Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Review by genofreek
"I wanted it to be better..."
Look out, Dark Matter. Nintendo's hungriest hero is back for another round of saving his world (galaxy? universe?) in his signature style -- inhaling the bad guys and using their own skills against them. Will he win?
C'mon, this is Kirby. What do YOU think?
The plot of K64:TCS is actually more involved than most Kirby games. The evil and physically ambiguous Dark Matter tries to take over Ripple Star for a powerful crystal contained therein, but a little fairy named Ribbon breaks it into pieces, grabs one, and races to Popstar for help. Kirby, of course, leaps right into the day-saving as soon as he hears about the problem. The first levels deal with Kirby's friends possessed by Dark Matter; save them, and they'll help you throughout the rest of the game.
There's nothing really deep about it -- it's just a sweet story about the power of friendship in a fight against evil -- but it's more than we tend to get from Kirby games. Definitely stronger than the usual ''Kirby's hungry! Guide him in the quest for a snack!'' storylines.
It's... okay. Kirby doesn't have unlimited flight this time, which makes for more of a challenge. It would've been better if they'd give the player some indication of when Kirby was about to fall before he starts to sweat and flail, because that means you have about a second and a half before you lose control of him and can do nothing but watch him fall.
This game lets you combine powers, something you don't see often. There are some cool ones, such as Fire+Bomb turning Kirby into a fireworks display; funny ones, like Spark+Ice turning Kirby into a food-spewing fridge; and then a couple of less-than-useful ones. Anyone who tried Fire+Ice and watched Kirby, uh, melt at his enemies knows what I'm talking about. Also, there are only about eight powers. Still, the ability to mix and match is unique, creative, and lots of fun (and there are some obstacles that won't budge/bosses who won't die unless you hit them with a certain attack).
However, one major problem I had was with the control. Kirby doesn't react as well as I'd like, and moves with the crosspad instead of the stick. When you've gotten used to Smash Bros., Mario 64, the Zelda games, and other control stick-oriented games; it's hard to change just for one game. Also, it's hard to get Kirby to throw his powers horizontally. You can get him to spit them out and toss them straight up without much difficulty, but sometimes getting him to throw them in the direction of another enemy for a combo/attack is tough. Even if you hit the right button, he still tends to toss them up.
Also, the game is almost painfully linear. While it looks like there's a beautiful world spread in all directions just screaming to be explored, you can only go right or left unless the camera angle changes to give you the illusion of going forward. All you can do is sigh and watch the backgrounds go by...
Oh, yeah, and there's no control over camera angles. You see what the game allows -- nothing more, nothing less. Crystal shards could be hidden behind rocks or down holes, but you won't know unless you jump around blindly and risk your life repeatedly. As far as actual gameplay goes, TCS is lacking.
A lot of your favorites and a couple of newbies populate TCS, but there's not much in the way of character development. Kirby eats and saves the day. Dark Matter overcomes and destroys. Ribbon has a good heart, but can't do it on her own. Waddle Dee is now your friend, but he's about as incompetent in that department as he was as your enemy in earlier games. The artist (I forgot their name) helps and gives hints via paintings. Dedede, no longer boss #1, reluctantly lends his brute strength to the cause.
Everyone is enjoyable, predictable, and appealing.
Typical early N64. Characters are blocky, somewhat awkward, but easily recognizable. And I will say, the facial expressions on characters during cutscenes are very well-rendered -- they don't just stare expressionlessly.
And, because it's Kirby, you'd better believe that everything is adorable. Everything. Even some of the evil bosses beg to be made into plushies and cuddled by children across the globe.
Actually... I played most of TCS with the sound down, since there have been other people in my room a lot of the time. :P What I did hear was pretty good, though, so I'll give them a good score. Except for a couple of aggravating pieces of music (especially on Ripple Star), it's well done. I didn't have any complaint about the sound effects, but I wish Kirby had said more than ''Hai!''.
Replay Value: 7/10
You can beat the worlds and levels without getting all the crystal shards. However, you can't get to Dark Star and the ultimate boss without them, so it's back to the incomplete maps to find the missing pieces!
Watching Kirby snork up sandwiches, fudgicles, spare ribs, and other delights gets a little tiring after awhile if you don't have food of your own around. Kirby doesn't share. ;)
I wanted to love this game. I was hoping it'd become a favorite, something I went back to when I was looking for good gameplay (the way I do with Kirby Super Star). Sadly, it's just not strong enough. It's good to beat once, but it doesn't take much time. Once you've gotten all the crystal shards and beaten every boss at least once, you're done.
If you find it to rent, go on and try it. If you see it for $20 or less, buy it. If you're really crazy about Kirby, you won't be disappointed, but most people will probably feel the same way I do... something is definitely missing.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/01/03, Updated 01/01/03
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