Review: Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (Game Boy Advance)

Kirby & the Amazing Mirror
Genre: Action/Platformer
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Rating: E for Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Flagship

In the hierarchy of Nintendo’s franchises, Kirby has always found himself somewhere in the middle, just below the pantheon of Mario, Link, Pikachu, and possibly Samus (although some may argue even Samus is a step below the first three.) Kirby has always been in the same vein as Wario, Donkey Kong, and Fox McCloud: franchises that provide great games, but just never reach the plateau that the top tier franchises have. It’s a shame too that Kirby never really gets a lot of attention, because for the most part his games are pretty good, especially most of the handheld games I remember from the Kirby series. So here we are with Kirby finally getting a new title for the GBA, with some interesting aspects that certainly take some risks. Do these risks pay off? That is what we are here to find out. Kirby, just like every other Nintendo franchise, has done it all. He’s done racing games, inclusion in fighters, pinball games, and many, many more. This time; however, Nintendo is looking to capitalize on the Four Swords technique. Can they capture lightening in a bottle twice? Let’s find out as I take Kirby & the Amazing Mirror under the Inside Pulse games microscope to see if it holds up to the standard set back with the Four Swords games for both the GBA (included with the remake of a LttP) and of course The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for the Gamecube.

1. Story

It’s pretty standard here. First off we have a Dreamland hero, and all around nice guy, Meta Knight and a magic mirror that gets taken over by dark powers that don’t have fun and candy on their mind for Dreamland. So Meta Knight figures, why let Kirby be the hero all the time, and decides to just break this mirror and save the day before it really needs saving. Unfortunately for our 2nd ray hero when he breaks this mirror things just don’t pan out the way he expects them too. This chain of events creates a dark Meta Knight, which makes him evil, because well, he’s dark. So this new dark Meta Knight is strolling along when he runs into are pink hero, and before you know it Kirby has now been split into four, just like another certain hero from another series, and the game starts from there. Kirby’s mission is to go into the broken mirror world/dimension and collect all the broken pieces of this mirror from when the good Meta Knight shattered it. So controlling you’re various Kirbyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s you play the game from there, battling some of the regulars you’ll remember, and some new additions to the fold as you collect pieces of the mirror while also trying to deal with the dark Meta Knight. It actually is a rather fun plot, even if itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nothing more than the standard fare any Kirby fan has come to expect from the series.

However, I feel compelled to make an argument that penalizing a game like this for a lack of story is harsh. After all, has Mario ever had a plot worth talking about? Fox? Link? I mean honestly doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t it all boil down to save the world and usually the girl while your at it? Nintendoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s franchises have always been this way: game play first and story second. We have all come to accept this, because in my not so humble opinion the story in a game like this is truly of a secondary nature. We donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t buy a Kirby game thinking weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re about to be blown away with an awe inspiring plot. Instead we buy it thinking maybe weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll get some enjoyable game play, the kind of game play we have come to expect from Nintendoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s big name franchises. So, while the game play aspect of this review is; obviously, not upon us yet, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s hard for me to handicap Kirby and the Amazing Mirror right out of the gate for something that was never meant to define this game in the first place.

Overall Story Rating: 7/10

2. Graphics

No doubt about it here: Kirby and the Amazing Mirror hit a home run for the GBA again in terms of graphical quality. The game looks good, giving Kirby and company a very unique, vibrant, and lush quality. Some people will go out and call these graphics “cute”. My response is simply this: No duh man! It’s KIRBY! What do you expect people? Dark settings with sinister shading? Evil hulking masses of enemies ready to rip you apart? Sorry, but there all out of that. Instead you’ll find stunning visuals that add a dash of cuteness and a lot of beautiful detail to both the characters and environments. The characters themselves are what you would expect. The Kirby’s look great as always. Adding to that is the special looks Kirby acquires when he sucks in his enemies. Every special ability look has its own unique style that sets Kirby apart. In addition to this, the enemies of Kirby and the Amazing Mirror are equally amazing. Big or small they all get the same detailed treatment as their opposite number. The GBA, without a doubt, has shown itself to be the system for new and groundbreaking graphics this year simply because of the way developers have pushed the limits of this handheld. This new Kirby installment just continues that general trend.

The most impressive part of the game; however, has to be the environments of Dreamland and the mirror you travel into. They are all done very nicely with the environment you’re currently in fitting the mood of the game depending on what point you’re at. Flagship did an excellent job here, and it really makes Kirby stand out for the GBA, especially when a game like this is already competing with numerous other titles that are also graphically above average. Nintendo’s franchise players always look good, so this comes as no surprise. Kirby may not be the heaviest hitter in the stable, but that doesn’t mean he gets any less attention from the developers in terms of visuals.

Overall Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

Like the story, this area is not necessarily bad, just predictable. Kirby games are known for happy go lucky songs, with the usual sound effects that you’ll hear in just about any Kirby game out there. The background music is unfailingly cheery for the vast majority of the time. Some of it catchy and decent enough, and some of it would have been better off left out and replaced with something from Kirby’s past. Overall, the music is not the big seller for this game. It’s just there, blissfully unannoying for most of the time, while occasionally slipping into a place where your thumb the volume down very quickly. I wanted to really like the sound, but I simply can not be anything more than indifferent to it. It’s decent at best, annoying at worst. With that kind of a range, I would recommend spinning your own tunes when playing Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, because chances are they will get you into the game more so than what is offered. The sound effects, on the other hand, don’t really deviate from what you would expect. Kirby’s special ability of sucking his enemies in sounds just like it should, as does everything else. It’s hard to mess up sound effects though kids, so I can’t dish out any extra brownie points for that. Like I said, the best I can say about the sound it that it’s decent. Unfortunately decent isn’t a word that is good enough to make Kirby and the Amazing Mirror’s sound stand out in any way.

Overall Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control.

Obviously the meat of the issue here rests with the gimmick of this game: The four Kirby’s. Unfortunately we run into some problems here, and since I’ve reviewed the Four Swords I feel qualified to be a bit of an informed gamer when it comes to doing gaming like this. The Kirby’s you call (on a cell phone, which is a cute little addition) can not really be at your beck and call. The level of open ended game play that you got with the four Links is just not what we get here. Their just exceedingly stupid in my experience, and as a result playing as multiple Kirby’s just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Their not directly under your control anyway, and more often that not, I found myself a bit frustrated when I was trying to accomplish a goal that I needed to get done with the help of the multi-colored Kirby crew. It’s a shame, because the gimmick itself is one I really like. I gave the Four Swords a great review because it really impressed me with how they pulled it off in the end. The same level of quality just isn’t present in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror when you’re forced to play as yourself. And that’s the big difference. In the Four Swords the single player mode was not a problem. Sure, having friends over made for a better experience, but the fact remained that you could still enjoy the game merely playing on your own. Here you don’t have that. The only way you will enjoy it here is by having the necessary GBA’s and link cable so your friend can take control of the other Kirby’s. Because without some buddies around, it’s just a roller coaster ride of mediocrity that seriously hurts the feel the developers were trying to hit with Kirby and the Amazing Mirror.

As for controlling Kirby himself, the usual applies. He does his usual fly/float routine, with the sucking in of his enemies being his main form of attack. The special abilities he acquires are where Kirby really shines. Some of them make Kirby as bad ass as it comes while others are kind of lame. But they do add some interesting aspects to the control scheme since they are all very unique in their nature. Still, this aspect of the game doesn’t really make up for the poor implementation of the multi-Kirby’s. What is the critical blow here; however, is simply the fact that this gimmick is the backbone of this game. With so much of the game play centered around having the other Kirby’s cooperate with you, it just hurts the overall feel of Kirby and the Amazing Mirror immeasurably.

Overall Control Rating: 3/10

5. Balance

Kirby games have never been known for their difficulty, and the challenge level to Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is not set at an extremely high level. The only difficult part of the game is in the control of the other Kirbyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s when their needed. Frustration sets in, but itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s not the good kind of frustration. Challenge is a wonderful thing in any game, and as long as itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s well constructed I have no problem with it. The problem here is that the challenge doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t come from the in game play. It; instead, is derived from a badly implemented gimmick that needlessly frustrates you at various times.

Once you get past the poor control scheme, the rest of the game is just not all that challenging. I never had any particular trouble with the bosses, and I always just kept saying to myself, â┚¬Å”It has to get harder, I mean this CANâ┚¬â”žÂ¢T be the best they can give me.â┚¬Â Yet that is it. It doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t get any better, and as a result any serious gamer is going to be a bit disappointed with this title. The potential for a great game was surely here. The lack of challenge is one of the major reasons a great game did not materialize here. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a fun title, but itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s all fluff. There is little in terms of substance that will make you want to actively complete the game.

Overall Balance Rating: 4/10

6. Replayability

This depends. If weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re talking about the single player experience then the replayability of Kirby and the Amazing Mirror sinks to depths that I can not really fathom. Going through the game once is enough for any one person. However, this category does have a bright spot provided you have the gamers necessary. With some friends, the game play experience improves a bit. Getting rid of the frustrating control of the other Kirbyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s, of course, can be nothing but a plus. Still, while that adds to the replayability, going back to Kirby and the Amazing Mirror just doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t seem like an event I see happening all that often. Helping out a bit; however, is the addition of mini-games. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror has three of them. They are entitled: Speed Eaters, Kirbyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Wave Ride, and Crackity Hack. All three of them are actually pretty fun, provided you (once again) have some friends along for the ride. Playing the mini games by yourself gets boring and repetitive after roughly thirty seconds. However with others involved they can get pretty damn competitive, and actually downright fun. Honestly I actually found myself enjoying these mini-games more so than the main story itself more than once. All three mini games excel in the fact that they are both fun yet simplistic. Speed Eaters is just a reflex test to see who can suck food off of a plate the fastest. Crackity Hack reminds me a lot of the old Test Your Might feature in Mortal Kombat. Basically you wait till your power meter hits the right point, and you go from there trying to out smash your opponent. Wave Ride is exactly what you would think it is: a racer. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nice, easy, and simple, yet very fun. These mini-games are by far the best part of this game. While they add to the replayablity a lot, it is also a sad statement to make, since mini-games should never be better than the main game.

Overall Replayability Rating: 6/10

7. Originality

Cooperative play featuring more than one character on the screen at once is becoming more common place these days. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror simply doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t do enough to set itself apart from other titles that incorporate its style of game play. Nintendo and company have shown that it can be done much better with other titles, and Kirby does nothing to add to their features â┚¬” instead it heads in the opposite direction. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is a downgrade for this style of game, taking two steps back from what we have come to expect. Granted the mini-games are highly fun, but can anyone honestly say the inclusion of a few mini-games is original? Even these mini-games are pretty much take-offs of other mini-games you may have played in other games throughout your years of a gamer. Suffice to say this Kirby installment just doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t cut it when it comes to original content, which is depressing, because Kirby and company really do deserve a bit better than this.

Overall Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

Based on my review so far, this category isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t hard to figure out. It was hard, over the past week, for me to keep coming back to this game. Knowing I had much better games at my disposal made me just want to shut Kirby and the Amazing Mirror away for along time, and patiently wait until Nintendo and whichever developer they tap give me something more fitting for a character like Kirby. The only aspect of this game remotely coming close to addictive is the mini-games I have already covered. Other than that, this is a game I would recommend renting first if you even have that option where you live. If not, buying new may not be the best idea. Once this title is out for a bit, and you find it for a relatively low used price than this game may be worth the pickup. Until then though, unless youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re a Kirby nut, this game isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t even close to addicting in any way, shape, or form.

Overall Addictiveness Rating: 4/10

9. Appeal

Well this game will still have appeal. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a Kirby game, and while he isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t one of Nintendoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s top tier players, his name still sells. This game will sell, and thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the unfortunate part, because a lot of people are really going to go buy a sub-par product. This game, particularly strikes, me as one of those games designed to be a nice stocking stuffer for your son or daughter, aged 8-14. That, in my humble opinion, will make up the core audience of players for Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Still, I have to give my caution to potential buyers out there. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror just isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t what itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s cracked up to be. Kirby can be damn appealing, but it just doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t carry over to this game this time around.

Overall Appeal Rating: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous

Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a mix of good and bad here people. The graphics, story, and mini-games are all decent enough. However itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the lack of challenging game play coupled with a piss poor control scheme that rules at the end of the day with Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. There could have been a lot more done to make sure this had been a game worth your money, but the developers just fell way short in terms of delivering the goods one would expect from a Kirby game.

When I finished this game I was left really unfulfilled, and I canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t give it a stellar recommendation people. Diehard Kirby fans are the only ones who need apply. Everyone else needs to find their franchise fun elsewhere.

Overall Miscellaneous Score: 5/10

Story Rating: 7/10
Graphics Rating: 7/10
Sound Rating: 5/10
Control Rating: 3/10
Balance Rating: 4/10
Replayability Rating: 6/10
Originality Rating: 3/10
Addictiveness Rating: 4/10
Appeal Rating: 6/10
Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

Overall Score: 5.0