I love Kirby. I mean LOVE Kirby, the lovable pink puffball — the hero of Popstar (SEE! He’s not a Pokemon character! He doesn’t even exist in the same gaming universe.) I remember back in the early 1990s when Kirby’s first adventure, Kirby’s Dreamland, was released on the original Nintendo Game Boy. It was uniquely creative. Instead of directly attacking, you had to inhale your opponents and then spit them out. (It’s a lot less disgusting than it sounds.) And you had to keep an eye out for things to suck up in order to attack. Since the original game, Kirby’s powers have evolved. Along with his inhalation technique, he also can mimic his opponents — his signature move in the Smash Bros. series — by swallowing them whole. Perhaps I’m getting too nostalgic, but it brings us to this game review’s topic: Kirby Super Star Ultra, a re-release of the Super Nintendo game of the same name. Except for the “Ultra” part of the title. While this game may not live up entirely to the “ultra” part of the title, it is a solidly fun game.
Kirby Super Star Ultra is pretty much a collection of minigames crammed onto one tiny cartridge (or one large cartridge if you have the original SNES game). The overall plot is that bad things happen on the planet Popstar, and it is up to Kirby to put a stop to those who have evil plans. Like King Dedede collecting all the food for himself. Or Meta Knight, one of Kirby’s archrivals, attempting to conquer the planet. Or putting a stop to Mr. Sun’s and Moon’s (respectively) fights.
Not much has changed since the original release. So let us go through the core minigames as a quick refresher: Spring Breeze is a toned down version of the original Game Boy game. It also is a great way for newbies to better understand Kirby. The Great Cave Offensive has Kirby “playing” Indiana Jones and exploring a cave for 60 treasures. (Keep an eye out for Hal’s signature fan boy/girl references, such as Simon Belmont’s whip or a raccoon that looks like Rocky from Pocky and Rocky.) Milky Way Wishes is a tad different than the rest of the minigames because Kirby cannot mimic his opponents without the proper item. It’s called a “deluxe essencet copy” and must be found before use. Furthermore, he’s using the wishes to find a way to stop the Sun and Moon from fighting. Dyna Blade has Kirby going against a metal-like bird that has been terrorizing the countryside. Revenge of Meta Knight has Kirby going against his archrival in a race against time. It is one of the most intense minigames ever. Also, the original Arena, Gourmet Race (which is exactly what it sounds like), and the original minigames also are present in all their glory.
Furthermore, there are a few more games — such as replaying those games as controlling Meta Knight through the core games — that emphasizes how short the game really is. Also, now at the start and end of each minigame there is a little high-resolution movie. However, there are some sound effects missing during the sequences. In all honesty, I would rather have kept the original in-game “movies” (more properly called cutscenes) and had Hal place “lost levels” or newer, more inspired levels, especially with the Milky Way Wishes minigame theme, in its place. That would definitely place it among the “ultra” level that it aspires.
Control wise, it is exactly the same tight controls as its SNES counter part. The downside is that the control scheme has changed. Instead of sticking purely with the old SNES controls, the Y and A buttons are now the jump buttons, X creates and destroys allies while the B button is used to inhale and attack. The top screen holds all the action while the touchscreen holds the life bar of Kirby (and companion, if applicable) and other minor information. During the Milky Way Wishes minigame, it allows for a quick change between deluxe copies by touching the screen with the stylus. Thus, it feels a tad gimmicky. But ultimately, the whole point of the various minigames is figuring out which ability works best for each situation. Fire lights fuses, freezing the enemy and sending weaker enemies flying, hammering down the opponents and wooden pins, transforming into stone and crushing the opponent, mimic Link, and slash down the enemy ... that’s real joy and challenge of any Kirby game.
Anyway, the old SNES control scheme was not kept intact. But if it was, then the control scheme would feel much more natural. Originally, the A button was used to absorb enemies (besides pushing down on the d-pad), summon and destroy companions. And during Milky Way Wishes, the X button was used as quick way to change between deluxe essence copies during exploration. And as such the touchscreen usage would be rendered useless. But all in all, the current control scheme works. Even if it is a tad gimmicky.
Graphic wise, Ultra is a definite step up from the original SNES graphic engine. And it is down right beautiful. There are all these little tweaks that people who have played the original will notice. Ice Kirby occasionally spins while dashing. The Computer Virus boss characters have an attack animation — the witch moves her staff, the marionette collapses and the dark knight moves his sword. And as previously mentioned, there are high-resolution movies (think very high end Nintendo 64 quality) that help expand the story — especially for Milky Way Wishes. (Yes, I probably love that minigame the most.) It is a great touch that it uses the power of the Nintendo DS.
Sound wise, everything that you loved about the original is intact. Except for King Dedede’s defeat scream. I digress. The catchy theme song, the intense boss battle music and final boss music, the satisfying sword clashes, the burning of fire and the chill of ice, and the mysterious mirror attacks. Everything has remained intact and will please fans of the original. The only problem is with the movies; they are missing the requisite sound effects to solidify it.
On the whole, Kirby Super Star Ultra is wonderfully solid platformer. And I have really enjoyed my time spent with it despite all the complaints. The reason this game succeeds so well is because the core gameplay and minigames are left perfectly intact. Furthermore, there are 10 games to play through on one’s own (or with a friend, provided they have a copy of the game) and five subgames. That’s a fair amount of bang for $30. Could it have been a stronger remix? Absolutely. I would have loved to have seen certain aspects of the game expanded, like The Great Cave Offensive — awesome for exploration — and Milky Way Wishes.
“So is it worth it?” I think so. This might be because my sense of nostalgia might be getting the best of me, but it also is because it is so much fun to play through. It was fun back in the 1990s, and it is still fun today. Isn’t that what any good video game should be, something that transcends the era in which it was created? Thus, anyone looking for a creative platformer should check this out. Anyone who missed out on buying this game when they had the chance should get it. The only problem is if you have the original for your SNES the question you should ask yourself is if you like it well enough to play it on the go. In the end, research it, watch it, play it. This is an accessibly great game to add to anyone’s personal gaming library. And I am very happy that I finally got to add it to my library. Now Nintendo, how about bringing the Earthbound Trilogy (known as the Mother Series in Japan) to the states and give it its rightful due? Please?