Kirby Battle Royale on 3DS
Kirby has long been one of Nintendo’s most under-appreciated mascots. This round pink blob’s infectious positivity and ability to copy the powers of anyone he eats has made him a fan favorite since the early 1990s. Some players found it odd for Nintendo to pull Kirby away from his winning formula and give his most recent games some strange quirks. Several of them, like Planet Robobot and Blowout Blast, still managed to do well though. They were different from Kirby’s norm, but they maintained the goofy randomness that makes Kirby so great in the first place. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Kirby’s most recent game: Kirby Battle Royale. The game’s got heart and manages to capture the simplistic joy that exists at the core of Kirby’s best adventures, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of variety. It also doesn’t have much going for it in regards to replayability, although the option to replay the minigames against human players does make most of the games more fun.
Kirby Battle Royale puts players in control of the titular hero as he participates in a competition set up by longtime nemesis King Dedede. The king has managed to get his hands on a printer that makes Kirby copies, and promises Kirby that he’ll give him a cake if he can beat his many clones and a good stomping if he can’t. Kirby needs to compete in a variety of minigames to win the tournament. When he wins enough, he can move on to the next bracket of the competition, where he must compete in even more minigames. This process repeats until he reaches the championship. Although repetitive sounding, this setup should still work. A tournament that’s composed of dozens of unique minigames should provide hundreds of different challenges (something along the same lines of Mario Party).
Instead, it quickly becomes apparent that the player is in for quite the grind. There are only 10 games in total, and the player will be required to play them all over and over again across five tournament tiers. There’s some variety in that players choose what type of Kirby they play as before each game. However, it quickly becomes apparent that, even though the method of attack may change between Kirby forms, the strategy to win each game does not. How the player wins a game as Cutter Kirby is the same way they’d win with Bomb Kirby. It also doesn’t help that some of the Kirby forms, like Beetle and Fighter, are almost exactly the same with one minor difference.
The 10 games are Battle Arena, Apple Scramble, Coin Clash, Crazy Theater, Attack Riders, Rocket Rumble, Ore Express, Robo Bonkers, Slam Hockey, and Flagball. Some of these minigames are truly inventive, and seeing the ingenuity that went into their design expanded on in more of the games could have made Kirby Battle Royale a beast of a title. Robo Bonkers and Flagball are my favorite. In the former, four players (or one player and three bots) battle together to defeat a giant robotic monkey boss, but the winner of the game is the player who does the most damage. Players are required to work together while fighting off each other. Flagball forces two teams of two to try and hit each other’s flags with a ball. However, flags can be moved and thrown. When played with all human players, it becomes a hectic scramble of mobile defense and calculated attack.
Unfortunately, these gems are sullied by the more boring minigames, ones like Battle Arena (a melee free-for-all) and Slam Hockey (two teams of two batting a puck back-and-forth in an attempt to hit one another). The rest of the minigames land somewhere in the middle. There’s just not enough there though. True, no game overstays its welcome, playing out in 2-3 minutes, but each still becomes tiresome pretty quickly when there’s nothing else. It’s also not hard to figure out the best strategy for each game, and, once you do, you’ll never lose again. The excitement is amplified by playing against human players, but they’ll just be doing the same strategy you are. It pretty much comes down to who can do it better.
It’s made all the worse that the game wants to promise the player a strategic experience. But Kirby’s many forms are a false promise. In Kirby’s original titles, players picked and chose what form he would take and then had to respond to their situation. The goal was always the same: beat up the bad guys. But how the player wanted to do that provided some variety to the game. Needle Kirby was only invincible when he was standing still, while Crash Kirby could destroy every enemy onscreen one time. So in the same level, the former would force the player to carefully press onwards and immediately stop at danger, while the latter would force the player to dance between enemies and save their attack as a last resort.
Kirby Battle Royale does not provide that variety in gameplay. None of Kirby’s 14 forms force the player to play each of the minigames in a different way. If you’re playing Robo Bonkers as Sword Kirby, you’re grabbing missiles to launch at the monkey and keeping people off you with sword slashes. If you’re playing as Beetle Kirby, you’re grabbing missiles to launch at the monkey and keeping people off you with horn pokes.
Ultimately, each of the Kirby forms are nothing more than a reskin of basic attacks. Like Mario Party, this helps to balance the competition, as there is no “right” character to choose for each game. However, unlike Mario Party, Kirby Battle Royale does not have the hundreds of minigames to keep things fresh. With only 10 minigames, the game needs something like a rock-paper-scissors formula with Kirby’s forms to keep things interesting. Because it doesn’t, the game loses a lot of its appeal after a few hours. If you’re truly desperate for more Kirby, you’re better off waiting for March’s Kirby Star Allies.
Score: 2.5/5 – Poor
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