Kirby is another series that Nintendo always seems to be working on. New entries in the form of either full games or shorter minigames come out so often they must be working on several different Kirby titles at any given point in time. As far as the main line of games go, most tend to follow the same formula: progress through roughly the same series of environments in a side-scrolling manner, copying enemy abilities, and defeating enemies and bosses, all while trying to snag some new type of collectible in each level. This time around, the target objects are puzzle pieces that complete art panels depicting past Kirby stories. They’re totally optional and don’t contribute anything to the story, but somewhat tie into the game’s primary new gimmick, the eponymous ally mechanic.
Instead of simply eating enemies to gain their powers, this time around Kirby can instead enlist the help of his foes by converting them to allies. Players can travel with up to three additional allies in their party, which is a great way to maintain access to a variety of abilities that might be needed to solve puzzles for, well, puzzles pieces. I was concerned going in that the game would still force me to go back and forth between levels in order to find the right enemies needed to complete such challenges, but was pleasantly surprised that there was always the necessary ally-in-waiting right near where their ability would be required. What I thought was particularly cool was how Kirby and his allies could work together in various combinations to enhance one another’s powers by either joining forces into one super attack or else share elemental attributes between weapons. Alternatively, Kirby can also recruit main characters from previous games in the series to tag along as allies. This is not only a fun bit of nostalgia, but somewhat game-breaking since a number of these special teammates (like Rick, Coo, and Kine) bring multiple abilities in a single package.
The tradeoff for making each needed ability readily available when required is that it made the game feel significantly easier. Not that I would have enjoyed a lot of unnecessary backtracking in place of a real challenge (see my review for Yoshi’s Crafted World), but overall, the game’s difficulty never really increases. At least, not until after the main story is complete and several additional minigames open up. In order to achieve 100% completion, the player has to finish most of the new challenges on their highest mastery settings. The difficulty spike here was crazy and, in my opinion, not at all worth the time. My recommendation for Kirby Star Allies is to simply go in and enjoy playing through story mode, experiencing the main gameplay elements and mix-and-match ability opportunities afforded by the ally mechanic. I wouldn’t say the story itself necessarily stands out in any way (not that the stories in most Kirby games do, except maybe Kirby’s Return to Dreamland or some of the GBA entries), but it’s some solid Kirby platforming fun nonetheless.