First you draw a circle, Then you dot the eyes. Add a great big smile And presto, it's Kirby!
Kirby's Adventure is the first and only appearance of the little pink puffball on the NES, a game building on the strong platforming foundation the Super Mario Bros. built before him. While that might seem strange at first, one must remember that they are blue collar workers in the end, even if construction isn't their preferred profession. I guess Mario has worked work with rivets and girders in the past, but that's a whole 'nother story.
Plot Kirby wakes up from a nap without any dreams (oh no!), and discovers that King Dedede has snaked the Star Rod from the Fountain of Dreams, and broken it into seven pieces. These have been distributed to Dedede's closest friends, and Kirby must get them back by any means necessary if he ever..hopes to dream again.
What It Does Well
The second game in the series, following Kirby's Dreamland on Game Boy, Kirby's Adventure floated into U.S. homes in May 1993 (March 26th in Japan). Coming so close to the end of NES' life cycle, it took advantage of all the hardware, stretching graphics and audio to the limits, symbolic of Kirby himself after inhaling a defenseless foe. You'll notice the vibrant colors and catchy tunes immediately, second only to the amount of fun you'll have throughout.
If you're unfamiliar with Kirby and his unique abilities, Kirby's Adventure does a great job of getting you quickly acclimated. In lieu of instructions, the game teaches you how to play with both text and recorded gameplay if you don't press Start immediately (this is how games used to be; now they clutter the screen with pop-ups and a HUD telling you in real-time where you need to go, and which buttons to press, blah blah blah..). If you already know how to play, or like to figure it out by just doing it, press Start and select a new save file!
Unlike the Super Mario Bros. who jump on their opponents, or Sonic the Hedgehog who rolls through robots / fat bald guys with mustaches, or so many others who strike/shoot anything and everything, Kirby's primary means of dispatching baddies is by sucking them in and either a) spitting them right back out as a projectile, or b) swallowing them into his bottomless pit of a stomach, and copying their ability. Different enemies yield different powers (be it a Sword, or Fireball breath, or even turning into a Wheel to bowl through enemies -- hey, maybe there is some Sonic-type stuff in here!), so finding all of these is good fun. Sometimes..if you get lucky, you can line up TWO enemies and inhale them together, and you just might end up with a totally different power than either of them would produce. This can create some strategy within a game that may not require it, but using your noggin and figuring it out (sometimes by accident) will feel plenty good. There is just something totally enjoyable about the whole process, and it is much more fulfilling than simply clomping on a guys head and sending him south. Now, if you got special mushroom boots from stomping a Goomba..
If you have some trouble during the stages, and you want to bring a power into the stage instead of getting it there, you have that option, too. Unlike Super Mario Bros., Kirby's Adventure is set up more like Super Mario World, having stages that you can go back to and re-enter if you want something. There are also hidden exits which open up special Bonus areas, and opportunities to have a little side-fun away from the main drag. From a wild west style Duel that tests your reflexes, to an "eat the eggs and not the bombs" smorgasbord, an Arena deal, and a Museum (which simply lets you observe a stationary enemy before stealing his power without provocation), there is a good deal of variety outside of the platforming. My favorite though is probably the Claw Machine, which has a small Kirby (1up) and a large Kirby (2up!) seated amongst other Kirby dolls that you can't pick up. Simply hold the A button to guide the claw, releasing it to drop it down, and hold your breath. I do here a lot better than in actual machines, so that may've influenced my pick a little.
What It Doesn't Do Well
Not too much, really. This was a pretty darn good game (some say "Great!"). For masochists who complain about difficulty, I guess the game does do you some favors. For instance, when you advance to a new area within a stage, you restart from that point (most games of that era either make you re-do the whole thing, or let you start from a halfway point). Some may cry "too easy!," but most will say "phew! Glad I get to restart here!" We're living in a weird videogame culture, and you've gotta please everybody, even people who complain about free handouts.
Kirby's Adventure does some other things that different titles do, such as the player being able to withstand six points of damage. Many other games only give you one or two hits, though you do start a new stage with the amount of life you left the previous stage with. For people who like to gather a bunch of lives (and giggle to themselves once they hit that double-digit mark because they're so awesome at videogames), it might come as a bit of a disappointment to learn that all of those will be lost upon turning off the system or exiting your save file. You are reset to the standard start of the game set of lives, regardless of what your total was before hitting the power button. It should be noted, however, that you're free to go back and stock up on lives from any of the Bonus areas you did before.
Lastly, I guess, is that since Kirby can fly, if you so choose (and you're a skunk) you can bypass most of the platforming elements in most boards, hovering safely out of range of ground-based enemies. You do pay for this at the expense of speed, but a blimp is a blimp; floating freely amongst the clouds.
A really good change of pace from the types of games I usually play, grinding my mind and body for hours. Kirby's Adventure is like cotton candy for the gaming soul; pure, sugary fun but with little fat. Really easy to just pick up and play for a bit, and without any save points that you need to get to or work towards (since the game saves by itself and puts your right back where you were), you can pop in and out and not think twice about it.
Should you give it a shot? Absolutely!, especially for those people in need of a vacation who "need" to play a game that is 40+ hours, or that has flashy graphics and so much production. Sure, Kirby's Adventure is advanced for an NES title, but the core of the game is still "the gameplay." There are 8 Levels that you'll fight through, all named cute little things like "Vegetable Valley" or "Ice Cream Island." If you want to play a little longer, and extend your trip in Dream Land, you'll be pleased to know that there is an Extra Game mode upon 100%'ing the game for those looking for a heightened challenge; your hit points are halved, and you may not save. Eep!
If you'd like to play but don't have access to an NES, you can play it on the Wii's Virtual Console, or -- if you're GameDadGrant, an on-the-go type of guy -- as Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land on your Game Boy Advance.
Though he didn't have the initial popularity that some of the other Nintendo mascots did, and some of his recent games were more touch and go, thanks to places like Brawl in the Family, there has been a resurgence of sorts. Kirby has finally worked his way into the mainstream, returned to his platformy roots, and a "new Kirby game" can almost be expected on a yearly basis.
Until we meet again, Kirby. Good night, sweet prince..
Nice review, and thanks for the shout out! This is one of my favorite Kirby games--you're spot-on about it pushing the NES to its limits, and I've always considered it the last truly great NES title. It also really stuck out to me as a kid because it was the game that introduced Kirby's ability-stealing, which really redefined the series' gameplay variety.
I've been enjoying it again with the 3DS's version. It's handled quite well.