Kirby Super Star Ultra is one of those games that regularly rings throughout my head whenever I try to pinpoint what my favorite games of all time truly are. A title that I remember as a purely joyous experience, and one that shines brightly as a more traditional Kirby game, when they tend to be solid and fun platforming affairs. Being a fickle and temperamental person, I chose to revisit and replay the title in order to remind me why I felt this way, and provide a review explaining why it is among my favorite games of all time.
Kirby Super Star Ultra Review
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Let’s begin with the core mechanics of the game. At its base level, KSSU is another Kirby platformer. With the trademark copy ability that adds a level of versatility to the experience, the relaxed difficulty, and a colorful series of themed stages that the series is known for. One designed as a very accessible game and overall fun above all else. However, there are a few tweaks that cause this game to be a standout in the series, with the first being your moveset. The abilities offered to Kirby depending on the player’s movements and inputs offer for more dynamic gameplay than many other games in the series, giving the player dash attacks and jumping strikes instead of a mostly static attack move.
The second is how Kirby does not lose their copy ability after being hit once, at least most of the time. The copy ability remains with Kirby if you happen to bump into most enemies or take a small amount of damage, and health in general is not gauged by a number of blips, but rather a health bar. It makes gameplay feel faster as you don’t need to stop to retrieve your copy ability, and allows for the game to be a bit more aggressive with certain enemies and obstacles without seeming unfair. The latter also applies to the guard, which allows the player to defend against more rapid attacks without needing to risk damage by attempting to dash or float their way out of danger.
The third, and the biggest one is the Helper system, a game changing feature of the helper character. Whenever Kirby discards a copy ability, they form a helpful creature who can do everything Kirby could with that copy ability. While this computer controlled helper is not the most intelligent assistant, they do help increase the faster pace of this game, allow Kirby to have another copy ability reserved, gives Kirby a friend to kiss in order to share health restoring food, and gives way to my favorite feature about this game, the co-op. While I have not used this feature in years, I don’t think there is a single game that I enjoyed playing with a friend more than playing KSSU with a friend of mine during middle school and high school.
This all makes for an impressive sounding package, but the fact that the game is several campaigns in one, and each of them is as good as it is, takes things to a new level. Especially when viewed as a successive series of subgames that do a pretty wonderful job of ramping up the difficulty, enhancing some of the finest aspects of the series, and teaching the player. I would be remiss if I did not go through every single one of them.
Spring Breeze offers a simple and easy waltz through an abridged version of the original Kirby’s Dream Land. One that gradually teaches the player and adjusts them into the general flow of the game, while being quick and expedient enough for advanced players to, well, breeze through it with great ease. Dyna Blade’s Revenge amps things up a little bit by offering a series of longer stages, and giving the player access to a few secrets, including two rooms where they can freely experiment with every copy ability. Great Cave Offensive expands on the secret hunting aspects of this and tasks the player to locate 60 valuables across a series of interconnected and winding stages that request the player to exercise care and caution in order to maintain certain copy abilities while also testing their timing and reflexes with treasures that can be quite tricky to get, while still doable.
Gourmet Race is a test of mobility and speed in the form of a, well, race where Kirby must gather as much food as possible before reaching the finish line, teaching and encouraging the player to become that much more comfortable with Kirby’s solid and reliable movements. Meta Knight’s Revenge puts the player on a time limit and tasks them to go through the most difficult series of stages yet, where they are encouraged to move as quickly and gracefully as possible, having learned the intricacies of the game. All while offering some fun characterization and dialog. While Milky Way Wishes shifts things up by removing Kirby’s copy ability, but allow them to freely assume an copy ability they collect during one of stages, which seemingly combine the speed, care, and item hunting from the previous campaigns.
That’s before getting into the campaigns added in this version of the game. Revenge of the King offers a remixed and expanded upon version of Spring Breeze, made vastly more difficult, but still manageable and enjoyable through and through. A quick and more prominent challenge than what is offered by most mainline Kirby games. Well, excluding the Arena, a pretty standard boss rush mode where you need to maintain your health, copy ability, and current partner in a semi-randomized lineup of bosses, which makes this legitimate challenge more replayable.
A concept that is twisted with Helper to Hero, where you play as a helper character instead of Kirby, and need to rely on only a few health refills and no partner to call your own. An interesting challenge that you only need to clear once in order to unlock the True Arena. A shorter gauntlet of more powerful bosses that truly tests the player’s capabilities, provides very few health refilling items, and is probably the hardest singular thing in any Kirby game ever created. Though, you don’t need to clear that in order to what I consider to be the best thing from any Kirby game, Meta Knightmare Ultra.
It is a rapid pace dash through nearly every area from Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade’s Revenge, Great Cave Offensive, Meta Knight’s Revenge, and Milky Way Wishes. All while in control of the cool enigmatic Meta Knight, who has the finest elements of several Kirby power ups, a rapid fast run speed, high attack power, and a series of bonus abilities. It is truly a glorious and kinetic experience that can be cleared in an hour with relative ease, and is enjoyable all the way through. A short burst of platforming bliss that had me smiling from the five minute long run of Spring Breeze, to the climatic final boss unique to this campaign, Meta Knight’s rival character, Galacta Knight.
From the powers, to the bosses, to the great 3D full motion video cutscenes, to the minigames, it is all so fun, and so enjoyable, and so, so freaking good! I genuinely lack any substantial gripes I could throw towards this game beyond a few petulant and minor instances I encountered in this or that scenario, and I would gleefully play through the game once more, even though I just cleared it just a few days ago.
In order to cover all my basis after gushing about just the gameplay, the game captures a vibrant and colorful tone, offering snappy animations when applicable, and having enough assets to prevent things from getting visually repetitive. It looks quite good for a DS game, and while I can’t help but note how the standards for sprite art fluidity and overall animation has changed, that does not prevent this game from being pleasant to look at, complete with the abundant amount of bubbly and cute designs. Meanwhile, Kirby, like most classic era video games series, has a collection of memorable tracks and melodies to call its own, most of which are reprised here rather well, and do a very good job at establishing a given mood while the score remains largely energetic.
While I am fully aware that my adoration towards this game is at a level beyond just about everyone else’s, I truly believe that Kirby Super Star Ultra is a stellar platformer, and everything from the core fundamentals to the wonderful progression of the game speak to me in a way few games do.
Goodness do I hate needing to use generic screenshots for games…