Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kirby's Adventure ~Dream 4~ Ice Cream Island's Game Mechanics

Hey!! It's been a while. Aside from some weird throat irritation, I'd say I had a pretty good week off.

Let's get this over with!


Ice Cream Island, a tropical resort of sorts, serves as second world that Kirby must visit. Upon review, there are some major changes from Vegetable Valley. Instead of four quick levels, we now have five stages, most of which have some real meat to them. Of course, there's an island motif to the levels, so you'd have to expect some swimming action.

By now, players will begin to have the gameplay of Adventure ingrained into their psyches. However, some of the game's best features arrive around here, and it's a great way to constantly keep things fresh. To be precise, Ice Cream Island introduces a good chunk of Adventure's innate patterns, and that's not to mention some of the best Copy Abilities in the whole game. Where should I start...

Right around the beginning of the first level, Kirby stumbles upon a cave and is welcomed by a Waddle Doo drifting down with the aid of a parasol. Whoever took the screenshot above is doing a pretty horrible job of swallowing it, but regardless, it has to be done. Why? Because doing so transforms you into...

Parasol Kirby!

Yes, there is an ability to wield an umbrella to beat up bad guys in a video game.

But you know something? It's something I never really thought of strange. I mean, sure, it's a Nintendo game, and that means you can have any kind of whimsical elements flying around. Nevertheless, I naturally just assumed it was a sign of Kirby's easygoing nature: courageous enough to embark on a journey, but not afraid to take it easy. To this day, I think of Parasol Kirby as my favorite symbol of the character.
Plus, it just kicks ass for the following reasons.

HuurRAAGGHH!!! Look at how hard he swings that thing! That Hot Head doesn't stand a chance. By the way, notice those coconuts? They're actually explosive, and they fall right when you step under them. How does one avoid this problem?

Simple. Shield yourself with a parasol. It explodes automatically on the cover without a scratch.

And this is my favorite part. If you puff up to the top of the screen, this happens:

You slowly...gently...lightly...quietly hover down to the ground. I don't know why I love this so much, considering that it only lasts for a few seconds. It just soothes me, I suppose. Thankfully, the Parasol appears in nearly every platforming Kirby title since Adventure, so I can always count on a moment's worth of bliss.

What else? Oh, right, in the second stage we come across one of Adventure's many quirks. After a lovely cinematic with Kirby riding his Warpstar to a desert island, you come across this scene.

It's some sort of barrier staircase that imprisons three baddies. See, this is actually the game giving you the recommended powers to use against the upcoming mini-boss, in case you don't have an ability or if you're in the mood for a switch. It's pretty useful.


Hmm...a wheel boss, huh? I wonder what kind of ability it'll yield.

WHEEL KIRBY!!! VRROOOOOMMM! It's so satisfying to accelerate through the ramps and over bad guys.

With the arrival of Wheel Kirby comes an interesting trend. Nearly every time Kirby transforms into a wheel, the level adapts to it and is suddenly full of ramps and turns. This way, the normal platforming design won't get in the way and you can just kick back and watch the magic happen. A classic sign of Nintendo looking out for the player.

On the flipside, however, this is something that happens a lot with the more unique powers, and unfortunately for Adventure it's not always executed well. Every now and then, you'll get an ability such as Wheel that doesn't come up too often, and you'll often want to spend time with it. However, while there are accommodations made for these transformations, it doesn't last for very long. Right after you complete the level above, for example, it suddenly reverts back into the normal level design and as such it's nearly impossible to use. It doesn't always happen, and it's not such a big deal considering how every other ability is immensely fun to use, but it's worth noticing.

So after that road-rage filled stage, you traverse through an underwater cavern. It's full of Sword Knights, Bronto Burts, spikes, and thin passageways. I actually still find this tricky, since dammit it all those Burts often find it hilarious to stalk you wherever you go. When you finally make your way out...

Huh, who's that...?

Uh oh.

Yikes, a swarm of knights!!

As much as I've memorized the level designs by now, more often then not do I forget about these ambushes. After the masked knight leaves, his entourage of axe wielding, mace swinging, trident throwing minions pop up one by one and attack you. It's always troublesome.

The thing is, these guys are actually kinda tough. Depending on your ability, they can take two hits to kill, and chances are right after your first move they'll intercept immediately and slash at you, causing you to lose your power. Thanks to the claustrophobic battlefield, you're scrambling all over to place to nab it back before it disappears, and I often don't get it back in time. For this reason, it's best to fight these guys via two ways:

1. Use a power that deals more damage then usual (We'll go over those bad boys in the next post!). That way, you can beat these bozos without a problem.

2. Actually, it's best not to use an ability at all. Your safest bet is to swallow one of the knights up and spit him right at another. Two birds with one stone! who was that masked knight, anyway? We'll find out later.

So after that, we have a brief venture in the clouds...

And we head through the mangroves, in which we discover Kirby's radical Tornado ability.

Brrwwwwzzzz! Hard to control, but it's well worth it.

After ripping through that stage, it's time to face the boss of Ice Cream Island: Paint Roller.

Oh boy, a crazy artist on roller skates.

Alright, then. Paint Roller's manner of defense is scooting around his studio and situate himself by one of his easels. Sounds easy, but his shtick is that whatever he scribbles comes to life!

He conjured up a thundercloud! Watch out!

Obviously, you have to keep your distance. However, it eventually becomes clear you have to take a risk in approaching him. After he scribbles a drawing, he doesn't stick around for long, and he's hopping all over the room before situating himself at another easel. His wall jump is especially nasty and catches unsuspecting players (read: me) off guard. The best time to strike is when he's drawing.

Watch out for the fake Waddle Dees! Interestingly, some of his drawings might give you an ability...

Eventually, he goes down and gives up another shard of the Star Rod. Happy dance time!

So that's it for Ice Cream Island. If you're interested, you can check out the world in its entirety via this link.


Sooo...what's next?

To make up for lost time, I'm aiming to quickly wrap up Kirby's Adventure by the middle of November (the 15th, I'd imagine). However, this might clash with my eventual review of Epic Yarn...both will happen, so sit tight.

Hey! Speaking of Epic Yarn...for your listening pleasure, a remix of the Ice Cream Island music found in the game!

I think I'm falling in love with Kirby all over again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Brief Break.


I was hoping to post more frequently starting this month, but I suppose that wasn't included in fate's plans. For starters, I had a cold for over a week and I could hardly focus on anything. Second, I've been taken measures to improve my daily life in the form of reviving activities (reading, exercising and studying grammar), so that's put a dent in my blogging life. Lastly, for the past two weeks I've been working on studying like crazy for my midterms (one which is coming this Monday) and writing an essay that's due for Tuesday. It's been rough.

It goes without saying that I couldn't/can't write up anything at the moment. It sucks, but I gotta focus on the required stuff.

So at this point, you probably shouldn't expect anything new until around this time next week. However! In order to make up for it, you can expect NOT my impressions or level updates for the new game Kirby's Epic Yarn, but a review instead! As for Kirby's Adventure, I'm aiming to have that wrapped up by the middle of November. When that's all done and over with, we'll be focusing on a certain Mario title for the DS and the upcoming Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii!

See you next week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kirby's Adventure ~Dream 3~ Vegetable Valley

Another quickie here...there isn't much to say about this one. The next one will be bountiful with information. I guarantee it.


That's the game's opening introduction.

....I've always loved singing it.


Vegetable Valley is where Kirby's search for the shards of the Star Rod begins., that's a name that brings back memories.

But enough of that. In an earlier post, I presented the contrast between the platforming mechanics of Super Mario and Kirby. That's a point I would like to touch upon once again.

I mentioned that Super Mario games felt longer due to their forced style of replayability. What's interesting about this is that Vegetable Valley hosts four levels in its domain. That's as much as every world in Super Mario Bros.


I think a map would be essential here. Observe.

...or rather NOT. Apparently Blogger has some picture size restrictions. Check out 'em out at the following links.

Vegetable Valley
World 1-1 (can't make this any bigger)

You might notice that Vegetable Valley has three separate screens, as opposed to 1-1's singular scrolling screen. Interestingly enough, combined together it's just about as long as 1-1. I'd say this was probably done so that the transitions between the different sections of the stage (for example, heading through a hill and suddenly falling down a waterfall) wouldn't appear suddenly and allow for smoother progress. I think it works.

And that's not even mentioning the other big difference, but we'll get to that in a moment. On with the show.

You land unceremoniously onto the first stage. Enter the door, and...

Viola. What you'd typically expect of a locale in Dream Land.

So, who DARES to oppose Kirby in his quest?

The Waddle Dee, otherwise known as the ideal residents of Dream Land. They are often seen wandering around its premises. In an interesting twist, while most of them don't outright attack you, Kirby has the power to pop 'em.

....the biggest guilty pleasure I have about this series. I mean, seriously! They don't make any attempt to harm you! It's heartbreaking. But I JUST CAN'T STOP SLAUGHTERING THEM.

I plan to write about them one day.

Bronto Burts are assholes. They fly in swarms and often divebomb in your direction during pivotal moments . They do not wield any powers for Kirby to steal, but it is so satisfying to blow them up.
The Waddle Doo. Similar to the Waddle Dees, except for the big eye and the ability to FIRE A BEAM. I smell a power, and once Kirby swallows one....

Beam Kirby!!! Tremble in fear, Waddle Dee!

There are other powers Kirby can gain around this period. Some of these include...

Fire Kirby: Can be obtained via the piggish Hot Heads. Self-explanatory, Kirby can breath fire and singe enemies to a crisp. It's got a nice range, so you shouldn't have any problem using it. Also useful for lighting fuses!

Needle Kirby: Kirby produces a plethora of spikes on top of his head. This is a rare ability, so you don't use it much, but it's used very well in the screenshot above. See that screenshot? That part of the stage is designed so that the Waddle Dees will fall right onto your needles! Clever.

Other then that, it's not too useful. Personally, I don't like the stationary moves (which include this, Spark, and Stone). Also, not much range.

Sword Kirby: Kirby wields a sword! This is a unique ability in this its one of the very few powers that has more then one attack command. In Sword's case, you can perform a swinging arc!

While versatility of powers eventually becomes a staple in the franchise, Sword is one of the earliest examples of this. That's probably why it's one of my favorite powers in the game. Also, it's just so dang cool!

And that's about it, for now. These are some of the more standard abilities, so I'm planning to be much more in-depth about the more interesting ones. Actually, there are quite a few in the next one!

So what happens when you clear a level? Well, remember the "world hubs" I discussed in my Super Mario Galaxy 2 review? It's actually really similar to that. Let's revisit one of the previous screenshots for a bit.

What's with the brown border with the stars? Well, they're set to disappear gradually when you beat a level. When that happens, Kirby plants a flag down and it disintegrates to reveal the next stage. Eventually, it's gone completely and the result is this:

Wow! So you can revisit any level whenever you like. Fun stuff. Four levels total, hmm.

So what's with the other doors, then? Well, the one in the sky leads to the museum, a recurring location that displays an enemy with an ability.

Here's a Sword Knight museum.

....after I swallow the baddie, I like to put Kirby on display.

The other one is a minigame called Crane Kirby. Even today, it's still tough. You control a crane and attempt to pick up a Kirby doll an extra life. It's more difficult then it have to be very precise. Plus, the crane moves extra fast.

So, what are the shenanigans that go on in the valley?

We bounce in little cinematic cutscenes with Kirby's Warp Star! They are to Kirby as Warp Pipes are to Mario. Braawwwwwwwwuuuaawwwwwwwww.....

We dodge cannon fire! And...hopping mushrooms named Cappies.

Cappies aren't the problem. Those cannons, also known as Shotzos, can get you when you least expect it.


There is also many a sea creature to evade, none the least of which is the frog in the upper right corner. Apparently, his official name is Sir Slippy. That is a dirty lie, for his real name is Devil Frog. Maybe it's just me, but for the past eight years of my life this amphi-no, servant of Satan himself has always managed to find a way to screw me over, whether it's doing a sneak attack on me, randomly taking a giant leap and ramming into me, or making me lose an essential power in the water by cornering me. See, if you have a power and you get hit, it turns into a star and you have to chase it and swallow it before it disappears.

That doesn't happen if you're in the water. Once you lose it there, it's gone.

I blame Devil Frog for all my life's problems, and so should you.

We also fight two minibosses, in the form of...

Poppy Bros. Senior, an innocent gremlin who is the ringleader of the Poppy Bros. and likes to throw bombs at you.

Mr. Frosty, who is some sort of bipedal walrus who chucks ice cubes at you.



Dunna da.
Dunna da.
Dunna da.
Dunna da.
Dunna da.
dunna da.
dunna da.
dunna da.

You know, I actually made lyrics to this when I was ten.

Yeah, lyrics. It's about a policeman who teams up with a falsely accused individual and they both search for the real criminal in the forest.

Does this have anything to do with the context of Kirby? Absolutely not. But you know who also does this sort of thing? My dad.

Even at such a young age, the seeds of influence had begun to sprout.

So after you beat the valley's four levels, the boss door opens up.

Whispy Woods, otherwise known as the easiest boss in existence. All he does is blow air gusts and toss apples at you.


You can beat him in under twenty seconds with the right ability, or even beat him at his own game by swallowing the apples and tossing 'em right back at him.

So once that pushover is done with, Kirby grabs a segment of the Star Rod and does his special dance. Dunnan dunna dododo dadadada ddee dun!

You can watch the entirety of Vegetable Valley here. See if you can spot anything I mentioned!


Wow, that was bigger then I thought it would be.

Sooo...I have Epic Yarn.

All I'll say is this: Everything I said about it at E3, I take it all back. Expect my impressions very soon.

And my cold's finally lightening up! Yay!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kirby's Adventure ~Dream 2~ Setting, Story, and The Game Structure

Hey! Heads up...this will be a short one. I'd love to write more, but I haven't been feeling well recently and the allergy season is getting to me. I'd wait, but I don't want Epic Yarn to shove this to the side. I'll have a longer one up in a few days...complete with many screenshots!


This game has me on a budding nostalgia binge.

At the very least, on a Kirby scale. All of a sudden I'm incredibly giddy over the upcoming Kirby's Epic Yarn (of which impressions and a review will follow) and I'm always in the mood to plop down and just play this. I can't wait to revisit the other titles in the series.

It's funny how the passing of time affects everything. When I was ten, playing through the game was a challenge that took me weeks, possibly even months. Now? I could probably beat it in an afternoon. I really was worried I had outgrown the game when I was taking my time doing a normal playthrough. I mean, one could say the same thing about Mario games, but unlike Adventure, most of the old ones don't save your progress. They're about perfecting your platforming skills and constant replay value. Kirby games don't really fit that category.

It was then I blessed my lord that this game had the feature to go back to any level you want at any time. At my age, playing through the levels at a random order is a much more satisfying experience. I guess a part of me still wishes I could leisurely go with the flow of it, but hey, I can't pretend. That's life.

So, what exactly is this game about?


We know that Mario games take place in the rather whimsical wonderland of the Mushroom Kingdom. Kirby games, however, are not so nearly as inspired and tend to be more...dreamy. Kirby's homeland resides in Dream Land, a tranquil fantasy nation that resides on the distant planet Pop Star (get it?). Many Dream Landers partake in the simple pleasures of life, whether it be afternoon naps, bouts of eating, or strolls down the road. One time, however, that was shattered.

Pop Star, as seen in Kirby Super Star.

One day, the citizens of Dream Land realized they could no longer dream. A long-favorite custom, of telling each others' hopes and wishes expressed in dreams, had suddenly ceased to exist. Upon witnessing the disheartening effect this has on everyone around him, Kirby, the hero of the country after the events of Kirby's Dream Land, set out to investigate.

The Fountain of Dreams, as seen in Nightmare in Dreamland. The spring is the holy symbol of Dream Land and the source of all the dreams in the world, thanks to the magical artifact known as the Star Rod. Rumored to be a fragment of an actual star, the wand powers the fountain and its influence seeps into the water, which flows all over the land and gives its citizens a good night's rest.

Upon arriving at the well, Kirby finds none other then King Dedede, a penguin who is the "self-proclaimed king" swimming in its waters. Dedede, who had previously stolen all of Dream Land's food because he is a jerk, had broken the Star Rod into seven pieces and handed each of them to his acquaintances. Horrified at what happened, Kirby ignores the rest of Dedede's explanation and heads off on his second quest. His goal: To restore the Star Rod and restore dreams to his friends.

Meanwhile, Anthony Pelone was having a dream that Ash Ketchum from Pokemon came to his cousin's house and they chilled out together. He woke up and was horribly disappointed. Nine years later, he had a dream that Nintendo was finally releasing Mother 3 in the States and Pixar was developing a film adaption of Pikmin. He woke up and was horribly disappointed. After these traumatic events, he met up with Kirby and expressed his fervent hope that the events manifested in those misleading dreams would come true.

It still hasn't happened.


The structure of Kirby games are vastly different from those of Mario's. The plumber is about performing impossible jumps and overcoming/witnessing the unexpected. The puffball is about reinforcing the basics and oodles of fun. Mario has can jump, Kirby can float. Mario doesn't have a life bar, but Kirby does.

Masahiro Sakurai has stated that he introduced the idea of Kirby's Copy Ability as to appeal to those with a higher skill level, and I think he succeeded. While Dream Land was entertaining, I doubt that its gameplay of simply swallowing things could have transformed it into a series. The dynamic of stealing enemies' powers is so versatile and creative, and is no doubt the secret to Kirby's success. Nearly every ability featured here has undergone an evolution, whether they have grown more complex in their movesets or being fused with other powers. And they are just so satisfying, particularly when you acquire a rare ability.

Kirby's Adventure shares many aspects with Dream Land, but its where the series truly begins to find its voice. The level designs are not nearly as intricate, but rather geared so that anyone can clear the level. Several of them are actually designed for a chosen few of Kirby's powers, the most notable being the wavin' ramps for the Wheel ability. What the levels lack in complexity they make up for in providing secrets or random easter eggs (in other words, usually some sort of in-jokes found in games).

Perhaps most interesting is Kirby's ability to fly. By puffing himself up, he can cruise just about anywhere. It's a very interesting contrast compared to Mario's super jumps, which have to be timed and used carefully. Here? It's more at your leisure. I suspect that this was implemented so players wouldn't have to memorize when or where to jump ahead. For the most part, it's completely optional, but nonetheless a fun way to get around the level.

And as for Kirby's life bar? Well, I'd like to think that a portion of Sakurai's philosophy while designing Dream Land carried on over here. Observe the following quote from a recent interview:

"Kirby's Dream Land was the first game I ever made, but I had no intention of making it a mainstream game. I really narrowed down the audience to beginners only. That's because, at the time, no matter how much fun the Super Mario Bros. games were, they were still too tough for normal people and kids. I could feel people drifting away from games, and it bothered me. In the midst of making Kirby, a lot of the team started wondering if we were maybe making it too simple. But I think it was necessary for us to consider people who hadn't played a game before, and I think doing that earned us fans that wouldn't have been around otherwise. That's the same creative approach I take with Smash Bros. It hasn't changed at all today."

He does have a point. We've already established that the Super Mario games are some of the best platforming games in the business, but that doesn't change the fact that most of them are quite punishing. Mario can die without warning, and you can't afford to make any mistakes. Many games from that era are, actually. Donkey Kong Country can be difficult. Sonic can be difficult. And let's not get into the horror stories involving Ninja Gaiden. Many gamers would say that the games of today pale in comparison in terms of difficulty.

But since Kirby has a life bar, kids can take the pressure off and can come out unscathed if they learn to navigate carefully. It's not exactly a cakewalk, though. Kirby's Adventure is ripe with dangers, whether it be a platoon of spikes or the swarm of enemies. I've conquered most of these, but the mini-bosses and bosses were probably the toughest for me, including the likes of Bonkers, Mr.Shine and Mr.Bright, Kracko, Fire Lion and King Dedede himself. Even with the assistance of abilities, somehow these goons gave me a hard time. Now? I'd suppose only Bugzzy and Meta Knight keep me on my toes.

But if the game is too easy, what then? The game has an unlockable extra mode, perfect for those who feel that the normal adventure might be too easy. Instead of six bars, Kirby only has three, so you'll have to tread even more carefully and not make any wasted movements. Is it harder then a Mario game? Not really. But I'd say Sakurai made more of an effort to reach out to both kinds of gamers with this title then in Dream Land.

And that's about it. Man, do I love this game.


Not sure what to write next...thinking of writing about the first two worlds (Vegetable Valley and Ice Cream Island) and going into more of the gameplay, but we'll see. Hopefully my cold will go away by then. See you then.