Reviews

So many abilities, so little to do — Kirby Battle Royale review

Kirby games tend to have a cycle with their release schedule. There will be a traditional Kirby game, a spin-off, and then another traditional game. In 2016 we received Kirby: Planet Robobot, and now, two months before Kirby: Star Allies, Kirby Battle Royale is released on Nintendo 3DS.

No, this game does not feature 100 different Kirbies fighting to be the last one standing, Kirby Battle Royale is an arena fighter with 10 different minigames and 17 abilities (currently) to choose from. It is the first Kirby game to feature an online mode where you fight against three other players in a series of any of the 10 minigames at random. Unfortunately, players don’t even have the option to play with friends online, only strangers in ranked. You cannot play casually.

The core aspect of the game is the “battle mode” where you choose from the 10 minigames and your ability. All of these games can be played in a 2v2 setting, but only 8 of the 10 can be played free-for-all.

Most of these games are played in a playable arena built off of Kirby’s Blowout Blast. Surprisingly, most of the abilities transfer well in a 3D environment. Instead of one button being dedicated to the ability, you now have one for standard moves and one for special moves. While this works well in the arena-style games, some of the games with a side view make the abilities feel flat without any of the in-depth options available in Planet Robobot. However, each ability has its different uses, and I couldn’t find myself sticking to one ability during the duration of the game’s 10 minigames.

Battle Arena

This could be considered one of the main modes of Kirby Battle Royale. In this game, you face three other players (or two if you’re on a team). However, there is only one way to play this game: last Kirby standing. When you are knocked out, you have the ability to come back by mashing the “A” button. Each time you return, you have less health and it becomes more difficult to come back.

Battle Arena is fun, but brief. There are instances where a player can hide in the corner and wait for someone else to take out the other two players. This would give the running player the advantage to take them out in the end. This could be solved if there was a way to play this game with “the most knockouts within a time limit,” but like the other minigames, there aren’t any custom rules.

Coin Clash

Coin Clash is similar to the coin mode in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Brawl, and Wii U. Players collect coins scattered along the map and beat them out of each other. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. As you’re collecting coins, a ghost will roam around the map and attempt to possess players. When a player has a ghost on them, they will gradually drop coins. You can only lose this ghost by running into another player. Like other games, you cannot turn this ghost off.

The ghost is exactly what makes team matches frustrating. Since you and your partner share your coin cache, your partner could end up losing all of your coins by being possessed, making things more frustrating than they need to be.

Apple Scramble

Apple Scramble is one of the many minigames to feature a time limit and a goal of “whoever has the most points, wins.” In this case, your points are apples you scramble for by attacking Whispy Woods Jrs. After picking up the apples, your goal is to then deliver it to your team’s drop point and pull the lever, dropping your delicious bounty to the bottomless pit below. This is one of the two games required to be played in teams of 2v2.

One of the tactics for this game is to attack your opponents everytime they pick up an apple, especially if the apple is golden (thus, worth more points). If they’re too busy getting beat up to collect apples, your partner can focus on collecting apples and dropping them for points. This is one of the games where an AI partner is strangely competent, as they’ll always run towards the lever if you’re near the apple chute.

Attack Riders

Similar to Coin Clash, players are expected to wail on each other to make them drop chips. However, each player will receive 100 chips rather than collect them around the map. This is one of the games played from a side-view perspective, but it’s fought in a circular arena similar to some of the boss fights in Kirby: Planet Robobot.

However, also similar to Coin Clash, this mode comes with a gimmick that doesn’t have the option to be turned off. Players will fight for a vehicle, either a tank or a wheelie, and that vehicle will either fire a blast of energy or charge forward. Each of these attacks requires a brief recharge, making the player vulnerable to attacks. This mode felt more fun, yet more chaotic, than Coin Clash.

Rocket Rumble

Rocket Rumble is similar to Coin Clash and Attack Riders, but instead of collecting coins or chips for the player, you’re carrying fuel to a rocket ship. During the last ten seconds, players have to jump to their own rocket or risk forfeiting the match. In a team battle, these rockets combine. Whoever has the most fuel in their ship wins.

One of the best things about this game is how fast it is. In one minute, you have to fuel your ship and escape, and you can even knock fuel out of your opponents’ ships. I liked to be risky and attack all of the ships before hopping into my own in the last ten seconds. The rush of getting back in time is very rewarding.

Crazy Theater

Crazy Theater is an oddball in the Kirby Battle Royale lineup. Similar to the Super Smash Bros. Brawl stage-based on Warioware, there will be challenges selected at random. These challenges can be standing on the correct answer to a prompt (as simple as 2+2, or counting the number of apples on the ground), attacking one of the other players, or dodging an attack from Kracko.

In team matches, the goal is to reach 10 points for your team, as each player receives a point if they complete the challenges. The number of points required for a victory drops to half if you’re playing solo. This mode was a fun distraction, as it’s great to screw over other players by throwing them off of the correct answer or into harm’s way.

Robo Bonkers

All players work together to fight a giant Robo Bonkers. He stands in the middle of the side-view based stage as players throw missiles into a cannon to attack him. After a certain amount of hits, Robo Bonkers will be stunned and players wail on him, and each other. Whoever deals the most damage to the artificial simian is the victor.

There isn’t much to this game. You can sabotage your opponents by throwing them into Bonker’s attacks, but the best strategy is to focus all of your attacks on him and stealing missiles from other players. There are at least three different difficulties to choose from, each with different attacks and aggressiveness.

Slam Hockey

Do you like Lethal League? How about if Lethal League was hockey instead of baseball? How about if Lethal League was hockey with Kirby abilities? That’s Slam Hockey, and it is wonderful. Players hit a hockey puck into each other, being invulnerable to their own hits.

Solo or team, the game works similarly, and it’s easily one of the highlights of Kirby Battle Royale. Over time, a roulette will activate incentivizing the players to go after a certain Kirby, usually the one in the lead. During this duration, the player is worth three points. The bonus incentive ends once the player is knocked out. My biggest complaint about Slam Hockey is that it didn’t appear as often as I would have liked it to in the Story Mode.

Ore Express

Ore Express is similar to Apple Scramble, but this doesn’t have to be played on a team. Players pick up different pieces of ore and throw them onto train cars that open up. The screen will scroll automatically through three or four phases, giving the total amount of points in each phase.

Similar to Apple Scramble, one of the strategies is to attack players to force them to drop their ore before they can score. However, Ore Express tends to drag on for too long. Later on, ore worth 5 points will drop, but that doesn’t save you from the monotonous task of picking up and throwing ore.

Flagball

One of the last minigames players unlock is Flagball, the second team-only game. In Flagball, players carry the ball (or their flag) to their flag (or the ball) to score. They can also pick off the other team’s flag to make it more difficult to score or throw the ball, hoping to hit the flag from a distance. The first team to reach seven points wins.

However, the game will change after the first few points. The flags will be worth double and in some instances, they will combine with one half of the flag being one team’s and the other half being for the other. This is frustrating because it’s easy to accidentally hit the other team’s side and score two points against yourself. Another frustration lies with the CPU. While they were competent enough in Apple Scramble, here their role is to ruin your day by carry the flag to the most inconvenient spots possible, often scoring against your own team.

Story Mode

While the Battle Mode is the highlight of the game, it wouldn’t be a Kirby game without a story mode, unless you’re Kirby Air Ride of course. The story is fairly simple: King Dedede is holding a tournament and several Kirby clones have entered. The winner of the tournament receives a delicious cake. This is all a plot for King Dedede to “knock Kirby down a peg.” While the story is brief, it does a sweet patch of worldbuilding to show that King Dedede isn’t evil, he’s just a jerk.

In the story mode, you go through five different tiers, Beginner, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. In each tier, you complete matches or challenges to earn points. When your meter is full, you and Bandana Waddle Dee, who is also your partner for team matches, can take on the qualifier match to reach the next rank. The next rank will have a slightly higher point requirement for the qualifying round, but the matches give more points as well, hardly making a difference Despite there being 5 ranks, this entire story mode can be completed in just a few hours without a sweat. There isn’t much to the story mode at all besides interacting with the Waddle Dees in between matches.

Unfortunately, that’s the mantra of Kirby Battle Royale. It’s an interesting concept that ultimately lacks content. There are medals you can earn by completing various challenges, but collecting these medals is simple and unrewarding. You can easily 100% the game in just a few hours.

To make things worse, the prologue has gameplay not available in any other parts of the game. You start off in a level similar to Kirby’s Blowout Blast where you even fight Bronto Burts to learn how to play the game. This prologue ends with your Kirby fighting the first clone Kirby, but then this stage is never seen again. If there was a mode focused more on these levels, the game could have had more to do. Instead, it felt like a tease and a waste of potential. At least there is at least one more ability coming to the game, as a second poll for which ability should make it into the game has recently been completed.

 

65

Alright

Kirby: Battle Royale

Review Guidelines

Kirby Battle Royale has a great premise, but squanders almost all of its potential. There is simply too little content to justify its price point and everything can be completed in just a few hours. Online is lacking, as players are limited to only playing with strangers in ranked and can only play with friends if they do so locally. Despite being one of the only Kirby games without his famous inhale ability, Kirby Battle Royale kind of sucks.

Sean Anthony both sells video games and writes about them. Gaming has been a huge part of his life ever since he played his first game as a child, Kirby's Adventure.
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