Kirby just doesn’t get enough respect. Sure, he may not be dropping any Pink Tails (little FFIV joke there for my nerds in the house). He’s cute, he’s pink, and he looks way too much like a Pokémon (though he actually predates them), and his games are known for being way too easy and sometimes a little shallow on content. Well, not Kirby Super Star. When the original colorful puffball’s compilation was released on the SNES, it didn’t receive adequate attention primarily because the next generation was creeping upon. Those who were fortunate enough to experience the title, however, overwhelmingly rank it among the best that two-dimensional platforming/adventure had to offer at the time. Put quite simply, Kirby Super Star is probably still today Kirby’s best title—and Kirby Super Star Ultra only piles more on top of an already brimming package.
More pink than you can shake a Waddle Dee at
Though shaking such a cute, relatively harmless foe may prompt some to question your motives. Super Star is essentially a collection of sub-games (it wouldn’t do them justice to call them mini-games as they’re considerably meatier) featuring activities ranging from simple racing and reflex games to full-blown adventures. Kirby Super Star Ultra contains all of the games of the original plus more (hard to believe? Remember, this is the team that brought you Smash Bros.). In case you’re one of those who missed the SNES title, that means you get this (new games are noted):
This is essentially a stripped-down version of the original Kirby’s Dream Land with some tweaked/added elements. It’s very easy, and is designed primarily as an introduction to the mechanics that underlie the rest of the games in the collection. But even in spite of its simplicity and brevity, it’s still a lot of fun.
Race King Dedede through a short collection of environments, collecting as much food as possible along the way. This is a mini-game of sorts that only lasts around ten minutes… but you can also take part in time trials if you so choose.
The next true adventure title in the mix, Dyna Blade sees you chasing down a disgruntled bird who is wreaking havoc on the happy landscape. You’ll traverse five levels strung together by a world map in an adventure that will probably last you half an hour.
The Great Cave Offensive
This is the first truly significant sub-game in Kirby Super Star Ultra in terms of both size and challenge; if you seek 100% completion, you will likely spend three or four hours working toward it. Kirby falls into a hole in the ground while walking and ends up on a massive treasure hunt that spans four large Metroid-like areas that can be revisited at will. Throughout your trek, you’ll collect such diverse treasures as a Christmas Tree, the Triforce, and the Screw Attack (none of them serve any function). This is a lot of fun, and even more enjoyable with two players over local wireless.
Revenge of Meta Knight
This is a brief adventure consisting of seven timed challenges (with bosses) of respectable difficulty. Basically, Kirby is tasked with traversing Meta Knight’s ship and contributing to its destruction. In total, the game will take you under an hour to complete, but it’s a fun departure from the exploratory nature of the rest of the sub-games.
Milky Way Wishes
Along with The Great Cave Offensive, this is the largest of the sub-games. It’s also the most unique. The sun and moon are fighting and Kirby must seek the support of the other planets to help make peace. What makes this game so different is that rather than sucking up enemies to steal their powers, in Milky Way Wishes, you must instead search for and acquire the various abilities throughout the seven planets before you can use them. Once you’ve collected an ability, you can use it at will, endlessly, by simply selecting it on your touch screen. Milky Way Wishes is moderately challenging (tough for a Kirby game), and very entertaining no matter how you approach it.
Revenge of the King (new)
This is the first of the new additions to Super Star Ultra. It’s basically a beefed-up version of Spring Breeze, featuring a considerably higher difficulty, longer levels, and an extra stage. It’s quite challenging indeed!
Meta Knightmare (new)
This mode puts you through five of the previous sub-games—Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, The Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of Meta Knight, and Milky Way Wishes—only this time, you’re playing as Meta Knight! Each of the different sub-games is presented as a level, and some differences apply: there are no treasures to find in The Great Cave Offensive, Revenge of the Meta Knight has—duh—no Meta Knight boss, and Milky Way Wishes doesn’t feature any collectible abilities. There’s also a new (and very difficult) final boss. While this sub-game consists of purely recycled environments, it does feel quite a bit different due to Meta Knight’s properties: he can’t steal powers, and instead is left to just four of his own, powered by energy spheres dropped by defeated enemies. I personally found it fun and surprisingly unique.
Helper to Hero (new)
Here, you choose a helper to play as and fight through 13 boss battles (randomly chosen) as that particular helper. As with any Boss Rush challenge, there are no checkpoints; you conquer them all or you start again. Similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Boss Battles mode, you also return to a rest area of sorts following each battle which provides you the option of using one of just five consumable health-restoring Maxim Tomatoes.
Note that this game was included in the original Super Star; only the tougher version of it below is new. In it, you fight 16 boss battles consecutively separated by the above-mentioned rest areas where you have the option of restoring some of your health.
The True Arena (new)
Much tougher than the regular Arena mode, this one features the ten toughest bosses from Super Star Ultra. Worse yet, rather than Maxim Tomatoes, you only get normal food to refill some of your health. I have no trouble admitting that this mode has as of yet kicked my ass every time I’ve played it and I think it’s going to take a bit of persistence to complete it.
There are now five mini-games as opposed to the original two. The new games all leverage the touch functionality.
Kirby Card Swipe (new)
Kirby on the Draw (new)
Snack Tracks (new)
The mini-games are fun, but they’re nothing as engaging as the rest of the game’s content. Still, they’ll put a smile on your face.
So what else is new?
Glad you asked. Apart from the aforementioned game modes, Ultra also features an updated presentation. For starters, status screens are redesigned to consolidate most of the information on the bottom screen so it no longer crowds the action at the top. This arrangement also allows for touch access to many functions, such as switching powers in Milky Way Wishes. Beyond that, you also get updated art and animation, as well as nifty full-motion videos (letterboxed nonetheless) in place of the old real-time cut scenes. Overall, this is indisputably the definitive version of the game, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it the best Kirby title released to date—even if it is only marginally better than its twelve-year-old SNES predecessor.
After peeking at the landscape of current reviews, I’m firmly convinced that Kirby Super Star Ultra is underrated. Sure, it’s merely an updated port, but a considerable amount of updating has gone into it and it was already one heck of an amazing package. In Ultra, no matter how you slice it, we now have over a dozen hours of highly appealing, top-notch platforming/action/adventure gameplay broken down into neatly-organized (and delightfully diverse) segments. It’s Kirby Super Star plus 20% for just $30, and if you ask me, that alone is enough to warrant a great score, port-centric gripes notwithstanding.