Kirby: Planet Robobot – 3DS
Release Date (NA): June 10th, 2016
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Kirby franchise might not ever be renowned for its difficulty, but one thing it excels at game after game (give or take) is creating a fun and lighthearted playing experience. Triple Deluxe was a fine example of such, and in most respects, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a continuation of its predecessor.
Kirby games have always been a little light on story and Planet Robobot is no different. President Haltmann uses a machine known as the Access Ark to begin the mechanization of Kirby’s home planet, Pop Star. Both King Dedede and Meta Knight have already attempted to stop the process, but Dedede is defeated and the Halberd (Meta Knight’s airship) is disabled…all while Kirby takes a nap. The adventure starts here. Kirby progresses through 5 different worlds (initially), each comprised of 5 to 8 levels, a setup pretty much identical to Triple Deluxe. If you’ve played a Kirby game before, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect next: lots of copy abilities, lengthy but well designed levels, and a barrage of hidden items to find, some of which are not so hidden and others which are hidden really well.
Planet Robobot has 2 defining features. One is the increased amount of perspective-based gameplay introduced in Triple Deluxe. Utilizing the 3DS, many stages have a foreground and a background component with the action sometimes taking place between the 2, creating a situation where Kirby actively hops between foreground and background. There are also a lot of other element dependent on the game’s depth including skewed lasers, incoming traffic, billiard balls, and more. Although it helps to have the 3DS’ 3D functionality turned on, the game is perfectly playable without it; even without the effect, the graphics are artful enough to perfectly convey the difference between background and foreground and the effect that one has on the other.
The other new aspect to take notice of is one of Kirby’s new toys, the mech-suit Robobot, adapted from the technology of the invaders. The suit configures itself according to whatever Copy Ability currently in Kirby’s possession, making for some fun and interesting combinations. Oddly enough, there are a few Copy Abilities that you’ll never get to see in “Robobot form” because of how the game is set up. Essentially this replaces Triple Deluxe’s Hypernova power, though you’ll have the opportunity to use these Robobot suits much more often.
Level design is one of the hallmarks of the franchise and Planet Robobot is no exception. The stages are still like elaborate funhouses with the occasional puzzle thrown in. Most levels contain 1 to 3 “Code Cubes,” some of which you’ll run across normally and others that need to be carefully sought out. You’ll need a certain number of these to even access the boss area in each world though I wouldn’t say they’re difficult to gather. Collect ’em all and you’ll unlock the special “EX” stage in each world – again, pretty standard Kirby stuff and an especially familiar sight to Triple Deluxe. The other big collectible in the game is stickers, replacing the keychains from the former game. You can customize your Robobot with these stickers but only to a limited degree; you can only place one sticker on each arm. It’s better than nothing I suppose, but beyond that, the stickers don’t serve much of a purpose as stickers. It’d be neat if it were possible to cover the entire suit in stickers…like a collage.
As Kirby progresses through the various legs of the Access Ark (corresponding with the game’s “worlds”), he eventually comes into contact with the head honcho, President Haltmann himself. It’s a tough enough boss fight, but it feels a little easy for the end of the game. In fact, all the bosses in Planet Robobot feel a bit tepid and ineffectual. In fact, these are some of the easiest boss fights I can remember in a Kirby game. Even the fights against Mecha Knight and Mega Knight+ (the mechanized counterparts to Meta Knight) are far easier than Kirby’s traditional tussle with Meta Knight. And even though the last bout with Haltzmann is nothing to sneeze at, it’s nothing like other final battles, like those with Sectonia or Drawica or others. To be fair, there is a little left after Haltzmann, but the entire game-mode changes and you aren’t just spitting stars anymore (plus it’s still not that difficult).
Apart from the main Story Mode Planet Robobot has a few other fun challenges to offer up. The Arena returns, pitting Kirby against all the game’s bosses in succession with only limited opportunities for regaining health. There’s also Meta Knightmare, which gives the player control of Meta Knight and the chance to play through a “harder” version of the game; it’s really only harder in the sense that there’s not all kinds of food laying around and Meta Knight must regain health by using abilities paid for with points picked up along the way. Still, playing as Meta Knight is fun, and although he doesn’t get to enjoy the benefits of Copy Abilities or the Robobot, his regular attacks are much more powerful than Kirby’s.
These 2 modes are analogous to modes found in Triple Deluxe – the Arena remaining unchanged in concept (though remarkably easier in Planet Robobot) and Meta Knightmare replacing Dedede’s World Tour (an adventure where the player moves through the worlds as King Dedede). The other 2 are a bit different; Kirby 3D Rumble acts as a sort of puzzle-platformer where the player – as Kirby – must do as much damage in as little time as possible. The other, Team Kirby Clash, is a very, very scaled back version of an action-RPG where a team of Kirbys (either AI partners or humans) goes on increasingly difficult “quests,” which are pretty much just boss fights. Fighters receive things like EXP and bonuses to their base stats, but there really aren’t enough variables or enough time/depth to give hese numbers much meaning. These sorts of “extended minigames” are a fun extension of the core mechanics that make Planet Robobot so hard to put down, but they are in fact, by their very nature temporary diversions.
It’s worth mentioning that alongside Kirby: Planet Robobot a new “Kirby Series” of amiibo were released, consisting of 4 characters. Their functionality is limited to providing a quick in-game power-up (which can be quite useful if you do find yourself having trouble in a boss battle) and the Kirby amiibo provides an exclusive power-up you won’t see or find anywhere else!
Graphically Planet Robobot doesn’t push any envelopes and looks pretty much like Triple Deluxe does. There is perhaps a slight improvement in the 3D visuals, and as I mentioned before, the artists have been very mindful of perspective even without the handheld’s 3D feature. Expect the usual – crisp definition, sharp lines, and a dazzling array of bright colors perfectly suited to the whimsical world of planet Pop Star.
All things considered I do wish that Planet Robobot had broken into some new territory. Aside from a handful of new features and a few new Copy Abilities (coinciding with the removal of a few as well) this is pretty much the standard Kirby package that fans are used to by now. The game felt much shorter than Triple Deluxe and I’d even venture to say that the levels are noticeably less intricate and thus of lower replay value. This might not bother me so much if the game wasn’t blatantly a continuation of Triple Deluxe, and although the developers stated their intent to produce a sequel to said game, it feels more like an expansion. The supplemental content also isn’t as strong, with Kirby 3D Rumble and Team Kirby Clash being very quick and easy to master and the Arena as a pushover compared to its predecessor.
Overall I think Kirby: Planet Robobot is a reasonably strong entry in the series, but it doesn’t do itself any favors by following up one of the strongest Kirby titles ever. The amiibo support is a little on the light side though at this point I think it’s pretty clear that Nintendo still doesn’t really have a clear idea on how they want to put their unique spin on interactive gaming figures. At its worst Planet Robobot is slightly dumbed down and derivative of Triple Deluxe, but even a “complaint” such as that leaves a whole lot of room for the kind of simple and unfettered fun that Kirby games are all about. Whatever Planet Robobot lacks in originality, it should make up for in sheer enjoyment.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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