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FGC #351 Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Hashi no kahbi!Nintendo’s worst videogame system proves one simple truth: you can be yourself, or you can be something else, but you can’t be both.

The Nintendo 64 was Nintendo’s third console system. The Nintendo Entertainment System was synonymous with videogames, brought the entire industry back from the brink, and managed to turn Nintendo into an uncontested juggernaut of the industry. The Super Nintendo had to deal with the upstart Sega Genesis, but it was still home to some of the best games of the era, and a number of releases that, even to this day, unequivocally are the greatest hits of the medium. The Nintendo 64, though… the N64 got problems. It started with a rocky, anemic launch. It bled third-party support almost instantly. It never hosted a worthwhile JRPG when that genre defined the epoch. Its final first-party game was a scaled-up Gameboy title (I’ll save you some googling, it was Dr. Mario). There were some great games for the N64, but Ocarina of Time had to share shelf space with Turok: Rage Wars. The N64 made it hard to be a Nintendo fan.

But let’s take a step back and consider what being a “Nintendo fan” really meant at the time. We take it for granted nowadays, but the very concept of a “console war” didn’t seem to exist before the 16-bit era. The Atari didn’t seem to have any significant competitors, and the NES was videogames for the 80s. It wasn’t until the Sega Genesis decided it needed a chunk of that market share that the flames of “us vs. them” had to be fanned. Did you ever read Nintendo Power from that time? Or Sega Visions? What were already basically propaganda magazines decided to go all in on the most important battle of our time (hedgehogs vs. plumbers), and every other month you’d get new information on how blast processing isn’t even a real thing, riding a dinosaur is for babies, or the essential truth that so much as demoing a second videogame console is infidelity of the highest order. You cannot serve two masters, little gamer, and you should inflict this vital fact upon everyone on the playground.

ROCKYSo, by the time we hit the Playstation vs. N64 years, don’t worry, Nintendo Power, we got this. We know those vipers at Sony are trying to eat our lunch again with their Final Fantasies and Mega Mans and other franchises we used to enjoy on Nintendo systems, and we’ll defend you! We’re forever in debt to the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule, and Castlevania. Wait… they got a new Castlevania? And the N64 just has some dork with a chainsaw? Dude. Dude. Look, guys, I’ll keep playing Pokémon, but, uh, I gotta get going. Tekken is waiting, and it’s got a panda fighting a dinosaur.

And Nintendo noticed. Before the N64 was even released, it became clear that CD based systems were finally going to be the wave of the future (after a rocky bump in the road compliments of INXS), and the cartridge was to quickly go the way of Caveman Games. But Nintendo didn’t like the looks of load times, so we were forced to read the phrase “expensive cartridges” for the next five years. And then the Nintendo 64 launched with dopey Mario and frivolous Pilotwings. Wrong! We needed more big boy games for big boys, so we quickly received Cruisin’ USA, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and Killer Instinct. Ah, yes, that’s the stuff. Mature games for a mature gaming community. And 2-D games are out of style, so we need all 3-D, all the time. It worked for Mario, so how about we get Donkey Kong into the 3rd dimension. And keep churning out those violent fighting games and grown-up shooters. It’s what the people want!

RAINBOW RIDEIt’s clear what happened here: Nintendo had a solid vision for the future of their console… and then “course corrected” to please the masses ten minutes before the system even launched. The controller with camera buttons and an analog stick wound up chasing the system that could be operated with one hand (say what you will about JRPGs, but they only require all of two buttons), and all those polygons decided to stumble over full motion video instead. What developers remained on the N64 were scrambling to match the cinematic experiences available on the Playstation, and the whole library became a mess of neither fish nor fowl nonsense. Look, I love Jet Force Gemini as much as the next guy, but you have to admit that, even that late in the N64’s lifespan, it comes off as pretty patchwork.

Which is a shame, because first party Nintendo games that followed the “Nintendo way” from the start are pretty amazing. Mario 64 feels like a natural progression of the franchise, and Ocarina of Time is right there with it. Mario Kart 64 refined (SNES) Mario Kart into solid gold, and Star Fox 64 truly used the new technology to turn a bunch of random shapes into a thrilling story of fox versus wolf. And Donkey Kong 64 isn’t responsible for any homicides (as far as we know)! And then we’ve got Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Kirby 64 is a 2-D platforming game not unlike many other Kirby adventures. It’s (incredibly disappointingly) much slower and less frantic than Kirby Super Star, but it is right about at normal Dreamland speed. Basically, if you liked any Kirby game featuring helpful hamsters, this adventure is about what you’d expect. There are doodads to acquire (a staple of both the N64 and slower Kirby titles), but, by and large, this is a very straightforward platformer. Move from left to right, occasionally climb a ladder, and have a ball utilizing Kirby’s eclectic moveset. Maybe you’ll eat a hedgehog? That’ll show those Sega dorks.

And, side note? This game is beautiful.

WeeeeeOkay, granted, it’s Playstation/N64 style beautiful, but it is still beautiful nonetheless. The pastels of Pop Star really pop, and everything moves just right. In spite of Kirby’s N64 Smash model, Kirby is actually spherical, and not a pile of edged polygons. Special effects from special powers may seem basic, but in the same manner that a Kirby Krackle can sell a comic book (uhhh… different Kirby), Kirby makes self-immolation look perfect across every system. Everything combines wonderfully, and, without a doubt, this is a game that is undeniably a gorgeous experience.

And this stands in stark contrast to every other N64 game.

N64 games are terrible looking. They contain some of the worst draw distances and fog warnings outside of H.P. Lovecraft. Their protagonists almost always look like they were carved out of some particularly unpleasant rocks by a partially blind sculptor (who maybe is missing a few fingers). Nobody ever moves right. Let’s face it, Majora’s Mask was a success because it identified that every last character populating N64 Hyrule was horrifying. And this happened to third and first party games alike: in an effort to ape the most popular games of the day, polygons and Vaseline were smeared everywhere, and suddenly our greatest heroes started resembling Tobor: The Refrigerator That Walks Like a Man.

Let's chillBut here’s Kirby, just doing the thing he’s always done. There is no attempt to force 3-D gameplay. There is no byzantine story mode. There is no desire to go full angry eyes. It’s just Kirby, a character that premiered on a system without so much as the possibility of color, scaled up to modern technology. It’s fun. It’s pretty. And it’s one of the best games on the N64.

And game reviewers of the time derided the game for being “too kiddy” and “a throwback”. One of the best games on the system, but “too easy”. It generally got great scores, but the expression “no Goldeneye” was thrown around a bit.

So… uh… I guess maybe don’t be yourself? Let’s stick to the blocky bitmaps. Gotta be popular.

FGC #351 Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

  • System: N64. It also resurfaced on the Wii and WiiU, but I want to say it wasn’t on the super awesome Kirby collection released at the end of the Wii’s lifespan. … It was? Dammit! I turned on my N64 for nothing!
  • Number of players: One for the main gameplay, four for the inevitable minigame sections. Which reminds me…
  • What may have been: Early screenshots of this title seemed to indicate that it would have been four players, with Dedede, Waddle Dee, and Adeleine (the painter dude) filling the other playable slots. This would have been very consistent with N64’s emphasis on four player titles, and an excellent “upgrade” from the two player modes of Kirby Super Star. Alas, it was not to be, and was likely lost with the 64DD. And then we wouldn’t see a similar four player Kirby experience for eleven years.
  • Away we goFavorite Power: All this talk of Pretty Soldier Kirby and I didn’t even mention the main hook for the title: combining powers. Mix cutter and fire to build a flaming sword! Ice and needle to make a deadly snowflake! And rock and spark to make a… lightbulb? Whatever. What’s important is that bomb plus needle will transform Kirby into an invincible Gordo monster, and that’s been a dream since Kirby’s first adventure. Show those jerks who’s the spikiest, Kirby!
  • So, did you beat it? This is one of the rare N64 games that I didn’t finish while the system was fresh (because, admittedly, I was playing those more “mature” JRPGs at the time), but 100%’ed well past its initial release. It’s that good! Or Kirby is that good! Or I have OCD! It’s one of those!
  • Turn the lights off: You ever notice that Kirby seems to see a release toward the end of the system’s lifespan? Kirby 3, Kirby 64, and even Kirby’s Dream Collection were all practically the last boats out of their respective systems. Weird. Anyway, look forward to Kirby Battle Royale for the 3DS!
  • Did you know? The familiar “Kirby dance” does not appear at any point in this game, as worlds end with Kirby waving to the screen instead of dancing. Maybe he just noticed the player, and got self conscious?
  • Would I play again: It’s on the short list of N64 games I enjoy playing, so that’s a yes. I… I think all the rest are all Nintendo games, too. What a weird little system.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bloody Roar 3 for the Playstation 2! Roar! And… Blood! Please look forward to it!

We've got a runner

FGC #330 Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

KAHBY!There is only one Mario. There is only one Donkey Kong. Bowser has a shallow gene pool, but he is the only King of the Koopas. There are not multiple Fox McClouds, just one singular Captain Falcon, and if you see another Samus Aran, it’s an alien parasite mimic of some sort. Even some Nintendo mascots that are supposed to be species are generally regarded as singular. Yoshi is that “one” Yoshi from Super Mario World, and Pikachu is “Ash’s Pikachu”, star of stage and screen. Leads are supposed to be singular, and no one wants to explain to an audience how there are multiple Mickey Mouses or Supermans. We want unique heroes, and the most successful companies are happy to deliver.

Oh, and then there’s Kirby. Nothing makes sense about Kirby.

Kirby was established as singular in his first outing. Kinda. Anyone that ever beat back the nefarious King Dedede knows that when Kirby returned the stolen food to the good people of Dreamland, they appeared to be… Kirbys. Plural. Granted, they’re only seen in silhouette, but Kirby(s) has a pretty distinctive shape. You could probably chalk this up to Kirby’s Dreamland being nothing more than the start of the Kirby Expanded Universe, and also being eternally tied to very limited hardware. Future versions of Kirby’s Dreamland rewrote Dreamland as a place populated by its own unique species, and the army of hungry Kirbys were forsaken for a more solitary hero. But even when Kirby is alone, he is many. Ever beat a world with our favorite creampuff? Think it… strange that the individual Kirby will split into three to dance with himself upon victory? Shouldn’t he have used that ability earlier, when he was actually fighting the boss, and not just to dance on its grave? Is this some kind of after image thing? Is he moving too fast for even saiyan eyes? Kirby is full of mysteries!

Stupid cupidBut the origin of multiple of Kirbys is no mystery in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Dark Meta Knight (the version of Meta Knight that is black instead of dark blue) has escaped from the mirror-verse, and dices Kirby into four inexplicably differently colored kirbys. The quad o’ kirbys all vow revenge, and venture through the mirror-verse, occasionally using a cell phone (that Kirby likely accidentally vacuumed off a passerby) to call each other for help with locked doors and giant bosses. In general, the Kirbys all operate independently, and leap and scurry around the screen doing whatever the heck they want. That… is pretty normal for any given Kirby, as Kirby Prime does seem to have the id of a toddler. It’s a wonder the mirror-verse survives a swarm of Kirbys at all…

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror was released in 2004. The Legend of Zelda Four Swords was released with Link to the Past Advance in 2002, and the more accessible The Legend of Zelda Four Swords Adventures was released in 2004. At the time, it seemed like this whole “there are now four players” thing was some manner of new, here-to-stay Nintendo trend. After all, the Gamecube and N64 both proudly touted their four player capabilities, and it seemed only natural that “let’s play as four Links” or alike was an evolution of any franchise that didn’t already have enough supporting Luigis. Single player experiences are for JRPGs, man, it’s time for these super advanced videogame systems to step up to the next level and get everyone playing at once. Or at least four everyones. Maybe we’ll work on some networking for the next Mario Kart game, get that number up to infinity.

Woooo!However, a future of four simultaneous Donkey Kongs was not meant to be. The Mario series has carried the four player torch with its Mario, Luigi, and Toads (and the occasional thieving rabbit), but, aside from that recognizable example, the era of the four heroes seems to have ended as quickly as it started. Maybe a mere three Links might team up to offer a princess fashion tips, but now Mario is forever one Mario, and Samus has to recruit random federation dorks to fill out her multiplayer experiences.

But Kirby has never been one for rules.

Despite the multi-hero trend shuffling off this earthly coil, many Kirbys persist. Kirbys appear constantly in Kirby-based minigames throughout the series. Return to Dreamland offers Kirby’s unique friends, or the ability to just play as another quad of Kirbys. And then there’s Kirby Mass Attack, a game that is all about having as many Kirbys as possible. Why stop at four? There needs to be a Kirby crowd stomping across the planes, laying waste to any and all obstacles in their path! Kneel before the Kirby army!

But why does it work for Kirby? Why is Kirby allowed to be Kirbys, while Mario and alike are carefully cultivated and held to their inimitable standards. Even the Multi-Link had to be taped down with one magical sword, and there is absolutely no expectation that Breath of the Wild Link is suddenly going to split up to pilot all four Divine Beasts by his lonesome (though, admittedly, that would be pretty cool). Kirby is many, but his contemporaries are singular. Why is Kirby special?

NOTHING WILL SURVIVEThe answer is likely simple: Kirby is a locust. Well, maybe not specifically a locust, but Kirby is an eating machine that demolishes all in his path regardless of alliances because, I don’t know, someone stole his cake. Kirby is an unstoppable force of nature, and like any force of nature, it is just naturally (see?) assumed that he could be many and one at the same time. In the same way we fear “bees” and not “Jerry, that one bee that is kind of a dick” Kirby is practically a species onto himself, and has been for his entire existence. The fact that Kirby has been singular in many adventures is an accident of fate, and we always knew the impending Kirby-pocalypse would one day be upon us.

And that’s why Kirby can carry multiple versions of himself. In our hearts, we know what Kirby actually is, and we accept it readily. His name is Kirby, for he is many.

FGC #330 Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

  • System: Gameboy Advance, and WiiU Virtual Console. Also available on the 3DS should you be one of the chosen few.
  • Number of players: How many Kirbys we got? Four? That sounds good.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is one of my least favorite Kirby games. That still makes it better than like 90% of the games out there, but the lack of a decent map (or a map that makes any kind of intuitive sense) and the “one hit, lose your power” pairs poorly with what seems to be the largest of the “labyrinth” style Kirby adventures. That said, it’s still a fun time, and there is something infinitely satisfying about summoning a multitude of Kirbys to beat down a random tree.
  • AHHHHFavorite Kirby Power: Kirby finally leaned into the Smash Bros. fame, and gained the “smash” ability from devouring an errant Master Hand. And it was good! It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, but it’s fun seeing “Smash Kirby” demolish a traditional Kirby game.
  • Did you know? The Batamon, an “enemy” in Kirby’s Dreamland 3, might be the first appearance of a Kirby-like creature during gameplay. They’re usually seen exploring areas that are inaccessible to Kirby Prime… but feel free to murder the doppelgangers with any copy skills you have laying around.
  • Did you know addendum? Batamon is the first appearance of a Kirby-like creature during gameplay… Except maybe Keeby. But nobody remembers Keeby.
  • Would I play again: Yes, but only on the technicality that this is loaded into my 3DS, so I’m very likely to play it again when I’m on the go and feel like getting a Kirby experience. Even when Kirby isn’t making headway, it’s still fun to bumble around as the pink puff, so it’s hard to say no to the little guy(s).

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Nintendo Wii. Yeeeeeeees. Please look forward to it! I am!

Not quite Whispy

FGC #167 Adventures of Lolo 2

Push on, little eggAllow me to explain The Eggplant Paradox.

I’m assuming that, if you’re reading this, you’re a human. You’re also likely to be a human of some advanced age, or at least older than ten. If so, you’re familiar with the phenomena of your taste changing as you grow older. No, I’m not talking about getting over your childish obsession with Voltron, or acquiring a greater appreciation for classical music like the Beastie Boys oeuvre; no, I’m talking about your literal taste buds, and how those change over the years. Everyone knows that children have a predisposition towards sweets (which is theoretically a biological imperative to help a child accumulate enough calories to properly grow… basically, ancient humans grew on the same principles as Pokémon evolving), and that craving lessens with age. Thus, naturally, people’s taste changes as they grow, and lollipops are tossed aside for cucumbers. Well… hopefully. I mean, your teeth can only take so much taffy.

Personally, I remember the exact first salad I ever tolerated. I was 14 or so, and, after years of diving for whatever salad-substitute was available at any given restaurant, I finally found myself pinned at a local eatery where (gasp!) salad was the only appetizer available. First world problem, I know, but I was stripped of my free will and desire for applesauce, and cornered into eating a salad. It… wasn’t bad. And, from that point on, I actually found that I enjoyed salads, and vastly preferred them over runny soups. Now, a number of years later, a “po’ boy” salad is one of my favorite meals… or at least a fine way to empty all the leftovers in my fridge onto a bed of lettuce. Alright, if there was a bun big enough, it’d be a sandwich, but I like to convince myself I eat remotely healthy on occasion.

So, after the concept of salad was inflicted upon me, I decided to have a more open mind when it came to food. There are still some items I won’t touch (this blog is a lima bean free zone), and certain items I only enjoy “one way” (cooking broccoli or carrots is a bootable offense), Knock yourself outbut I’ve got the mentality of “I’ll try anything once.” What’s the point in life if you don’t try new things?

And then there’s eggplant.

It was the prom, a heady time when most of my contemporaries were concerned about that whole “getting naked” thing. Beautiful dresses, dapper suits, and I in a tux that was chosen entirely because it pulled off the optical illusion of convincing others I have actual shoulders. This was by no means “my prom”, no, I had been invited to this prom by a girl from an entirely different school. Sorta. The girl in question was single, and actually invited my girlfriend/her best friend, but the school had issues with her inviting a girl as her date, so I wound up with a ticket as well. In reality, she basically invited an entire couple as her date, though, for the benefit of other teenage eyes, it appeared that I was one man in a tux with a woman on each arm.

Needless to say, I have never looked that cool before or since.

Regardless, it was a fun night all around, and the whole “two dates” thing made the event very low stress. I don’t know if you, gentle reader, remember being a teenager, but worrying about how “my girlfriend” perceived every stupid thing I did at all times was on my mind roughly unceasingly, so an event where I could chill out and let the best friend do the heavy lifting was a godsend. Compliment everyone’s dress, dance when asked, and otherwise just unwind and hang out. No, I’m not going to “get laid”, but we can take a night off from biological urges, right?

Today, at this point in my life, I’ve been to a number of weddings, parties, funerals, and other social functions that were lavishly catered. When I was 16, however, I’m pretty sure the most luxurious meal I ever had involved a healthy amount of Chex Mix. This prom had a slightly more upscale buffet available, and contained a host of entrees I did not normally see on the McDonald’s menu. Did you know they make chicken with spaghetti sauce on it, and it’s named after cheese? It’s true! And there are these little hors d’oeuvres thingys that I’m pretty sure are just hotdog biscuits, but you get yelled at when you call ‘em that. And, as you’re probably guessing, there was fried eggplant available.

Concrete jerks“Fried eggplant!” I said. “I love fried food and trying new things. On this, this night of endless possibilities where, for all the world to see, I appear to be impossibly cool, I, Goggle Bob, shall try some of this ‘eggplant’ substance!”

And I took a bite.

And I immediately spit it out on the table.

Not cool, eggplant. Not cool.

Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of The Eggplant Paradox.

There is something about eggplant. I don’t know if it’s that it is generally fried, or smothered in some manner of sauce, or just it looks like it has a meat-like texture, but every time I see eggplant freely available, every time, I decide to give it a try. Maybe I think I’m more mature or that this time it will be prepared differently, but I just can’t resist attempting eggplant again. And, naturally, every time triggers this mad dash to get the eggplant out of my mouth immediately. The minute eggplant hits my tongue, there is no question in my mind, I’m going to induce vomiting if this thing stays in my mouth for any longer.

I hate eggplant, but I always try it again. Again and again. And I know what’s going to happen. But, still I try it again. This is The Eggplant Paradox: a never ending cycle of hate-fruiting.

Adventures of Lolo 2, and its entire franchise, is the eggplant of videogames.

ARGHEvery time I look at the Adventures of Lolo 2 cartridge, I am tricked. I think to myself, “Hey, it’s that action puzzle game from the company that eventually made Kirby. Those guys know how to make a videogame! It’s all about block puzzles, right? I’m great at those! I’ve been kicking JRPG block puzzle ass for years! Sure, I was bad at this game as a kid, but I’m going to slam that game into the NES, and beat that King Egger once and for all!”

And, to the game’s credit, I’m able to get through the first few levels. So AoL2 is not as bad as eggplant, technically. However, a few more stages in, and I’m already feeling the burn. I’m able to plan ahead for Skulls and Medusas, but those sleepy Leepers get annoying pretty damn fast. Rockys seem to have very hateful AI, and Alma rolls much too quickly. And, by the time a Don Medusa shows up, I’m done. I’m just… done.

I don’t want to play this anymore. Why did I think this would be fun? Block puzzles are the worst parts of JRPGs! And why can you get a block stuck “halfway” when all the monsters work on full-square coordinates? Why can’t I bloody “pull” a block backwards so I don’t lose all my progress thanks to a clumsy bump? Why does this game have lives at all!?

And it’s with great haste that I yank the cartridge out of the NES, and quickly slot Castlevania 3 in there. Need to calm down… not think of the bad blue creature anymore… he can’t hurt me now.

A few months later, I gaze at my collection, and notice Adventures of Lolo 2 sitting there with the other A’s.

“Hm… Adventures of Lolo, eh? That’s the action puzzle game from the company that eventually made Kirby…”

FGC #167 Adventures of Lolo 2

  • System: Nintendo, and Wii, again, right? The Wii Virtual Console was a lot more robust than I ever gave it credit for.
  • Number of players: One Lolo. Sorry, you’d have to wait until Adventures of Lolo 3 for a bowed Lolo alternative.
  • This sucksFavorite Monster: I like Gol, the fire breathing dragon creature that only activates after acquiring all the hearts. I feel like Gol plays fair with “you better prepare for this”, as opposed to his Skull buddies, who seem to figure out how to devour you immediately upon waking. And Gol isn’t as completely fatal as those damn Medusas.
  • Like a Boss: This is the first Lolo game with a real “final boss”… or a boss at all. King Egger must be battled in the final stage, and he’s not that bad, considering it’s just a fireball tossing fight. Yes, Lolo only has 1 HP, but Egger pretty much has the same offensive capability as Lolo, and the monarch is a much bigger target.
  • Other Eggplant Issues: No, I did not complete Kid Icarus as a child, so my bias against eggplant did not originate there.
  • Did you know? Lolo lives in Eggerland and is menaced by King Egger. Lolo uses magic to transform monsters into eggs. I feel like there’s a theme here… maybe something about balls?
  • Would I play again: Give me a few months…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man IV for the Gameboy! ROB seems to choose every Mega Man game except the “real” titles. Weird. Anyway, I guess we have time for Ballade. Please look forward to it!

FGC #037 Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

Dance you little maniacI’ve been playing through the Mega Man Legacy Collection, and I’ve reached the point where I’m poking around its “museum mode” to see if there’s anything in there that I haven’t already absorbed over the decades of memorizing Mega Trivia in lieu of learning a new language or solving world hunger or whatever. One item that I hadn’t seen in any previous collection was a bit of advertising to video game distributors hawking the initial Mega Man Trilogy. Staring back at me from the ad was one particular bullet point regarding the Mega Man series:

• Non-Violent fun for one player aged 12-18

This simple statement shook me to the bone. Among my immediate thoughts:

  1. Non-Violent? Had these people even seen Quick Man?
  2. I think I started playing Mega Man 2 when I was… eight? Am I some kind of prodigy?
  3. Why would eighteen be the cut off for Mega Man? Whoops, I can vote, who needs Rush anymore.
  4. Can you imagine living in a universe where you could only play Mega Man games for six years? There would just be a void in your heart, forever. To never again hear the sound of the majestic metal blade across the plains…

After I was finished mentally noting yet another valid idea for Hell (“Not allowed to play Mega Man anymore”), I was left wondering more about how this age restriction applied to modern gaming. I, now an adult, know video game distributors personally, and I can say that publishers, after decades of video games basically being understood by people who actually sell video games, have given up on trying to “explain” their products to the people selling them. So the best Mom & Pop Video Game Store Owner has available is the ESRB ratings (and common sense) to determine the appropriate audience for a game. This is probably just as well, as I’d rather be caught perusing the WiiU section than the “For Ages 12-18” area just because I want the latest game starring a dinosaur made entirely of string. Come to think of it, I can only imagine how embarrassing an “Adults Only” department would be in a video game store…

Bounce Bounce RevolutionSo publishers and distributors have given up on determining appropriate ages for video games, leaving the poor consumer to decide what would be best for Little Billy. Again, we have the ESRB, but that is just about as useful as our movie ratings (would you like to see a PG-13 movie or R? If you’re interested in the one G movie, please seek more information in a Happy Meal), so we know what to absolutely not purchase for Billy, but now there’s simply seventy racks of games as opposed to ninety. Is it any wonder Mario and Nintendo have never had a problem finding an audience? A Little Billy is often followed by a Gramma Betty, and she just wants to buy the kid a Christmas present and get out of this alien store. Yes, that plumber fellow looks wholesome, let’s buy that and go… I think Metroid Robot Man is looking at me funny.

That’s how we find ourselves at the door of today’s subject, because, when you get right down to it, Kirby feeds on confused grandmas.

Wait, whoa, that might have come out wrong.

Kirby devours the hearts and minds of confused grandmas. Metaphorically. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

YUMKirby, despite what some adults may tell you, was not properly designed to appeal to children. Children like Transformers, Frozen, Sonic the Hedgehog, John Cena, and dinosaurs. What’s the connection here? These are all franchises with headliners that can absolutely destroy authority. Yes, they teach valuable morals about tolerance, acceptance, and electrical safety, but, end of the day, Optimus Prime, Princess Elsa, Sonic, John Cena, or any given raptor is just going to do what they want, bed time be damned. The ideal child’s hero is Transformers’ Grimlock, a shiny, metal t-rex that can transform into a robot wielding a flaming sword. Grimlock not put away toys, Grimlock smash. Children are always teenagers in training, it’s just not until the hormones kick in that they decide to acknowledge, hey, not listening to mom is what I’ve always wanted. Teenager smash!

So, no, a walking ball of silly putty is not going to appeal to children, but that’s okay, because children rarely make enough dough to purchase video games. Kirby is there for the adults, for grandma, to say, “Hiiiii, I’m Kirby. I’m small and cute and adorable just like your grandchild. Want to know my goals in life? One time a mean ol’ mouse stole a piece of pie from me, and I had an entire adventure just to get it back. Now, some silly willy crashed his ship into my planet, and I’m going to help him with my pals: roly-poly penguin, waddles, and silver ball. Look at my adorable green night cap! It has two stars on it!” And before anyone brings it up, angry eyes don’t do a thing. You could stick angry eyes on a puppy, and your brain is still going to say, “awww.”



Of course, this would all be for naught if Kirby wasn’t any fun, but luckily, Kirby games are the most fun. Run, jump, suck, spit, occasionally turn into an UFO: it’s all good with the tough creampuff. I’d prefer to save it for one of Kirby’s more… distinct adventures, but I could spend days writing about how Kirby is perhaps one of the most ideal games for “learning” video games and, dare I say it, life. Yes, you enjoy that Beam ability, but it’s not going to work for you in every level and situation, so try something new, and maybe you’ll solve the problem with something different. You’re never going to collect that secret item without the right ability, so sit down, think, realize what you need, go get it, and then return to conquer the puzzle with aplomb. Okay, most kids don’t know how to do anything with aplomb, but you get the point, Kirby is here to promote reckless destruction of star blocks and problem solving in equal measure.

I'M BEING STEALTHY!So Kirby, like the most adorable spy you can name, sneaks into a child’s heart on grandma’s dime, and sticks around because, though he may just look like a pink ball of nothing, is actually just as fun, engaging, and aggressive as a robot dinosaur. But all age ranges end sometime, right? Kirby is a game for babies practically staring a baby, so what’s the ceiling on his age range?

Well, aside from the obvious answer of noting how all of our recent blockbuster movie franchises have been based on what were originally considered children’s franchises, I have personal experience on this one. I distinctly recall purchasing Kirby’s Return to Dreamland before meeting some friends for a party, and, as this was the age when there was a Wii in every living room, we decided to take the game for a test drive, four controllers, and various party people grabbing a wiimote at various times. The end result? We (and “we” was probably twelve people all told) nearly completed the game over the course of the night, and only stopped because the night had somehow dragged onto around 4 am. All adults, generally hovering around thirty, generally soberish, playing a child’s game starring a pink blob for hours. So you know what? I’m going to go ahead and say that grown-ups can enjoy a Kirby game just as well as kids.

• Kirby’s Return to Dreamland: Kinda-Violent fun for four players aged 4-104
• If you’re 105, you need a new hobby.

FGC #37 Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

  • System: Nintendo Wii, or WiiU if you’re in the mood
  • Number of Players: Four, either as four different creatures or a quartet of Kirbys.
  • Best Multiplayer Kirby Game? Sorry, but that honor goes to Kirby Super Star. This game would be ideal for babysitting if it was one “lead” player and three “invincible” helpers. How did we master Tails-style 2-Player games in the 16-bit era and then ignore that idea forever?
  • POUNDFavorite Power: The new Water ability is pretty fun for just (literally) surfing through stages and seeing just how fast you can move along. It’s kinda lousy for bosses, but it’s nice to see a Kirby ability that is focused on movement, like the returning and usually missed Hi-Jump.
  • Going to even mention the Super abilities? For a game with an emphasis on multiplayer, it’s kind of weird to slow the game down to have entire sections based on using big, crazy super moves that function as puzzle keys. Stop hanging around and swinging your super sword trying to hit that one spot, Kirby, Bandana Dee just fell asleep. More actual powerups like invincible lollipops, and less “special” sequences, please.
  • Did you know? This was the first “real” console Kirby game released in over a decade after the N64 snoozefest. Apparently, it had been in production all that time, but kept getting waylaid due to other projects and the multiplayer functions not coalescing properly. Or maybe everyone involved kept trying to top Kirby Super Star and fell short every single time, as one would expect when shooting for the moon.
  • Would I play again? Depends on how long it takes to see another multiplayer console Kirby. I’ll take 4-player Kirby over 4-player Mario, but it does depend on the four players involved. Assuming everyone isn’t going crazy for Smash or Wii Sports that week, maybe the puffball can be squeezed into the schedule.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… you know what? I’ve written about Mega Man Legacy Collection in 66% of the last three FGC posts, how about I ignore one robot in favor of another? Next on the list, it’s not random at all, it’s Mega Man Legacy Collection, and it’s going to be a little different than usual. But, as ever, please look forward to it!