Kirby: Star Allies is a game where it is dangerous to go alone, so you should definitely not go alone. It encourages the power of friendship. Kirby, the pure-hearted individual he is, is able to break through enemies’ tough exterior by offering up his love. By sharing this heart, you can have up to three characters join you (and even be used by friends who pick up extra controllers). While this is cute and novel, the game really shines when it shows how important having these extra allies is during actual gameplay.
The whole premise is adventuring with a party. So right away, Kirby: Star Allies points that out by having you toss hearts at enemies to win them over. Most of the time, this will get you an ally. In some instances, it means an ability. For example, tossing hearts at the “dance” or “sleep” opponent will instead give Kirby a temporary ability that lets him perform a friend dance or fall asleep briefly. But in many other cases, it lets you call upon others who will then join your group. These can be easily and quickly unfriended too, in case you need to swap.
The community actions are a lovely way to show how these folks can work together. While some of them that alter a current power’s properties are fun, such as using water or ice with stone to create a curling rock or adding fire to a whip, I enjoyed the ones that had greater use the most. For example, the parasol ability allows you to bring up a Chumbrella that will shield multiple characters or make it possible to complete certain puzzles. The spider ability gives you Friend Bounce, which can let you jump to a higher area, even without taking damage from Gordos. It really ties in well with the special abilities that allow for characters to team up to get through areas.
Some of these team friend skills can seem rather obvious. Friend Circle lets characters roll through areas, mowing down obstacles while they go. The Friend Bridge can require a bit more finesse, as it involves getting a specific character from point A to point B. Friend Star is an especially interesting case. This turns Kirby: Star Allies into something more like a shoot’em up. All four allies are on a star, with only the lead character’s abilities being shot out. You can switch characters by pressing X. This means getting through some areas and accessing every secret can mean switching to a water, fire or ice ally to get rid of some elemental blocks or maybe a sword-wielding character to cut chains or ropes. It is interesting how these group abilities can end up playing out through the game.
One of the cuter friendship features involves an older mechanic. You may notice is that Kirby: Star Allies revisits food sharing. In some of his games, you can have Kirby share food with other playable characters. Kirby Super Star had this element, and Kirby: Star Allies revives it. If one character grabs a food item and touches another within a few seconds, you will see them apparently share a kiss, with a little heart above their heads. They will then also restore some health. It is incredibly endearing.
But what I really loved is how this friendship element comes into play during boss fights. Mini-bosses can of course be recruited by tossing a heart at them, instead of letting them fade away or having Kirby take their ability by inhaling them. With major bosses, you can end up also having special interactions with them by tossing a heart during the final moments of the fight. For example, tossing a heart at Whispy Woods after fighting him will cause the final few moments of that scene to play out a bit differently and give you food. After defeating King Dedede, tossing a heart at him will allow him to immediately become a member of your current party. (Beating characters like King Dedede and Meta Knight also adds them as a possible Dream Palace ally.) It is a nice reminder to show that these characters Kirby is fighting may not be all bad.
Kirby: Star Allies is available for the Nintendo Switch.