I've done a pretty poor job of making my way through the Kirby series (my last blog entry on a Kirby game was on Kirby and the Rainbow Curse four and a half years ago (!)). I have to admit that a lot of my lethargy is due to getting easily bored by how easy and mindless the games are, but I did actually make a good amount of progress on Kirby's Dream Land 3 playing co-op with a gaming buddy of mine, but then my SNES glitched and we lost our save. :( :( :( I gave up on going back to that game, and instead moved on to the series' lone N64 entry, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

I wasn't expecting much from the game to be honest, and maybe my low expectations helped me approach the game in a different way than I have some of the other games in the series. I think having played Yoshi's Story, another N64 platformer, also helped set my expectations, but whatever it was, somehow I found myself enjoying the game much more than I have most of the other entries I've played. Maybe everything just clicked finally. The game is stuffed with cuteness, and the cutscenes had a lot funny physical comedy that gave the characters a lot of personality. Previous games have had cutscenes as well, but having them as 3D animations gives them a much greater impact.

Kirby's trademark copy ability is back again in full force, but the twist here is that you can combine two abilities to make a new one. There are seven abilities which lead to 28 unique combinations (an ability can be combined with itself to make a superpowered version), and experimenting with all the combinations is a lot of fun, even when some of them are pretty useless. In retrospect this is the same type of doubled-up combination mechanic as in Kirby's Dream Land 2 and 3 except there you're combining animal friends with a Kirby ability instead of two abilities, but I didn't really appreciate that when I played Kirby's Dream Land 2 way back when. I also didn't mind Kirby 64 being a relatively easy game overall, since it didn't feel completely mindless and it seemed more challenging that I remember the other games being, particularly with the boss fights. Each level has three sometimes quite hard-to-find collectibles, and you need to collect all of them to get the "true" ending, which definitely adds to the longevity of what is otherwise a pretty short game (around four hours, although in my advancing age short games are definitely more of a boon than a bane).

Overall I'm a bit surprised that I find myself ranking Kirby 64 so high among the games in the series I've played so far, especially considering it was an N64 game, which definitely wasn't my favorite era in gaming history. But maybe this is a turning point for me and I'll become a Kirby fan yet. It looks like next I have the GBA games to tackle, so stay tuned for that -- maybe even this year, haha.


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