Of all of Nintendo’s franchises, Kirby is the one that I admit I have never gotten, not only did I not know that Kirby had a video game franchise until 2008 (yes, I always wondered who the pink blob in the original Smash Brothers was), and in the couple of games I have played since then I have not been impressed. I just couldn’t get into Kirby’s Adventure for the Super Nintendo, and Kirby’s Rainbow Paintbrush (Rainbow Nightmare for those in America) for the Wii U was a little odd, with cautious optimism I decided to play Kirby Planet Robobot, and I admit I was pleasantly surprised.
Kirby Planet Robobot sounds unique when you look at its concept, as part of the games story Planet Popstar (Kirby’s home planet) is invaded by the Haltmann Corporation who mechanize the planet and throw its citizens into turmoil. Let’s just outright say that this is about as far as the story goes, there are a handful of cutscenes later on but truthfully, the story is unimportant and does little to garner my interest. The story of the game is more a matter of setting up the gameplay, and while a lot of this is traditional Kirby fare (which I will talk more about shortly), the big new gameplay element is the robot suit and this is pretty interesting.
For the most part, Kirby Planet Robobot is pretty standard Kirby fare, the meat of the game is built from Kirby utilizing his copy abilities to help defeat enemies and reach the end of the level. The general nuance of simplicity still shines through, but admittedly the way the game uses many elements of the 3DS, past experience with Triple Deluxe and Kirby’s abilities help make this enjoyable.
Those familiar with Triple Deluxe will feel right at home with this new game, everything that this game does (minus the new additions) has been pulled directly from Kirby’s first 3DS outing. All of Kirby’s classic abilities and movement patterns have been tried and tested and work well, allowing for familiar gameplay. You have your handy food item ready on the touch screen to restore health at a moment’s notice, and even a small menu subscreen that is forgettable but is also a nice touch. Even if you are like myself and never played Triple Deluxe, the system is simple and the gameplay shines through with classic simplicity.
The big change of course is the previously mentioned Robobot suit. With this, the game evolves and becomes a lot more than simple simplicity, it offers room for minor puzzles, a level of destruction, and unlocking the roads to secrets otherwise inaccessible. The Robobot suit does away with Kirby’s freedom and floating gameplay, and instead hands him a hovering double jump which shows the weight of the suit and offers a different experience.
Much like Kirby, the Robobot suit can also be powered up and uses a similar method to Kirby’s general suck and copy powers, where this is made different is in the way the suit scans enemies and we transform accordingly. Each of the enemies you scan will offer key abilities that will allow you to progress, and even more beneficial handle puzzles that will often get in your way. You are constantly asked to pay close attention to the environment and consider the strategic value of each power, and this comes in handy.
No longer do Kirby’s abilities just seem like they are here for the sake of it, Kirby Planet Robobot actually insists on you making use of the abilities and considering the best ones to progress. The same goes for the Robobot suit, and here it often seems like the game is even pushing for you to find the right ability. When dealing with toxic gas you can’t bring swords or bombs, you need to find an enemy who will assist you in blowing away the gas allowing you to proceed.
Outside of moments like this, however, I often found it best to find a handful of abilities that I personally preferred, when a certain skill was unnecessary to progression I often preferred to consult the skills I liked best whether they were short range or long range. For me, my personal favourite is the classic sword ability which interestingly is now much easier to obtain. Many of the abilities share a striking resemblance to a classic Nintendo character, and their description will reference this character. Taking the sword as a primary example, you can scan a Link amiibo and Kirby will instantly gain the sword ability, which is pretty handy when it comes to the games many bosses.
More importantly is the level of collectables that this game offers. Throughout each level there are multiple secret pathways that you can find hidden in either the background or the foreground, and down many of these paths you can find one of these collectables. The primary item you can find is the Codec Cube, these items are required to help dispel a barrier blocking the final boss level, but you only need a certain amount each time. This means that if you miss some of these it’s not a big deal and this is meant to act as an incentive to replay the levels, and find this missing item. The alternate collectables are stickers, and while I admit these are a nice touch as they reference the Kirby franchise as a whole, they are ultimately worthless, at least as far as I found.
One of the big details of Kirby Planet Robobot is the focus on puzzle solving, and this is where the collectables often come into play (there are small instances on the main path, but these are often obvious and lack anything noteworthy), many of these are hidden in the level and you need to explore and analyse every detail to find them. Most of these are hidden in side paths which could be easily missed, but much more notably some of these are hidden behind a certain puzzle. None of these are particularly challenging, and calling them puzzles is pretty trivial, but there is a certain level of enjoyment born from solving them. Destroying the right blocks, using the right power to cut a chain, or even playing a game of memory and following the correct path was highly satisfying, and was particularly noteworthy for the usage of the Robobot suit which was often the primary component to solving the puzzles.
In all the things that were great about the main story, there is something that really bothers me, and it’s the sore lack of replay value. I know the game uses missed collectables as an obstacle to go back and do levels, but I was bored of most levels after a single run, it was made worse later on in the game, as certain levels seemed to just repeat, but in a new more robotic form. For a game that should be brimming with plenty of creativity, the level design is pretty poor, and towards the end, I could not be bothered going back for a single collectable, and I was starting to get bored progressing through the main story. I never outright hated it, but I found myself pushing my way through rather than just playing naturally, thankfully this issue does rectify itself in the final level, which (I admit) was a lot of fun, and ended the game in the best way possible, some great Kirby and Robobot suit insanity.
Outside of the main story, there are multiple smaller activities meant to give us something extra to do, and it is here where once again I found myself losing interest. Much like the idea that Kirby Planet Robobot presents through its main story, despite some pretty good ideas they ultimately become tired pretty quickly, and I found little enjoyment outside of the main story, only one mode really stood out for a longer length, but like all the bonus minigames or activities, there was little redemption.
Upon completing the story you instantly unlock a new game mode in the form of Meta Knightmare Returns, this mode is simply a time trial mode that tasks you with racing through the various levels. The problem, of course, does tie back to the main game and some of my issues with that, you have to play levels that you have already beaten in the story, and there is less thrill in doing this. Meta Knight only has a handful of moves, and there are no secrets to be uncovered on the path (none that I found at least). Given I got bored of the levels in the main story, I found little incentive to play through them again as part of a time trial, and playing as Meta Knight does not even save this mode.
The other additional activities include Kirby 3D Rumble, and Team Kirby Clash, these play a lot differently to the traditional Kirby game following Triple Deluxe’s example and providing side activities. These are mostly used to give us a little more in the game, and I admit, I did not mind any one of these, Team Kirby Clash was enjoyable for the majority of the game, and was actually pretty good without having other people.
In this game, you are tasked with beating giant bosses, and to do this you have to simply keep fighting and hitting your opponent, there is a certain satisfaction to this mode, particularly when we consider that this is built for multiple people to play together, and yet the AI is exceptionally competent. The key part of this is that players take on role’s whether they wield a sword, play healer, wield a hammer, or use magic, essentially I saw a good amount of role-playing game affair in this mode and I enjoyed it, the teamwork worked well, and I liked that you could assign roles to the varying players. I will admit though that this mode does grow tiresome pretty quickly and I only really enjoyed playing this in small bursts, but these modes are not meant to hold your interest for long.
The other activity is Kirby 3D Rumble, in this mode, you have to get points by fighting a selection of enemies on a small 3D battleground. You need to use Kirby’s absorb abilities to collect enemies and then shoot them out for massive combo’s, this was basically all there was to this. There are few bosses, and really this entire activity just felt dull and repetitive, and not even in a good way, there is potential here, but I never felt like I was having fun in this one, especially after playing Kirby Fighters which provided me with just that little bit more.
I am not a huge fan of Kirby (unless you want to consider Super Smash Brothers), and I don’t think that Kirby Planet Robobot changed my mind, but yet there is something about this game that is likable. The addition of the Robobot suit added a lot to the gameplay, and even opened up new avenues beyond the tired simplicity of this franchise, and Kirby himself also wasn’t too bad. The game has many notable issues in the way of its main story, but this is a mostly enjoyable game to play, and the minigames that are available add just a bit more to the package even if I wasn’t a huge fan of them. Still, if you are a fan of Kirby then play this game, if you are not who knows, you could still find yourself having fun, I know I did.