REVIEW: Kirby Super Star

Personal Favorite: KIRBY SUPER STAR

I never owned Kirby Super Star as a kid. I discovered it in the early 2000’s. My great aunt who we rarely got to visit had a SNES and had Kirby Super Star. Levi and I fell in love with the game, so much so that our parents would have to pry us away from it and force us to eat or interact with anyone else. Years later when I started working on my SNES collection I knew it was one of the first I had to finally own for myself.

Kirby Super Star released in 1996, developed by HAL Laboratory who also make the Super Smash Bros. kirbysuperstargameselectand Earthbound series. It has 8 different games that range anywhere from small mini-games to full scale platforming campaigns similar to the NES Kirby games. Some of the games are remakes but have the updated gameplay features that Kirby Super Star brought. The main feature being the ability to create a CPU partner who has whatever ability you currently had and allows you access to some areas that can only be reached co-operatively. So for example, in Spring Breeze you are playing through Kirby’s Dream Land but with the ability to create partners and with access to more power-ups. Kirby Super Star debuted for SNES only but has been redone for Virtual Console and Nintendo DS.

I’m a little disappointed in the cover art, there is absolutely nothing exciting about it. The in-game graphics however do not disappoint. The game is bright and colorful and there are a plethora of enemies Kirby_Super_Star_Coverartwho each have unique attack animations. Bright and colorful also describes the soundtrack. There’s not much to discuss in the character development department for a basic platforming game like this. Don’t get me wrong, the game does a fine job of adding some personality into Kirby, Dedede and Meta Knight, but there’s only so much you can do with characters that don’t talk and don’t have an actual story. Gameplay is where Kirby Super Star excels. Its one of the most fun co-op games ever. The ability to be playing by yourself and then create your co-op CPU partner at your whim was an original idea at the time. But the game of course is much more fun when you have a human co-op buddy with you. The variety of power-ups and attacks keeps the gameplay fresh. The multitude of game modes means there’s always something new waiting for you to play after you’ve conquered one of the eight game modes. If you don’t like one of the modes that much then simply move on to the next. When replaying this for review I personally didn’t think I would enjoy Cave Offensive that much because I typically don’t care for games who’s sole purpose is finding and collecting items. But it turned out to be the most enjoyable mode of them all because it so heavily involved puzzles and cooperation.

My main issues with Kirby Super Star are that its too easy and that the CPU co-op partner is not very intelligent, making some areas of the games impossible to get to by yourself. Reviewers at the game’s launch period also felt that Kirby Super Star was too easy, that was really the only complaint they had. That weakness can become a strength however, when I realized what Kirby Super Star really is best at: being the perfect girlfriend game. If you have a girlfriend who isn’t an experienced gamer but you want something to play co-op then Kirby Super Star is what you want.

You get to work together by sharing power-ups and solving easy puzzles as you progress through the colorful levels. The cute animations and sounds Kirby and other characters make certainly doesn’t hurt either. All the while your girlfriend is having a great time because she isn’t constantly dying over and over on this game like she may with other old school games. In this sense it reminds me a lot of a game that I feel Kirby Super Star played a minor influencing role on: Little Big Planet.

But regardless of whether a girlfriend will be joining you or not, Kirby Super Star is a must have for any SNES collector. Its one of the best games on the system and is easily one of the best of the Kirby franchise.

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REVIEW: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Never Played: SUPER MARIO WORLD 2: YOSHI’S ISLAND

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island released in 1995, four years after its predecessor, the masterpiece Yoshi's_Island_(Super_Mario_World_2)_box_artSuper Mario World. It too was developed by Nintendo EAD. It seemed crazy that the game would be able to match the sales and critical acclaim that Super Mario World did. While Yoshi’s Island didn’t sell as well, it did meet and even exceed the original as far as critics were concerned. The game features a group of Yoshis who work together to carry Baby Mario to Luigi. Platforming is the basis of the gameplay but puzzles are mixed in throughout as well. Like most Mario platformers the player has to complete levels in a pre-set order and levels are divided into worlds which each have a different style or theme. Yoshi uses his tongue to grab enemies and can shoot them at other enemies or at switches in puzzles.

I love the cover art for Yoshi’s Island and it gives you an idea of the watercolor style visual style the game employs. Yoshi’s Island uses a very unique visual style that features backgrounds which resemble basic yoshi gif 2and colorful hand-painted art and sprites that have a slight blur to their outlines. You really have to see it in motion to understand, I find it hard to really capture and explain it in words. It is so beautiful and unique and it grows on you more and more as you play through the game. The sound is also great.  I’m a fan of the sound effects even more than the soundtrack. The sounds Yoshi makes are just over-the-top cute from the grunts he makes when he flails his legs for a bit more jump length to the sounds he make when spitting eggs at enemies. Come to think of it everything in the game is over-the-top cute through visuals, sound effects and even animations. When Yoshi is hit Baby Mario floats away in a bubble while crying and wailing in a cute manner also. Backgrounds and collectibles frequently feature smiling and bouncy flowers, mountains and clouds.

But the true shining feature of Yoshi’s Island is the gameplay. This game has several things that differ a bit from other Mario platformers. After beating a world your collectibles across all those levels are tallied up and you’re awarded extra lives based on that. Scoring a 100 will unlock two extra levels for that world. Each level has five sunflowers, which often require a bit of exploration and puzzles to collect and when all are found will award one life. Several levels have a unique power-up for Yoshi which changes him into a different vehicle for a short time, each of which allow you to traverse in ways you otherwise cannot. All of those mechanics encourage exploration through levels instead of simply trying to sprint through them in the fastest way possible.

Looking at the new Yoshi game Yoshi’s Woolly World, its easy to see the influences Yoshi’s Island played in its development as it is also based around a unique art style and promoting exploration. Yoshi’s Island is one of the best platformers of all-time without a doubt and is my favorite Mario game aside from Super Mario Bros 3. If you have a SNES it is a crime not to add this game to your collection.

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REVIEW: Super Nintendo

SNES REVIEW

Unlike its predecessor, I find the SNES to be very cool looking. I love the purple horizontal sliders that control the power and reset functions and the top-loading style it shares with the Genesis. Seeing the snesgame and its art while playing is a pretty cool accidental feature. I’ll give examples and details during the game reviews but overall the sound and visuals are excellent. Side-scrollers and fighting games showcase nice, crisp and clean sprites and graphics. This is most evident in first party gems like Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. Games that have many more hours of gameplay, like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound use a different style of visuals in order to save on memory and make room for their hours of RPG elements and overworlds. But even making those sacrifices they still manage to look great, just in a different style. My favorite thing about the SNES is the controller. The layout of the four buttons and two shoulder buttons is ideal and comfortable. If you think about it the SNES controller is the first layout we’ve seen that very closely resembles our current gen (X Box One and PS4) controllers and there’s a good reason for that. Its ergonomic and the buttons are laid out as such that they’re easily reached by your fingers in quick succession.

Once again we’re reviewing a console that still uses cartridges and once again they’re a pain in the ass. The cool retro factor that cartridges have is completely overshadowed by the difficulty of making them work. Its not bad enough that I have to try these games almost a dozen times before they’ll work, you also have to be paranoid that they’ll stop working randomly during play.

Aside from dealing with cartridges and the worry of the console yellowing the SNES is a fantastically designed system. It performs well where it counts: graphics, sound, controller design and game library. Buy yourself a SNES and some of the best games of gaming history. If you only want to invest in one 16-bit system I would recommend the SNES over the Genesis, but you can’t go wrong with either.

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HISTORY / COLLECTING: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

HISTORY OF SUPER NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM (SNES)

The NES had survived a rocky launch and went on to become a huge hit, the biggest fish in the console gaming pond. To try to compete NEC released the TurboGrafx-16 in 1987 and Sega released the Genesis in 1988. The latter started to gain steam in the marketplace. In 1991 after great success in Japan, Nintendo 1280px-SNES-Mod1-Console-Setlaunched the SNES stateside in an effort to take back the market and energy that gaming was starting gain in North America. The SNES is a 16-bit console with controllers that have 6 buttons, including 2 shoulder buttons. It was $199 ($348 adjusted for inflation) and came packaged with one of the best Nintendo games ever, Super Mario World. Other launch titles included F-Zero, Pilotwings, SimCity and Gradius III.

The SNES saw immediate success and fought head to head with the Genesis. It put Sega on their heels and forced them into a big rebrand of the Genesis in an effort to boost sales, as well as an early start into developing a new console which would turn out to be the Saturn. This is just speculation on my part but I don’t think its crazy to credit the SNES as the main reason the Saturn turned out so poorly. Sega snes cwanted to quickly regain the market after losing it to the SNES. Rushing out a new console in an effort to gain everyone’s attention led to the Saturn really not being much of a step up in terms of performance, as well as not allowing developers enough time to develop great games for the system that would be ready anywhere near launch-date. The main complaint about the Saturn was the number and quality of its titles, obvious when you consider an original Sonic game never even released for it. Regardless of reason, the Genesis (vs the SNES) and then later Saturn (vs SNES and then N64) neither one could gain back control of the market. The SNES held its own for several years and wasn’t discontinued until 1999 in NA, and until 2003 in Japan. It sold 49 million units during its lifetime.

PERSONAL HISTORY WITH THE SNES

You may remember me saying back in the Sega Genesis history that it was my second favorite console ever. Well the SNES is my favorite. The 16-bit era was the best period of gaming. It had beautiful visuals and sound that hold up superbly with time. The game libraries are robust, including the original games for several of gaming’s key franchises from both Nintendo and Sega. It also was a key time for the video game market and the birthplace of a truly competitive market like the one we have today. Until the SNES vs Genesis race there really was no close competitions between two companies at the same time, on that big of a scale. Since then, the home console market has always been hotly contested between two or more companies. As any of you with any business sense know, competition is healthy and necessary if you truly want a product to grow. Without a competitive market like what began with SNES vs Genesis, we would not have gotten to the technological advancements in gaming we have today in such a short time. You can see it easily on a much smaller scale with the Madden franchise. Back when Madden had to compete with 2K and other NFL football game franchises we saw leaps and bounds in technology and features implemented in football video games. But since the exclusive contract was signed between EA and the NFL for football video games we have seen a snail-like speed in true improvements in our football games year after year. If Madden had to compete with another established franchise every year we would be far ahead of where we are now.

Anyways, back to the SNES specifically. While I had access to a Genesis on my monthly visits to see my dad in Indiana, the SNES was my main console at home in Kentucky. The library of the SNES is absolutely incredible. Its responsible for establishing dkc gifmany other franchises for Nintendo aside from the already established Super Mario games. The various excellent Kirby games, the Donkey Kong Country series, Super Metroid, Link’s Awakening, F-Zero, Star Fox, they all brought these new characters and franchises into the limelight and showed gamers that these games could be just as superb as the Super Mario games. It was also the home to several fantastic arcade games that were ported to home consoles, particularly the budding fighting game scene with the Mortal Kombat series, Super Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct. There also was a plethora of fantastic RPGs on the SNES including Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Earthbound and Final Fantasy II and III. Whatever genre of game you enjoyed, the SNES not only had you covered, they were home to the absolute best games for that genre.

The SNES was the first system I remember my entire family wanting to get involved in and not just me and Levi. My aunt and mother would have Dr. Mario / Tetris battles all the time. My uncle and I would duke it out on Mortal Kombat and Super Street Fighter II. Even grandpa got in the mix and grew addicted to Super Mario World. This was the first time I realized that gaming was not just for kids. I credit it with being the console I share the most fond memories of, not just of specific games, but also of spending time with family.

COLLECTING FOR THE SNES

So you’ve heard all the good news about the SNES and its games, here’s the bad news: it’s kinda difficult to collect for. The system itself can be found with regularity at yard sales, flea markets and retro game shops. Finding one isn’t the problem, finding one in good shape is. The gray SNES for some reason starts to turn yellow after a few years. There are multiple consoles that discolor with age but over the years we game collectors have figured out tricks to solve or at least mask the issues. The SNES yellowing issue however is the one that we just haven’t seemed to find a foolproof solution to yet. If you find a working one that also hasn’t turned yellow you better buy it on the spot because chances are it will take a long time before you find one in the wild again.

The games aren’t all that tough to find if you’re a collector of loose cartridges. Some of the best games for the system will run you a bit more money though. Many of these games were not mass produced and thus have high price tags, like over $100 for just loose carts high price tags. Unfortunately this includes some of the best games for the SNES like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound. The popularity of the SNES also factors into the high price tags for its games, the hit games are highly desired and thus their prices don’t really drop with time like most other console games have. The average range on the good games for the system in loose cartridge shape will be around $20-35. If you collect complete-in-box you’re going to run into that reoccurring problem we’ve been talking about where Nintendo used cardboard boxes up until the GameCube. These boxes don’t hold up well and thus are quite tough to find without spending a fortune.

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Cast your vote for which SNES game I should play and review

In preparation for my set of Super Nintendo blog posts, we need to select our 3 games for me to play and review. “Never Played” will be Yoshi’s Island. “Personal Favorite” will be Kirby Super Star. You guys getsnes_logo1 to vote to decide what the third game will be. You can vote by commenting on this blog post or by using the strawpoll link. If you wish to nominate a game not listed you will have to comment.

POLL: http://www.poll-maker.com/poll393486x514A4Be5-15

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