A few days ago, Nintendo released a demo for Kirby Star Allies on the European eShop, but for us Americans who didn’t want to bother with making a European profile, it just came out today. I’ve always really liked Kirby, especially Kirby’s Adventure on the NES, so I’ve been really looking forward to the pink puffball’s debut on the Nintendo Switch. Now that the demo is out, we can get a pretty good idea of how the game is shaping up.
I don’t usually start with graphics when I write one of these, and Kirby might seem like a weird series to make that change, but it really is the first thing I noticed. Star Allies is hardly the most visually detailed game on the Switch or the one with the most unique style, but that signature Kirby look really pops in HD. Everything from the backgrounds to the enemies are bright and colorful and just oozing with personality. This isn’t a total reimagining of Kirby’s aesthetics, the way Epic Yarn was, but this is by far the prettiest Kirby has ever looked.
Okay, so with that out of the way, what is Kirby Star Allies? Well, it’s the next mainline Kirby platformer. Like every other Kirby game, you control the titular character, a round, pink dude who can swallow enemies whole, and try to get to the end of the level. When you suck an enemy out, you can either spit them at other enemies or obstacles or swallow them, granting you their abilities. So far, I could be describing basically any Kirby game, but there is a pretty cool and unique hook in Star Allies.
With a press of the X button, Kirby pulls out a heart and throws it. If it hits an enemy, they’ll become your friend. You can have up to four friends at a time, and they’ll help you out in a bunch of different ways. The most obvious one, they’ll help you fight the bad guys. They can also help you with puzzles. If there’s a secret that requires using a specific power and one of your friends happens to have it, they’ll run over and take care of it for you. This means that you basically have up to four abilities at a time, instead of the usual one.
To add on to this, some abilities can be combined to create new ones. For example, if Kirby has the sword ability, and you have a friend with fire powers, he can breathe fire onto the sword transforming it into the Sizzle Sword. This sword hit’s harder than the normal one and can be used to solve fire based puzzles, like lighting fuses. Activating these combinations couldn’t be simpler either. All you have to do is hold up on either the analog stick or D-pad, and if one of your friends can combine powers with you, they will.
There are two levels available to try out, one marked easy and the other hard. They’re both pretty easy, but Kirby’s never been particularly difficult. Both levels feature classic boss fights, Whispy Woods and King Dedede respectively. Seeing that dumb tree in HD was a real treat, and the Dedede fight had some cool surprises. I’m really hoping the full game includes more classics.
There’s a couple points in the demo where you and your friends are separated on opposite sides of the screen. In these sections, you advance by hitting switches that open the way on the other side of the screen, so that your friends can advance and open the way for you. Honestly, these parts didn’t do much for me, but they might be more fun in multiplayer. I didn’t have an opportunity to play the game with anyone else, but if you play with real life friends, they take control of Kirby’s friends. This seems like a great feature for a Switch game, especially since the game can be played with a single Joy-Con.
The controls are pretty much exactly what Kirby controls have always been. Moving Kirby is done with either the analog stick or D-pad, jumping is on A, inhaling on B, dropping powers on Y, and throwing hearts on X. Really, it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. Not only does this give you all the functionality that you’d need or want from one of these games, but it translates perfectly onto a single Joy-Con. Personally, I feel like the game handles better on a D-pad than the analog stick, so a full controller is still optimal when compared to the Joy-Con, but either way is perfectly fine.
Kirby Star Allies is only a couple more weeks away, and now I’m more excited than ever. If you like Kirby, this demo seems to indicate that this game will give you exactly what you’re looking for. Download it for yourself and let me know what you think, and come back after the game is out to hear my full thoughts on the final release.