Before we start I want to thank Nintendo for giving me the opportunity to review this title. I want to stress that this has not influenced my opinion in anyway. A game needs to be judged by its own merits and not those of its publisher.
What are two of Japan’s biggest cultural loves? One would be giant mechs like Gundam while the other would be cute mascot characters like Pikachu. Well, HAL Laboratories decided to take these two massively popular ideas and fuse them together in the game Kirby Planet Robobot.
Revealed as a surprise announcement earlier this year for Nintendo 3DS, the latest platformer in the Kirby series sees its loveable pink blob commanding the powers of a giant pink robot to smash his way through enemy grounds. It was an idea never seen before in a Kirby game, riding on the engine from Triple Deluxe. In this, Kirby is fast, powerful, responsive and adorable. But do all these factors come together to create a solid experience or could it blow up in your face at any moment?
There is only one way to find out.
Like a large majority of Nintendo’s protagonists, Kirby starts off this game asleep and oblivious to the events that unfold. This time around, the planet Popstar is being attacked by the evil Haltmann Works Company who begins to mechanize Kirby’s mostly natural world. Both King Dedede and Meta Knight attempt to fight back but ultimately fail, leading the way for Kirby to take the main stage when he finally wakes up.
The game starts off with a fairly standard Kirby storyline however it gets surprisingly great and very in-depth towards the end of the game. I am not going to spoil anything but it goes to show that HAL is always ready to dip into past Kirby installments and reference previous adventures in it’s fairly basic narrative. Any big Kirby fan will enjoy what there is here. It is different enough from previous games but is still willing to dip into the nostalgia banks for long time fans.
Not much has changed in terms of gameplay between this title and the previous 3DS game, Kirby’s Triple Deluxe. Kirby still has the ability to inhale and spit out enemies as well as being able to fly over obstacles and slide under walls. All of the copy abilities from Triple Deluxe return here from traditional abilities like the Sword ability to newer powers like Archer.
This game introduces 3 new abilities to Kirby’s repertoire being Poison, Doctor and ESP. The poison ability acts in the same way as water did in Return to Dreamland. Doctor is a very situational power which reminds me a lot of the Circus ability in Triple Deluxe. It is my least favourite of the new powers and there was only one puzzle in the entire game where i thought it was required. The last ability is the best one though. ESP is an incredibly powerful and useful ability that makes a neat homage to Ness from the Earthbound series. The ESP ability is also the only new ability that can be used by Kirby’s Robobot Armour.
The Robobot armour is the main gimmick this time around and it is wonderful. Not only does the Robobot have access to a variety of the Kirby power-ups but it is satisfyingly powerful and can plow through levels in a different way to Kirby can on his own. In order to counteract the power of the Robobot, Kirby cannot fly or choose to leave when he wants. This might seem jarring to those who are more familiar with the traditional Kirby gameplay, however I think this is a great thing. The Robobot Armour allowed for the level designers at HAL to actually make platforming challenges for the player to try and accomplish. This adds a layer of challenge to the levels that has not been present in past installments. This does not mean the game is harder overall however. I still breezed through the game with plenty of lives in reserve and back-up health for use on the bottom screen.
And this game can be made even easier thanks to the new addition of amiibo functionality. Nearly every amiibo figure works in this game with each providing a new power-up based on that character and can be activated at any time, up to 10 a day. For example, the Mario amiibo gives Kirby the fire ability and the Marth ability gives him the sword ability. Along with this game came a series of Kirby specific amiibo which give exclusive abilities to Kirby that cannot be found anywhere else. Both the returning Smash and UFO ability are locked behind the different Kirby amiibo and while they are cool they certainly not required. Every amiibo also supplies a bit of health to the player with the Kirby ones providing more. This can really help with the Arena mode that returns from previous games.
Along with both versions of the Arena is Meta Knightmare Returns which comes back from Superstar Ultra allowing you to play the whole game again as Meta Knight with his own set of abilities and harder bosses to fight. It’s the perfect mode for those looking for a challenge after the main campaign.
Along with these two side games there are two brand new modes in Planet Robobot called Kirby Team Clash and Kirby 3D rumble. The latter is kirby’s first jump into a 3D platformer for three worlds where you have to rack up a combo by killing enemies without being hurt. Meanwhile the former is a local multiplayer, RPG-esque, battle game where you pick a class and battle through a series of bosses in order to gain experience. Both modes are not very long and I did not feel they were as enjoyable as Kibry Fighters and Dedede’s Drum Dash however they do stand up well on their own.
Overall the gameplay is very solid which should be expected after so many titles in the franchise. The new additions to this game are welcome and fun to experience with the implementation of the Robobot being so good that I hope it returns in future titles as well.
Not much has changed between Planet Robobot and the previous game, Triple Deluxe. The model for Kirby is the same and the way the game is laid out through its UI and menus is identical. This comes as no surprise seeing as they are based on the same engine but HAL Laboratories realized this and so decided to go in a different direction with the game’s overall aesthetics. Triple Deluxe was fairly standard in its world themes and so instead of reusing those same ideas again, Planet Robobot takes its theme of technology versus nature and runs with it. Many of the landscapes and enemies are your familiar Kirby fare but all have a mechanical layer over the top of them. The level themes are also made to be less natural this time around ranging from bustling cities, dangerous oil rigs,speeding trains and even a ginormous casino. While the visuals are about the same quality as the previous games, what they actually do with them is entirely unique.
The music also follows suit and is of a high quality that one might come to expect from Kirby nowadays. There are both original and remixed soundtracks in this game but each one has been given a more techno or industrial vibe that really helps to draw the player into this world. It is still the same Popstar that you have all come to know but at the same time it is different.
The presentation really compliments the ideas and themes that this game was going for and I struggle to really find any negatives with it. While a lot of it is based on Triple Deluxe only a handful of assets are 1:1. It’s only in the UI that it all stayed the same but seeing as the UI of Triple Deluxe was great anyway there was no reason to change it.
HAL Laboratories came out of nowhere earlier this year with the reveal of the next main-line Kirby title. The inclusion of giant robots juxtaposed against Kirby’s cute appearance was an interesting gamble but I truly believed it paid off. Kirby Planet Robobot is one of the best Kirby games I have played in a long time. The addition of the Robobot allows for some very unique and challenging level design that is often absent from the Kirby series.
The story itself was very enjoyable and somewhat deep for a Kirby game. The call backs to previous titles in the franchise will make any Kirby fan scream in excitement and the new additions to the world are very welcome. It all just fits the simple idea that Kirby is, while also managing to be engaging at the same time.
There a plethora of modes in standard Kirby fashion, and plenty to collect for completionists aiming for that 100%. The game itself is not very difficult overall although the True Arena will once again have players pulling their hair out. Team Kirby Clash and Kirby 3D Rumble are neat side games that are worth trying out however they are not very long and could potentially be fully completed in one-sitting. However they do show potential for future Kirby titles, especially 3D rumble.
Overall, HAL Laboratories is slowly climbing its way up my list of favourite Nintendo studios. Planet Robobot does everything right that a sequel should do. It expands on the title before it while adding in enough new features to make the game seem fresh. Most of all these new features do not detract from the overall experience or ruining the focus of the game. The Kirby series is one that has had ups and downs since it first started on the GameBoy 24 years ago but if Planet Robobot is any indication, the series is certainly on an upward climb that could propel the Kirby franchise into one of Nintendo’s best sellers.