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Mini-Review: Kirby Super Star Ultra

KirbyThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on October 7, 2008.

Kirby has returned to the Nintendo DS in a revival of Kirby Super Star from the Super NES era. The original Super Star was more than just a single Kirby game, mind you. That one game cartridge included eight — count 'em — eight unique Kirby platformer games and a few mini-games. Kirby Super Star Ultra takes the original content from the 16-bit game, adds a few little tweaks and updates, and jams some entirely new content in for good measure. A second player with his or her own DS can join the fun, too. Here's the Ultra game breakdown:

  • Spring Breeze - A pseudoremake of the original Kirby's Dream Land intended to teach the basic gameplay mechanics.
  • Dyna Blade - A step up in difficulty from Spring Breeze, this game adds a map screen and a hidden level to the experience.
  • Gourmet Race - Race King Dedede to the goal and eat as much food as possible along the way in this three round time attack.
  • The Great Cave Offensive - Kirby must explore a massive interconnected world and loot its many precious and hidden treasures. Guide Kirby to the exit and collect as much treasure as possible for a higher score.
  • Revenge of Meta Knight - Essentially Dyna Blade kicked up a notch, this game has a ticking clock element. Defeat Meta Knight and his Halberd battleship before time runs out to win.
  • Milky Way Wishes - Kirby's trademark copy abilities get a mix here as players must find hidden abilities in order to use them. However, once Kirby acquires an ability, he cannot lose it.
  • Revenge of the King - A direct sequel to Spring Breeze, this game is essentially the "other half" of the original Kirby's Dream Land with an extra kick of difficulty.
  • Meta Knightmare Ultra - Replay portions of the previous games with Meta Knight instead of Kirby in this time attack challenge.
  • The Arena - Defeat Super Star's bosses one after the other with limited opportunity to recover lost energy.
  • Helper to Hero - Take control of Kirby's helpers (Sir Kibble, Bonkers, etc.) and face an Arena-type challenge.
  • The True Arena - Defeat Ultra's most challenging bosses one after the other with extremely limited recovery opportunities. 
Then come the mini-games, both new and old...
  • Samurai Kirby - Check your reaction time in this test of your reflexes. 
  • Megaton Punch - With proper timing Kirby can break the planet of Popstar into pieces.
  • Kirby Card Swipe - Match displayed cards on the touchscreen to a specific card on the top screen. 
  • Kirby on the Draw - It's a Kirby-themed shooting gallery with touch-tap gunfire. 
  • Snack Tracks - Use the stylus to help feed Kirby more food than his opponents.

Kirby Super Star UltraThe original Kirby Super Star was one of the 16-bit era's shining gems, so I was expecting a fun return to what was already a stellar game. There are few missteps in this revival. The character art has been redrawn slightly to match the modern Kirby model and some of the visual elements appear to have come from 2007's Kirby Squeak Squad. All of the 2D cinema scenes have been replaced with full 3D rendered video clips. The returning games are featured intact, although it seems as if Kirby takes less damage when hit in Ultra than the original game. Most games in the compilation use the touchscreen for displaying status, score, or other options depending on the game currently in use. I did spot one change made for the better in The Great Cave Offensive, as now the list of collected treasures is grouped by level section. Now it's easier to track down missing treasure during replays, and a rudimentary map displayed on the touchscreen shows Kirby's current location, whether or not all of the treasures in an area have been collected, and whether or not the boss of an area has been defeated.

The new games added to Super Star Ultra stand well enough. Revenge of the King revisits elements from Kirby's Dream Land that have gone missing over the years (remember the flying Kabula boss? It's back!) and features amusing chatter from King Dedede and his henchmen on the touchscreen as Kirby storms the castle and takes apart the minions one by one.  Playable Meta Knight is the highlight of Meta Knightmare Ultra. His control style is similar to Kirby, although instead of inhaling enemies to gain their powers, Meta Knight uses his sword to slash baddies to bits in order to earn small crystal gems. These gems fill a power meter on the touchscreen which can they be used to fuel four different special attacks: a speed boost, automatic health recovery, summoning a helper, or damaging every enemy on the screen with a power blast. Skilled Kirby players will make quick work of this segment, but it's fun to have to revisit older levels with a different move-set and altered strategy in mind.  Kirby Super Star UltraSurprisingly, I found Helper to Hero to be the most fun game in the set. While it's short, it requires a little thinking outside the box. The game is basically The Arena played with one of Kirby's helper buddies instead of the pink puffball himself. Some helpers (such as Bonkers) can smash his way through the game with ease thanks to his power hammer, but it takes real skill to finish the game with someone like Birdon (the feather-tossing bird) or Chilly (the icy snowman).

There's not much to look down on in Kirby Super Star Ultra, but there are a few things that were disappointing. The original Super Star allowed players to jump right into either Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, Gourmet Race, or The Great Cave Offensive right from the start. Ultra requires that players finish these games in order before new ones appear. Anyone looking to just jump right into the new content will have to complete the older material first. As for the mini-games, they are what they are. While it was fun to try each one, the new touchbased challenges aren't all that enjoyable and seem to be included just to make use of the touchscreen. The push-button antics of Super Star's original mini-games are still fun after all these years, but, again, they aren't all that amazing.

Kirby Super Star Ultra is a fantastic revisit to one of the Super NES's best 2D platformers. Fans of the genre who missed out on the original game will find a lot to love here, while fans of the original game will enjoy checking out the new material. However, seasoned Kirby players will probably plow right through this compilation within a few days. Replay value comes from finding every last hidden treasure in The Great Cave Offensive and taking on the various forms of time attacks. Playing the 2P modes with a friend also helps extend the experience. The Arena and Helper to Hero are, to me, the most enjoyable replayable segments. Whether or not it's worth the price of admission and required effort to get to that new material is left for you to decide, but as long as you don't mind the short overall experience and enjoy time attack modes, I think you'll be happy with a return to Popstar.