Copying is the sincerest form of flattery

User Rating: 6 | Kirby's Adventure NES

Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed from the Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition for Wii.

Kirby first debuted in Kirby’s Dream Land for the Game Boy. He was the cute new protagonist on the block and did everything Mario did. But he carried a unique ability, he swallowed things and they disappeared into his wondrous stomach. Or he could spit them out and take out giant trees and air-filled ducks. Now? Kirby’s Adventure takes our puffball hero to another level in ambitious, awesome ways.

Kirby literally exemplifies the phrase “You are what you eat.” In Kirby’s Dream Land, you could only suck in enemies and either swallow them or spit them out as a high-speed projectile. It’s astounding how he would swallow things and they digest nothingness. What’s more astounding, yet awesome, is he can copy abilities of certain enemies. Swallow a raging fireball? You become a raging fireball. Swallow a snowman that creates a spinning ice tornado around its body? You can do that, too. Swallow an umbrella? Somehow you get an umbrella in your hand. It’s fun seeing what Kirby becomes when you activate the ability. And there’s so many options, you’ll find yourself swallowing everything just to see what kind of crazy concoction you become.

Copy abilities also opens up unique ways to traverse levels that Kirby’s Dream Land couldn’t create. A level with a lot of slopes can be a great place to become a wheel that rips through everything. You’ll encounter a level that sends you sky high because you can swallow some bird with a cape and it magically gives you a ridiculously high jump.

Not only that, certain levels have multiple pathways to finish the level and some have secrets that can only be achieved with a certain power. The first time, you may not know what the ability is but once you see how it’s blocked off, you’ll understand what ability you need to access it. The multiple pathways and abilities isn’t something you see a lot of in 2D platformers and it encourages you to explore even after you’ve saved Dream Land.

Yes, this adventure isn’t without context. Dream Land needs saving. Kirby wouldn’t have to go through this if King Dedede didn’t steal the Star Rod from the Fountain of Dreams, which gives dreams to the citizens of Dream Land. Then he had the audacity to break it in seven pieces and give it to his lackeys. And Kirby was curious enough to discover the problem and apparently pissed off enough to do something about it.

You take Kirby through 7 worlds. Each world has an overworld with doors for each level and minigames you play to earn extra lives. The overworld is a brilliant idea. In Kirby’s Dream Land, you were forced to move on to the next level. Kirby’s Adventure allows you to backtrack - thanks to the overworld - so you could find all the secrets in case you missed them the first time.

Minigames are scattered around each overworld and some are only unlocked after discovering secrets in levels. They’re mostly used to earn extra lives but they’re ultimately games of luck. One is a crane game. You have two tries to pick up a giant Kirby and a smaller Kirby for extra lives. There’s no strategy to it. Move the crane as well as you can and hope for the best. My favorite minigame is Quick Draw. You’re placed in a wild west setting and you have to shoot the enemy before he shoots you when you see “Draw” pop on the screen. I wish you could play it on its own.

Kirby’s Adventure also comes with a fair challenge to it. Flying enemies hound you, sometimes at different speeds; coconuts falls from the sky from points you can’t see; boss patterns can be a little tricky and difficult without a power; and the list goes on. It’s fair and hardly frustrating. It’s not until the slowdown comes in, then it’s frustrating. And this game has it bad.

You can jump around in the overworld and you’ll notice Kirby dropping to the ground a little slower. Some enemies have such fast moving powers that it slows the game to a crawl. Other enemies aren’t special, they’re just moving fast; consequently, the game slows down. It’s extremely frustrating and it affects your timing. And it permeates the entire game. As soon as slowdown occurs, anxiety rises. You don't know if your button will respond while a boss is taking shots at you. You don't know if you'll recover from a hit that sends you falling down a cliff. Too many times I looked at the screen, slammed the button during a moment of slowdown and nothing happened. It's that bad.

Kirby’s Adventure is a brilliant second game in the Kirby franchise. Copy abilities blow the door wide open for creativity and the game provides a fair challenge while remaining charming and fun. The game also does a good job of encouraging me to replay all the secrets but the slowdown incessantly nags at every part of the game. After I beat it, I lost all desire to keep playing simply because of the slowdown. It’s worth playing through but good luck dealing with the spurts of slowdown.