Kirby's back once again, and this time he's returned to his roots. Kirby Super Star Ultra is an updated version of the Super Nintendo game Kirby Super Star, which in turn had updated elements of the Game Boy game Kirby's Dream Land. Essentially, if it's a radically new Kirby experience that you're after, you're probably looking in the wrong place. A demo of the game was playable at this year's eGames & Entertainment Expo, and we were all over it like Kirby on 'M' pudding.
The only playable level at eGames was 'Spring Breeze', a straight remake of the level from the original Kirby Super Star which was itself a remake of the entire Kirby's Dream Land game, and two of the new multiplayer minigames - 'Kirby on the Draw' and 'Kirby Card Swipe'. We found 'Spring Breeze' to be a lot shorter and easier than the Game Boy title it's based on. It contains condensed segments of every level from that game, and pits you against each of the bosses and sub-bosses found in the original. However, Kirby's abilities in Super Star Ultra saw us breeze through 'Spring Breeze' in about ten minutes. In the original Dream Land, Kirby lacked his trademark ability to swallow his enemies and gain their powers, making many of the boss battles in the game a lot trickier. In Super Star Ultra, not only can Kirby take on the powers of his enemies, he can also use them to create computer-controlled allies who'll assist Kirby throughout the level until their health bar runs out. While both of these features aren't new at all to the series, they're still fun, but remove all strategy from the 'Spring Breeze' stage. The later original levels designed around these abilities will probably prove more than a challenge, but from what we found, 'Spring Breeze' was far too easy.
The new multiplayer mini-games that we played were somewhat interesting, but fairly run-of-the-mill. In 'Kirby on the Draw', four Kirbys can try their luck at a shooting gallery filled with cut-outs of most of the enemies and helpers from the game. It's basically just a standard arcade shooting game, where you use the stylus to shoot the cutouts which correspond to your Kirby's colour to gain points, while taking out other colour cutouts to prevent your rivals from doing so. Occasionally a blue cutout would appear that if it would take away points, but it's all pretty standard. 'Kirby's Card Swipe' was the other mini-game on offer, presenting players with a few cards on screen with different Kirby characters. One of these characters would appear on the top screen, and the first player to touch the correct matching card would win. Simple, and not incredibly interesting.
There are other differences in Kirby Super Star Ultra, such as the addition of cute new CGI cut scenes at the start of the game and during the levels. Unfortunately, some of the other additions to the DS version such as the new platforming levels, 'Revenge of the King', 'Meta Knightmare Ultra', 'Helper to Hero' and 'The True Arena', were unplayable at eGames, leaving us with a fairly limited view of the game.
There's no question that Kirby Super Star Ultra is a classic Kirby adventure. The problem is that many of us may feel like we've played the game before, even if we haven't played its Super Nintendo incarnation. The standard Kirby gameplay is still as charming and fun as it ever was, but there's not a lot new here to catch our attention. The promised additions to the game look like they'll add longevity, but the DS-exclusive mini-games seem gimmicky at best. We'll reserve judgement until we can play more of the game, but for now Kirby Super Star Ultra just looks like a fun blast from the past for the DS. And sometimes, that's all we need.