Review: Kirby: Planet Robobot (Nintendo 3DS)

kirbybotcoverKirby: Planet Robobot
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 06/10/2016

It’s amusing in a sense that putting out a great game can be troublesome for a developer. You’d think it’d be nothing but gravy. However, once developers have produced something memorable, the pressure is on to not only continue that trend, but to outdo themselves on the next attempt. With Kirby: Triple Deluxe, HAL put out one of the best Kirby game of all time. Planet Robobot not only had to meet those lofty expectations, but it had to exceed them to be truly successful.

Let’s see how they did.

kirbybot1The story goes that a galactic corporation has targeted Planet Popstar for its abundance of natural resources and apparent lack of defenses. The takeover happens quickly. While the likes of King Dedede and Meta Knight try to fight back, they are quickly overwhelmed by the technologically superior forces. All hope seems lost.

Then Kirby wakes up from his nap.

The adventure starts out like many a Kirby game; seeing his world being converted into a mechanical nightmare, the pink puffball sets out to make things right. While there’s not a whole lot of narrative going on here, there’s more story than usual. Starting with the third world, you’ll meet a mechanical secretary named Susie who is hellbent in making sure you don’t disturb her company’s ambitions. Not only will she join the fray, but she’s also got some nasty tricks up her sleeve. It’s an amusing, if brief, tale that will likely make you chuckle. The pause menu fleshes things out by giving you some biographical information should you choose to look it up. You won’t be wowed by this story, but it’s decidedly cute.

Beyond the story, there are a suite of over playable modes. After you’ve completed the main campaign, you’ll unlock a special bonus campaign starring Meta Knight. It’s basically a remixed version of the main campaign complete with a number of new and upgraded boss battles. You also have the arena, a staple of the franchise. The arena is basically a boss rush mode where you can choose any power from the outset and refresh your health between rounds. If you can beat all of that, you’ll unlock a second arena mode that contains the upgraded battles from the knight’s campaign.

If those weren’t enough, there are also two mini-games for you to play. First up is a 3D game where you attempt to build a combo. Kirby can only use his inhale ability in this mode, and the goal is to take out as many enemies in one shot in order to build up your score. It will take only about ten minutes to go through them all, but they’re there if you feel like perfecting your technique. Slightly longer is an action RPG mode. In this mode, you choose one of four classes and fight a boss with up to three AI or human partners. You’ll gain experience after each battle, which will upgrade your stats. There are six battle to go through here, but going for the max rank on all of them will likely last you a good hour at least. These two modes are purely optional, but are nifty enough to check out.

kirbybot2Planet Robobot doesn’t do too much to improve on the basic visual aspects of the previous game. It still looks downright gorgeous and full of color. However, what it does improve upon is the general presentation. There are points where the camera will rotate or zoom to show off a particular shot, and there are even more opportunities for things to pop in and out of the background. The game looks flat out brilliant in 3D and should be played in that mode at all time. The boss battles in particular make the most of the visual technique, and are so good looking you might forget you’re trying to not die. Of particular note are the animations when you get your mech. The scene you watch when you get one never gets old, and it’s just fun trying out all of the different powers and versions of the suit.

As for the aural experience, it’s all about the classics. While there are new tunes and effects to represent the new themes, you can’t be the remixed or classic Kirby tunes. The game is chock full of great music that is upbeat or even whimsical. On top of that, you get Kirby’s adorable battle cries and unique effects for each power and ability. There’s really not a bad thing that you can say about the audio.

If you played Triple Deluxe, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. Each of the game’s six worlds is broken up into a series of linear stages. When you beat one, you unlock the next. At the end of each world is a boss. Just like in the last game, you need to collect special items in each level in order to unlock the boss. In this case, it’s “code cubes”. Thankfully, you don’t need too many of them to move forward, and they usually aren’t too hard to find. If you can nab them all, however, you’ll unlock a bonus stage for that world.

kirbybot3Without any powers, Kirby is fairly simple to control. You can use either the circle pad or the directional pad to move. Double tapping in a direction will get the little guy moving. The jump button works similarly. Tapping it will get him to jump, even if the little guy isn’t very agile. Tapping it repeated actually lets him fly a bit. He’s not fast, but you can avoid a number of obstacles that way. His primary form of attack is inhaling. He can suck up most enemies and various obstacles. Once they’re in his mouth, he can spit them back out to attack or simply swallow them to finish them off. Of course, certain types of enemies unlock copy abilities when swallowed.

There are twenty-seven different copy abilities in this game. Staples such as the sword, fire, and beam are back in full force. You’ll also find the archer ability from the last game. New to this game are doctor, poison, and ESP. The doctor ability lets you chuck pills at enemies as well as brew up special attacks. Poison lets you throw out a toxic cloud, leave damaging spit on the ground, or just spew out a gush of nasty looking liquid. ESP is easily the most powerful of the lot. You can manually control a powerful burst of psychic energy that can wreck bosses while keeping you in a safe corner. The game supports Amiibo by giving Kirby an ability based on which of the toys you place on your system. Link gives you a sword, for example. The downside is that UFO ability are only available by using a specific Amiibo.

However, the real selling point for this game is the mech. Throughout the game, Kirby will get to ride around in a pink mech that is capable of lifting heavy objects, punching out tougher enemies, and even learning some copy abilities. Many of the stages are designed with the suit in mind. For example, a level might have you go one way as Kirby, and then come back as the mech to get your revenge. There are many simple puzzles that ask you to use certain abilities, rotate screws, and cart around heavy objects. Typically, you don’t have to do these to beat the level, but they will get you those code cubes or various stickers as a reward. There are also stages where the mech will transform into either a bike or a jet. For these levels, the gameplay changes up. When you’re a jet, it turns into a side scrolling shooter, for example. As a gimmick, the mech works great. The levels are properly designed to take advantage of it, and being able to use copy abilities makes it feel like a proper Kirby experience. It’s certainly not as all powerful as the hypernova ability was in the last game, but it’s a show stealer nonetheless.

kirbybot4As you might expect, Robobot is light on challenge for the most part. These games have rarely been tough, and this is no exception. Basic enemies rarely put up a fight and are mere fodder for your cool moves. Bosses are tougher, but not so tough you can’t power through. Death is extremely rare, and usually comes from negligence rather than lack of skill. If you really want a challenge, you’ll have to wait for the true arena. There you’ll fight boss after boss with little to restore you health between rounds. However, the beauty of Kirby is that the large number of powers lets you set up your own challenges. You could even play the game without using any copy abilities. That certainly makes things more interesting. Don’t come into this game expecting to have your reflexes tested though. It’s about having fun and exploring each level.

From start to finish, you can complete the game and all of its modes in about a dozen hours. You can tack on some more if you want to unlock everything. Like last time, there are collectibles to earn. This time they’re stickers. What’s nifty about them though is that you can apply two to your mech, which gives them at least some value as opposed to the key chains seen in the last game. It’s not a ton of content, but it’s more than enough, especially if you’re interesting in besting times and trying out different abilities in the arena. The variety is certainly nice.

Short Attention Span Summary:
diehardjack1-150x150Planet Robobot is yet another smash hit for HAL and Nintendo. It makes minor improvements across the board, and the new mech suit is a blast to use. While it doesn’t innovate the series in any way, it more than justifies its existence with the unique style and hook. The only people this game won’t please are those that seek out only games that will test their skills to the limits. For everyone else, this is a colorful adventure that shouldn’t be missed.


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