Nintendo’s recent efforts have gotten a mixed response from us this year, but at least I know I can always rely on HAL Labs and Kirby. The pink pudge-ball always seems to bring out the best of whatever system he’s on, using their unique features to create adventures that strongly evoke the older Kirby games while still providing something new. This latest game, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, is no different, using the system’s 3D and motion control capabilities to tweak the classic gameplay in some truly interesting ways. Kirby games are the ones that usually end up proving Nintendo’s systems in my eyes and while I already had a fairly high opinion of the 3DS, this game definitely goes to show that its more gimmicky features can be used in genuinely interesting ways.
Starting off with the gameplay, Triple Deluxe is not as drastic a change to the formula as Kirby’s Epic Yarn. For the most part it’s the good old-fashioned Kirby gameplay of floating around, sucking in bad guys, and using their powers. The changes are more subtle, for example there’s a greater focus on finding secrets and collectibles as you need to be scouring the levels for Sun Stones which unlock each world’s boss and secret level. There’s also been a lot of work put into really beefing up the powers Kirby collects. There’s 25 different types in all, featuring a good mix of classic and new abilities, and they’ve each got a ton of moves associated with them, even powers that used to be rather one note have been expanded. Using the Grapple power as an example, it’s since been renamed to Beetle and in addition to allowing you to grab guys it now also provides some slashing effects (to fit the Hercules Beetle look) and even alters your jump so that instead of having to puff up repeatedly you can simply hold the jump button and fly around with bug wings. Now I’ll admit to missing out on the last couple Kirby games so I don’t know exactly how fresh all the changes here are but even so Kirby’s expanded move set adds a lot of much-needed nuance to the gameplay. Less nuanced are the sections where you get to use the new Hypernova power, which is gimmicky but a lot of fun to play with. What the Hypernova power does is vastly increase Kirby’s suction power and allows you to swallow and eat objects of immense size and weight. These sections play out more like a puzzle game than a standard platformer and you must use your black hole of a gullet to move giant blocks, devour dangerous obstacles, and harness the environment to your advantage. While these sections aren’t very challenging, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in watching Kirby devour a giant eel that’s a hundred times his size or uproot massive trees that are unfortunate enough to bar his path.
As I mentioned earlier the game also makes fantastic use of the system’s more unique features, specifically the motion controls and the 3D. The motions control aren’t really anything special here but that’s what makes them good, they’re non-offensive. You’re not having to move the system all around or shake it violently, it’s all just simple and slight tilting, and the motion sections go by quick enough that you can get through them without losing calibration or looking stupid, a huge plus if you do your mobile gaming on the bus like I do. It’s the 3D where things really get interesting though as the game works on three planes, much like the eShop classic Mutant Mudds. You’re constantly going to be leaping between the foreground, background, and central plane and the 3D allows you to get a really good handle on exactly what’s happening on those planes at any given time. This allows you to better dodge attacks as enemies will often fight you across all three planes and helps you sniff out secrets as goodies and secret paths are often hidden behind intersecting planes and obscuring objects in the foreground. At points it can feel somewhat gimmicky but overall it gives the game an interesting look and with so much interaction between the three planes it does markedly change up the gameplay.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Kirby game without some mini-games to muck about with and Triple Deluxe is no exception. You start off with two extra modes but you unlock a couple more once you beat the game. There’s a battle mode that’s basically an all Kirby version of Smash Brothers, with each power acting as a playable character; a rhythm game featuring King Dedede jumping on floating drums, a perfect fit considering the series’ awesome music; and once you beat the game you’ll unlock a boss rush mode as well as a time trial focused remixed version of the campaign where you get to play as King Dedede. If you’re wondering why everyone’s favourite regal penguin ends up being such a focus of the side content, it’s because he’s a major part of story. Not that the narrative is ever all that important when it comes Kirby, but Triple Deluxe goes for an interesting twist by having King Dedede, instead of acting as the bad guy, being kidnapped and in need of rescue. Kirby (being Dedede’s best frenemy) decides to save him, which involves chasing the kidnapper up a massive beanstalk which is continually growing taller and taller thanks to the Sun Stones Kirby is collecting. The story is pretty light overall, which is both suitable and expected, but having Dedede essentially act as Kirby’s Princess Peach is a fun touch and does at the very least give Kirby some clear motivation.
Moving onto the presentation, there isn’t really all that much to say. This game doesn’t sport a radically different look or anything, it’s going for a pretty traditional 3D Kirby style similar to what was seen in the Kirby’s Return to Dreamland on the Wii. The music is also pretty traditional featuring remixes of the classic tunes you would associate with the series such as King Dedede’s theme and the Gourmet Race and Green Greens stage themes. The sound design in general is clearly going for a nice classic feel, there are specific sound effects that they did not tamper with, like the ding you get when collecting an extra life and the sound of a Super Star blasting off. The reason for all this focus on classic Kirby sound design and visuals is because in a lot of ways Triple Deluxe acts as a showcase of Kirby’s history. Not only does the game insert numerous references to the series’ past but it even makes the sprites of those classic games its prime collectible. Throughout each level you’ll pick up key chains which each feature a random sprite from a classic Kirby game, with offerings from every 2D entry in the series; it gives players a very comprehensive visual timeline of the series’ evolution and shows how Kirby and his foes have changed over the years using an addictively collectible method.
Overall Kirby: Triple Deluxe provides exactly what you would expect out of a Kirby game: a charmingly cute aesthetic and fun accessible gameplay that puts the hardware to use in innovative and interesting ways. It’s different enough to set it apart from earlier Kirby games and it feels like more than a simple rehash, which is something that I’ve haven’t been able to say about a lot of Nintendo platformers lately. That said it still pays plenty of tribute to Kirby’s history which will please long time fans of Nintendo’s circular star warrior. This is definitely a game I can recommend to pretty much any 3DS owner and as such I’m giving Kirby: Triple Deluxe a 4 out of 5 stars, Kirby has never failed to disappoint in my eyes and this game is no exception.