With Kirby’s very first adventure to Dream Land in 1992, players of Kirby’s Dream Land were introduced to what would become one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters ever since: a pink puffball who has a penchant for eating pretty much everything in sight.
However, compared to the adventures of Mario, Link, or Samus, the Kirby series has been one of Nintendo’s lesser-appreciated series. While Kirby titles haven’t provided the same rousing adventures as The Legend of Zelda or the timelessness of Mario, Kirby nonetheless has provided an accessible, light-hearted, and fun approach to platforming. The latest 3DS release Kirby: Planet Robobot proves that there’s still plenty of opportunity for Nintendo to embrace (perhaps) its most underrated star.
As a follow-up to 2014’s excellent Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Kirby once again has returned to the Nintendo 3DS with his latest adventure in Kirby: Planet Robobot, and more than ever is packing quite a big arsenal of tricks and abilities (even if it’s what you wouldn’t expect from a hero like Kirby). Like its subtitle implies, the biggest of Kirby’s tricks is a new mech suit that allows him to smash items, pick up heavy objects, and more in the game’s six mechanically-themed worlds, making him thecutest weapon of mass destruction ever.
Like Kirby games of the past, Planet Robobot has players using Kirby’s abilities to fly, jump, crawl, and more to traverse through levels, picking up specially-hidden Code Cubes to unlock the next area. Of course, that all goes hand-in-hand with Kirby’s ability to suck up and copy enemy abilities — including classic powers like Cutter, Sword, Fire, Ice, and more joining alongside several new abilities for players to experiment with, such as ESP, Poison, and Doctor abilities. Several of these powers are charming references to Nintendo characters (that I won’t spoil for the fun of it), but it’s more than likely you can figure it out anyway. Much like Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Planet Robobot also adds some other defensive and evasive maneuvers to Kirby’s arsenal, including the ability to guard, and do brief rolls and air dodges that should function similarly to the mechanics of Super Smash Bros.
Unlike some of the challenges present in Mario or Zelda titles, by and large the Kirby experience has been aimed traditionally at a younger crowd. Planet Robobot follows that tradition as a title that’s light and breezy fun, but not particularly challenging in any way for more experienced platforming players (aside from a few boss fights). For the roughly 6-7 hours that Planet Robobot‘s story mode provides, it’s an enjoyable romp through around 35 levels. However, the game’s relative lack of difficulty may not be as appealing for older or more gamers players looking for more challenging platforming.
That being said, what Planet Robobot does offer in the way of fun, colorful gameplay is completely worth its admission price for both Kirby fans and those looking to jump into the series for the first time. With his trademark ability to suck up enemies and copy their abilities, Kirby’s wide range of powers offer tons of variety and fun for those that want to play with many different abilitties, while still giving some slight depth to the number of moves each power provides (much like some of the mechanics it and Triple Deluxe borrowed from Super Smash Bros.). While a few sections of the game call for specific powerups to be used (such as Sonic-like sections where Kirby uses the Wheel power to race through tracks), they’re fun diversions that break up the action nicely and keep up with Planet Robobot’s breezy pace.
The diversity of abilities and powers also extends into the mech suit, which provides Planet Robobot’s biggest hook of the game. In specific areas, Kirby jumps in to the mech suit to become a nigh-unstoppable machine of death (and cuteness), allowing him to easily defeat foes and even “absorb” (or in this case, “scan”) enemies to copy their powers as well. While the mech suit is just short of making Kirby all powerful in the game (it can take damage, but for the most part is pretty resilient), the suit is also used in more interesting ways throughout the title by incorporating it into puzzles throughout the levels. Whether it’s using the Stone power with the suit to punch away obstacles, or the Jet power to turn the suit into a psuedo-jetplane for shooter sections, the mech-suit is thankfully used as more than just a devastating power-up attack.
Beyond the wealth of abilities and powers that Kirby himself offers, Planet Robobot is no slouch either when it comes to providing a visual experience that’s as sweet and charming as it is colorful and vibrant. Bursting off the screen with color and life, Planet Robobot joins Triple Deluxe as one of the most visually-appealing games out there on the 3DS (especially as a non-New 3DS-only title), and still offers one of the best reasons to actually utilize the system’s 3D slider. As the gameplay shifts between two “planes” (the background and foreground), players will constantly have to utilize pipes and other ways to switch between the two planes of view to solve puzzles and progress. While the 3D options on the 3DS have long been optional (and usually turned off by most players), the 3D elements of Planet Robobot are actually used in smart and interesting ways (though at the expense of a lowered framerate).
Aside from the Story Mode experience, Kirby: Planet Robobot also offers several other game modes and collectibles to keep players occupied well past the campaign’s 6-7 hours. Through the course of the game, the biggest collectible comes in the way of various “stickers” that players can grab in Story Mode, with about 200 in total to grab. Instead of just being neat collectibles to view in a gallery after the Story Mode, players can use the stickers as customization items for the in-game mech suit. Though it’s limited to one sticker on each of the mech’s arms, it’s a nice touch that at least makes gathering the stickers have meaning beyond just collecting them.
Like Kirby’s various powerups and abilities, the side game modes in Kirby: Planet Robobot each offers their own unique spin or flavor from the main game. The first of these that is available from the start: “Kirby 3D Rumble” offers a top-down take on Kirby where players try to destroy enemies on the playing field with as few moves as possible, racking up combos in the process.
The second and third game modes are available to players after completing the Story Mode, but both are just as worthwhile upon completion. Like Triple Deluxe’s mode allowing players to take on the role of King Dedede, “Meta Knight Returns” is a side mode where players can replay the campaign while wielding the cape and sword of Meta Knight. Compared to Kirby, Meta Knight can’t copy enemy attacks, but plays with a different style that will make it more than a fun diversion for those looking to replay the campaign. Additionally, this mode sports some time trial elements and more challenging boss fights.
The final side game mode is “Team Kirby Clash,” where players can team up with AI or friends and experience perhaps the most radical change in gameplay compared to everything else offered in Planet Robobot proper. “Clash” offers up an experience that action-RPG players should feel right at home in — attacks and swings take away enemy hit points (with damage decreasing after each hit) and a mini level-up system, as players take on larger enemies in a boss rush style.
While on their own few of the side modes (aside from maybe “Meta Knight Returns”) will offer more than a few hours of diversion, they do help to provide Planet Robobot with some nice variety after the core experience is over, and to some they might just be some of the best parts of the entire package.
Having only been announced and revealed this past March, it’s been a bit of a shame that Kirby hasn’t had the same level of attention that Mario, Link, and Nintendo’s more prominent stable of characters have enjoyed over the years. While Planet Robobot may be a title that has flown a little under-the-radar for some, it nevertheless is a worthwhile addition to the Kirby series, and more than worthwhile to be a part of a 3DS owner’s library. More experience platforming players may want a bit more of a challenge, but for light, breezy fun in a richly-colorful world, by no means should you pass over Kirby: Planet Robobot. More than anything, where else will you get the chance to pilot a transforming, mechanized pink puffball?