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CONSOLE: Nintendo 3DS DEVELOPER: HAL Laboratory PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): April 12, 2017 GENRE: Action
// review by Meow

When did Kirby inhale Zynga?

If there's one thing to know about ol' Meow, it's that he loves him some Kirby. If there's another thing to know, he loathes free-to-play and DLC practices. But the allure of a Kirby game with RPG elements made even a free-to-play game seem worth giving a shot.

Team Kirby Clash Deluxe (was there ever a normal one?) is a free-to-play action game involving you playing the role of an adventurous Kirby out to teach all the restless citizens of dreamland a lesson in not-being-docile. What little story this is most displayed with a worn-looking book in the background with a bunch of text displayed to you. It's different for a Kirby game but not unwelcome.

Gameplay has you stuck with one of four powers, meaning no inhaling for these Kirbys, but each of these powers have a little twist to them to make them unique, both within the game and within the series as a whole.

Returning powers to this game include Sword, Hammer, and Beam, and a new power, Doctor Healmore (or Healer for short) is introduced. Your Sword power is, for the most part, the same as it ever is except you now have a longer charge period to use the spin attack (but you can charge it up to three times for more power) and your guard button puts up a barrier that guards all team members within it. Hammer now makes Kirby miserably slow and unable to fly, but it has high power and your HP is through the roof to make up for your characters lack of agility. Beam makes your HP pathetically small, but your charge ability now has a "time" property to it, which causes bosses to stutter a bit the more you charge it, and if you hit them enough to fill this clock gauge on them it will freeze them in place for a bit as well as the timer (as there's about a 3-minute time limit per battle). Finally, the Healer ability has a few little tricks to it. You charge up your power to release a splash of healing juice that increases in potency and size depending on how much you charge it. Other than that, you can hurl jewels for a weak little lobbing attack, as well as ram into foes with a book. You can also mix up a potion with a random element and hold onto it for until an opportune moment arises to use it, and this is where most of the attack power from a healer will come from.

Starring Kirby, Kiiby, Kooby, and Greg.

Each of your classes come with some customization options that you can purchase to get new hats and new weapons in hand that give different stats like more attack or faster charge time. There are even hats and weapons that refer to other Kirby games, such as a costume to make your Kirby look like Dark Matter's first form from Kirby's Dream Land 2, and another costume to look like Drawica and the rainbow brush from Canvas Curse.

Thankfully, you don't have to use each class to level them up, so if you want to stick with your favorite class, then you're free to do so.

You have no idea how glad I am for this reference.

You choose your power and then head off into combat with a team of Kirbies in tow. Each of the missions in the game are basically just mini-boss and boss fights from the series, reusing both stage assets and model assets from the games that are already 3D-modeled. But like the powers, even these bosses have new twists to them such as new moves and excessive health bars to withstand a platoon of puffballs. I feel this keeps the bosses feeling a tad fresh.

Veteran Kirby players may also be interested to know that Whispy Woods is not the first boss but is actually the second boss. Whispy is also where things really start bringing the fact that this is a free-to-play game to full effect. You see, the game doesn't show you a boss health bar like every other Kirby game has, and they also gave bosses a LOT of health. So much health that, as you progress further, it becomes far more difficult to defeat them within the time limit allowed, and it's difficult to tell how well you're doing against them to boot. So what can you do? Well, you can literally buy time.

Perhaps you're determined to just get good enough to fight Whispy... well, you'll have to keep an eye on your Vigor meter because you can only fight so much as a given time before your Kirby needs a rest! You can buy a refill on that, too.

Yes, through and through, this is a textbook free-to-play.

You'll need the cash-item (which happens to be Crystal Apples) in order to purchase any weapons or armor, unlock more fights, and make up for the sharp curve of difficulty the game presents. There is one curious thing, though: you can actually get permanent power-ups for the cooldown on your energy recharge. You can earn these apples in-game, too, if you fulfill challenges or harvest your tree once a day, so you CAN succeed without paying a single cent, but the developers clearly want you to shell out coin, even making it where if you purchase more apples, your tree for free ones will increase in yield as well.

That's like buying beef to make your cows grow.

So, what's my verdict?

As a Kirby fan who is nigh immune to the charms of free-to-play games, I'm having fun with it to a degree, but as the stuff shoves the "hey, pay me to let you play" in my face, it pushes me away. I say that if you can resist the temptation to spend all your money on a free game, then go ahead and give it a whirl. It'll help pass an afternoon or two.


Post Script: Having the fresh taste of Kirby in my mouth, I sought out a copy of Kirby Planet Robobot, and gazing upon the box revealed two things to me:

1. Doctor powers originate from Robobot, not this game.
2. The non-deluxe Team Kirby Clash originates from it as a mini-game!

The more we know, eh?

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