There are certain expectations people have from Kirby’s video games. Beyond cuteness, we tend to assume some sort of sub-game will appear for people to enjoy after completing certain objectives in the campaign. Kirby: Star Allies is no different, continuing this tradition. But, there’s more to it than just carrying the customary torch. Almost all of the sub-games present are successors to previous ones, giving people a chance to appreciate new takes on classic game elements.
Of the two people unlock almost immediately, one is familiar and the other all new. Both are brief, multiplayer romps that only last for a few moments. The totally new option is Chop Champs. This has four players attempting to chop down as many tree segments as possible for a few seconds while avoiding enemies that will appear on the right or left side of the tree. It’s a reactionary game where hand-eye coordination is critical. It is Kirby: Star Allies’ Star Slam Heroes that is reminiscent of past Kirby sub-games.
Star Slam Heroes is a four-person game where timing matters most, just like Megaton Punch in Kirby Super Star (and Kirby Super Star Ultra). A meteor is heading down to the planet. You first need to hit the A button at the right time to ensure the power meter is as full as possible. Then, you need to either swing the Joy-Con or press the button again when the meteor lines up with the crosshair. Depending on the difficulty, there may be more meteors to hit. The person who is most accurate wins. While the premise is different, the gameplay is similar to punching through stones.
It’s with the bigger sub-games that we start seeing more similarities. Kirby: Star Allies has two meatier endeavors that unlock later. The first is Guest Star ????: Star Allies Go! This is a brief campaign that is like the Meta Knightmare introduced in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby: Triple Deluxe’s Dedede Tour. This is a timed campaign with five levels that mash up segments from various stages in the normal adventure. Instead of Kirby, players control one of his friends or Dream Friends. This means you have to compete the challenges using their unique abilities, rather than multiple abilities, though you still can recruit multiple friends by offering up hearts. What is interesting is that this game offers a stat system, as you find hearts that can boost your playable character’s attack, health and speed. It is quite delightful, and also rather challenging since you are limited to a specific skill.
Finally, there is The Ultimate Choice. This is Kirby: Star Allies’ take on The Arena. That’s the mode that, in games since Kirby Super Star, tasks people with surviving multiple waves of enemies and bosses. The difference here is options. You can play The Ultimate Choice alone as Kirby, alone as Kirby and with the computer controlling allies of your choosing or with actual friends who control the companion characters. Once you choose your character or parties, you choose from one of eight different difficulty levels that determines how hard it will be, what kind of healing items will be provided and how many battles you will go through. It is quite challenging, which is refreshing, and needing to complete Guest Star ????: Star Allies Go! and the higher difficulty levels can provide quite a bit of an incentive to keep playing.
When Hal Laboratory puts these sorts of sub-games in Kirby games, it is always a soothing reason to return to the adventure. Kirby: Star Allies salutes past games with similar ones that offer the same sorts of gameplay, only with this installment’s unique elements saluted. Getting to go through a mini-campaign with any of the possible friends found in the main adventure is delightful and a test of skill. The Ultimate Choice is a take on the Arena that offers a little more control. Even Star Slam Heroes is a little similar to the smaller games that came before. It is comforting to have these updated nods to the past.
Kirby: Star Allies is available for the Nintendo Switch.