(GCN / GameCube)

Kirby Air Ride (GCN / GameCube)

Game Review

Kirby Air Ride Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

A Ride for all ages?

Kirby, everyone’s favourite pink puffball, has hopped on his Warpstar and blasted into the world of “kart” racing in Kirby Air Ride for the Nintendo GameCube. He’s brought with him a few of his brethren, a unique set of controls, and some recognizable scenery, which is packed into this multiplayer-centric package. While the game may be reminiscent of Mario Kart, and maybe more so F-Zero, it also has the accessibility of a game of Candy Land (yes, the uber-jubilant board game for children), and retains a feel all of its own. Nevertheless, just because it’s a charming little racer doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

The thing that immediately differentiates Kirby Air Ride from other racing games is the ultra-simple control system. This is an interface so basic that gameplay is restricted to the analog stick and the A-button. You’ll use the analog stick for steering while the A-button is used for various actions such as sliding, boosting, and inhaling enemies. You may be wondering how you accelerate, but as is the case with so many modern-day smartphone racing titles, that’s not your responsibility as your vehicle will automatically move forward. This simplicity serves its purpose of being instantly accessible but also risks alienating an audience looking for any sort of complexity, so it won’t appeal to everybody.

The game is comprised of three different modes. The first mode, aptly titled Air Ride, will have you racing against three opponents through lush environments inspired by past Kirby games. The course designs and layouts are similar to that of F-Zero X, though unlike the brake-neck speeds of that futuristic racing series, Air Ride mostly moseys along at about 25 mph. There are boost pads and on-rail “shortcuts” scattered throughout the nine courses to increase your speed, and utilizing these in succession will often mean the difference between winning and losing. In typical Kirby fashion, you’ll also be able to inhale the various enemies littering the courses to obtain their abilities and use them against your opponents. Some will bestow offensive powers while others allow you traverse the roads at increased speeds.

This all works relatively well, even if it is a little underwhelming at times, but you may often notice that your opponents will pass you seemingly without effort. That’s because like many other racing games, the players that fall behind will have a slight boost in top speed to keep things balanced. So even if you’re an experienced gamer, you can be beaten by someone picking up the controller for the first time. Thankfully, this "rubber band" mechanic can be turned off by accessing the settings at the course select screen. This option will be greatly appreciated by those waiting for the day when they can remove those atrocious blue shells from their otherwise sublime Mario Kart experience.

Next up is Top Ride, the most elementary yet frantic mode of Kirby Air Ride. Here, you’ll have a single top-down view of an entire course much like the classic Super Off-Road arcade game. There are seven courses available, all of which are limited in size to fit the screen. Power-ups are strewn throughout these constrained tracks to help you bash up or blaze past your competition, making for more thrills-per-minute than the other game modes. If you’re a fan of top-down racing action, Kirby Air Ride may be worth checking out for this feature alone. It doesn't offer any real depth but it’s a blast to play with a room full of friends all within swinging distance.

The last mode, City Trial, is the only mode that’s not focused exclusively on racing. Here you’ll be placed in the middle of a sandbox-type city with three other opponents and five minutes on the clock. The goal is to power up your vehicle by collecting patches scattered around the city. This works similar to gaining HP in an RPG game. You’ll find patches that increase the speed, weight, handling and other such attributes of your vehicle, which will be integral to remaining competitive in the randomly chosen mini-game to follow. These could be anything from a drag race to an arena battle cluttered with Kirby’s enemies. One of them even has you facing off against King Dedede himself. While the mini-games can be pretty entertaining, you’ll be sure to run into many instances where your vehicle doesn't even have a chance of competing, which can make it feel more like a game of luck rather than skill.

Each of these modes can provide a deal of fun but they don’t offer much beyond their multiplayer allure. Yes, you can play any of them with computer-controller racers, but there is no Grand Prix or any mode focused on the single-player experience. The only thing that resembles any level of progression is that there are 120 achievements to complete per mode. These can be as simple as finishing a course in under a certain amount of time or as random as coming in first place while simultaneously taking damage from an opponent. Completing these tasks often does nothing, but some will unlock new vehicles, sound tests, different coloured Kirbys, as well as other things. This is a nice addition and will no doubt give completionists incentive to keep playing, but most aren't going to care enough to focus exclusively on clearing them all. The omission of a truly focused single-player mode is the biggest misstep of Kirby Air Ride and causes the package to feel a little shallow, which is a shame considering the high volume of multiplayer options.

The visuals and music compliment the cherubic atmosphere that we've come to expect of the Kirby franchise, although the intro and menus look to be taken directly out of Super Smash Bros Melee. This works fine for the game and it makes sense that Hal Laboratory, coders of both these series, would reuse this interface - even if it may appear a bit lazy on their part.

This is a game about having some mindless fun with your friends. It’s obvious that some people may be turned off by the nature of the controls, but they feel like a fairly realistic translation of the controls from 2D Kirby offerings, so they get the job done. Love it or hate it, Kirby Air Ride accomplishes what it set out to do, which is to be a widely approachable racer, and you can’t really hold that against it.


As we’ve learned from the casual gaming market in recent years, "simple" doesn’t always equate to a "dull" experience, and that mostly rings true for Kirby Air Ride as there's a fair amount of multiplayer fun to be had in each of its three game modes. In fact, parents of small children just may find it to be the perfect way to introduce their kids and/or non-gaming spouses to video games. However if you’re an adult looking for a game to play alone - or you’re a hardcore gamer looking for something that demands a higher level of strategy and skill - it would be recommended that you hitch a ride with Mario or Captain Falcon instead.

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User Comments (82)



BenAV said:

Nice review.
Personally, I'd give it an 8-9/10.
Great multiplayer fun!



47drift said:

As this is still my all time favorite game, I couldn't disagree with the score more. 9 years later I still play this game more than any other.



Doge said:

i love this game, it should have a 9/10 at the least, come to wii u shop!
p.s. how rare are cubivore toys exactly? i have one and want to know



WiiLovePeace said:

I've always been interested in this game & have been meaning to get it. I will eventually even if the reviewer thought it was a little too simplistic for an adult looking for a single player game (that's me ).



DRL said:

@BenAV - Thank you! This really was a hard one for me to score.

@Fudge - City Trial is most definitely fun but it HATES me. For example, every time I'd screw up and grab too many weight pickups, I'd end up with a High Jump. :/

@WiiLovePeace You should check it out. There is a good amount of fun to be had here, it's just a shame that there isn't a focused single-player mode. Personally, I didn't really enjoy this game until I played with a few people.



Wonder_Ideal said:

My brother has this and we play it together quite often. We have a blast playing the highly addictive City Trial, and trying to compete to get the Dragoon or Hydra first.



shinpichu said:

This is the only time I've felt rage at an NL review. Air Ride is one of my favorite games on the Gamecube, period. It could use some polish, yes, but I still think it's a fun game.

City Trial is the best mode, btw. I really wish they had offered more maps than just the default one to play on, as well as a sort of "Battle Mode" where the whole point would be just to destroy your opponents. Oh, and they should have removed Top Ride, nobody liked that mode.



HandheldGuru97 said:

One of they few Gamecube games I remember playing a lot of, sadly my Cube broke years ago I really, really hope Nintendo releases this on the Wii U virtual console. I can't really give this a score as I was very young like six years old when I last played this game (which was about 9 years ago).



Chunky_Droid said:

From what I heard of the game back in the day, this review sounds about right

I haven't played it, been meaning to though. I heard it had a the same unlock system that was used in Smash Bros Brawl, which is kinda cool



DRL said:

@shinpichu My apologies for upsetting you. There is fun to be had with Air Ride but it's not going to be for everyone and I tried to be as fair as possible when reviewing it.



shinpichu said:

Nah, it's cool. I was mostly kidding/exaggerating anyway. Like I said, I think this game could have used some polish, and then I feel it could be a lot better than it is. Cut some of the fat(Top Ride), give us more variety(more maps in Air Ride/City Trial), and maybe some other stuff, and the game could really be fun.



StarBoy91 said:

I'd have given it an 8, but a 6 is not a bad score. Kirby's Air Ride is a really fun racing game, as I've always enjoyed it for roughly nine years now, and it's my eighth favorite Kirby game of all time.



Knux said:

This game certainly looks interesting, even though I have never played it. I might buy this sometime down the road. There's certainly a lot of divided opinions about this game, so I'll have to play it to see what all the fuss is about. Great review, by the way!



KingDunsparce said:

I still play this game when my siblings want to play something with me. When I was younger, I just played City Trial Free Mode though.
@shinpichu Actually, once I got the hang of the controls, I liked Top Ride. But I understand that I'm practically the only one. xD



shinpichu said:

I kinda enjoyed Top Ride, but I was the only one in my group of friends who did. Still, City Trial is still the most fun.



IAmNotWill said:

I have this. I've never been too crazy about it. It is fun but I don't really care for Kirby games and I have barely ever played it since I got it.



TysonOfTime said:

So yeah, the reviewer said that it was more fun with more friends.
What he MEANT to say was that this is the most fun game EVER with friends.




Yosher said:

If you ask me, this is the Smash Brothers among racing games. Simple to learn controls which can make all the difference when mastered. I'd give this game at LEAST a 7.5.



shinpichu said:

I wouldn't say that. I love the game, and the two games were made with the same basic philosophy in mind(easy to learn, hard to master), but personally I think that there isn't nearly as much depth in Air Ride as there is in SSB(especially Melee).



Furealz said:

Great when I bust out this game at a party, Top Ride or Air Ride never got picked . I <3 Top Ride!



LittleKing said:

Air Ride has always been a game that's gotten mediocre reviews from critics (~6 seems to be the average) and much higher reviews from players (I've seen a ton of 8-9s). It's not technically innovative, flashy, it doesn't have a great storyline, or even very good SP. But dang, it's MP is one of the best things to hit the 'Cube.



retro_player_22 said:

This is a fun game, it totally deserve an 8/10, not a 6/10 but then I totally get why it's a 6 as this originally was meant to be an N64 game.



Undead_terror said:

In my opinion it deserves more (we all have different opinions so I won't fight with you), it was a really fun game back in the day and it still is...too bad my wii broke so I can't play it again.



DRL said:

@undead_terror - You could always pick up a Cube? I've been coming across them on Craigslist for $20-30. They often come with a few games as well.



Yosher said:

Both games were developed by the same developer, so maybe that's kind of clouding my view, but even before I knew about the games sharing developers I kind of had a SSB-ish vibe when playing it. Both games give you simple controls that can have more depths to it when you really master them. Obviously SSB has that more than Air Ride, but still.



Smitherenez said:

I saw it at the local game store. Did not take it with me though, because I only have one gamecube controller.



Squashie said:

Have Nintendo Life resorted to reviewing the huge back log of Retro Nintendo games? Anyway, I love reading reviews of old games anyway!



WarioPower said:

Nice review! I personally have never played this, as I just stick with Mario Kart for my racing.



Azikira said:

I've always loved this game, even though the story mode really feels like a Demo.



naut said:

You know, I always loved this game despite the "meh" reactions from everyone else. My siblings and I still play City Trial to this day.



StarDust4Ever said:

I thought it was a fine little game. It was certainly better than that DK "bongo drums" racing game for Wii.



Chrono_Cross said:

I honestly couldn't disagree more with this review.

However if you’re an adult looking for a game to play alone - or you’re a hardcore gamer looking for something that demands a higher level of strategy and skill - it would be recommended that you hitch a ride with Mario or Captain Falcon instead.

While it may be on the easy side for the most part, Kirby Air Ride has its fair share of difficult (but mostly rewarding), moments. And did I mention the achievement system? It's great, btw.



WesCash said:

I have great memories of playing this game. Some things are better as memories though and I think this might be one of them.



Gridatttack said:

6? Thats too low imo
A 7 or higher would be good. While the racing doesn't do much, the ctity trials with friends is what saves this game. I have spent lots of days playing this game and completing 100% the checkbox challenges.
It is fun and deserves more that is is usually labeled. :/



mystman12 said:

I love Kirby Air Ride. I don't think the Air Ride mode is really that great, but Top Ride is really fun, and City Trial is the best! I wish that they would make a new game based on the City Trial mode.



sinalefa said:

I borrowed this game after reading reviews, and I ended up liking it. I am not a huge racing fan so that limited its appeal to me, of course. I loved the wacky and varied track design and the tons of achievements you can get. I do agree that there could have been a more focused single player experience, but still the game is pretty good, and I would lean between a 7 and an 8.



Gretski said:

This was one of the first games I got for my GameCube. It will always be my favorite Kirby game



Kyloctopus said:

I would say this is the best Kirby Spinoff Kirby title and one of the 10 best GameCube titles. The only serious problem is that most theg stars aren't ideal for racing. And that there is a lack of stages. I also wish that there were more stages for City Trial. I would be quite happy if this was remade for 3DS or Wii U.



DRL said:

@DiscordedTeeJay - Thank you, friend. I understand that the number score may not be ideal for everyone but I felt that I was very fair when writing this review.



kkslider5552000 said:

the score doesn't seem to fit? It seems to basically say "grand prix mode suddenly makes for an in-depth single player, but this game doesn't have it, 6/10". ...what? I don't...understand...just from basic sense. I'm not annoyed, just...kinda confused.



Ichiban said:

Goddamn I love the Gamecube! Such a sexy machine! Ive got mine set up & cant stop looking at it! I may need help lol



theoldman said:

I feel like everyone who is giving the score some slack is doing so based on their memories of playing this game in the past. If all reviews were written based on that, I would say that Clay Fighter deserves a 9/10 (which is clearly doesn't). This is the type of game that I can only play for about 10 minutes at a time, because thats how long it takes to play every mode in the game. Sure there are other levels but its just more of the same. I think the reviewer is spot on with his diagnosis of the game. Just because its fun, doesn't mean its a great game. The only reason I could see the score going up from where it is now, is because since the controls are so simple you can play it with literally one hand. Which means I can play the game, and drink my beer at the same time. Cheers on the review, looking forward to the next one!



JJOR64 said:

I played this game for hours and hours back in the dude with my friends. This game was our crack for a while. I got just about every Check in the game.



shinpichu said:

I never played Air Ride "back in the day." It's very much a recent addition to my game library, and I enjoy it very much, especially when I have friends around who know what they're doing.



Ducutzu said:

Thanks for the review. Critics were very harsh with this game when it was released. And yet the game seems to have been played a lot by many of those who purchased it.



theoldman said:


What i find funny about everyone sticking up for this game is that when they do (you included), you start off by being appalled and rage filled over the review but then go on to point out all the things that you dont like about it. first you start off by saying "This is the only time I've felt rage at an NL review. Air Ride is one of my favorite games on the Gamecube, period." But then further down you add "Cut some of the fat(Top Ride), give us more variety(more maps in Air Ride/City Trial), and maybe some other stuff, and the game could really be fun." Could be fun? you just said it was one of your favorite games...didnt you? You have fond memories of it, I get it, but the score is exactly what it deserves. And a six is still saying the game is worth playing and picking up, just that it was simple and didnt offer much degree of difficulty. Go re-read the rating system and you'll see that a 6 a still a good score.

also, i never said "back in the day" in my first post, therefore its not a quote. just saying.



MattOfSteel said:

I can't enjoy the game. I know too much about its history.

Namely that this game is the reason that Masahiro Sakurai (you know Kirby's dad) no longer works on the Kirby franchise. He got some much negative feedback from the publisher and was pressured to make the game play in a way he disagreed with that he quit.

So even though I love and have played all the Kirby games, this is the only one I will never own. Which isn't that hard as it was also my least favorite Kirby game of all time. Though, since I was in my twenties when the game came out, I guess it wouldn't really be part of my childhood nostalgia.



Kid_A said:

This is one of the most bizarrely-received games. Critics couldn't be bothered with it but every Kirby fan out there treats it like something of a minor masterpiece. I've never played it myself, but I've always been curious to see what all the fuss is/isn't about.



FriedSquid said:

Eh, I would have given it a 7/10 if it were me, but it's obviously not. Good review, Dave! and dude seriously that is the best last name ive ever known of, how do you even pronounce such a legendary name



Contrary said:

Clicked on this review figuring that it would get a 9 or 10. I was incredibly surprised when I saw a 6. Though this game is challenging in many aspects, it is certainly a fun experience. Being my favorite Gamecube game, I would have given a 9 at the least. I am angered by this false review.



kkslider5552000 said:

Honestly, my main guess for why reviewers and fans have such different opinions on this game is how they play it. While I love Air Ride, it is not a game you should play, barring maybe multiplayer, for more than an hour in a row. But how worthwhile it is to keep going back to the game over and over again, from my experience, eventually made it so I played the game for 30+ hours worth in totoal. A reviewer doesn't usually get that chance, thus it gets old for them, thus they can't judge it like most games. Again, just a guess.



Luffymcduck said:

Great review! Just the right score for this game. Either people are blinded by nostalgia or really like this game. My cousins like this game a lot and I can´t understand why. It is kinda fun for a while but I´d rather play Mario Kart DD or F-Zero GX. This game just feels too simple compared to other great NGC multiplayer titles. Why is it using only analog stick and A-button? This came from the creators of SSBM, one of the most hardcore Nintendo games ever. Sure it´s fun to ride around that City for a while but I would have liked to see more maps in that mode. Air Ride mode wasn´t very good. Top RIde mode was the mode I had most fun with in multiplayer. Personally, I liked that DK Bongo Racer on Wii more.



TKOWL said:

This game deserves a 9, hands-down, I'm sorry.

If there's one video game I've played to repetition ever since its launch and STILL haven't gotten bored of it, it's this one. City Trial is the PERFECT multiplayer mode, and literally everyone that I have known and talked to that has played this game agrees KAR is fantastic.

Again, City Trial is the real selling point to this game, and has given me and hundreds of other people endless fun. As I decide a lot of a game's merit based on how much I'll go back and replay it, this game definitely has massive replayability, and is still one of my all-time favorites.



RegalSays said:

Super Mario Sunshine.
Mario Kart: Double Dash
Resident Evil 4
Zelda: Skyward Sword
Smash Bros. Melee

What do all these games have in common besides strong story lines, addictive gameplay, and outstanding presentation? They are all 9/10 or 10/10.
I liked KAR when it came out, and I had fun playing it, however ANYONE who thinks it deserves to graded with the likes of those games mentioned above is out of their minds. To put them in the same league is ludicrous. Strong review, thanks for having the balls to say it how it is.



SuperKirby0 said:

I have pretty fond memories of this game. This game is pretty fun in multiplayer, ESPECIALLY city-trial. And i always hope this gets a sequel. With more stages, a story mode, maybe more stages for city trial, and probably more stuff. But overall. It is a really fun game, and to me very nostalgic, being the first kirby game i ever played.



rabbitwanter said:

When I was younger, I remember dad would let me and my brother each rent a gamecube game from some video rental store place near Giant Eagle. I would always get Kirby Air Ride, as this game was my favorite as a kid. About a year or so ago I had a random sudden urge to play this game and so I had to search the Internet and several Gamestops to find it. I am still in love with this game. I looove city trial so much! :'D I can play it for hours!~♪



RegalSin said:

It is sad this game never was an full Kirby game at all. Originally it was the demo on the N64 in Japan, where it had other modes as well.

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