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CONSOLE: Nintendo Switch DEVELOPER: HAL Laboratory PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 16, 2018 GENRE: Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

The Switch gets Kirby-stomped.

I've felt personally in the past few years that the Kirby franchise has been stagnating. The "main" entries in the series have felt cookie-cutter, and the spin-offs haven't been enticing enough to garner my interest. It can be argued that Kirby is stale; my childhood sweetheart pink bubblegum friend was lacking luster.

I'm glad I gave Star Allies a chance. This game is a little bit of a freshening-up. It takes the same formula invented by Kirby's Return To Dreamland (as to be expected) but also marries it with old and new game mechanics that result in a game that feels repetitively dull, and yet, sparklingly unique. It's like every Kirby game, and none, at the same time. This is what sets it apart, I feel.

I'll try to explain where I'm coming from. Even from a simple glance, you can ascertain rather easily this is built on the same frame as Triple Deluxe. The aesthetics, game structure, and gameplay is as before. The old buddy system from Super Star returns, but the changes to the system are what sets this apart. Friend abilities are game-changingly refreshing and fun to discover.

The story is about as dull as Kirby games get. There are evil purple hearts possessing the denizens of Dream Land and making them act unfavorably. King Dedede and Meta Knight are once again brainwashed by the big-bad evil and Whispy Woods returns because of course he does, HAL has few fresh ideas. There's probably a bunch of Whispy Woods fanboys who would raise hell if their leafy boi didn't appear — likewise I when Bio Spark gets snubbed. He's in here, no need to panic.

Kirby races to the scene and defeats his brainwashed friends, and they head to an enemy fortress. There it is revealed that the secondary antagonist, Lord Hyness (oh brother) seeks to revive Dark Void. Kirby and crew then fight across the entire galaxy to reach Lord Hyness and stop his plans but end up having to fight the big bad anyway. I don't want to say anything that might ruin the thirty-minute final boss rush, it's the "awesome-est" final boss in a Kirby game, ever.

Where have I seen this before? Oh, right, every other Kirby game. C'mon, HAL...

There are two mini-games in the style of what you find on Super Star: a comet punching game and a lumberjack game, neither of which you would consider substantial. There are also boss rush modes and a mode that lets you Time Attack the whole game as an enemy character instead of Kirby.

The "Dream Friends" you can meet in the game were minimal at first, though an update added Dream Land 2's Rick, Kine, and Coo, alongside Super Star final boss Marx, and Dream Land 3's Gooey. Dream Friends are like the enemies you befriend, but they have more skills and are better at fighting bosses.

The presentation is on point. Sound and graphics are at peak-point perfection. The music is blissful. The returning melodies are nostalgic and the new melodies are timeless. This is a beautiful-looking game. There are no seams. It gels. Everything is phenomenal. Crisp on handheld and on TV. Additional short sentence. I experienced one brief slowdown when a large piece of TNT was detonated, otherwise the game ran smoothly with no dips in performance. This game was not rushed, it was carefully crafted. Additional short sentence.

I would like to see this game embellish on the 3D elements featured for the eventual follow-up. We're long overdue a fully 3D platforming debut for Kirby, his Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time. Star Allies' brief experimentation with 3D gameplay leaves me wanting more. As for Star Allies, I'm immensely satisfied with the game. It's true that having beaten it, I'm unlikely to come back unless a new update piques my interest, but Kirby games have always been like that for me. The important thing to note is that this is the first Kirby game I have "beaten" since Kirby & the Amazing Mirror. Something in Star Allies had staying power long enough to pull me through. It could be the friend abilities, the excellent presentation or the astounding music, but something convinced me to play through — and that final boss made me very glad I did.

This isn't a game worth owning the Nintendo Switch for. I don't think any one game will fit that bill. But if you've already got the console, Star Allies comes highly recommended. Even if you're someone burned out by repetitive Kirby titles, there's something in this one that makes it all worthwhile. It's goddamn Bio Spark.

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