Review: 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure (3DS eShop)

A great game gets an underwhelming paint job

In 1993 the NES got a latter-day boon from a truly brilliant addition to its library: Kirby's Adventure. Still regarded today as one of the strongest titles on the console, it boasted an unforgettable soundtrack, stunningly creative visuals and gameplay innovations that became Kirby staples from there onward.

It was, in short, a fantastic game, and in our Kirby's Adventure review we reflected on how impressively it held up as an experience. Its controls are still tight and not one ounce of charm has dissipated over the years, and that holds true even today, as Kirby's Adventure sees another release as a 3D Classic.

Unlike the Virtual Console release, however, 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure comes with some additional features, the most obvious of which is, of course, the fact that it's in 3D. Unfortunately that effect, and a few other alterations, are somewhat underwhelming.

Kirby's Adventure finds the pink puffball traversing a large, sprawling and varied Dreamland in order to restore the dreams stolen by the evil King Dedede, who absconded with the precious Star Rod. The various worlds are all imaginative and lovingly realised, with background music that ranks among the best in the series. Many levels have special exits that lead to additional minigames, and completionists will have a ball finding all of them, many of which are quite well hidden.

That was all true of the original release, of course, and that's the main draw of the 3D Classics version as well: a tight, fun, replayable gameplay experience. Sadly the potential of an upgraded re-release was only partially fulfilled.

We'll deal with the 3D effect first, as that's obviously a big selling point for the game. In honesty, it's not that impressive. Whereas previous games like 3D Classics: Excitebike used several background layers for parallax scrolling, nearly all of the backgrounds in Kirby's Adventure are one-layer affairs, making the effect somewhat more dull than one might expect. Several backgrounds do display multiple layers of depth, but those are easily outnumbered by the flat, unimpressive backgrounds that dominate the game.

Kirby, the platforms and the enemies are all in the main layer of play, of course, and every so often a tree branch will appear in order to make use of the foreground, but beyond that the depth adds almost nothing, and that's disappointing, as the other 3D Classics we've seen so far — TwinBee in particular — have done a great job of making that depth feel organic, and not at all like the afterthought it appears to be here.

There's a puzzling disregard for the bottom screen as well. The game displays nothing there at all, which is strange given the fact that each of Kirby's abilities has an information card that could be displayed at the appropriate times. There's no map, no hints, not even any filler animation. It goes totally unused, and considering the fact that even the mindless Urban Champion found a use for the bottom screen, that's just lazy.

The game does save your progress automatically, and it also saves your highest scores, but the score resets if you stop playing the game — whether or not you lose all your lives — which seems rather bizarre, and limits the usefulness of keeping track of the scores in the first place. It's destined to be the least useful high score table in the entire 3D Classics library.

All in all, though, the game itself remains as fun as ever, and the bite-sized levels and extremely fun mini-games (we particularly enjoyed the quick draw showdowns) make the game perfect for portability. For those looking for Kirby Adventure on the go, your wish is granted. Anybody who expected something more of the 3D Classics upgrade, though, might find themselves disappointed.

Conclusion

There's no questioning the quality of Kirby's Adventure: it was one of the NES's standout titles, and every ounce of its charm remains intact today. Hidden exits, fun minigames and fantastic stage design all come together to make this an endlessly replayable experience, but the 3D Classics upgrade doesn't really bring much to the table in addition. In fact, aside from portability, there's really nothing to recommend it over the Virtual Console release, and that's a shame.

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