It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a main series Kirby game on home consoles. In fact, it’s been eight years — Kirby’s Return to Dream Land was released on the Wii in 2011. By all accounts, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a difficult game to follow up on. The question is, then, does Kirby Star Allies hold its own compared to previous entries in the series?
Despite the appearance of the series, Kirby games actually kind of are known for their surprisingly deep storylines. Kirby is all about “implied lore”, and Kirby Star Allies has plenty of it. Just like Kirby’s Dream Land, the events of Star Allies begin when King Dedede steals all of the food in Dream Land. The plot starts out simple, but Kirby winds up clashing against a cult that worships a dark lord while learning about his own origins.
Overall, I like what the developers did with the plot. If you don’t care for storyline intricacies, you can safely ignore them and play the game normally. But if you’re interested in the plot, there’s a lot of interesting tidbits to discover. In other words, the deeper story doesn’t present itself unless you look for it, and I like that this staple of modern Kirby games has been retained in Star Allies.
Visuals & Audio
The Kirby series has always been known for its soundtrack, and thankfully, Star Allies does not disappoint. It’s got a huge variety of tracks, including new ones, old ones, and remixes of old ones, and just about each one is memorable and catchy. The final boss themes are among the best yet, though the standard bosses share the same several themes and could use some additional variety.
In terms of visuals, Star Allies is about where you’d expect a Kirby game to be. It doesn’t have a distinct art style, but the graphics are simple and clean. Between its visuals and music, Star Allies has no trouble setting the mood for its courses and environments.
Kirby: Planet Robobot arguably perfected the gameplay formula of modern Kirby games; unfortunately, Star Allies takes several steps backwards. For one, the level design has been watered down: players will notice that everything is incredibly easy. Puzzles and collectibles have been simplified (presumably to appeal to newer players) to the point where levels almost feel like they’re on autopilot, which is certainly a shame. The main story only lasts about four hours, though missing collectibles may add extra time to this if you want to go for 100% completion.
Kirby is one of the few games where gimmicks work in its favor. Triple Deluxe introduced Hypernova and Planet Robobot introduced the Robobot Armor; these gimmicks both felt natural and fit in with the levels on offer. Star Allies doesn’t really have a “gimmick”, but it does boast the ability to combine Copy Abilities. Unfortunately, this is incredibly limited; only weapon- and elemental-type abilities can be merged and it’s usually done to solve a simple puzzle to unlock a collectible puzzle piece. Kirby can also throw Friend Hearts at allies to team up with them, and this also opens up four-player multiplayer. The AI does what it needs to do, but I personally preferred playing without allies (as some bosses have scaling HP based on the amount of friends present).
Star Allies also introduces a handful of minigames. Chop Champs is a four-player game where players compete to chop down a tree fastest, while Star Slam Heroes is a timing-based game where Kirby has to hit a meteor with a baseball bat. These minigames are over almost as soon as they begin, and all-in-all are rather forgettable. Star Allies also includes Guest Star ??? Star Allies Go!, where Kirby is not playable; instead, the player selects a helper character and is tasked with speed-running the main story’s levels. The course design isn’t perfect to begin with, so playing the same few levels gets boring very quickly. Luckily, new levels have been included for certain characters, and this helps break up the repetition.
The final update distributed to Kirby Star Allies added a new mode called Heroes in Another Dimension. It’s more challenging than the main game and features 120 collectible Friend Hearts. The mode itself isn’t quite difficult, per se, instead, if you miss a collectible you have to start the entire level from the beginning. Heroes in Another Dimension is a welcome addition to the game but ultimately doesn’t last very long (though it does reward players with an unlockable character). In addition to adding Heroes in Another Dimension, Star Allies’ final update also increased the difficulty of its boss battle mode, The Ultimate Choice. This hidden difficulty is surprisingly challenging; the final boss is particularly tricky and requires a lot of practice.
Unfortunately, Kirby Star Allies’ biggest flaw (at least in my opinion) is its performance. It runs at a baffling 30 frames per second, which is especially confusing given that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can support eight Ice Climbers amiibo at 60 FPS in handheld form. Star Allies doesn’t even run at a consistent 30 FPS; one particular boss fight dips down to 15 FPS. Some might not care about the game’s FPS, but I found it very noticeable (moreso than Breath of the Wild, which ran at 30 FPS and still felt smoother somehow). Star Allies also includes amiibo support, but the rewards are just healing items.
Kirby Star Allies isn’t a bad game by any means, it’s just a really average Kirby game. Personally, I think Planet Robobot is the better game despite being two years older; in fact, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land may even be objectively better. That being said, the game is still worth a shot for Kirby fans, and there is certainly fun to be had here; it’s just a shame that the gameplay was watered down to the extent that it is. If you do decide to give the game a go, be sure to check out our Kirby Star Allies guides.
If you would like to read more reviews, follow this link to return to the master list.