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Kirby 64: The Crystal Shard
Platform:  Nintendo 64
# of Players:  1-4
Developer:  HAN Labs
Publisher:  Nintendo
Features:  Rumble Pak Compatible
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
It is only a matter of time before every Nintendo character will get his or her own game. Yoshi got his, as did Donkey Kong, and Pikachu (in Japan, it’ll hit stateside 4th quarter). Now it is that lovable pink puff Kirby’s turn. For those of you unfamiliar with Kirby let me give you a little run-down. He is a little pink blob with stumpy limbs that appears to be anything but menacing. That is until he opens his mouth. Kirby has an unnatural ability to inhale everything within a 2 foot radius like a fat aunt at a barbecue. He has used this on many games on the Gameboy and on Super Smash Bros. And now he bring his sucking ability to the N64 in a game that…well doesn’t suck. It’s actually really fun.

Keep in mind that this game, like most of the fare on the N64, is aimed at appealing to youngsters. So you have to have a child-like sense when playing this type of game. This is easy for me since I never really grew up. Anyway, the game is a side-scrolling 2 ˝D adventure. This means that you can only go up and down and back forth as the screen moves around you. At first this might seem too basic but it allows the creators to paint really nice backgrounds and create detailed environment without having to worry about that annoying fuzzyness and pop-up. Plus it simplifies the control immensely. Anyone who has tried to place the camera on Mario or Banjo-Kazooie will know what I mean when I say that 2D has its advantages. Plus it is much simpler for the younger crowd.

The storyline is very cute and delivered without any dialogue or writing, rather relying on pantomime and very expressive characters. In a distant galaxy a group of pixies lived peacefully until these big black clouds with eyes took over their planet. Escaping on their magical shiny crystal the pixies had thought they were free. No such luck. The cloud beings followed them and shattered their crystal scattering it among eight different planets. So the pixies enlisted the help of Kirby in finding their missing crystal shards. Along the way the evil black clouds posses some of Kirby’s old friends and Kirby must defeat them to release the evil spirit. Each level has three different crystals to find so detailed exploration is a must if all of the crystals are to be collected.

The main fun in the game comes from special puffed-up powers. Let me explain. Some of the enemies have powers like fire, ice, or electricity. If Kirby inhales and swallows these enemies he will gain these powers. If he combines two of these abilities he will get super powers or “puffed-up powers” as I like to call them. For example, if he gets a fire power Kirby can breathe fire. If he get fire and rock, Kirby’s head turns into a spouting volcano. Combine ice and electricity and he turns into a fridge complete with spouting food. Finding all of the combinations and powers is the real appeal of the game. The designers have recognized this and come up with some really great combinations and great uses for them.

In addition to the regular adventure there are 3 little mini-games that have nothing to do with the story but are fun nonetheless. This is so the game can tout multi-player capability. The games are mediocre but they provide a nice break from Smash Bros. and Mario Party. The fruit catching game is especially fun.

So after all is said and done, Kirby is a pretty fun albeit simple platform game. There are dozens of cute little Kirby animations and a bunch of varied levels to explore. The simplicity is what makes the game so addictive. Like the original Mario Bros. games and the Donkey Kong Country games on SNES, Kirby is a game that is simple to play though and do the bare minimum, but the real challenge is in mastering it. The fun lies in getting all of the shards as well as the bonuses and power-ups. I will end this review with an earnest plea to the Nintendo Corporation to make a Wario game for the N64. Hey, if it works for Kirby…

Chris Shade

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