The Kirby series is one of Nintendo's most enduring, with its first entry Kirby's Dream Land on Game Boy releasing in 1992 and beginning a long legacy of charming, beginner-friendly platformers. Creator Masahiro Sakurai would also go on to develop Super Smash Bros., with menu design and UI elements shared between series. Kirby even serves as something of a protagonist in Smash Ultimate's World of Light mode, living up to a well-established pattern of the pink puffball going toe-to-toe with gods and cosmic horrors alike in his adventures.
Even with the heightened caliber of Kirby's foes, his games have remained relatively simple and easy over the years - most harder challenges like True Arena modes are optional. This helps 2004's Kirby and the Amazing Mirror stand out, as it adopted an open-world metroidvania style that made the series' usually linear 2D platforming a touch more complex and engaging. In Amazing Mirror, Kirby is split in four by a Dark Meta Knight from Mirror World, and the Kirbies must work together with different powers to solve puzzles, progress into different areas, and reassemble a mirror giving them access to the corrupting entity Dark Mind.
Amazing Mirror was developed by Capcom subsidiary Flagship and Dimps alongside HAL Laboratory, and has a big impact on the series with characters like Dark Meta Knight reappearing in both Triple Deluxe and Star Allies. However, another metroidvania-styled Kirby game was never attempted again, which is a shame considering how much more popular the genre became after it released.
The Rise of Metroidvania Games
The metroidvania style, in which players explore an interconnected map that has secrets and pathways hidden behind progression items one might receive later, has been around for a long time. In fact, its name is a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania in reference to trailblazer games like Super Metroid (1994) and Symphony of the Night (1997). That said, the age of indie games has caused the genre to proliferate wildly.
Larger, AAA metroidvania games still exist - in fact, Metroid Dread will be releasing for Nintendo Switch next month, continuing the mainline Metroid story for the first time since 2002's Metroid Fusion. There just happens to be more stiff competition thanks to games like Hollow Knight, which was so wildly successful it has left fans eagerly anticipating Hollow Knight: Silksong and crowdfunding similar titles like Crowsworn on Kickstarter. With more games fitting the design philosophy than ever, Kirby is poised to reintroduce its own unique take on the idea.
How Kirby Can Improve the Formula
After a brief tutorial section, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror drops players into a hub area. Only one path is unlocked at the start, but as Kirby reaches different checkpoints he can access new paths branching throughout a larger world comprised of traditional 2D platformer levels sewn together. Unlike other metroidvanias, Kirby does not gain new permanent skills. Instead, players can take one of the character's signature copy abilities to different areas in order to access more paths.
Another wrinkle to the system is the existence of four Kirbies, with each able to explore the world of their own accord and gather copy abilities. Whether these Kirby be CPUs or other players connected via a Link Cable, a cell phone item allows them all to gather for boss battles or to solve puzzles - often as simple as blocks requiring four active suctions to move. While this cooperative aspect eschews the isolating atmosphere often seen in metroidvanias, it creates far more options for the player to explore in any order when combined with the copy ability system.
Following Kirby Star Allies, HAL Laboratory director Shinya Kumazaki said Kirby is entering the "next stage." It still isn't clear what this means, though it's easy to assume a true 3D Kirby game might be in the works given its strict adherence to 2D platforming outside of some spin-offs. That said, it would be interesting to see the next stage for Kirby take him back to a metroidvania style established by Amazing Mirror, only enhanced by years of hindsight and developments in the genre at large.
MORE: Kirby Spin-Off Games Tier List
All jokes aside, Jack Black does look intriguingly good in what would be the role of a lifetime as Wolverine in Marvel Studios' X-Men.
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