Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn Review — An Adequately Crafted Port
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is a solid 3DS port that both builds upon and takes away from the original Wii title's charm.
It’s hard to believe we’re basically eight years out from the 3DS’ western launch. I still remember getting it around launch day in middle school at GameStop alongside Pilotwings Resort and LEGO Star Wars III (the system didn’t have the best lineup of launch titles). Since then, the 3DS has quickly elevated itself to be one of my most played, if not my favorite, game system of all time.
From the good memories of playing great titles like Pokemon X & Y, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Ever Oasis, to the less than desirable moments such as the drought of good games in the system’s first year, the 3DS line of handhelds has managed to stay relevant longer than most systems. That being said, the Nintendo 3DS is clearly on its way out following the rampant success of Nintendo Switch, with the system recently being home to ports and underrated WarioWare games.
Just weeks before the 3DS’ eighth anniversary, we are being graced with another port: Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. While it may not be the best swan song for the system as it is a fairly standard port that has more problems than its console counterpart, I appreciate the fact that Nintendo is allowing this unique but underrated Wii game to find new life and the audience it deserves on 3DS.
Good-Feel has crafted themselves a nice niche as the Media Molecule of Nintendo in the sense that the developer mainly encourages and creates games based on aspects of arts and crafts. Yoshi’s Woolly World and the upcoming Yoshi’s Crafted World are the two most recent examples, but the original Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the game that truly established this niche for them. Kirby, already a franchise that many tended to consider cutesy and adorable, is a great fit for a game based on materials, in this case, yarn.
This aesthetic and the game design’s dedication to it is truly the most impressive thing about Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Every level, character, and animation is expertly crafted (pun intended) with yarn and the few other materials used in mind. At some points, Kirby can even interact with the environment, pulling yarn to unravel a larger open or drag something towards him. Every time players unlock a level, a unique animation opening up the pathway to said stage plays and it’s usually very clever and enjoyable to watch.
The art style of Kirby’s Epic Yarn helped put Good-Feel on the map for good reason so the base game’s presentation still holds up years later. Unfortunately, these inherent presentation strengths are offset somewhat in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn by the 3DS hardware. At a couple more hectic points, including the final boss battle, the frame rate does take a noticeable hit in places it did not on the Wii. The resolution has also been lowered so the minute details the developers put into every aspect of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn don’t stand out as much as they did originally.
While the 3DS port could have offset this issue by taking advantage of system-exclusive features, the bottom screen is never used for much and this title does not support 3D, which really could have given Kirby’s Epic Yarn its own visual flare. This highlights Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn’s biggest problem: While it’s a fine port for those who never played the game, it isn’t enticing enough for those who played it on Wii despite the developers’ best efforts.
The one part Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn’s presentation that comes out unscathed is the soundtrack. Even being on two systems chock full of games with great music, this may have one of the best soundtracks on both. It is expertly scored and always atmospherically fitting to the level or world it is in. Even though the game may be short and be less visually impressive on 3DS, the soundtrack will keep the entire experience enjoyable the whole way through, as does the gameplay.
Upon its release, Kirby’s Epic Yarn got a bit of flack as it does not follow some staple Kirby mechanics. The titular pink puffball can no longer suck up enemies for copy abilities; instead, enemies can be spun into yarn balls, and several levels see Kirby transform into a variety of different things like a spaceship, dolphin, or racing dune buggy. While some were originally turned off by these differences, they are a nice change of pace on 3DS, a system which contains several traditional Kirby games.
For those still uneasy about these differences, this port adds Ravel Abilities that give the player a variety of new copy ability-like moves to use in certain levels. The other new addition to the core game is Devilish Mode. The original release was initially deemed too easy by many, falling into a stigma common to this series, as Kirby can’t die. This new mode not only gives Kirby a health bar, but consistently see thes player perused by a little devil enemy.
While this may sway “hardcore” players who didn’t want to touch the game due to its difficulty, I was never invested in Devilish Mode despite the few rewards it gives for playing. The music that plays when the devil enemy appears interrupts an otherwise amazing soundtrack and some of the game’s levels clearly weren’t built with a limited health bar and Ravel abilities in mind when they were originally designed.
Even though Devilish Mode is supposed to be Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn’s main draw for returning players, it wasn’t that fun and isn’t worth the revisit for those who played the game on Wii unless you really had problems with the difficulty. Fortunately, this Devilish Mode is optional and will double the playtime of the game. When looking at only the core adventure, it is still intact and enjoyable in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn.
Outside of the main levels, players can decorate Kirby’s house in Patch Land with a variety of furniture stickers, which are also one of the main collectibles within the game’s levels. Then, new to Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn are two modes: Dedede Gogogo and Meta Knight’s Slash & Bead. By completing eight missions across these two modes, players earn beads that can be used to create images of various enemies out of beads.
Dedede Gogogo will be a familiar experience to anyone who played Poochy’s levels in Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World for 3DS, which was also developed by Good-Feel. King Dedede automatically runs so players have to jump, slide, and attack at the right times in order to collect as many beads as possible. As these levels aren’t based on a wholly original concept and can be completed fairly quickly and easily, they are somewhat forgettable.
As a fan of beat ’em ups, I got much more enjoyment out of Slash & Bead. Meta Knight modes have a habit of having good music, which these levels do, and there’s something inherently fun about flying around the screen and attacking as many enemies as possible. Still, Slash & Bead is over fairly quickly after four levels. In the end, I would have preferred if King Dedede and Meta Knight had, instead, become playable characters in the main game.
That could’ve worked out especially well in a co-op mode, which has been removed in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn. Prince Fluff has been relegated to a side character that hands Kirby a Ravel ability halfway through each level. With several games for 3DS already supporting Remote Play or local connections between nearby systems, co-op’s exclusion proves disappointing and is only slightly offset by the inclusion of Dedede Gogogo and Slash & Bead.
When looking at Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn as a whole, that co-op exclusion discussion is fairly telling of the whole port. Ports or remasters should improve and build upon the original release, and while Devilish Mode does do that, the exclusion of features like co-op, the lower resolution, and a general lack of 3DS-exclusive features make this port much less enticing to people like me who owned the original. That being said, if you’ve never played this game before and your 3DS is more readily available than your Wii, then Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is worth it.
Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is unique within the zeitgeist of the Kirby series, has a great soundtrack, and revels in its amazing aesthetic that is unlike anything else on Wii or 3DS. Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn isn’t a bad port, it is an indifferent one. For now, this game seems to be the last major first-party release for the 3DS, and it’s a quiet and unambitious note to go out on.
I have a ton of great memories with the Nintendo 3DS and its last few years have contained tons of great titles like Ever Oasis, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, and WarioWare Gold. Even though Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is a quiet and unimpressive way to bookend the system’s lifespan, I’ll still cherish all the memories I have with 3DS and know that people who never played the Wii version may fall in love with Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn on 3DS.