Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kirby Super Star Ultra

I used to be good at this game.


I used to play the original Kirby Super Star on the SNES all the time. The "Gourmet Race" game became a particular obsession. I'm pretty sure I had the first course perfected, and that meant more to me than any of my times on actual racing titles like F-Zero or Super Mario Kart.

Playing the new Gourmet Race on the DS, with added multiplayer versus functionality, I had a rude awakening to how times truly have changed. I got smoked. Badly. And not even just by the other player. On the second course, I actually finished third, even behind the CPU King Dedede.

Part of this I blame on the controls. B is attack, while Y and A are jump. I can't recall if the SNES version worked the same way, but this feels completely counterintuitive. Really, B should have been jump, and Y should have been attack.

Setting aside my personal woes, I'll say that the Kirby games have always been criminally underappreciated. With its signature blend of platforming and action, and sporting one of gaming's most versatile action heroes in its irresistable star, the series has proven itself to be consistently high-quality. The cooperative functionality of the 16-bit titles elevated them even further in my esteem.

The original Kirby Super Star was arguably the finest installment. Mechanically, it was one of the most sophisticated action-platformers of its generation, with most of Kirby's copy forms having multiple abilities that added depth and variety. The Fighter form, for example, gave Kirby a mix of close-range attacks that practically turned the game into a beat 'em up in the style of Double Dragon.

There are even signs--the guard mechanism and the basic physics and feel of the combat--that, out of all of creator Masahiro Sakurai's titles, Kirby Super Star specifically laid the groundwork for his Super Smash Bros. games. Brawl's "Subspace Emissary" mode feels like a particularly purposeful return to (the vastly more playable) "The Great Cave Offensive" from Kirby Super Star. And Brawl's Boss Battle mode is nearly identical to Kirby Super Star's Arena.

As far as the DS port is concerned, it feels much the same. My aforementioned difficulties were surely due to the fact that my skills have not aged gracefully. New movie sequences and a couple of extra multiplayer minigames enhance the still solid experience, and it's nice to see the original co-op appear fully intact.


Sam Kahn said...

I always thought the A button was traditionally "jump." That's what's usually natural to me.

Henry said...

Yeah, I've been told this is the standard on Nintendo platforms. I'm not sure about Sony. I guess it's been too long since I've played a platformer.

Henry said...

Actually, on checking Castlevania and Contra on the DS, those games use Y as "attack" and B as "jump." That must be what I'm used to.