Review by Meta Lobster
"By mixing racing with simple controls with hidden depth, HAL & Nintendo makes another great multiplayer game!"
From the makers of Super Smash Brothers:Melee, Kirby Air Ride is a racer that uses only the control stick and the A button (or L/R if you prefer) and gives you 3 different game modes to put them to good use. With easy-to-grasp gameplay mechanics that hide strategy, it may remind you a bit of SSBM.
Highly cartoony, but if you're a kirby fan you'll feel right at home. Compared to other games it holds its own. The Air ride models are great, the rides have particle effects shooting out from behind. The Wheelies' wheels actually look like they spin. The Shadow star is especially attractive, with it's unique purple,reflective shine. The environments and tracks are good too, a lot of attention was paid to textures and such. The weak point here are the character models, the enemies are a bit ugly, but since players are speeding at around 20-30 mph I guess the developers didn't care too much.
The music ranges from okay to very good.The original score has some themes that I find okay to listen to,others like "Beanstalk Park" annoy me to death. What bumps this score up to an 8 is the classic Kirby themes, which still sound good
today.Music from the SNES Kirby Super Star and even the NES Kirby's Adventure can be heard! These are unlocked by clearing specific challenges however. The sound effects are nothing special, except for Kirby's horrible screeching on the mike, ouch!
The gameplay has to be rated 3 ways,of course,as there's 3 different game modes! In general, it's pretty good, the machines all have their unique handling but are unfortunately unbalanced, rides like Swerve star and maybe Wagon star are way ahead of the pack, while Wheelie Scooter and Formula star are terrible rides, despite the scooters big speed boost on rails and the formula star's high top speed. There aren't enough rails on stages to be a decent advantage, and not enough straightaways for formula's top speeds. Also, each of these modes have 120 challenges for a total of 360, some of which bear unlockables, which I won't spoil for you.
Air ride 7/10
Although it's meant to be the main mode, the not-so-good balance between the vehicles is it's main downfall. However, the courses features help this problem out a bit. A lot of the strategy involved concerns which path to take during a race. For example, would it be better if you hit this coming boost panel, or if you hit a ramp right next to it? If you're riding a Winged star you'd be better off hitting that ramp, it glides at a faster speed than on the ground,besides, hitting the panel would only give a second of pumped-up speed. In the case of a Formula star,however, the boost would be the better choice. The gameplay is unique because each player has their own way of handling a course. Also, there are copy abilities to fight with.The bad part is they're also used with the button used to slow down, meaning a lot of these skills can't be used with out slowing your self down, the Plasma Ability is a good example of this as it discharges every time you hit A. Attacking other players are supposed to slow them down, but barely do you see any speed decreases,nor do you see a boost of speed when you hit an enemy.Overall, if this was the only mode, this game would have had a lower score.
Top ride 8/10
This mode is played on a single screen overhead view, it's a fun minigame, but there was no need to make 120 challenges out of it. There are two control modes for it, in the form of two air rides. There are no other differences between them besides the look and control method. The gameplay is fun and frantic, with players rushing around the mini-track, picking up power-ups before others and using the features spread throughout the course, since there are no machines to choose from, this mode is strictly all about your skill. However, the game can get confusing when there are explosions and missles flying everywhere. The challenges for this mode can be a bore also.
City Trial 10/10
This mode was a stroke of pure genius! The goal is go about powering up in the city for the stadium match at the end. The city is pretty big, giving you lots of places to search for boosters.This also gives those lower-tier vehicles a chance to compete! You have many options to explore while in the city. You can search for blue boxes to power up your machine to be a force in the stadium,or you could just attack others and steal their power-ups and maybe destroy their rides to ensure victory. If you really want to make your opponents mad, try collecting the pieces of the legendary Air Rides, Hydra and Dragoon! It's a thrill to be chased by your friends once you start collecting those pieces! As if this wasn't enough, events also happen in the city! Some of them are good, but some you'll wish would just hurry up and end. Believe it or not, being in the city is tons more fun than most of the stadium events at the end. Some of them are a complete waste of time, target flight for example is just playing darts with flying machine and is painful to control.
With a hidden amount of strategy to it and a dynamic city trial mode, Kirby is a racer with a feel that's all it's own.The machines aren't well balanced, it can be fixed with a slight handicap, however. Those that aren't so worried about the look of a game will have a very well made multiplayer game on their hands. It won't hold a candle to the likes of a Gran Turismo, but if you're not looking for that kind of hardcore experience then take this game for a ride!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/29/04
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