|Dev: HAL Laboratories|
|Release: TBA 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Kirby for the Wii (apparently Nintendo hasn't decided on a title yet) is simultaneously one of the most innovative and interesting Wii games I have played, and also one of the most poorly handled ones. As a single-player title, the game is filled with interesting new design elements that make the Kirby series feel fresh, while bringing back some of the most beloved elements of Kirby's past. When you hop into multiplayer, however, the game is rife with glaringly obvious design flaws that seriously hinder your enjoyment.
Let's start with the good stuff: single player. You control Kirby as he works his way through 2D side-scrolling levels in an attempt to reach the goal and eventually defeat the boss at the end. Kirby has all his old tricks, including sucking, sliding, flying, and shooting air puffs. New to Kirby's repertoire is the super suck. To super suck, you shake the Wiimote while sucking (the game is played holding the Wiimote horizontally). By doing so, Kirby's suction grows in intensity allowing you to suck up more than one enemy, or heavier objects that you wouldn't be able to suck up otherwise. You can keep super sucking for as long as you like and the more objects you inhale, the stronger the star you spit out will be. The star will continue to grow, and eventually will change form to be more damaging. Eventually I spit out a star about a quarter of the size of the screen with two other smaller stars revolving around it; it slowly traveled forward and demolished everything in its path.
However, Kirby games aren't about sucking (insert immature laugh here); they are about the many different powers that you can get from your enemies, and in this aspect the game plays most similarly to Kirby Superstar, which many Kirby fans believe was the best title in the franchise. The number of powers the game features in the demo alone is staggering. I saw fire, beam, spike, plasma, cutter, sword, and bomb powers making a return, with new whip and water powers joining the fray as well. Each power has its own extended move set just like in Kirby Super Star, so you can charge your beams, perform a rising cutter attack, and fire dash, in addition to how those powers normally operate.
The game will ask you to use these powers to solve different puzzles. Many blocks can only be destroyed by certain weapon times, while ropes, for example, can only be cut by … well … cutting powers. Some powers will let you do things like turn invisible and phase through walls, which lets you get to secret areas, while others simply allow you to reach hard to get nooks and crannies that hold "gears," the secret collectibles of the game.
Sometimes you'll encounter a flashing enemy, who is basically a super powered version of a normal baddie. If you defeat and swallow him, you get a super charged power for a short period of time. The demo showcased the super sword, which turns each of your attacks into a huge screen clearing slash for a few seconds. More importantly, it also cuts thicker ropes, and to reach a secret area, and secret boss, you had to reach a particularly thick rope before your super sword power ran out.
Oh, and one final note. There are now color coded "power stars" littered throughout a stage that are labeled with certain power icons. Eat or touch one and you will immediately get that power. If you get hit and lose the power you had, you actually eject a power star so you know exactly what power you lost. It's a nice touch.
All of this sounds pretty fun right? Well, it is … but all of that fun suddenly disappears when you play 2-3 player co-op. Kirby is then joined by three friends: Meta Knight, DeDeDe, and Waddle Dee. Each of these friends operates a bit like a helper from Kirby Superstar would. It doesn't really matter if they die, as Kirby is the only character whose death causes a game over. Kirby can share life with his friends by touching them, and vice versa. Each friend also has his own unique move list that Kirby doesn't have access to. Meta Knight, for example, has lots of fast sword moves, DeDeDe can charge up his hammer for strong attacks, and Waddle Dee uses a spear that he can throw and use as a helicopter.
This would be interesting, except for one problem. Friends can't gain enemies' powers! They are locked to the same move-list the entire time. This means no super attacks, no puzzle solving, no exploiting boss weaknesses, heck, nothing that makes the Kirby series fun! Once you go through all the attacks in their move lists they start to get stale. They are all really just variations on "attack the enemy." Meanwhile Kirby gets to play around with tons of different powers in the game, most of which have MORE moves than his helpers' move-lists do. It's unfair.
In fact the entire multiplayer experience is centered around Kirby. The screen follows Kirby the entire time, so if you lag behind you'll simply teleport right back to him. However you get to stay off screen for a decently long time before this happens, so you'll take a lot of damage from off screen baddies and hazards if Kirby is moving too fast or slow. Kirby is also the only character that can pick up important items or even enter doors. It doesn't matter if you totally have the ability to solve that one puzzle keeping you from the last hidden gear in the game, if you aren't playing Kirby you are SOL.
In fact teamwork is basically non-existent. The only way characters can aid each other is through attacking enemies at the same time. They sure as heck can get in each other's way though, and even when you can fly freely you would be surprised how many jumps and flying segments you screw up because a helper is just lazing in the wrong position. Other than that, the only way players can interact with each other is climbing on each other's backs for a piggy back ride. This basically takes the piggy back riding character out of the game and does nothing else. Its only meant to be there if you don't want to play, which is kind of pointless considering there is both an instant drop in, drop out system, and the ability to teleport directly to Kirby's position.
So, in short, Kirby for the Wii is great … if you are playing as Kirby. If you aren't playing as Kirby, then you are basically watching a single-player game and hoping that you can be relevant in some fashion. Chance is, you won't be. Honestly, if they just fixed these multiplayer issues, I would say the new Kirby for the Wii is one of the best Wii games I have played to date, and even one of the best Kirby games I have played to date. So keep your fingers crossed; let's hope Nintendo wises up before its release date.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer