Though Kirby made his debut a year prior on the Game Boy, it was 1993's Kirby's Adventure on the NES that cemented his appearance, his power-stealing ability, and his vast environments full of hidden secrets. Kirby's Adventure did a lot more than expand on the simple charm of Kirby's Dream Land; it earned him a place as one of Nintendo's gaming icons.
By now you may have already picked it up, what with a release on the Wii's Virtual Console and a welcome portable revival as a 3D Classic, but if you haven't there's no time like the present.
Kirby's Adventure is a deceptively rich and complex experience. On its surface it seems like a relatively straight-forward platformer; you can hop, swim and fly through stages across eight worlds, collecting pieces of the legendary Star Rod so that you can stop the game's main antagonist. In fact, you can play it that way if you like, and you'll have a great deal of fun.
However, for those who wish to dig deeper, there's an absolute wealth of hidden rooms, powerups, secret exits and more that will make 100% completion a genuine challenge. You can play Kirby's Adventure either as a simple, fun trek through a magical world, or a surprisingly difficult expedition that finds you desperately clinging to the powers you need to open up hidden switches and rooms. It's a brilliantly layered game.
The powers that we refer to come from the enemies that Kirby encounters. Whereas Mario stomps, Link slashes and the Belmont family whips, Kirby sucks. Or perhaps we should say inhales. By pressing B the little pink puffball can gobble enemies up, from which point they can be used as a projectile or consumed in order to gain temporary usage of their abilities. This has been a staple of the Kirby series ever since, so it's nice to find it so fully formed in its first appearance. There are abilities to help with offense, abilities to help with defense, abilities to help you maneuver and more. Additionally, each ability comes with its own unique set of advantages, drawbacks, and animations. It's a very well-handled system, and it adds a lot to the game's replayability.
Taking damage will cause you to lose the current ability, but you can gobble it right back up if you're fast enough. This is extremely important when ferreting out the secret exits, as many of them can only be reached with one specific weapon or utility. Lose it along the way, and you'll need to go back and gather it up again. This can lead to frustration, to be sure — though if you're precise enough you can get around it with the Wii U's save state — but it's really just there to keep you on your toes.
Each world contains special levels outside of the main platforming stages, such as simple mini-games, museums from which you can select the power of your choice, and arenas that allow you to re-fight defeated mini-bosses. Many of these are hidden, with the later worlds encouraging serious exploration in order to unlock all of their secrets.
Visually the game is lovely, with some gorgeous spritework and appealingly cartoonish graphics. Kirby's sprite in particular is very expressive, with between-world interludes being a cute comic highlight. The enemies are impressively detailed, and while the backgrounds are simple they do a great job of making each world (and sometimes room) feel unique from every other.
The game's audio is also fantastic, with every track being memorable in some way and many of them ranking among the best the NES has ever had, which as you know is high praise indeed.
There isn't much we can take issue with when it comes to Kirby's Adventure. Younger gamers will be drawn in by the cuteness and the comedy, and advanced gamers will have a long road ahead of them trying to find each of the hidden areas. 100% completion awards access to a more difficult pass through the game, but seeing as achieving 100% completion is hard enough the reward feels somewhat redundant.
Regardless, Kirby's Adventure is a great game, and one we're always happy to take the chance to rediscover.
Time has done nothing to dull the charms of this late-NES masterpiece. Kirby's Adventure is as vibrant, imaginative and fun today as it was twenty years ago; yes, we just made ourselves feel very old by typing that sentence. This isn't just high on the list of great Kirby games; it's high on the list of great games period. If you've somehow let this one pass you by, do yourself a favour and pick it up today. It's guaranteed to suck you in.