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CONSOLE: SNES DEVELOPER: HAL Labs PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 23, 1996 GENRE: Platformer
// review by Jeff

Kirby gives a reason for his "Super Star" status.

In 1996, Kirby was on top of his game. You must be extremely popular if you have a golf game in your name, and you're not a PGA Champion! His Game Boy games were selling like delicious puffy pancakes at a World Lumberjack Convention. However, his SNES outings were severely lacking. All that was available by the end of 1995 was Kirby's Dream Course, where you manipulate Kirby's spherical nature for the sake of a golf tournament, and Kirby's Avalanche, a puzzle game that pretty much mirrored Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine and every other Puyo Puyo game in existence (Puyo Puyo is a primarily Japan-based puzzle game series that never seems to change very much). There was nothing for SNES owners who wanted the real deal -- the platforming that made that pink puffball a star in the first place. Luckily, developer HAL Laboratory heard the cries for mercy and created what could be considered one of the most fun games starring Kirby yet. Kirby Super Star was a wicked experiment that resulted in unprecedented Kirby gameplay on the most powerful Nintendo console at the time, proving that the SNES and Kirby were the perfect pair.

But Kirby Super Star was not just ONE game. No, it was actually a compilation of mini-games starring Kirby. While the majority of them maintained the typical structure of a Kirby game, some of them definitely expanded his repertoire to including racing, sword-chopping, and putting gigantic cracks into the planet. Plus, this was the first game to allow you to create a helper to serve as a useful ally in your travels, which a second player can control. Here is a summary of the mini-games featured in Kirby Super Star. Note that not all of these are initially available; by completing some (mainly the platformers), more are unlocked.

Spring Breeze: The story behind this is that the nasty King Dedede has stolen the food from the Dreamland community, and it's up to the young go-getter, Kirby, to reclaim the lost snacks. Spring Breeze is basically a remake of the original Kirby's Dream Land from the Game Boy, but with the enhancements present in later games, such as copying enemy abilities for your own use, and the opportunity to create a helper.

Dyna Blade: Another quest based on food disturbance (man, that guy sure likes to eat), this time Kirby is after Dyna Blade, an enormous mechanical bird who has caused some problems with the Dreamlanders' crops. This mini-game plays like a standard Kirby platformer; Kirby will travel across various stages on the map screen and make his way to the Dyna Blade nest. There are also secret stages that can be found, so Kirby had better keep his eyes peeled.

The Great Cave Offensive: Put on your spelunking cap because you're about to go treasure hunting! Venture deep into underground caves and slowly make your way back to the surface while seeking out a total of 60 treasures that are scattered around the area. You'll have to solve some platforming puzzle madness in order to knab all that loot! Can you get them all? ...I can, but it certainly takes some time and a lot of patience.

Revenge of Meta Knight: Meta Knight and his grumpy-looking cronies are bent on overtaking Dreamland with the aid of the flying warship, the Halberd. Will Kirby be able to take out an entire battleship on his own? I guess we'll just have to find out. This mini-game is neat because it actually plays out with an on-going dialogue; as Kirby travels between the areas (and even while he is directly battling), you can see the dialogue of the Halberd crew at the bottom of the screen, showing how concerned they really are about Kirby's interference with their plans. It's also the only Kirby platformer that imposes a time limit. Booooo!

Milky Way Wishes: This is the final direct platformer, and it centres around a brawl between the Sun and the Moon. Kirby must visit all the different planets of that solar system (each of which has its own theme -- how novel) and defeat the inhabiting boss in order to summon Nova, a great comet and wish-granter. Unfortunately, the nasty trickster Marx beats you to the punch and gains some powers. So you have to destroy Nova AND Marx, which isn't exactly the easiest thing to do. The story is slightly convoluted, but this is about as complex as a Kirby plot will ever get. What's different about this mini-game is that on each planet, you cannot copy the abilities of your enemies; instead, you find various abilities on each planet and once you grab it, you can keep it for good and whip it out at any time. There is even a horizontal shooter stage, demonstrating just the kind of variety that makes this collection so nifty.

The Arena: Proving that he is one tough cream puff, Kirby must fight a total of 20 different bosses consecutively with a limited number of health items to get him through the list. Kirby only gets one life, and he can only use the health items between rounds, so he must fight carefully. Luckily, he can snatch up abilities between rounds as well, and create helpers to back him up and take much of the damage. Still, although it sounds easy, some bosses can be true pummelers.

Gourmet Race: It's Kirby vs. King Dedede where you race through three different areas of Dreamland, trying to make it to the finish line before your opponent AND collect as much delicious food on your travels as possible. Not too strenuous on the easiest setting, but wait until you get to the higher difficulties...

Samurai Kirby: Timing is of the essence when Samurai Kirby takes on five of the quickest opponents in the land, up to the rough'n'tough Meta Knight. When the go signal pops up, you have to slash at your enemy before they hit you, so you must be fast -- and believe me, you MUST be fast because they work in milliseconds, not regular seconds. Don't try to hit them before the go signal, or you'll get in trouble!

Megaton Punch: Using various meters to determine accuracy and power, Kirby must demonstrate that he is the most powerful stone slab puncher in town. If you get it just right, you can punch so hard, the planet will crack significantly, causing earthquakes and prompting telethons with Susan Sarandon.

Every game here is a gem, and although gameplay is the key elements, kudos should go to the video and audio departments as well. The visuals are among the most pleasant on the SNES that could be produced, thanks in part to the fancy SA-1 graphics chip. All of the environments were extremely colourful, as one would expect from a Kirby game. Kirby is actually more detailed here than he had ever been in previous adventures, thanks to the superior graphical prowess of the SNES. Animations are fairly smooth and everything has this wonderfully-defined gloss to it. The music is quite varied and standardly cheerful as well. Imagine having to compose a soundtrack for not one but nine games. That would probably be an exercise in patience and creativity. Only occasionally do the songs of one mini-game transfer to another, and it's usually within reason to do. How many battle themes does a Kirby game need? The sound effects are equally impressive, showing off all that the SNES was capable of.

Kirby Super Star is a must-own for any self-respecting SNES fan. It looks great, sounds great, and plays even better. This game proves exactly why Kirby has become so popular, showing off how the simple ability to act as a portable vacuum can be such a boon. A copy of this may be a little difficult to locate (for a decent price, no less), but there is still hope. In 2008, HAL Labs developed "Kirby Super Star Ultra" for the Nintendo DS, which maintained all of the aforementioned mini-games, while adding a few new ones into the mix, plus bonus computer-rendered cutscenes and other goodies. It's already sold particularly well, so perhaps you should also join in to see what all the fuss is about.


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