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Thursday, June 21, 2012

What's the Best Kirby Game? (Part 3)

Three more games today. Now we're getting into the really good stuff. View the previous three right here.

6. Kirby Canvas Curse (DS, 2005)

I was fairly ambivalent about Canvas Curse when it was first released, but over time it’s become much more of a flashpoint for the DS and a much more important game.

It’s hard to picture it now, but there was a time where developers didn’t know how to use touch controls properly. It was like they looked at the touchscreen and exclaimed, “No buttons? What is this sorcery?” They tried to make games like True Swing Golf or Yoshi’s Touch and Go, completely missing the point of what touch controls could do and making them more of a trifle, a worthless gimmick that brought nothing to the table.

Canvas Curse really was revolutionary in the way it demonstrated how touchscreen controls could be used to make a real game and make it incredibly fun at the same time. It was easy to learn, hard to master, and, most importantly, very fun to play, with the boss fights being a highlight. Just talking about it makes me want to fire it up again.

5. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64, 2001)

A lot of console games from the first generation of 3D-capable consoles really don’t hold up well. Developers were still trying to figure out how to take their game design principles that they had honed from years of 2D design and transition them into 3D. A majority of them look muddy with ugly textures and nasty clipping, and playing them on an HDTV can be an exercise in agony. It was a pretty ugly time.

With that in mind, Kirby 64 was surprisingly great and still holds up well today. It doesn’t suffer from the same problems that lots of other early 3D games dealt with. First, it looks clean and sharp owing to the clever camera placement that meant that more system memory could be used on details in the environment, and the bright primary colors make it stand out like a lost Super Nintendo classic. Next, the powers are fantastic and lead to lots of experimentation. “What happens if I combine electricity and ice? What about fire and bombs? What about rock and needles?” And so on.

The levels are varied, meaning that you’re never quite sure what the next one will look like, and it also follows the typical “easy to beat, hard to finish” road that the best Kirby games have had. It’s a winner, through and through.

4. Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii, 2010)

Kirby is an incredibly malleable character. He’s a cipher who can squeeze into any mold that the designer sees fit, and in Epic Yarn he was shoved into one of his weirdest situations yet: A world of yarn, cotton balls and pipecleaners, where he defeats his enemies by pulling on their loose threads and unraveling them.

Against all odds, Epic Yarn is fantastic and a highlight for the Wii. It's cute, fun to play, easy to learn and hard to master. It’s a surprisingly tactile game, as everything looks like real cloth. One of my personal highlights was quicksand that, in reality, was just realistic-looking cloth slowly unraveling.

However, it doesn’t just have the neat aesthetic going for it. Even if you remove the cool graphics, you still have some neat and varied levels. Sure they still fit into the water world / ice world / fire world templates, but they work and they’re a lot of fun. They're constantly different, and that keeps you going until the very end. The music ramps up as the game goes along too, until by the end you can’t help but smile along with Kirby and friends.

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Click to read part 4 here.