(N64 / Nintendo 64)

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64 / Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Jones

Kirby Sixty-Phwoar

Like many of Nintendo's properties during the transition from the SNES to the N64, Kirby underwent a shift from a flat 2D sprite to a fully rendered polygon rendition of himself. Rather than taking Kirby down the route of Mario and Link, however, the pink mascot stuck closer to his origins - the mechanics of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards control extremely similarly to Kirby's past appearances, only in 2.5D.

The move over to 2.5D doesn't come without its issues, though, as Kirby feels sluggish compared to his 2D iterations. That's not to say that the experience really suffers as a result, or makes the platforming an issue - but for anyone who has played their fair share of 2D Kirby platformers it takes a few minutes to acclimatise to the difference, minimal though it may be.

While this keeps the main framework very familiar, with Kirby making his way from one side of the course to the next in typical platforming fashion, the variations in camera angle and added depth gives Kirby a freshness that works surprisingly well. While the pink puff may not have undergone a metamorphosis as drastic as some of his Nintendo counterparts, that by no means takes away from the quality of the title, with Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards arguably being one of Kirby's more impressive showings.

The 2.5D visuals also result in Dream Land feeling like a much more fleshed out environment, something that the past chapters of the Kirby series were never really able to convey. Much like the awe that struck you upon first entering Peach's Castle in Super Mario 64, Kirby 64 gives a similar sense of grandeur; while you're not given the same sense of freedom as a 3D title, Dream Land has never felt so alive.

While it may have failed to be as innovative on its new 64-bit home as the likes of Mario and Zelda, new features such as the ability to combine power-ups was a much welcome addition to the familiar Kirby gameplay. This allows Kirby to not only consume any one of the seven available copy abilities, but to absorb and combine two - creating a number of hybrid power-ups and stretching the total of copy abilities (both singular and paired) to an impressive 35. The ability to combine copy abilities only reappeared in Kirby Squeak Squad some 6 years later, making Kirby 64 both a rather unique entry in the series, and somewhat of a trendsetter.

When reviewing a Virtual Console re-release, visuals can be one of the trickier subjects to fairly “critique". Graphics must be assessed on how they stack up by today's standards while considering the graphical limitations of the time they were created. Let's be honest, Nintendo 64 graphics don't hold up exceedingly well, as early 3D models tend to age far worse than 2D sprites. Characters and objects can appear cube-like and rigid, textures are often rudimentary to say the least and scenery can lack the detail and artistic flair that the PS1 often achieved through its pre-rendered backgrounds.

That is why it's so pleasantly surprising to see how well Kirby 64 has held up since its release fifteen years ago, and the title remains one of the best looking that the N64 ever produced. Much of this can be accredited to the stylistic approach the designers took - the extremely stark, colourful visuals utilised the N64's graphical limitations perfectly. Kirby 64 often borrows the "crayon" style visuals seen in titles like Yoshi's Island and Yoshi's Story to wonderful effect - giving trees and skies a glorious scrap-booked effect. The cutscenes in particular have stood the test of time, with Dedede's toy-like N64 appearance being far cuter and charming than his photo-realistic Wii U appearance. Not to mention, making Kirby look so perfectly spherical is also an impressive coup for the N64 - a system renowned for its blocky visuals.

Unfortunately, Kirby 64 suffers from the all-too-familiar tendency to be disappointingly short. Comprised of 6 worlds - each with 4 stages and a boss - you could complete Kirby 64 in a matter of hours, especially when the title also suffers from being a little over-simplistic at times (a fate that affects many Kirby titles). Thankfully - as is usually the case, Kirby 64 makes up for its downfalls with its kaleidoscopic aesthetic and it's charmingly pleasant framework. The platforming is tight, and as responsive as ever, and although the main campaign is guilty of being far too succinct, the developers sweetened the deal (in true Kirby fashion) by including three mini-games. While not being outstanding or likely to keep you coming back time and time again, their addition is a welcome one and serves as a nice breather between playing the main stages and provide extra filler - rounding out the package as a whole.


In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, developer HAL Laboratory managed to keep the core structure of what many known and love from Kirby series, while glossing it up with a shiny, new 64-bit coat of paint for the new console generation. While the likes of Mario and Zelda have gone on to feature in numerous fully 3D adventures, Kirby's foray into the world of extra dimensions stands out as one of the more unique entries into the series, still feeling somewhat fresh in comparison to the multiple 2D Kirby platformers. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards isn't without its draw-backs, but is still impressively pleasurable to this day.

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User Comments (43)



NintyMan said:

This is one of my favorite Kirby games. Cool power-ups, cool boss battles, and a bouncy, cheery soundtrack (well, besides the final world and boss battles) and you have another winner for the Kirby series. The fairies are so adorable!



bro2dragons said:

Some of the best (if not the best) minigames in the series, to boot.

I love Crystal Shards. It's the first game I ever remember begging my parents for, and I never regretted it.



ekreig said:

It still looks wonderful! What is it about the Kirby games' graphics that makes them age so well?



Farpun said:

The last time nintendolife reviewed this it was given a 5/10...number systems are stupid.



Samuel-Flutter said:

This was the first Kirby game I owned, and I wasn't disappointed. I loved playing the minigames with my brothers and the 2.5D aspect of the gameplay. I also loved Kirby's ability to pull enemies out of his mouth and uses them as a tool of sorts.



theberrage said:

@Farpun I view the review score as The score given + or - 3.

Since the original review was a 5, the actual score is somewhere between a 2/10 and 8/10.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

This is one of very few N64 games that still looks good today, and I find that very impressive in many ways, but mostly how the very simple and unimpressive design choices still retained the cuddly Kirby visuals without actually looking bad. A really nice game.



Fiyaball said:

Checkerboard Chase is probably one of my favorite minigames in any video game. Get 4 people playing, and let chaos ensue.



Bass_X0 said:

The last time nintendolife reviewed this it was given a 5/10...number systems are stupid.

I agree. It is stupid how Nintendo Life has different scores for some games. When I come to Nintendo Life, I don't come to find out an individual reviewer's opinion, I come to find out the site's opinion. So when the site says the game is both good and also bad, thats just confusing. Which reviewer should you believe if you should buy it or not?

Scores out of five were better. There's not much difference between 3/5 and 4/5.



ekreig said:

@Bass_X0 In that case, you should simply read both reviews and decide for yourself if it's something you would like. If a game gets a 5 there's still a chance you will still like it, and likewise if it gets an 8 there's a chance you won't like it. Personally, I think it does nothing but good to have different viewpoints available to read.



Busta_Senpai said:

@Bass_X0 There's no such thing as a "site's" opinion unless there was only one guy reviewing everything. It's just two different people with different opinions.



Azikira said:

This was definitely one of my most favorite Kirby experiences, though mostly because power fusing! I wish they'd bring that back!



Octane said:

My favourite Kirby game. Absolutely amazing, and the visuals are great as well!



StuOhQ said:

Can't wait to get my $2 upgrade and play this on my Wii U (we haven't gotten it in the US yet). I loved this back in the day, and got it for my Wii as soon as it became available.



BakaKnight said:

I'm super confused if I want to buy or avoid this game... not only opinions online, but my own interest in the game is mixed and not one-sided XD



Solid_Stannis said:

Until artificial intelligence is invented (and even then we'll only be able to enjoy it for three days or so until it comes to the conclusion that humanity is obsolete and kills us all) there can be no such thing as a "site's opinion." Reviews are written by people, and people are different. This is exactly why it's silly to base a game purchase decision on the opinions of the few.



Dpullam said:

This is one of the many games on the N64 I never got to play. Maybe if I would have gotten the chance to play this game in my childhood I would of ended up being a bigger fan of Kirby. I'm not really into the SNES or NES. I'm more of a N64 type of guy.



WaveGhoul said:

I remember renting this back on the N64 at a friends place. All I remember were the zZzZzZzZZzZ Still wasn't as boring as Dreamland 3 nor as poorly designed, but my Gilligan golly was it S-L-O-W.



StephenYap3 said:

As much as I like Kirby, I can't agree with popular opinion with this game. In my opinion, compared to the previous games (Super Star and even Dream Land 3, the latter which I never cared for), this one is just a fatally massive downgrade and plays too slow and clunky, even if I keep Kirby running, who seems to be power-walking than running. The mix abilities did seem to be a good idea on paper, but quite literally, it only barely served as a replacement for the movesets and animal friends from the previous traditional Kirby titles, any of which I vastly preferred over this. The friends concept did seem like a cute idea, but having them limit Kirby's abilities were not a good thing. King Dedede's sections were even slower and clunkier, and Waddle Dee's sections were just tedious. The only friend I had no problems with was Adeleine, who seemed the most helpful without doing anything that held Kirby back in terms of abilities. While I was overall very disappointed with the main campaign, the minigames were fun (especially Checkerboard Chase) as even alone, I still kept coming back for more.

To say the least, Kirby 64 has a pretty good soundtrack, cutscene viewer, and some of the best minigames I've ever played in the series (stomping Kirby's Return to Dream Land's multiplayer mini games). For now, I will only consider Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards the most disappointing (traditional) Kirby game I ever played, if not one of the most disappointing games I ever played.



Bolt_Strike said:

This and RtDL are my favorite Kirby games of all time. The combo ability system was very fun, and the 2.5D level design made for some interesting level design. This was also the first Kirby game that I played, so it holds a special place in my heart.



Freeon-Leon said:

I have so many good memories of this game. Discovering the combinations of power ups is still one of the coolest things I've found in a Kirby game to this day



Mikes said:

I still haven't finished Super Star or the Amazing Mirror yet, but this is the one I've always seen people like. I should try it out someday.



FriedSquid said:

Not my favorite Kirby game, but it was my first and I have a lot of great memories with this one. Doesnt quite hold up to other Kirby games but it's good on its own.



sketchturner said:

Boring game despite cool power up combos.
Definitely one of the most visually bland games ever to disgrace the N64, imho... But obviously this reviewer disagrees. I thought the game looked poor even back when it released.



dAvecaster said:

I remember being really disappointed with this game. It's one of the few n64 games I traded in. Even an over abundance of cute couldn't hide how dull this game was.



Dr_Corndog said:

@Farpun Yes, they are.

I've wanted to replay this game for years. I should track down a copy of Dream Collection and play this and all the Kirby titles I haven't yet played.



Dankykong said:

In my personal opinion I think this is the best Kirby game. It felt like there were enough enemies around, the music was great and it looked pretty decent for a 2D-3D game. Obviously some people disagree but I can think of many that looked worse or less crisp even back in the day. Although it's a really fast play through, probably one of the quickest to play through even...



Dankykong said:

Oh I realized this is on WiiU, I thought it was a random retro review again. I wish they'd start putting out N64 things I actually need, even if it is probably just a few.



SCAR said:

I'd say this and Kirby's Return to Dreamland are about even. The only things RtDL did better was multiplayer and more stuff, but the environments and ability mixing is where Kirby 64 is still better, IMO.



RegalSin said:

Worst Kirby game ever.
1. It did not capture the essence of being an Dreamland game. I feel it was limited because of development issues to be called "Kirby Dreamland 4".
2. The game itself attempts to use the worlds of "Kirbys SuperStar". By that I mean to say the game itself is terrible and cheap in design. Again it feels like Dreamland but has all the SNES rubbish all over it. I feel like Nintendo was trying to push for an Super-Star on the N64 but got this game.
3. The bosses are out of place, the powers are out of place. Dreamland 3 did what this game FAILED TO DO. Be an official Kirby game. You know.
4. The creator/owner of Kirby was back on this project ( as with StarFox Assualt creator ). Again it shows.
5. This game had not beginning and no real point. I mean the whole fairyland cutscenes was nice but again, WHAT ABOUT DREAMLAND?

6. That being said they swapped Ado for Adaline ( one is an boy and one is an girl ). They limited Dreamland to four intro levels and one Wispy Boss fight. Children of Wispy saga was terribly lame. I expected them to be an lot more faster even for an N64 game. The mini-bosses were all weak and under-dramatic. I mean two of these bosses just stand there while regular enemies warp in the room, waiting for you to hit them. Kirby Dreamland 2 was like murder and quick, and fast with it's enemies. Dreamland 2 even features an hard mode??? IDK but I remember the traumatic experience of Dreamland 2.

This game
is an walk in the park.
I could fall asleep playing this game.

The only time I had any if any fun in this game was the machine planet AKA Meta Knights/Nightmares homeworld. Which is now rebuilt as an peaceful shopping mall, product creator center for Coca-Cola Santa claus. In fact that should have been an boss in this game, but no we had to have a nicer looking but lamer moving version of "Heavy Lobster".
7. This game fails and while there was some sorta challenge to find all the crystal piece and I enjoyed the cell phone warp star, it was also stagnant.

Some little kid might have been fooled by the Kirby, Kirby craze at the time ( the cartoon ) but seriously this game was not even like this at all. I felt so robbed of purchasing this thing for almost fifty bucks when I did purchase it, I requested to pay 47 and not the full 50 ( which the person behind the counter glee-fully allowed ). I felt so robbed by Nintendo.



Krisi said:

@ekreig Probably the tons of vibrant colors and simple character designs. They truly look stunning even today.



Stargazer said:

I love the combining powers element of this game. Other than that it's meh. I wish every other Kirby game let you combine powers.



Bass_X0 said:

Go play Dreamland 3 again, RegalSin. Now that is the most boring Kirby platformer.



Lizuka said:

Love this game. And never really understood why the power combining gimmick wasn't used further; sure, due to it the game has a lot less individual power-ups than the usual Kirby game, but I like the interesting wrinkles in things it adds.



greengecko007 said:

Once upon a time I would have said that this was my favorite Kirby game, probably because it didn't have much competition. I don't really agree that it has aged well. I hooked up my N64 a while ago and played it and it just didn't feel nearly as good as the newer Kirby games. Might be worth buying for those that haven't played it before, if only to see how far the series has come.



Kirby_Girl said:

Best Kirby game is Kirby Super Star for sure but I do have a nostalgia feel for K64. I hate how sluggish Kirby is in this game. It plays so damn slow. Power combining is a neat gimmick but it still doesn't compare to depth introduced in Kirby games where powers have neat movesets. You can just do way more with movesets. Still K64 had a nice soundtrack and I feel like it's probably a lot of people's first Kirby game.



Monsti said:

One of the best Kirby games imo. I completely missed it back on N64 (I cannot even remember reading about it back then!!!!) but bought it on the Wii VC and upgraded last week. Good time to play it again.

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