Developer(s) – HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director – Masahiro Sakurai
Producer(s) – Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto & Takao Shimiz
One of the last games to be released on the Nintendo Entertainment System before software support ended back in 1994, Kirby’s Adventure is also considered to be one of the best games on the system, making use of some impressive graphics for the time, as well as extremely varied gameplay; aspects contributing to the overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim it received upon its release. Whilst I don’t think it’s quite deserved of a perfect score, I do agree that it is most definitely one of the better games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and just as good as its Game Boy counterpart, Kirby’s Dream Land; if not better.
Graphics – 9/10
As I alluded to, as this game was one of the last released on the NES, it was released at a time when the console’s graphical capability had been fully explored and expanded upon, and developers were in the process of pushing the boundaries of what else they could theoretically be capable of before completing the transition to the 16-bit era. Advanced 8-bit rendering techniques were incorporated into Kirby’s Adventure such as giving characters black outlines and making full use of the console’s limited colour palette to present one of the most colourful and visually diverse games on the system. The conceptual design, whilst reminiscent of Super Mario Bros 3, is also wonderfully varied, with many different landscapes used as levels, and incredibly varied enemy and boss designs. There’s actually quite an interesting story surround both this game and Kirby’s Dream Land about the colour of the main character Kirby. The character’s creator, Masahiro Sakurai, had originally envisioned the character to be pink, but Mario designer, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted him to be yellow. There was also confusion on the part of Nintendo of America who thought that because the Game Boy was a monochromatic system, that Kirby was supposed to be white; henceforth, Kirby being coloured white on the box art for Kirby’s Dream Land.
Gameplay – 8/10
The game is a 2D side scroller, as was typical for the time, though it doesn’t conform to many of the set trends synonymous with most games released within the genre. Kirby has the ability to swallow enemies and take on their combat abilities, giving the game a surprising amount of variety. Different abilities include laser beams, attacking with a sword, fire powers, ice powers, and even the ability to use loud sounds as a crowd control move. When put together, it is extremely enjoyable to play. There were few games released for the NES with comparable amounts of variety to this title.
Controls – 9/10
The only vague problem I had with the game’s control scheme is how the flying mechanics work. Players use the up button to have Kirby float in the air to reach otherwise unreachable areas, and then the attack button to deflate back to a walking state. It made visible the fact that more buttons were certainly needed in future consoles to accommodate for a greater amount variety in controls. Otherwise, however, there are no other issues to address.
Lifespan – 8/10
Kirby’s Adventure is also an exceptionally long game for it’s time, lasting an average of around 2 and a half hours. Most games would normally last around 40 minutes or an hour, but for a 2D side scroller to last this long was exemplary; even if the bulk of innovation in the genre had been made prior to the release of this game. Super Mario introduced the idea of multiple levels, and Mega Man introduced the idea of black outlines in 8-bit games. But Kirby’s Adventure is a by-product of how all these different ideas can be brought together to make something extremely special.
Storyline – 7/10
Though gamers would have had to rely on the instruction manual to learn of any story involved, as customary for the time, the story of Kirby’s Adventure is somewhat standout, since like it’s gameplay, does not follow the same tropes used in most games of that era. It follows Kirby on his quest to recover the Star Rod from his nemesis King Dedede, in order to restore power to the Fountain of Dreams. This game was also the first to feature the character Meta Knight, who would go on to be in my opinion one of the most unfairly neglected characters in Nintendo history. For more information about why I think this, check out this article:
Originality – 7/10
Back in the NES days, it was becoming increasingly difficult for video games to stand out from one another; especially 2D side scrollers. But in my opinion, Masahiro Sakurai managed to do just that, and in some emphatic style too. With it’s exemplary conceptual design along with some fun and varied gameplay, it certainly went leaps and bounds ahead of many different third party efforts released on the NES, especially those designed by Colour Dreams, and did well to prolong the shelf life of the console for another year or so before Nintendo went on to create bigger and better things with this franchise among their many others.
Overall, Kirby’s Adventure is a very well crafted title, and satisfying to play, as well as excellent to look at for the time. Witnessing the birth of the franchise, it’s no wonder to me why it would become one of the most prolific in Nintendo’s history over the last 20 years, and continues to be to this day.