Suit up for Kirby’s latest adventure!
Technology today is pretty great, isn’t it? Thanks to a stream of constantly-ongoing improvements in technology, more and more dreams become reality every day. From travel, to communication, to healthcare, technology truly does play an incredibly vital role in the day-to-day life of almost everyone, If you think about it, it’s kind of strange how quickly our society as a whole progresses in terms of technological advancements. It seems as though every morning you wake up, and yet another part of our society is modernized. In fact, we’re almost at the point where you could expect to go to sleep with the world looking one way and, *poof*, have everything chance drastically by the time you wake up. While the thought of such improvements could potentially be exciting, it’s kind of scary if you think about it? What if you woke up only to find out that technology had begun completely dominating every single facet of the world and was doing so for the worse? Well, I wouldn’t worry if I were you; nightmarish technological overlords are for fiction. Unfortunately for Kirby of Planet Pop Star, “fiction” is just what he so happens to be. When robots descend from the sky in an attempt to mechanize Kirby’s home planet, will the alleged “Pink Demon” (it seriously calls him that at one point in the game, I swear) of Pop Star have what it takes to stand up and fight, or will he end up just a ghost in the machine?
The story of Kirby: Planet Robobot begins with Kirby enjoying a nice nap out in the middle of a sunny field. While the day may have started out perfectly, Kirby’s fun in the sun is soon cut short when a giant alien spacecraft descends from the sky. Before Kirby can even begin comprehending what’s going on around him, the planet-sized spacecraft begins turning Kirby’s home planet Pop Star into a mechanized utopia with blinding speed. Just who were these mysterious and hostile invaders? What did they want so badly that Pop Star had? There was only one way to find out the answers to any of these questions and, with that, Kirby set out to once again save his home from imminent danger.
Kirby: Planet Robot plays, for the most part, very much like a traditional Kirby game. The game is split up into six different worlds, each with a unique motif (albeit they’re all heavy related to technology this time around) with certain level gimmicks appearing within certain world. Level progression is nothing short of classic, Kirby-style platforming filled with a variety of gimmicks between worlds that are enough to keep you on your toes. While gimmicks did seem to be varied quite nicely throughout levels, Nintendo really seemed to like the 3D Warp Star, previously introduced in Kirby: Triple Deluxe, as there are several within nearly every level. While not a bad mechanic, constantly jumping from foreground to background did seem a bit unecessary at times. As per tradition, each world ends with a showdown between Kirby and a boss. While boss rosters within Kirby games are generally picked from a lineup of already existing bosses, with only a few new boss characters being introduced in each game, Planet Robobot did things differently this time. Rather than throwing in old bosses, Planet Robobot saw it fit to re-vamp old bosses into high-tech versions of their former selves. These new bosses included a mechanized version of Meta Knight, and a set of King Dedede clones and were all made up quite well. While not entirely new, necessarily, they were quite innovative and did a great job bridging a gap between traditional and new Kirby elements.
Collectables are quite a familiar sight within Kirby games, and they certainly don’t get any less familiar while playing Planet Robobot. The game features two main types of collectables; Code Cubes, and Stickers. Code Cubes are a necessary collectable, as the boss door at the end of each world will not open up if the player has not collected enough Code Cubes throughout that world. Collecting a certain number of Code Cubes will allow players to face the boss of that world. If a player manages to collect every Code Cube in a world, an additional level will also open up. These levels have Code Cubes in them as well, but collecting them isn’t necessary for game progression. Aside from Code Cubes, Kirby can also pick up Stickers as he progresses through each level. While not a necessary collectable, Stickers feature characters from nearly every Kirby game that has been made so far and are honestly quite a bit of fun to collect. Stickers also come in two different variants; normal, and rare. Normal Stickers are relatively plentiful in each level and aren’t too difficult to find most of the time. When picked up, a normal Sticker appears as a blue circle with a question mark in it; You won’t find out which Stickers you got until you beat the level, but the contents vary each time, as normal Stickers are randomized (although the game does seem pretty generous in terms of giving you Stickers that you don’t yet have). A single Rare Sticker also appears within each level (boss levels are excluded). Unlike with common Stickers, rare Stickers are usually well-hidden and can require a bit of searching in order to find. Although they appear as gold circles with question marks when picked up, the contents of rare Stickers are already pre-determined.
As fun as the levels within the Kirby games are, messing around with Kirby’s signature Copy Ability arguably one of the most enjoyable things to do. Fortunately the Copy Ability is not only back, but very much in full bloom with over 20 Copy Abilities returning along with three all new Copy Abilities; Doctor, ESP, and Poison. As has been the trend with newer games within the Kirby franchise, each Copy Ability is relatively versatile with each individual Ability being unique from any other. While it’s always disappointing to see Copy Abilities taken out of Kirby games, the Ability lineup within Planet Robobot is a good mix of new and old and holds up very nicely overall.
Now, let’s focus on Kirby: Planet Robobot‘s special gimmick; the Robobot itself! Let me start out by saying that this game’s unique gimmick is much more enjoyable than those in previous Kirby installments. The recent string of newer Kirby games has seen gimmicks that can be largely categorized by two distinct features; the fact that they a) look cool, but b) are overpowered to the point of being boring. Gone are the days of Hypernova and Super Copy Abilities, and in their place is the much-welcomed Robobot! Rather than suiting up Kirby with something that essentially can be defined as “press a button to make Kirby win for you” – the newly-implemented Robobot mechanic has Kirby piloting an adorable pink mech that works the same way as the pink puffball himself. Kirby’s Robobot companion controls nearly identically to Kirby, even down to having his own brand of Copy Ability.
The main difference between normal gameplay and Robobot gameplay is that Robobot gameplay tends to focus on using brute force to solve problems. There are many obstacles within levels that Kirby must be careful around in order to avoid getting squished, knocked offscreen, or run over. The Robobot, on the other hand, can pretty much handle anything. A lot of the levels that utilize the Robobot end up playing out like some sort of weird revenge fantasy, starting out with Kirby being incredibly vulnerable and end up with Kirby in the Robobot Armor smashing everything that previously presented any semblance of a threat. While the concept is a bit weird at times, Robobot segments are quite enjoyable. Best of all, they actually play like levels. Unlike with previous gimmicks, the Robobot isn’t some kind of end-all; though it is more powerful than Kirby alone, it still has an HP bar, is vulnerable to attacks, and actually can’t even fly. As an added bonus, collected Stickers can be placed on your Robobot to make a mech that’s all your own, though you’re unfortunately limited to using only 2 of the over 200 Stickers at one time. It’s a good thing that the Robobot mechanics are smoothed out so well, because it shows up a whole lot.
A Kirby game just wouldn’t be a Kirby game without plenty of extras, and Planet Robobot doesn’t fail to deliver on that front at all. Along with the main game, Planet Robobot comes side-loaded with two additional mini-games; Team Kirby Clash and Kirby 3D Rumble. Team Kirby Clash is essential a series of boss fights with RPG mechanics. Players can pick from one of four enhanced Copy Abilities, Sword, Hammer, Beam, and Doctor and go head-to-head with a roster of bosses from previous Kirby games. While the fights themselves are pretty similar to standard boss fights, there are a few key differences. First and foremost, up to four people can play Team Kirby Clash – if you don’t have any friends that want to play, you can add in some CPU characters to help you out. Secondly, there are some newly-implemented RPG mehcanics. That’s right, you can gain EXP as you fight bosses and level up. Your Kirby’s level carries over between classes, so there isn’t any need to grind out each of the four individually. After defeating a boss, EXP is awarded based on time and efficiency with a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medal being awarded based on how much EXP you got that round. While tragically very short, Team Kirby Clash is a game in its own right and is plenty of fun weather you’re playing alone or with friends.
Have you ever wondered what a fully 3D Kirby game would be like? Well you’re in luck, because Kirby 3D Rumble is here to answer just that. The second mini-game within Kirby: Planet Robobot, is here to answer just that. Kirby 3D rumble is a collection of single-area levels that challenges players to defeat the incoming enemies as quickly as possible. There aren’t any Copy Abilities this time around, so players will instead have to treat this game as a 3D version of the original Kirby’s Dreamland. Even without Copy Abilities, Kirby 3D Rumble provides a neat look as to what the series would look like if it were to ever take turn over to full 3D. While fun, it doesn’t quite hit the satisfaction level as Team Kirby Clash.
Graphically speaking, Planet Robobot has done pretty well for itself overall. Characters and Copy Abilities are all very unique-looking and colorful, as they should be considering it’s a Kirby game. The game really goes above in beyond in the level aesthetics. Every level within every world is incredibly detailed, and accurately conveys the proper settings. From a bustling techno-city to an underwater utopia, each level is filled with so many colorful and vibrant details that they’re almost worth playing through a few times just so you can take in everything. Plenty of graphical Easter Eggs are also hidden within several of the levels. While I wish I could go into detail about them they’re just too good to ruin; I’d highly suggest seeking them out yourself.
It’s a good thing that there are invaders from space in this game, because Kirby: Planet Robobot has a soundtrack that is out of this world (that was funny, right?). In all seriousness though, the soundtrack is so good that I’m not even sure where exactly to start. The sheer number of tracks stuffed into this game alone is enough to make any music-loving gamer happy, but it doesn’t stop there. Those who play Kirby games can surely notice that the series as a whole has a certain musical vibe to it. With soundtracks that are generally upbeat or, at the very least, high energy, and instrumental choices that generally reflect the happy and lighthearted nature of Pop Star’s hero himself, the Kirby franchise definitely has its own musical vibe. Planet Robobot‘s soundtrack did a fantastic job of not only keeping the same general musical vibe featured within most Kirby games, but fusing it with the technology-heavy feel specifically found within this game. The result was an incredibly enjoyable collection of in-game music that not only said Kirby, but Kirby: Planet Robobot specifically. The many all-new tracks include wonderfully done remakes of songs featured from a plethora of other games within the Kirby series, and several tracks directly ripped from older games themselves including Kirby Super Star and – my personal favorite – Kirby’s Dreamland 3. While this game is definitely one geared toward all ages, the direction that Nintendo decided to take with its soundtrack is definitely one that realizes that it has plenty of longtime fans that have been with Kirby since the very beginning.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is a definite treat for any 3DS owner, and offers something for players casual, hardcore, or anywhere in between. Though it is a bit short (a problem relatively consistent with Kirby games), it’s an incredibly fun and satisfying gaming experience overall that I would even recommend to those who don’t usually find themselves playing Kirby games. Between an engaging story mode and plentiful side-games, Kirby: Planet Robobot is definitely one to add to your collection.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo 3DS (reviewed) ; Publisher: Nintendo ; Developer: HAL Laboratory ; Players: 1 ; Released: April 28th, 2016 ;
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of the game.