Though they are similar in concept, purpose, and success, the Nintendo DS and its younger sibling, the 3DS, took wildly divergent roads towards commercial stardom. The former, powered by its two screens and simple touch controls, immediately made the Big N a load of cash due to how that core functionality was smartly implemented on its more accessible games and deeper hardcore-focused titles.
By adding 3-D effects to the recipe, Nintendo hoped to achieve similar results with the 3DS. However, a slow start in terms of software and the fact the tridimensional quirk of the top screen did not translate into innovative gameplay solutions made the system stall right out of the gate. Luckily, with an onslaught of stellar games, the handheld was soon able to recover and gain a firm grip on the portable gaming market.
Yet, what was once thought to be its greatest feature – the 3-D without the use of glasses – remained untouched in terms of integration with gameplay. Hence, while its predecessor was a winner due to the creative use of its defining trait, the 3DS soared despite the fact its supposed game-changing twist was an afterthought in game design terms.
Mario, who had once – for instance – introduced platforming in a full-blown explorable environment to the world in Super Mario 64, tends to be Nintendo's go-to-guy to display the capabilities of their new systems. And it was no different with the 3DS, as Super Mario 3D Land did make a fair attempt to integrate the 3D effects into the gameplay in a significant way.
However, the game did not gravitate around those mechanics; rather, it used them occasionally in an attempt to justify the inclusion of the expensive screen into the system. Consequently, the game did not serve as a great motivation or source of inspiration for other developers and companies to fully embrace that capability.
Over three years after the 3DS launched, the 3-D effects finally find their vindication, and it comes in the form of Kirby: Triple Deluxe. The uncannily solid Hal Laboratory team crafted a game around the extra sense of depth provided by the system, and in turn they have made Kirby into a pioneer. The pink puffball has grown used to starring in very good and silly games, but this time around he also gets the honor of being the first to draw the blueprints on how the 3-D can serve as the basis for an adventure.
Although its use is certainly not mandatory – a wise and obvious decision given how forcing players to utilize it would alienate a large portion of the audience – the tridimensional visuals greatly enhance the experience. The game is centered around stages with multiple layers, and Kirby gets to switch back and forth between them through the use of special warp stars. Consequently, turning on the 3-D to maximum levels boosts the contrasts between the scenarios.
The game's greatest moments occur when its stage design sets up the interaction between the foreground and the background. Crazy contraptions blast projectiles towards the screen, trees that are cut by foes on the second layer fall on Kirby, enemies attached to ropes swing between layers as if they were having fun on a playground, and bosses launch attacks that toy around with the depth.
It is all done with the charm and simplicity that is inherent to Kirby games. Developers have made it all seem so utterly natural and straightforward that it becomes impossible not to wonder why in the world nobody could build a game like that during all the years the 3DS has been out on the market.
The blend found in the game is unbelievably simple, as it matches the traditional Kirby gameplay with wild 3-D antics, but it is throughly engaging. It is colorful, lighthearted, and highly energetic. At the same time, it is easy in the delightful way Kirby games have always been, serving as the perfect entry-point for children who want to get the hang of gaming sprinkled with the signature Nintendo magic.
Playing around in the Kirby universe has always been a party, and Triple Deluxe is no different. Sure, the world might have its bottomless pits and hordes of enemies, but the little guy always has a remedy to all those problems. He shrugs at the former by inflating and hovering away, whereas he sucks the power out of the latter to use it against them in destructive fashion.
It is a breeze for veterans and a fun little challenge for the youngsters, and all of them will most likely agree that Triple Deluxe is one of the character's finest moments. Not only is he as alluring as ever, he is also breaking into new gameplay grounds. He stars in an adventure that will – inevitably – go down either as the peak of the system's use of its 3-D effects, or as the point on which companies finally realize that although it is not as remarkable as the dual screens, the 3-D slider found on the 3DS is quite a powerful tool.