Who would’ve thought that a pink smiley face invented by a 19-year-old in 1991 could grow to become as massively popular as Kirby is today? Though his origins on the original pea-soup-monochrome Game Boy are humble, Kirby is one of those rare characters who’s managed to star in some consistently fantastic games. In terms of home consoles, it certainly helps that Kirby games typically arrive late in the lives of the gaming systems they’re designed for. Kirby’s Adventure was released in 1993 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, 8 years into the system’s life and a full 2 years after the release of the Super Nintendo. Kirby’s Dreamland 3, Kirby 64, and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland followed suit; releasing in 1997 for the SNES, 2000 for the Nintendo 64, and 2011 for the Wii, respectively. Because of this, Kirby’s games are able to take full advantage of a system’s technical capabilities, and often push them to their limits.
The game widely considered to be Kirby’s finest is no different, released for the Super Nintendo roughly 9 days before the Nintendo 64 released here in the U.S. in late 1996. This particular game is, of course, the topic of this article: Kirby Super Star. I would not only consider this the definitive Kirby game, but I would go so far as to consider it one of the greatest games ever made. It has held a spot in my personal top 10 favorite games ever since I was introduced to it. But just what makes this game–or “8 Games In One!” according to the title–so stellar?
Kirby Super Star (henceforth referred to as KSS) is, just as its subtitle suggests, a fairly diverse game. It consists of 5 traditional Kirby platformers, 3 mini-games, and a boss rush mode that’s unlocked after beating the final sub-game. The game starts off with “Spring Breeze,” an enhanced and abbreviated remake of the Game Boy classic Kirby’s Dreamland. This serves as the perfect introduction for new players and provides veterans with a chance to adjust to KSS‘s control scheme (more on that later). Spring Breeze has a total of 3 full levels and a very brief level in Mt. Dedede, and the story is virtually the same as the original game’s: King Dedede has stolen all the food in Dreamland, and Kirby sets out to stop him. Nothing complicated here.
Up next is “The Great Cave Offensive,” which is probably my favorite sub-game. Kirby must navigate his way through a labyrinthine cavern and collect 60 treasures before tangling with the monstrous Wham Bam Rock to escape. The cool thing about The Great Cave Offensive is that it follows the very-loosely-linear “Metroidvania” style of map layout. Although it’s atypical for a Kirby game, there are no level select screens in The Great Cave Offensive. Rather, you just navigate through the cave and make use of Save Points to record your progress every so often. The sub-game ends upon the defeat of Wham Bam Rock and Kirby’s return to the surface, which means that collecting any and all of the 60 treasures is completely optional. The collecting aspect, however, is where this sub-game’s pull lies. Players seeking the “100%” label on their save files will want to search high and low to grab every treasure–several of which are references to other famous Nintendo games–and some of them are devilishly tricky to reach.
“Dyna Blade” is the next sub-game, and features Kirby trekking through a Mario Bros. 3-esque world map to reach the gigantic bird and titular character, Dyna Blade. Apparently she stole Dreamland’s food supply, which seems to be a recurring problem in this game. The world map is an interesting touch, even if it only consists of 4 levels and a wandering mini-boss fight. This sub-game also makes use of the giant switches that last appeared in Kirby’s Adventure; these will unlock 2 additional hidden areas. Dyna Blade, unsurprisingly, serves as the sub-game’s final boss. Overall, it’s a fairly easy sub-game and was probably only included because it provides the perfect segue into…
“Revenge of Meta Knight,” the sub-game that features everyone’s favorite sword-wielding masked ball in the role of a villain. Apparently, Meta Knight decided the people of Dreamland were too lazy and set off to set up his own rigorous, totalitarian regime. Naturally, Kirby decides to put a stop to this dastardly plan (I’m still not sure how it qualifies as “Revenge” on Meta Knight’s part) and slowly but surely destroys Meta Knight’s aircraft, the Halberd, piece by piece. Yes, this is the same Halberd that was featured as a stage in both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and its Wii U sequel. Aside from including small cutscenes of Kirby repeatedly being blasted off the Halberd, this sub-game puts a time limit on each level, which I don’t think I have to explain. It culminates with an epic duel between Meta Knight and Kirby before a hair-raising escape from the rapidly-deteriorating battleship.
The final platforming sub-game is “Milky Way Wishes.” It kicks off with a jester named Marx pleading for Kirby to stop the Sun and Moon from fighting each other. Always happy to help, Kirby then launches on a solar-system-wide quest. I won’t say too much about this mode, considering it features the ever-present endgame plot twist that’s come to be expected of Kirby games, but the catch for this sub-game is that Kirby no longer gains powers from the enemies he inhales. Instead, the abilities are found on pedestals hidden throughout levels, and upon collection can be called upon at any point during gameplay and used just as they normally would.
The controls are spot-on and make use of almost every button the SNES pad has to offer. Kirby’s special abilities also have different effects depending on the button input or combination. These differing moves vary in range and attack power, which is important because every enemy has a stamina bar, an atypical feature for the series. Even the average Waddle Dee can withstand at least 1 or 2 weaker attacks!
The graphics are among the best of the system. The Super FX Chip is put to full use here, featuring pseudo-3D backgrounds and bright, colorful scenery. Most levels are very distinctive, with green greens or bubbly clouds providing memorable backdrops. Even The Great Cave Offensive, which takes place underground, is filled with dense jungles, cavernous crystal fields, and a couple of castles. The enemies all have their classic Kirby charms, and the pink puffball himself looks as bright and cheery as ever.
The sound is phenomenal, featuring both remixes of classic tunes and new scores that would go on to become classics in their own right, such as the “Gourmet Race” theme. My personal favorite has to be this remix of the Green Greens theme. It sounds like an entire orchestra was crammed into an SNES cart, which is definitely impressive considering the tech of the time. The sound effects are fitting as well–you have several classic ability SFX; Kirby squeaks whenever he takes damage, etc. I doubt you’d notice them very much while playing (unless, of course, you make use of the Mic ability).
I would definitely recommend this game. It’s a spectacular combination of huge variety, tight controls, popping graphics, swell sounds, and fine-tuned gameplay that, while leaning towards the easy side, still provides a satisfying challenge. It also features a pick-up-and-play 2-player mode, which is great as long as you have friends or siblings.
You can find Kirby Super Star on the Virtual Console for both the Wii and Wii U. In fact, you can buy them with a Club Nintendo account for 150 and 200 Coins, respectively (and assuming you can actually access the Club Nintendo site at the moment…). An enhanced remake for the DS exists in the form of Kirby Super Star Ultra, which I may cover in a separate article in the future. Otherwise, you can find it in its original SNES incarnation, although it’ll cost you a pretty penny.