Let’s face it, boys and girls, video games have never exactly been cheap, and when you’re a kid, your parents probably weren’t inclined to go out and spend a fortune on a half dozen games at a time, so it was critical that try to get as much value out of their investment as possible. To help meet the need for maximum value for your gaming dollar, companies would, every now and then, attempt to pack multiple games onto a single cartridge, but really, aside from Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, these efforts tended to be abject failures (I’m looking at you, Action 52). And so, for years, through a combination of technical limitations, indifference, and incompetence, we never really got a lot of quality “Multi-Paks”, until Nintendo and HAL brought out Kirby Super Star for the Super Nintendo in 1996.
If you’re not familiar with Kirby, here’s a quick primer: HE FREAKING RULES. He’s a little pink puffball thing that remorselessly consumes and digests enemies to absorb their powers and uses their abilities to bludgeon, eviscerate, electrocute, and incinerate all that stands in his vigilante mission to save Dream Land from various and sundry enemies. He’s equal parts Neo, Charles Bronson from Death Wish, and a fluffy cloud, and when people railed against violence in video games, they were looking in the wrong place, because Kirby’s one-man death march eclipses ANYTHING Mortal Kombat was bringing to the dance floor.
Anywho, Super Star boasts 9 different games, although 3 of them (Gourmet Race, Megaton Punch, and Samurai Kirby) are better described as mini-games, and the final game is a boss gauntlet, the remaining 5 are more traditional-style Kirby games with their own little tweaks. Spring Breeze is basically a tutorial, Dyna Blade plays like a level out of Kirby’s Adventure, The Great Cave Offensive sends you on a hunt for 60 treasures scattered through a massive underground cave complex, Revenge of the Meta Knight times the stages and plays out a story through dialogue boxes during the stage, and Milky Way Wishes takes away your ability to swallow enemies to obtain powers and instead forces you to collect little figurines representing the different abilities, but once you find them, you can access a menu and dial up a skill at any time you want.
Gameplay is pretty simple. Y attacks, B jumps, and tapping it repeatedly lets you fly, R blocks attacks, and double-tapping left and right makes Kirby do an adorable speed-waddle that largely serves as a “setup move” to a more powerful attack, and just in case, pausing the game provides an explanation of your ability and provides a moveset. Arguably though, your best move is triggered by pressing A, which creates a “helper”, a computer-controlled, friendly version of the enemy you ate to gain your power. Even better, a second player can control the helper, allowing you and a buddy to lay the smack down on the cute, cuddly, unfortunate souls in your way.
Your “arsenal” is deep and wide-ranging as the locales you’ll travel through. You can wield a mighty sword, razor-sharp boomerangs, breath fire or ice, fight like Ryu from Street Fighter, carry a magic wand that can fire off massive blasts of energy, hurl big black cherry bombs, and if all else fails, you can carry a massive hammer and simply smash enemies down like railroad spikes. Some abilities even provide other benefits, for example, Wing and Jet give Kirby more agility and speed while flying, using Stone turns Kirby invincible as long as he’s in rock form, and obviously, the fuses for the cannons require Fire to be lit. However, some powers are…slightly less useful than others…Ninja is cool but grossly underpowered, and Suplex, while hilarious and powerful against small enemies, serves literally zero purpose against large enemies or bosses.
There’s also a handful of “smart bomb” type moves with limited uses, like Mike, which levels enemies with the awesome power of Kirby’s singing voice, and Cook, where Kirby throws enemies into a cooking pot and turns them into tasty, health-restoring treats like ice cream and fried eggs…which may actually be creepier than just eating the enemies themselves…odds are, though, you’ll probably settle on two or three powers and try to stick with them as long as possible instead of constantly switching out. Just remember, never underestimate the power of whacking people with an umbrella.
Given that this was one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises (there’s actually a very interesting story for how Kirby got his name), graphics and sound are a solid A+++. The levels and backgrounds are extremely well-drawn and detailed, and generate feelings of whimsical fantasy or mysterious exploration as needed. By the time you reach the Halberd, Meta Knight’s airship, in his game, you will definitely feel like your pink puffy protagonist is infiltrating a billion-dollar death machine and is ROYALLY fucking it up.
Of highlight is the picture on the status display showing Kirby’s current power, complete with a unique hat for each one (BAWWWW!) Sounds are excellent, from the sick thwack of Kirby connecting with a Dragon Punch to the static crackle of charged electricity with the Plasma ability, with the music matching the pace of the game, from frantic action to opulent grandeur to cool relaxation masterfully.
Overall, Kirby Super Star may not be the best game ever for Super Nintendo, but it was perhaps the best value out there. There’s a lot to keep you busy here, and although the game itself may not be the most challenging, there’s always the fun of trying to locate all the treasures in Great Cave Offensive, or all the powers in Milky Way Wishes, or trying to beat The Arena without a helper or the use of health pickups. It may just look like simple, light fun, but there’s a LOT of fun to be had here. And you can’t not like a game where you can hop on an anthropomorphic tire named Big Ten and run over giant angry sunflowers.
I may be a shill for the Kirby series, but I honestly believe Super Star deserves every point of its 5-star rating…just try not to think about all the widows and orphans Kirby creates with his wave of unrelenting violence.
Tremendous value, even by today’s standards. A game veterans and complete rookies can both pick up and enjoy, fantastic graphics and sound.
Not…quite…9 full games, even the “full-length” games can be a bit on the short side, and rather light in challenge.