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Kirby: Planet Robobot – REVIEW (3DS)

Kirby Triple Deluxe caught me off guard when it was released two years ago. I thought it looked like a fun return to the classic Kirby gameplay, but it was so charming, so full of personality, that it immediately became my absolute favorite in the franchise. It’s amusing then that I went through the same process with Kirby: Planet Robobot. Kirby in a mech suit! How can you not love that? But I was worried that it might be too similar to Triple Deluxe, that the Robobot Armor made the game too easy without adding much value to the formula. However, it didn’t take long for me to forget those concerns completely as Planet Robobot is simply an utterly fantastic game. Kirby’s newest adventure begins with an invasion of Planet Popstar by a huge alien force known as the Haltmann Works Company.

It latches onto the world and proceeds to destroy King Dedede’s castle and shoot down Meta Knight’s Halberd. With all opposition out of the way, the giant ship begins to mechanize all of Popstar to suit its own needs while sending down mech suits to suppress any resistance. After all this chaos, Kirby finally wakes up from his nap to discover his mechanized home. He immediately sets out to destroy the five pillars of the giant ship before confronting the core of Haltmann Works Company. Like most Kirby games, there isn’t much of a story here. The first cutscene doesn’t even happen until the third world where we finally meet the new character, Susie, and get an idea of what the Company is after.

Yet despite this simplistic setup, there’s a lot going on. The mechanization of Popstar is an immediate threat and each level shows exactly how the world is being changed to fit Haltmann’s desires. And the story gradually builds into something that longtime Kirby fans will love. Heck, even if you’re not familiar with past games, it’s hard not to enjoy the final story beats on a purely visceral level. Simply put, this is a Kirby story through and through, right down the honest to goodness epic finale. Planet Robobot is built on the foundation of Triple Deluxe. It features the same map progression, Sun Stones are swapped out for Code Cubes and a certain amount is required to fight the boss. If you find all of the Code Cubes in a world, then an extra level will be unlocked.

And rather than keychains, players can now collect 200 different Stickers. It all feels very similar yet Robobot is still its own game. And the biggest addition is the Robobot Armor. When I first saw the sheer power of the mech, I was worried it would make what is already an easy series into something that required no thought whatsoever. But that’s not the purpose of the Armor.

It’s more apt to compare Kirby’s mech suit to the Super Abilities from Return to Dreamland and the Hypernova ability from Triple Deluxe. Except the Robobot Armor is a natural evolution of those concepts. Super Abilities were flashy yet mainly limited to specific areas in order to find hidden pathways. Hypernova granted the same level of power and pushed the focus to puzzle solving as well. The Armor is all about power, solving puzzles only it can do to open new pathways, and allowing for a lot of variety in terms of how things are handled. There are 13 Armor Modes available and though the Modes lack the huge moveset of normal abilities, they all change up the gameplay in some way. Want to tear through enemies without a care in the world? Use Sword, Cutter, or ESP Modes. Need to solve a puzzle where you have to position heavy blocks? Use Stone Mode’s extra powerful punches. Need to send electricity through cables while moving a block to continue the charge? Beam or Spark Modes are where it’s at.

And that’s not even mentioning how Wheel Mode encourages speedy playthroughs of levels that require constant flips between the background and foreground or how Jet Mode turns the game into a side-scrolling shooter. The Robobot Armor is absolutely the star of the show and feels like a natural extension of Kirby’s abilities. But it also feels perfectly balanced in relation to Kirby’s normal gameplay. Not all levels feature the mech and some hidden goodies can only be accessed if secret Armors are found and used. It’s meant to give variety and a sense of power and the game succeeds admirably at that without making Kirby’s normal gameplay boring.

While Kirby himself hasn’t changed much, the game offers plenty of interesting scenarios to platform through. It’s never difficult but seeing setpieces like having to dodge giant pool balls, swimming between mechanized sharks, and navigating mazes always kept my attention. Planet Robobot also brings back certain gameplay elements from previous games on limited occasions in order to add variety. In addition, Kirby has plenty of returning abilities, including some that have been missing for some time, and, of course, new ones..

The first new ability is Doctor and is unfortunately one of my least favorite. While Doctor’s moves can be very powerful, they often require charging which isn’t always possible in most situations. Poison is a great new ability though. While it doesn’t always hit the hardest, it often leaves clouds of noxious gases in the air or poisoned residue on the floor which can quickly chip away at a boss’ health. But the best is ESP Kirby. While it locks him in place, the ball of psychic energy can be controlled at will to quickly take down enemies. ESP also has an amazing dodge where it can teleport out of danger and its reappearance will damage the enemy. All three have their uses though and are fantastic additions to Kirby’s growing roster of abilities. Beyond the main campaign, there are a handful of extra modes to play as well. Kirby 3D Rumble finally puts Kirby in a 3D arena and potentially shows what he could do. Unfortunately there are no abilities and the arenas are limited, but it’s still fun sucking up waves of enemies in order to build up the highest score possible.

The mechanics all feel wonderful, but the mode’s greatest weakness is its brevity. There are only three stages in total with three very similar bosses. The whole thing can be beaten in ten minutes with little replay value unless you want the best possible score. That doesn’t degrade the mode entirely, but I seriously wanted more to experience. Team Kirby Clash has a bit more meat to it as a team of up to four Kirbys take on bosses of increasing difficulty. The teamwork aspect works pretty well as each class brings its own benefits to the team. The Sword Hero plays like Sword Kirby except its guard can protect allies within range. Hammer Lord moves extremely slowly but hits the absolute hardest. Dr. Healmore is Doctor Kirby with the ability to create healing auras. And the Beam Mage can charge up an attack that slows down the boss. All of them are viable and can be fun to play based on your tastes. The mode can be played with friends, even with Download Play, but like Kirby 3D Rumble, it’s pretty much a one and done affair. I was able to get a Platinum rank on almost every fight with computer allies who do behave smartly.

The biggest issue was their inaccuracy during the Team Meteor attack though even that wasn’t that bad. Unfortunately, while I had fun in the moment, I saw little reason to return to the mode. Finally, there’s Meta Knightmare Returns and the Arenas. Meta Knightmare Returns casts players as Meta Knight as they fight through remixed versions of the main campaign before facing off against unique bosses. Meta Knight himself is a blast to play with and even offers new gameplay options in the form of healing himself, increasing his speed, or using screen-clearing attacks. While it’s mostly more of the same, I still had a ton of fun. Arena is a boss rush that provides some challenge, but it’s the True Arena that will really test your skills. It all comes together in a package that provides plenty of variety and different gameplay styles that always kept me engaged in the moment. While Planet Robobot uses the same graphics engine as Triple Deluxe, it’s still a great looking game on the 3DS.

The visuals may not have improved, but the style absolutely has. Different camera angles are used constantly to provide more visual flair and the 3D effect is as wonderful as before. The different environments pop and truly provide a different feeling compared to past Kirby titles. And the level design is a key part of the visual flair. Seeing mechanized versions of classic enemies or the different ways level tropes are remixed really makes it all stand out. The music is fantastic as always with some catchy new tracks along with the usual assortment of remixes that one could expect from Kirby. Only one song stuck out as bad and that was more a matter of taste. The industrial sounds fit the level but could be grating at times.

Still, the mechanized takeover of Popstar does make for some truly great tunes. Kirby: Planet Robobot is an absolutely worthy successor to Triple Deluxe. It improves upon that entry in many smart ways and the Robobot itself is just fun to play around with. While the structure of the two games are extremely similar, it comes down to a matter of personal taste as to which has the better extra modes. But for me, Planet Robobot comes out on top. I fully played through the campaign twice and had just as much fun the second time. I love this game and it has supplanted Triple Deluxe as my favorite Kirby game of all time. It’s just that good. Thanks for watching and make sure to subscribe to GameXplain for more on Kirby and other things gaming.

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