Like the character whose name it bears, Kirby is a franchise that has always been adaptive to its environment. Over time, Kirby has starred in a gyroscopic puzzler, a golf game, a pair of touch-screen-controlled action platformers, and countless other titles that have all deviated from the series’ roots. Kirby Triple Deluxe is different in that it is not different; it borrows from Kirby Super Star and Kirby’s Adventure, not Kirby’s Canvas Curse and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It is traditional, and it is the best game to star the pink puffball in more than a decade.
A return to form for Kirby means that little introduction is needed. Getting through the game’s many levels and boss encounters requires that the player suck enemies up and absorb their powers, using them to conquer a variety of obstacles and antagonistic characters. It’s a simple, well-trodden mechanic, but it is done to perfection in Triple Deluxe thanks to an assortment of new abilities that make blasting through each stage an absolute delight (albeit an easy delight, though such is standard fare for this Nintendo icon). My personal favorite new ability, Archer, provides Kirby with a bow that he can use to launch arrows in rapid succession in almost any direction. This power is especially useful for the game’s seven boss fights, and certain parts of the game can only be accessed by using it to make difficult trick shots.
The power-up that makes the most notable impact on Triple Deluxe is Kirby’s “Hypernova” ability. At the end of a select number of stages, a tree grows bearing a mystical fruit that Kirby absorbs in order to amplify the magnitude of his base sucking power. With this skill in tow, Kirby can inhale seemingly everything in his path, including items, blocks, enemies, and other large objects that would normally be too dense for the puffy protagonist to ingest. Hypernova dramatically shifts the pace of the game by changing its focus from quick-and-dirty platforming to slow, pensive puzzling, a surprising turn of events that may be welcomed more warmly by some than it will be by others. I found Hypernova to be a refreshing addition, both because of its fresh take on the franchise and the restraint with which it is employed. To HAL Laboratory’s credit, Hypernova is employed sparingly over the course of the game’s main single-player mode. If used too often, the sheer awe of its bombast would be overpowered by a sense of overexposure. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and as a result Hypernova remains one of the highlights of my time with the game.
Hypernova is also a good stylistic fit for Triple Deluxe, a game that heavily employs visual frills from start to finish. As usual, Kirby’s world is one of wonder, coated with bright colors and decadent backdrops, and it looks better than it ever has before on the Nintendo 3DS. The platform’s 3D capabilities only serve to bolster these creative flourishes, as has been seen consistently with first-party games on the system. I found myself consistently turning the handheld’s slider up in order to get the game’s full effects. Regardless of the player’s 3D preference, Triple Deluxe is a beautiful game that is a spectacle throughout.
That being said, the 3D is occasionally used as more than just garnish for the game’s aesthetic appeal. New to the series is the inclusion of background layers in every stage that are populated by their own set of obstacles for Kirby to overcome. In many cases, these planes can be accessed by leaping into star-shaped portals found in levels’ foregrounds, but the background is alternatively an inaccessible home to hazards that transition from the back of the screen to its front. This is an excruciatingly obvious use of 3D that works well for the most part, though it does occasionally feel tacked-on in order to make Triple Deluxe feel like a game that could only be made on the 3DS.
After conquering the game’s seven worlds, a modest process that took me six hours to complete in full (meaning that I found all of the game’s 100 main collectible items, Sun Stones), Triple Deluxe offers players with five other modes that they can use to occupy their time with the game. The most notable of these is DeDeDe Tour, a separate version of the game’s main campaign that lets players control the franchise’s main recurring villain, King DeDeDe. DeDeDe Tour offers more challenge than does Kirby’s jaunt through the game, and it makes for a compelling excuse to run through Triple Deluxe’s wondrous landscapes one more time.
The other extra modes are more modest in terms of their scope, but they are no less fun or interesting. Arena and True Arena are throwbacks to Kirby Super Star (the best Kirby game, for those of you keeping track at home) that task players with challenging all of Triple Deluxe’s boss characters in succession, with the latter extending the challenge of the boss rush mode by pitting Kirby against DX versions of the regular bosses. DeDeDe’s Drum Dash is a fun distraction that combines the fun of simple timing-based platforming with the game’s unsurprisingly fantastic soundtrack. Last and certainly least (but not bad by any means) is Kirby Fighters, a multiplayer mode that has players choose one of Kirby’s abilities and battle it out in a style similar to that of Super Smash Bros. This is a pleasant mode, but it is crippled in that it only lets players choose from a pool of 10 of the game’s 26 total abilities. Also, it just isn’t Super Smash Bros., which is a noteworthy shortcoming of most fighting games.
I have been a lifelong fan of Kirby, but it has been a long time since a side-scrolling entry in the series validated my affection for it. Triple Deluxe is an about face for a stale property, rejuvenating one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters with exceptional graphics, refined mechanics, and enough content to warrant an unbridled recommendation.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5