white circles and flashing stars. Things like that make me feel I ended up with a downgraded experience. As already mentioned, the cut-scenes left a lot to be desired. Because of this, the game isn’t as strong as the original SNES version.

The audio was also seemingly downgraded. The sound effects didn’t offend me as much, but the samples used in the music didn’t work as well. When comparing some of the tracks to the original SNES version (whether it’s the Halberd Music, Heart of Nova, etc.), I find myself liking the SNES version far more. Some of the greatness in the music is dulled somewhat. What is an improvement is the addition of one extra boss battle theme. While it wasn’t amazing, it did enrich the overall gameplay somewhat. Still, another element that is not as strong as the SNES version.

Overall, the elements from the original game is still pretty fantastic. There’s a lot of great gameplay to be had as long as the content originated from the original SNES. Once you start delving into what is changed, tweaked, or added, the game quickly starts to lose its shine. The only positive noticeable changes is the improvement in helper AI and the Meta Knight interface. Beyond that, what changes are made were either not noticeable or made the game a worse experience. There is a lot of great game to be had here, but if I had a choice between this version and the SNES version, SNES handily wins. Great game, but beware of the changes.

Furthest point in game: Died on 2nd to last battle of Helper to Hero.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 80%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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