I’m afraid that while I’d heard of Kirby from somewhere or other before playing the original Smash Bros., I hadn’t ever played any of the games. That continued for quite some time, until my 20s and I got into the shady business of downloading ROMs. So, no retrospective review to be found here, with Kirby Super Star, but I am happy to play and review it even now as it’s packed full of content, chunky sprites and great music. Let’s take a look!
It couldn’t look more Kirby if it tried…
Kirby Super Star was first released on March 21st 1996 in Japan, with a US release September 20th that year, and a European release on January 23rd 1997 (under the title “Kirby’s Fun Pak”, but as I never owned it I actually know it under the more common blanket title of Kirby Super Star…)
The game was released late in the SNES’ run, though still sold well enough. You can also tell how late in the console’s life it is due to how polished the game looks. It was re-released on the Nintendo DS as “Kirby Super Star Ultra”, with enhanced graphics (including FMV cutscenes) and even new modes entirely… So different that really it should be reviewed separately (One day!… maybe)
The classic inflated Kirby jump! (classic from Smash Bros., in my case…)
At the core of Kirby is the mechanic of being able to inhale your enemies and either fire them out as projectiles or absorb them and gain an ability based on what you ate, all while platforming (including a float jump where you can jump several times mid-air) and fighting in 2D side-scrolling fashion. That describes the main part of most modes found in this game, with the exception of the newly added Helpers system. Basically, when you inhale an enemy, you can turn that foe into an ally that can either be controlled by Player 2, or the CPU, turning the game into a co-op experience as much as a single player game. It’s a fun system that really works well.
Kirby Super Star is also quite unique in its presentation as it’s split into seven different modes selectable on the main screen (though some have to be unlocked) with some of them being quite a bit different. Spring Breeze (essentially a remake of Kirby’s Dream Land), Dyna Blade, and Revenge of Meta Knight are all your classic Kirby gameplay style. Milky Way Wishes is a long experience and sees you having to gather the absorbed abilities of enemies and select them from a screen, rather than get them from immediately absorbing enemies, as well as occasionally switching to a side-scrolling shooter mode. The Great Cave Offensive uses those mechanics but in a mode all about collecting treasure across a large map, with some treasure being items from other Nintendo games.
Finally, Gourmet Race sees you race King Dedede from one end of the screen to the other, collecting as much food as you can while trying to beat him to the finish line. Do well enough on all modes and you can unlock “The Arena”, where you face all 26 bosses in 19 rounds with one life, only able to refill your health a certain amount of times between rounds in a hub (so not hard to guess what All Star Mode from Super Smash Bros. was based on…) There are also two mini-games based on button press timing, Samurai Kirby where you have to press the button displayed at just the right time, and Megaton Punch, which is the same but there are a couple of timing-based mini-games in a row.
So not only is the game really fun to play, with good tight controls, but you certainly feel like you get your money’s worth.
Graphics and Sound:
Not only bright and colourful, but look at that background, so many layers…
As I mentioned in the Background section, you can really tell this was released towards the end of the SNES’ life because the graphics really go all out. Really bright, chunky and detailed sprites, some Mode 7 / early 3D effects, really nice backgrounds and foregrounds… it’s a lovely game to look at.
The soundtrack is great as well, lots of varied tunes and most of them extremely catchy, even given the fact I’d heard higher quality remixes of most of them by the time I played the game. Sound effects are good and clear as well, and satisfying.
A game with loads of references from other Nintendo games?! What, was this game made my Sakurai? … Oh right.
Well, let’s see… Spring Breeze sees King Dedede steal a bunch of food from Dream Land and hide it in his castle, leaving Kirby to travel there and reclaim it. Dyna Blade sees a giant bird-like creature that’s destroying Dream Land’s crops that must be stopped. Revenge of Meta Knight sees the titular Knight try and conquer Dream Land in his large flying ship the Halberd, leaving Kirby to board it and slowly take it down and defeat him.
In Milky Way Wishes the Sun and the Moon of Dream Land are fighting each other, and Kirby is told the only way to stop them is to travel across nine planets and revive the wish-granting comet-clock called NOVA. All of them sees Kirby come out victorious, in case you were wondering…
Yes! I ate the most food while running! Now to try that in real life…
Kirby Super Star is still a delight to play through. The controls are responsive, the graphics are great, and soundtrack near-iconic at this point… Kirby may have ended up with visual gimmicks and easy difficulty nowadays, but this is at least reaffirming proof that the series deserves it’s praise and place among the Nintendo franchises of the world.