One of my most favoritest games, and indeed the Super Nintendo game I’ve gone back to the most often (with Super Mario World coming in close second), is Kirby Super Star. If you aren’t from North America, you may know it as “Kirby’s Fun Pak” or maybe even “Hoshi no Kirby Super Deluxe”, but it’s always been Kirby Super Star to me.
Released in 1996, I absorbed as much of the game as possible through Nintendo Power, and made damn sure that my parents knew that I had to own this game. It was featured in the August ’96 issue (#87), and I’m pretty sure that was the most excruciating month of my parents’ lives, because I was nothing short of obsessed with the game and the idea of getting it for my birthday. Unfortunately, being nine years old, I probably didn’t understand the concept of release dates, and it actually released almost two weeks after my birthday. I don’t recall exactly how or when I finally obtained it, but I’ll assume that I saved all the birthday money I got that year for it.
Anyway, I have a frothing love for this game that will never be quelled, and even though I have the updated DS port, Kirby Super Star Ultra, I’ve only ever played through it once and always go back to the SNES original to get my fix. Why? I don’t know. The remake is absolutely better, and even more jam-packed with Kirby goodness, but the original has a strange, nostalgic appeal that I simply cannot deny.
The greatest tragedy of this website here is that in the 10+ years I’ve been running it, I’ve never played proper tribute to the game. So that’s what I intend to do. I could simply go the modern route and do a video Let’s Play of it, but I’m kind of tired of doing those at the moment. Also I’ve lent my PS2 controller to a friend and would have to play with the keyboard. And you don’t want to hear me bangin’ on the keys throughout a whole video series, now do you? (I’ll probably do it one day but that day is not today.)
Writing about being excited about cameo appearances in video games is pretty low-hanging fruit, and frankly, that’s why I’ve relegated this entry to the bottom of the list. But the fact of the matter is that pretty much all gamers will do it. People going nuts about seeing Link and Samus in Super Mario RPG? The highly-treasured Nintendo objects in Animal Crossing? Heads asploding all over the world when Mega Man was announced as a fighter in the newest Smash Bros game? I’m sure at least one of these must ring a bell for you.
Kirby Super Star is mostly a celebration of Kirby, natch, but HAL did find time to sneak away a few characters and objects from other Nintendo series. One is even so well hidden that I had a bowel movement of shock when I saw it while playing through the game to get screengrabs for this article. While the cameos are sprinkled around the game pretty liberally, a pretty sizeable chunk of the treasures in The Great Cave Offensive are plucked from other Nintendo properties. Going in descending order we have:
- “Screw Ball” which is actually the Screw Attack power-up from the Metroid series. At this point in time, Super Metroid had just recently turned it into the series logo.
- “Zebra Mask” is obviously a Phanto from Super Mario Bros 2.
- “Bucket” is pretty obscure, but it’s from a puzzle game called Mario & Wario that never got released outside of Japan.
- “Falcon Helmet” didn’t mean anything to me until Super Smash Bros rolled around because I never played F-Zero and Captain Falcon was barely a character yet.
- “Turtle Shell” is a very blandly translated Koopa shell.
- “Sword” is a tricky one. Since I never owned A Link to the Past and my best friend refused to let me borrow it, I always assumed this sword and the accompanying Warrior Shield treasure were Link’s sword and shield. They aren’t. The sword is actually Marth’s Falchion from Fire Emblem, and the shield is just a generic shield.
- “Mr. Saturn” is the kind of thing where if you don’t know what it is or where it’s from, I don’t even know why you’re reading my website.
- “Kong Barrel” is the generic type of barrel that Donkey Kong tosses at construction workers.
- “Pegasus Wing” is apparently some sort of treasure from Kid Icarus. When I was ten years old, I barely even knew what Kid Icarus was.
- “Triforce” is the last treasure, and is so friggin’ cool.
- “Gold Watering Can” was added to the remake, which seemed to me like a pretty vague way to reference Animal Crossing, until I looked up the requirements to obtain a gold watering can in Animal Crossing.
I won’t try to sugar-coat it; this one is from an entirely retrospective point of view. See, ever since Nightmare in Dream Land, the boxarts for the various Kirby games have had a single recurring major difference between the Japanese and American art: over here, Kirby is given an angry expression. It’s a pretty common thing to happen apparently, but Kirby is the one who they named the trope for, and that says a lot.
Mostly, I guess it’s because Nintendo of America assumes that nobody is going to buy a game with an adorable pink blob on the cover, and that all they can to is try to make that blob a little more hardcore. And I guess it’s a legitimate concern, because I’ve even got an applicable anecdote!
For some reason the boxart for the remake bucked this trend and featured a happy Kirby. One Christmas season while working at Toys R Us, I was confronted by a woman looking to buy a DS game for her son. I showed her Kirby Super Star Ultra, and heaped on the praise about how much I enjoyed it when I was her son’s age and how it was still one of my favourite games. She just stared at me in disbelief the whole time and replied “That really doesn’t look like something an eight-year-old boy would like.”
Would angry eyes really have helped? We will never know.
Kirby Super Star came along a few years before the angry eyes trend began, and I think that what I like most about looking back on the cheery cover is that it reminds me of a time where everything was more innocent and simple. A time when video games were still a pretty niche thing and all you needed for mass-market appeal was to have the word “Nintendo” stamped on your product. Of course, American boxarts of Japanese games have been given the angrifying treatment since the dawn of video games, but that’s just not the kind of thing your typical ten-year-old is going to notice. All ten-year-old Ryan knew is that this was going to be a sweet game regardless of what was on the box.
Kirby’s Super Star claims to contain eight games in one cartridge, but the sneaky truth is that there are actually nine games! Or perhaps only seven depending on how you look at it, since two of them could be considered mini-games at best. Either way, the box is lying to you.
One of those games is Samurai Kirby, which is a spiffed-up version of the quick draw bonus game from Kirby’s Adventure. Basically you just press the button as soon as the prompt flashes on the screen and if you’re too slow you lose. It sucks, is the most blunt way to put it.
The other mini-game is Megaton Punch, and as you may assume from the name, it is friggin’ awesome in every way. The goal of the game is to build up enough punch power to generate a punch that’s better than your opponent’s. This is done by pressing the button with the correct timing to three different meters. Truthfully it’s a pretty shallow game, but you’ve gotta consider the experience.
What makes it great is the effect of the punches. You and your opponent don’t punch each other, but rather a stack of stones, as one might use to demonstrate a rather strong karate chop. But if you time you button presses well, you’ll vaporize the stone slabs, break open the competition stage, and send a crack down through the center of Popstar. That’s right; this is a mini-game where the ultimate victory is to punch a planet in half. How is that not awesome? How did it rate so low on my list?
Also Kirby blows kisses at the spectators before the game begins. Fantastic.
I feel like I should just let the embedded YouTube video speak for itself, but I can’t just let this one go.
The commercial begins with doctors rolling someone into the emergency room while a nurse/receptionist puts on her best horrified face and lets out an ear-piercing shriek. Doctors huddle around, and the top doc suggests it’s a case of TMK: Too Much Kirby. The patient is revealed to be a boy with an overly pink skin tone, bloated up all Violet Beauregarde-style. Some game footage is shown, and the boy is rolled into the observation room, where there are a good dozen other kids, all pink and puffed up. It ends with a creepy nurse laughing and holding a big needle, while the boy flies around the room like a punctured cartoon balloon.
On the scale of wacky Nintendo commercials, this fall somewhere in the middle. It’s not quite as utterly insane as That One Zelda Commercial, but it’s considerably stranger than anything they’ve done since the turn of the millennium. At the very least, it had all the kids in my grade five class talking about and referencing it for a good two weeks.
Note also that the commercial use words like “puffed-up,” “bloated,” and “inflated” to sell the game. Most of those words are used these days as detractors when discussing video games. They’re pretty emblematic of Kirby though, and I love how unintentionally ironic it ends up being.
Parasol is a fairly common power for Kirby to stumble upon in the games that came before Super Star. The only problem with it is that there wasn’t really any reason to have it over any other power. Yes, you get a nice little safe zone above you, as the parasol has a damaging hitbox even when you aren’t swinging it, but otherwise it performs like a slower Sword. The sword has faster slashes, hits in a large arc around Kirby, doesn’t kill your momentum during a jump attack, and is overall much cooler. So why would you ever bother with Parasol?
Because the Kirby Super Star’s Parasol is totally amazing, that’s why. All of Kirby’s returning powers get a nice big boost in Super Star, consisting entirely of different attacks for each one, as opposed to a single move for any given power. Parasol sees quite an upgrade though, and makes it not only viable, but also a highly desirable weapon.
Parasol still just hits straight in front of you when you attack, and will stop you in your tracks if you’re walking. However, it also fires of a sort of dust cloud, which effectively doubles its attacking range. Holding the button after a regular attack will have Kirby hold the parasol out in front of him and twirl it around forever. It’s more hypnotizing than anything. The dashing attack is pretty cool, using the parasol to drill through enemies’ faces. It gets a downward stab move too, which can be a little tricky to use at first because it moves slightly forward instead of plowing straight down like the sword’s stab.
The best new move Kirby gets with the Parasol ability though, is the throw attack, which scoops up a small enemy or object, bounces it around a bit, and then tosses it either up or forward for huge damage. Need I mention that this technique is called the Circus Throw? I know, s’pretty great.
Parasol also retains its innate abilities from previous games. It can be used underwater, which is always a great thing. The shield it provides just by existing is far more useful in Kirby Super Star than any previous games. Before, it was basically just to keep the occasional coconut bomb from falling on you, but in Super Star there are plenty of bosses who like to drop things on you, and the parasol is a great way to defend against that. Also, the little floating animation that happens when you hold up while falling with the parasol in hand is adorable and always fun.
Segueing nicely from Parasol’s protective properties is a completely new technique in Kirby’s arsenal: blocking. It’s a move that Kirby can use at any time by holding down one of the shoulder buttons; he doesn’t even need to have a power active to use it!
While it’s been seen in many, many video games before Kirby Super Star, blocking is a wonderful new innovation to the series, although I have to admit that I’m not too sure if it ever came back in any other games. I guess if it did, then whichever games it did reappear in were just not memorable enough for me to log it as a thing in my brainspace. Words, I’m pretty good at them.
The block move in Kirby Super Star was stolen and slightly modified for the Super Smash Bros series, so it works the same way here as it does there. You hold a shoulder button, and Kirby blocks to reduce or nullify damage from attacks. As usual, Kirby is still susceptible to grab attacks while guarding. The really cool thing is that the guard animation changes with certain weapons. With the Parasol ability, for example, Kirby will hide behind it instead of just blocking attacks. The Mirror ability gives you a special reflective guard, which reflects projectiles and creates a shiny bubble around Kirby, just like in Smash Bros. You can’t see the bubble in the screenshot above because it blinks really fast and is apparently impossible to get a screencap of. Seriously, I took like three dozen shots trying to get a picture of the damn thing. Can’t be done.
Admittedly, the ability to guard nullifies the usefulness of the aforementioned parasol re: blocking falling objects. But that’s why guarding is number five on the list, and Parasol is number six.
Everyone has their favourite Kirby ability, and while I’d have to sit down to think long and hard about what my actual favourite ability is, ten-year-old Ryan would have absolutely said Wing. He may have waffled between Yo-yo and Bomb for a while too, but I’m pretty confident that he’d land on Wing in the end. At least, as I remember it, I would always make a beeline for anything that would bestow upon me the wing ability, even if I already had a pretty great power like Bomb or Cutter.
While it’s up there on the list of my personal preferences, Wing isn’t exactly the most practical power. It’s more intended to increase mobility than provide attacking power, but that’s okay. I’ve always preferred the speedy-but-weak character archetypes, and Wing probably fits that one to a tee better than any of Kirby’s other powers.
Wing’s one big trick is that it gives Kirby a whole new way to fly. Normally, he’d have to puff up and then float around slowly, just asking to get smacked about by quick flying enemies. With the Wing ability however, Kirby actually gains a set of wings and can fly all over the place with the grace and speed of a… fast, graceful, flying thing. The downside is that being so quick makes it a little harder to control Kirby, and flying through tight corridors lined with hazards can go south real fast. Flapping Kirby’s wings will do some chip damage to enemies they come in contact with though, so that’s a thing.
Wing’s attacks aren’t really anything to write home about. The main attack is a weak feather shot, and most of the more powerful moves are close-range and leave Kirby wide open afterwards. Suffice to say, Wing is a pretty bad choice for most boss encounters. On the other hand, when Kirby has Wing, he dons the cutest little feather headdress and a little war paint. If Wing Kirby isn’t the absolute most adorable thing you’ve seen all week, you should probably spend less time on cute pet pic websites.
There are plenty of bosses in Kirby Super Star. Being eight games in one, you’d kind of expect as much, yes? Sadly, the first bunch of bosses you are likely to fight are all holdovers from Kirby’s Dream Land. Fret not, though! Because The Great Cave Offensive has you covered!
Sort of opposing the way it features a plethora of treasures from other Nintendo franchises, every single boss (there are four) in The Great Cave Offensive is new to the series. It’s very much worth noting that all four of them have remained unique to Super Star throughout the years as well. Except for the final boss. He was stolen and reskinned into Super Smash Bros’ Master Hand. Sort of.
Anyway, on your way through the cave, you’ll first encounter a big whale dressed as a sailor. He’s boring and not worth talking about. It’s the second boss that matters! The totally awesome and really quite clever Computer Virus! Why is this boss so deserving of a special mention? Well, my friends, it’s because the battle is a parody of RPG turn-based battles. Complete with text narration and experience points!
The battle begins in a big, empty room when computer-looking windows start popping up. A slime appears! The Computer Virus boss makes you fight three monsters in a row, the catch being that you and the monsters take turns attacking each other. You’re completely mobile during the monsters’ attacks, but you cannot damage them until they’ve dropped out of their window, which signifies your attack phase.
The first Computer Virus battle (in The Great Cave Offensive) pits you against a Slime, a Puppet, and a Witch. The boss appears again within Milky Way Wishes, and forces you to fight a much tougher lineup of the Witch, an Evil Knight, and a Great Dragon. During your attack phase, a random power trophy will appear on each side of the screen, and you have to option of switching powers instead of focusing on your assault.
Once you’ve won the battle, it gets even better by doling out experience points and gold, just like a real RPG! These things are useless though, and are there just for flavour. But what a delicious flavour it is! It can also give out things like Happiness Points and Friendship Points depending on the circumstances of the battle. All in all, it’s a pretty hilarious and incredibly inspired boss.
You’ve been traversing the land and tearing apart a giant battleship on the way to a final showdown with your lifelong rival. What better sendoff than a high-speed chase aboard an exploding airship? None, of course. And that’s exactly the adrenaline-fueled climax that Revenge of Meta-Knight delivers.
Revenge of Meta Knight has an unusual twist when compared to the other games in Kirby Super Star in that throughout the duration of the game, you’re on a timer. Every stage has a time limit, and there are far more auto-scrolling screens here than in the rest of the games combined. Yeah, it may also be more heavily story-based than the rest of ‘em, but that’s not really the point here.
The point is that throughout the game, you’re rushing to get to the end. Despite the fact that the time limits are usually pretty generous, the theme of the game is speed. You can slow down to smell the roses, but you probably shouldn’t. This carried over into the final battle with Meta-Knight in spades. Well, in phase two of the final battle, anyway.
You’ve just destroyed the Halberd’s engine, and the mighty airship has begun its descent into a crash landing. The crew is fleeing, and only Meta Knight has stayed behind to duel Kirby, in hopes of at least delaying his rival long enough to take them both out. The duel with Meta Knight is business as usual; grab the sword and avoid his relentless barrage of attacks while whittling down his life. Once it’s over though, the real party begins.
A large explosion rocks the Halberd and Kirby is thrown from the bridge. He is without a Warp Star, and there seems to be no other way to escape. Luckily, he finds a lone Wheelie, saddles up, and starts making his way out of the inferno. But then Meta Knight reappears! And with huge devilish wings! Your job is to speed your way across the deck of the ship in under forty seconds, all while Meta Knight assaults you from the sky.
It’s a tense race, made no easier by the uneven terrain, but the rush you get from it is without equal in Kirby Super Star. Once you make it off the ship, an ending cinematic of the smoking wreck of the Halberd crashing into Orange Ocean plays, and if you look really carefully you can see a pixel fly away just before impact. I suppose we’ll see Meta Knight again someday after all.
This is it. We’re at the end, and I’m just about all out of steam. I’ve written way more words about Kirby Super Star than I intended to when I opened Word today, so I’m pretty glad I’m just about done. Here we go.
Milky Way Wishes is the sixth and final main game in Kirby Super Star, and it is a doozy. The first thing you’re likely to notice when playing is that there’s a level select screen. Dyna Blade has one of those too, but that one’s still totally linear. In Milky Way Wishes, you’re able to revisit planets to find new powers. Oh, did I mention that you can’t just copy enemies’ powers as usual here? Nope, you have to find a trophy of each power before it’s unlocked. The upside to this is that you can switch to any power you’ve found whenever you like.
Milky Way Wishes is also the longest game in the collection, playing host to seven full planets and a sequence of bosses at the end. You don’t have to play the planets in order, although the game does give you a suggested path through them in order of difficulty. Think of it kind of like what would happen if Kirby played like a Mega Man game.
The game throws another curveball at you near the end too, when you have to fight a boss –in the form of a horizontal shoot ‘em up! Granted, there aren’t all that many ‘ems to shoot up, but that’s the gameplay style, and it’s actually pretty hard!
And speaking of hard, the final boss of this game is the nefarious Marx. This guy is the stuff of nightmares. He starts out as a goofy little jester dude, but ends up transforming into a hideous googly-eyed bat monster. Who can summon black holes at will and will no doubt chew through your lives if you’re not familiar with his attack pattern. Also his wings are made of Fruity Pebbles. In fact, Marx is such a noteworthy and formidable boss that I was going to give him his very own spot on his list, but in the end I went with TMK instead because it was absolutely worth talking about.
After overcoming all the trials you’ve faced to get there, reaching the end of Milky Way Wishes is wholly satisfying. It’s a tough enough game that you feel like you’re really earned that happy ending. Then of course now that Marx is done and you think the worst is behind you, they slap you with The Arena, the super-secret, tough-as-nail boss rush game. But don’t mind that. Take a little time just to reflect on how great Milky Way Wishes was. Because it’s pretty darn great.
And so thusly, my list of things I like about Kirby Super Star is concluded. Truthfully, I could have easily inflated this list to 20 items or so, because I like pretty much everything about Kirby Super Star. Except for Samurai Kirby. I just don’t even get how it’s supposed to be fun. Boooooo Samurai Kirby.