Presentation wise, this game was ahead of it's time. It sported a great looking interface with a unique personality. Everything felt light hearted and worked like a perfectly tuned machine. The story had its simplicity which is a staple of most Nintendo games, and with so much influence on the world's style and gloss, there's nothing lacking in this field.
Kirby's graphics engine attempted to bring next-gen visuals onto the NES. It has lush bright colored worlds full of imagination and originality. There was a lot of focus on sprite detail and motion making everything feel well animated and anything but a bore to see repeatedly. Each character has at least 5-7 frames of movement which was a rarity for the old Nintendo system. Kirby himself looked so advanced on the NES, that the sprite was almost kept entirely unchanged in his Super Nintendo appearances. It's amazing seeing the comical actions of the little pinkish red wonder. The only part that left Kirby in a hole was when there was too much action on screen (which didn't take much) before the frame rate dropped and turned into a somewhat frustrating fall of cheap hits and enemy advantages. Overlooking this small matter, the game was set to rock the gaming community and it certainly did with a visual flare.
The sounds and soundtrack were another high point of Kirby. Not only did the game sport memorable original sound effects that stood high with that of Mario Bros, the title brought forth a soundtrack that just can't be forgotten. The boss battles with their muddle theme of evil worked to a charm raising tension and ultimately only adding to the incredible experience. The level music was also very catchy and lots of fun to bounce along to with Kirby popping off hits and unique powers. Back to the sound effects, the game sports a large variety of power up weapons and with this comes a need to make each item and their effect different from one another audibly. Kirby strives to innovate by encompassing a vast amount of sound effects that highlight each item whether it be the sound of a blizzard attack, or flame throwing move; the sound of collecting a 1up, the masterful setup goes on and on.
In Gameplay, this game achieves is what most platformers lacked back in the day: depth and scope. While most games tried to be cookie cutter wannabes of Super Mario Bros, Kirby was out to make a new name for himself. First, the game plays very much like Mario Bros 3. The player runs about on an overworld where he enters doors to numerically ordered levels. You advance through the level to reach the goal which advances you to the next level on the overworld. At the end of the 6 levels that each world has, there lies a boss battle that is definitely a tricky affair considering how off the wall the opponents can be. It's challenging, fun and certainly addictive in its own sort of way. Now along with the levels themselves, there's also a load of bonus stages that give access to mini-games. These games range from a crane game, or mini boss battle to a shootout mini-game that makes you test your trigger finger in beating out your foes. The prizes are given in points and extra lives but the sheer enjoyment that accompanies this is huge! To find these special stages you need to comb through the levels carefully searching for passages and hidden areas.
When it comes to actually playing a level, the first thing that does become quite obvious is that Kirby isn't a dream to control. He often feels clumsy and often times rather unresponsive to quick reactions. For example, if your foe is fires something at you, your response is to jump or back away. By the time, Kirby registers the button push, he's already been hit and falling backward. This leads to a lot of frustration but, the repetitive nature of foes allows for one to anticipate and predict attacks before they actually come which brings us to another overlooked area. Enemy AI is all over the place. There are dumb enemies that are repetitive and don't stray away from their consistent attack patterns. There are also some enemies that are hard to predict their reactions. Some foes don't respond while others will hit you right when you think you get the upper ground. This often leads to a quick ridiculous death that like a lot of the game's gameplay… is maddening. Bosses are however, some of the most brilliant challenges the NES has to offer. They aren't terribly difficult but require a lot of practice and thought in figuring out the trick. By the end of the game, bosses are merciless and hold no reservations for taking you out of action fast.
Another thing worth mentioning outside of the enemy terrain are the elaborate levels. They are always unique and never play the same scenario twice. Some areas will have you free falling while you avoid getting hit, others will play more subtly while offering power-up shortcuts that only require you to get the ability and use it to blast to the end. If you fail to grab that certain power-up, the trek is much more difficult. Speaking of power-ups, there are more than 15 different and unique power-ups that give Kirby some strange, entertaining abilities. Some powers turn him into a flaming torch, an icy breath thrower, a wheel with uncontrollable speed, a bouncing ball, a super high jumper, instant death bomber, UFO transformations… the list goes on thus leaving the player with lots of freedom to explore the various roads.
With the variety, the great level design, the massive amount of gameplay options, this NES game is packed to the brim with entertainment and more than 5 hours of gameplay! You read it right… 5 hours of gameplay and thank god it's got a save option which is certainly appreciated. Gameplay is a welcomed package and works in so many ways despite it's flaws. In the end, there is no other NES platforming game that packs this much length and originality.
As for replay value, the game bears a percentage completion counter that keeps track of how close you are to getting 100% of the game completed. This means beating every level and finding every secret bonus stage. So even after you've beat the game, there's always more than enough reason to go back and try again.
In my final conclusion, this game is a steal for $5. The VC version is a perfect port and doesn't lose anything by being on the Wii console. I played the game using the Wiimote in the sideways position and it as a blast. It may have its rough spots but this was a next gen Super Nintendo game tailored to the NES and the results are remarkable. Download this game and enjoy it!