Get your Birdon!
So it's Friday night, and you kick things off by heading out to your favorite generic restaurant. You know—the one with flair. You and your buddies want an appetizer, but you can't agree on which one, so you wind up ordering the sampler platter. Sure, you don't get as much of what you really wanted, and you'd rather not touch those jalapeno poppers. But it's a good compromise and a reasonable (though not great) deal, making it a popular choice.
This pretty much describes Kirby Super Star. If you've ever enjoyed a Kirby platformer you'll find something to like, but you'll wish there were more of it.
Super Star is chopped into several small games, which on average are two to three times as large as the original Kirby's Dream Land. If that sounds short, it is. But in aggregate, these games amount to a title that will take roughly as long to complete as Kirby 64 or Canvas Curse.
Only this title has far more variety. While most of its games share the same controls and special abilities, each has its own twist. Revenge of Meta Knight focuses on fast-paced action and theatrics. In contrast, The Great Cave Offensive encourages slower-paced exploration for treasure, and is generally considered the precursor to Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Ultra's new games unfortunately miss the whole point, rehashing the original games instead of introducing new modes of play. Sometimes the game falls short of its potential: Milky Way Wishes asks players to hunt for and accrue abilities, but its level design never requires the player to leverage a specific power in order to succeed (while The Great Cave Offensive does). Even so, this game is far better than Squeak Squad or the unpopular maze portion of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's adventure mode.
A good deal of Super Star's lasting appeal comes from its extensive list of abilities. In most Kirby games, power-ups are largely regulated to one—possibly two—moves. In Super Star, each ability features at least three moves, and several have over half-a-dozen. The powers are distinct and practical, making them fun to use in different scenarios. Nintendo fans will also appreciate this SNES classic's clever allusions to other franchises: sword-wielding Kirby shoots beams when his health meter is full. Subsequent Kirby games merely kept Link's hat.
I would be remiss to ignore Super Star's multiplayer. Despite what NOA told NWR at E3 2008, Ultra does retain the popular two-player cooperative option, although two copies of the game are required to truly enjoy it. The introductory game, Spring Breeze, can be played with only one card, but player two must look at player one's DS to see the action. While this mode sounds a tad uncomfortable, I question why it is relegated to the introductory game. That said, Super Star is a blast with a friend, so check out co-op out if you have the means.
Kirby Super Star isn't the pinnacle of gaming some remember it to be, but it's still a clever, approachable, and entertaining game. The instruction manual describes it as a "games omnibus", and that's a pretty good way to put it. There's something for everyone.