Kirby’s Adventure Review (NES)

One of the last truly great NES games ever made

1993 was a pretty significant year for gaming. The 16-bit wars were well underway with the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis NEC TurboGrafx-16and yes, even the SNK Neo-Geo all intising players for their cold hard cash. In this year we got Nintendo’s Super FX Chip and the incredible [for the time] Star Fox, id Software’s Doom, Nintendo’s Super Mario All Stars, the Gameboy’s Zelda Link’s Awakening, Sega’s Sega CD and Sonic CD, and Mdway’s Mortal Kombat II.
In this sea of 16-bit gaming, the once-mighty NES was becoming more and more yesterday’s news, with fewer titles appearing on store shelves and the ones that did mostly being mediocre. Then there was Kirby’s Adventure.

HAL’s Kirby, previously appearing in an innovative platformer on the Gameboy called Kirby’s Dreamland, was about to make his NES debut and those who took notice would quickly realize they were just given the best possible reward for hanging on to their NES. This one game would redefine expectations of what the NES could do. Does it hold up today? Let’s take a look back.

Story

After Kirby wakes up from his after-lunch nap without having any dreams, he goes to the Fountain of Dreams to investigate. In doing so, he discovers that King Dedede has stolen the Star Rod, the source of power to the Fountain of Dreams, and broken it into seven pieces, giving six fragments to his allies, Whispy Woods, Paint Roller, Mr. Shine and Mr. Bright, Kracko, Heavy Mole, and Meta Knight, also keeping one for himself. Without the Star Rod, all of the inhabitants of Dream Land are becoming restless and unable to dream. Kirby decides to track down the fragments of the Star Rod and bring them back to the Fountain of Dreams in order to restore everyones’ dreams.

Graphics

Kirby’s Adventure is a beautiful game, and along with Sunsoft’s Gimmick, is probably the most colorful and graphically impressive game to ever grace the Famicom. The game’s environments are lush with vivid, bright colors that put every other game on the system look sub-par by comparison. Sprites are not particularly large, but they are all excellent animated and distinctive. There is very little flicker in the game and virtually no slowdown.

Audio

Kirby’s Adventure was composed by Jun Ishikawa and Hirokazu Ando who would go on to write compositions for future Kirby games including Batman: Kirby 64, The Amazing Mirror and Air Ride. The pair of composers did an absolutely outstanding job and Ishikawa carries much of his amazing style over from the Gameboy’s Kirby’s Dreamland.
All the music for Kirby’s Adventure is fast upbeat and could be described as “happy music”. Of Particular brilliance are the theme of the Butter Building.

Gameplay

Kirby’s Adventure is a a platformer like hundreds of other games on the NES, yet it is unlike any other game on the platform. While yes, you do proceed to the right avoiding hazards and enemies to reach your goal, it’s how you do it that’s so unique.

Introduced here in Kirby’s Adventure, when Kirby inhales enemies, he can copy their powers, allowing Kirby to do basically anything – he can shoot lasers, turn to stone, become a fireball, even pilot a UFO.

Kirby’s standard moves include running when the d-pad is double tapped, jumping with the A button, and can float/fly around stages when Kirby inflates himself and moves around by either pressing up or A in the air.

Kirby’s Adventure features battery backup and allows players to revisit any stage any time they wish and exit any stage they have completed at any time. This helps keep the replayability of the game rather high, especially since some stages have hidden exists that can only be reached if Kirby has a certain power.

In additon to the main game, there are a variety of mini-games Kirby can participate in, as well as an arena, and warp star rooms. These include a crane game that awards successful players with extra lives, a reflex quick draw, and an egg/bomb catching mini game.

Controls

Kirby’s Adventure makes fantastic use of the controller by adding additional moves like sliding and flying . This is as good as it gets. You will never fight with the controls.

D-pad: Movement, Down + B – Slide, Up – Fly
B: Hold down B to inhale enemies, press Down to copy their powers, press B to use their powers
A: Jump
Select: Release enemy power as a star
Start: Pause/Menu

Frustration

Kirby games tend to always lean on the easier side and Adventure is no exception. Kirby can take up to five hits before losing a life, and there are health items scattered across almost every stage. The only real challenge of Kirby’s Adventure is avoiding some pits and spikes, as occationally you’ll be moving too quickly to stop in time. Overall, this is an approachable game for kids but gives enough challenge for adults that getting 100% will not be such a simple matter. It really is a perfect balance.

Availability & Price

The NES version of Kirby’s Adventure generally goes for between $10-20 while the Japanese version is $15-25. It is 500 points on the Virtual Console, but this is one game you should try to experience on the original hardware to truly appreciate all that it’s doing.

History

Kirby, originally for the black and white Gameboy, appeared not pink but white in the original game. At the time, there was some confusion as to what color Kirby was to be, either white, pink or even yellow depending on source you went with.
The American box art, cartridge label, instruction booklet, and even the television commercial for Kirby’s Dreamland features Kirby entirely white. When came time for the sequel on the NES, Kirby was changed to pink as was originally intended. In the original game, Kirby could inhale enemies, but he couldn’t copy any abilities or slide. These were first featured in Kirby’s Adventure.
In 2002, HAL Lab revisited Kirby’s Adventure by completely remaking it for the Gameboy Advance. The game was released in North America titled Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland and was a big success for Nintendo and HAL once again. There are minor changes and the game is still incredibly fun in the sequel, but for whatever reason, the remake isn’t nearly as colorful and lush with detail that the NES Kirby’s Adventure was.

Original Advertising

I thought it would be fun to show off how games were marketed originally. From now on, whenever possible I will include various original commercials or ads for games. Many times the commericals themselves are as much timepeices as the games are themselves.

Here is US television commercialfor Kirby’s Adventure


For comparison, here is the Japanese television commercial for Kirby no Hoshi: Yume no Izumi no Monogatari.

Note how the US version makes Kirby tough and cool, while the Japanese makes him cute and lovable.

Overall

Good

  • Absolutely incredible use of color. This game truly pushes the Famicom to the limits.
  • Kirby has twenty six different attacks in addition to his normal form. That’s more than you get in any Megaman game!
  • Gorgeous graphics and memorable music
  • One of the most replayable NES games there is
  • Relatively common and cheap to find in the wild

Bad

  • Like Super Mario Bros. 3, some of the stages are ridiculously short, but are numerous
  • Kirby’s Adventure is a fairly easy title
  • This is one of those games where you need to 100% it in order to see the “true” ending.
  • You can’t keep the UFO much like how you can’t keep the boot in Mario 3. Only hacks allow this.

Conclusion

As one of the last games developed for the NES, Kirby’s Adventure has aged much better than most NES titles and is just as enjoyable for first time players today as it was in 1993. No matter if you own an NES or a Wii, this game is a must have that is worth returning to at least every few years. It isn’t the longest or most most challenging platformer out there, but there is no denying the staying power of Kirby’s Adventure.

Data

Platform: Famicom,  NES, remade for GBA, ported to the Wii Virtual Console

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: March 26, 1993

Developer: HAL Labs

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: Air Fortress, Adventure of Lolo Trilogy, Kirby’s Dreamland 2, Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland

Game Length: ~3-4 hours

ESRB: N/A, but would be E

Buy/Skip: Buy

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One Response to “Kirby’s Adventure Review (NES)”

  1. StarDust4Ever Says:

    This is beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most gorgeous, advanced, and overall fun games on the NES. It’s also among the largest licensed titles at 768Kbytes. I’m also thankful it’s not super-rare like many 1993 and later games.

    I believe Kirby is #1 in Cuteness, and the overall best runnerup among NES platformers, behind Super Mario Brothers 3 for overall best game on the system. 🙂

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