Tuesday 20 August 2019

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64 review)

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2000

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a platformer that was originally planned for release on the N64's 64DD add-on.

Your mission is to recover all of the crystal shards that have shattered across the game's seven planets and stop the sinister Dark Matter from using them for evil. As usual, Kirby can swallow enemies to copy their abilities, but this time two power-ups can be combined to create more devastating attacks. The level design is some of the best in the whole series with inviting worlds and shifting scenery that makes you want to keep playing to see what's ahead. Highlights include a fun water raft ride where you attempt to jump over enemies and obstacles while collecting health items, and another adorable moment where you hop into an aquarium! In a neat twist, there's even some sections where you can play as King Dedede and use his hammer to smash everything in sight! As with most games in the Kirby series, the action is on the easy side; however, the replayability comes from combining abilities and trying out different methods of attacking each of the game's challenges. Likewise, the optional task of locating all three shard pieces in each stage is another motivator to return to previously beaten levels. The graphics shine due to their bright, colourful aesthetics, and despite the shifting perspective of the 2.5D engine, the camera does a very good job of positioning. In terms of combat, the bosses are the clear star of the show thanks to their interesting attack patterns that pose a decent challenge on first attempt. Many of these bosses will be familiar to Kirby fans, but the developers made sure to add some cool twists, such as the Whispy Woods battle that takes place on a fixed, spherical plane.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is more of a refinement for the series than an evolution, but that doesn't mean it's not a mightily impressive game. In particular, it features top-notch level design and interesting ability combinations that top off a fun adventure already filled with a ridiculous amount of charm and personality.

Random trivia: Three lacklustre mini-games are tucked away in the options menu (100-Yard Hop, Bumper Crop Bump, and Checker Board Chase).

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