2016 has been an undeniably rough year for Nintendo, but fortunately, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a standout example of what continues to make Nintendo so appealing, even when they don’t stray far from a well-established formula. For the most part, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a pretty familiar and traditional Kirby platformer, complete with an adorable presentation, breezy difficulty and plenty of bonus goodies and extra modes to further expand what’s otherwise a pretty lightweight adventure for Nintendo 3DS and 2DS owners. If you already played the highly enjoyable Kirby: Triple Deluxe especially, you should already recognize most of the recipe behind Kirby: Planet Robobot.
As the game’s subtitle suggests however, Kirby: Planet Robobot is introducing a big new idea to separate itself from the pink puffball’s previous 3DS escapade; A mechanization theme! Pop Star is being mechanized in the name of progress by the nefarious Haltmann Works Company, and that means new cyborg-style threats, and a core addition for Kirby that allows him to take the fight to them in style, with his own special Robobot Armour in certain sections of the game! This, paired with the expected batch of new Copy Abilities, obstacles, bosses, minigames and collectibles that come with any new Kirby platformer makes Kirby: Planet Robobot an effective antidote to at least some of Nintendo’s struggles in games and business this year. It’s a game that sticks closely to series convention, but adds enough fresh novelty and charm to make it a worthy purchase for 3DS and 2DS owners that are in the market for good, reliable fun.
Kirby: Planet Robobot noticeably recycles several environmental assets and character models from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but that’s hardly a bad thing, as Kirby: Triple Deluxe was a sharp-looking 3DS offering. Similarly, Kirby: Planet Robobot boasts a mechanized/natural hybrid style in many of its environments, yet still manages to give the stage backdrops a lively sense of whimsy and colour. The game is loaded with that expected batch of Nintendo polish too, leading to very colourful, eye-catching menus and navigation outside of the main stages, making Kirby: Planet Robobot another vibrant treat for the eyes, regardless of whether it’s played in 3D or 2D.
The only slight knock against Kirby: Planet Robobot’s strong, appealing visual style is that the 3D feels a tad more sloppily implemented in contrast to Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which obviously won’t be an issue for 2DS owners, or those who simply prefer to flick off the 3D Slider. The 3D isn’t quite as well-defined in most of Kirby: Planet Robobot, despite the same perspective tricks with navigating backgrounds and foregrounds that return from Kirby: Triple Deluxe. The 3D presentation feels a bit less potent overall here, even as certain obstacles continue to either muck up the 3D Screen to obscure your vision, or comically push Kirby against the screen when he takes damage from spring-loaded hazards from the background.
Worse still is that cranking up the 3D Slider will noticeably disturb game performance in several sections, leading to chugs and slowdown during the Robobot Armour sections especially, even on New 3DS handhelds, which feels pretty sloppy. The 3D improves a little bit in later stages, and is actually pretty good in the specialized final boss fight, which actively gives a response-gauging advantage to those cranking up the 3D Slider, but it’s disappointing that the 3D felt more consistently impressive in Kirby: Triple Deluxe.
As usual with any Kirby game though, Kirby: Planet Robobot is just dripping with charm and cuteness in its presentation. Kirby is one of the most heart-melting protagonists in gaming, and even as hollow, mechanical threats alter his world, that infinite charm in it is never truly lost, especially with Kirby himself still being such an endearing protagonist. Even the minigames in Kirby: Planet Robobot look very polished and highly detailed, simply utilizing the mechanization theme to create more eccentric, surreal obstacles to add that much more character to Pop Star, thus continuing to make it one of the most lovable places for gamers to get lost in.
The Kirby series has always boasted surprisingly catchy, very well-composed soundtracks, and Kirby: Planet Robobot is no exception. This is definitely a game that’s even more enjoyable to play with a pair of earbuds plugged in to your handheld, with the same upbeat, lovable music now being complemented by a bit more techno and synth, to reflect the mechanization hook. Once again, the tunes are a mix of classic and all-new compositions, with the latest batch of familiar remixes once again guaranteed to tickle long-time fans (even though some music is featured unaltered from games like Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and Kirby: Canvas Curse), while the new soundtrack will also add more favourites to the series’ lengthy musical pedigree. Yet again, unlocking the game’s Jukebox, which allows you to listen to the entire selection of the game’s music at your leisure, is one of the best rewards that players can attain in Kirby: Planet Robobot!
Predictably, quite a few of the sound effects and voice clips are also recycled directly from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, and that’s fine. Kirby’s usual grunts and exclamations are cute as ever, and even if his previous 3DS offering had the same sounds of enemy defeats, object inhaling, Copy Ability use and audio cues, they still sound great, and perfectly complement the rest of the experience. There are of course some new sound effects added for the new enemies and some of the new stage backdrops as well though, with some of the Haltmann personalities even getting a couple of voice clips of their own, giving them a bit more character than many antagonists from this series’ history.
Like the gameplay mechanics, Kirby: Planet Robobot sticks close to convention with its audio suite, but when that once again means more awesome music, more lovable sound effects, and more gush-worthy voice clips from Kirby himself, it’s really difficult to complain about that. Heck, this game’s lengthy soundtrack list is arguably even better than the one from Kirby: Triple Deluxe! The Kirby games even tend to give the Mario games a run for their money in terms of audio quality, and that reputation remains as consistent as it ever was in Kirby: Planet Robobot.
Kirby: Planet Robobot won’t really challenge you, nor will it stray all that far from the gameplay mechanics of its mainline platformer predecessors, particularly Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but that’s fine, since the game is so fun and well-designed. The Kirby series has never been shy about targeting young, uninitiated and/or casual gamers, and that remains true in the still-breezy Kirby: Planet Robobot, but even more hardcore, experienced gamers can enjoy the game as a light snack between playthroughs of meatier, more serious games, especially when it’s quite entertaining to take on the go with your 3DS/2DS handheld.
The stage designs in Kirby: Planet Robobot are quite simple to proceed through, even in the later stages, but the game’s creative and interesting selection of enemies and obstacles will still keep even devout gamers entertained, which ultimately still adds up to some strong level design overall. The game is divided into six worlds, with each possessing anywhere from four to six stages within, an unlockable Extra Stage, and a boss battle that stands in the way of the path to the next world. For the most part, stages are a simple matter of just reaching the Goal Door at the end, but players also have to be on the lookout for collectibles, especially as a means of opening new paths!
Kirby: Planet Robobot features stickers to collect, which more or less serve the same function as the collectible keychains from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, with the added feature of being customization options for Kirby’s Robobot Armour, and each stage also contains a unique ‘Rare Sticker’ that is coloured gold instead of the usual silver, and is especially hard to find without some very careful environmental scrutiny and ability management. Another, more crucial collectible in Kirby: Planet Robobot however, and one that isn’t too hard to find if you’re looking, is Code Cubes, three of which are hidden in each stage. Players must find a certain amount of Code Cubes across a world’s stages to successfully open the way to that world’s boss battle, and if they don’t find enough, they’ll have to go back to the stages they already completed and look for more. If you’re observant however, you should never have to worry about this, as not every Code Cube is that carefully hidden. It’s worth it to track down as many Code Cubes as you can beyond those necessary for boss access though, since finding every Code Cube in a world will unlock that world’s Extra Stage, a slightly more challenging romp for devoted players.
As usual though, one of the most enjoyable elements of moving through each stage in the latest Kirby platformer is inhaling enemies and wielding Copy Abilities! Many of the series mainstays are still present, including Sword, Fire, Cutter, Bomb, Freeze and Spark, among others, but as you can expect, Kirby: Planet Robobot adds in some all-new Copy Abilities with great flexibility, and kooky uniqueness. The new Doctor Ability for example allows Kirby to toss pills in his vicinity, prepare explosive chemistry sets, and charge through enemies with a clipboard. The new ESP Ability meanwhile allows Kirby to control psychokinetic energy, which the player can slickly navigate around using the Circle Pad/Control Pad, making it a great way to exterminate hard-to-reach targets. Finally, the new Poison Ability allows Kirby to breathe toxic fumes and surf on corrosive sludge, making it a volatile, but effective way to destroy groups of foes. The Copy Abilities in Kirby: Planet Robobot are fun as ever to wield, especially when they continue to give Kirby charming little appearance changes, such as the Doctor Ability giving him a white lab coat and big glasses, and the ESP Ability inexplicably giving him a blue and red sideways-worn baseball cap.
The Copy Abilities even come into play during the sections where Kirby arms himself with Robobot Armour, giving him a cute, but dangerous mech suit that wreaks havoc on enemies and environmental obstructions. The Robobot Armour isn’t quite as gleefully destructive as the Hypernova Fruit from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but it’s still a lot of fun to use, especially since, unlike Hypernova Kirby, Kirby can still make use of Copy Abilities when in the Robobot Armour. If players scan an enemy, which occurs automatically if Kirby tries to attack an enemy without an ability active (if you want to swap abilities, you have to shed the one you have with the Y Button), the Robobot Armour will change in the appropriate fashion, giving it new capabilities. Scanning a Fire Ability enemy for example will give the Robobot Armour flamethrowers, which are useful weapons and means of igniting cannon fuses, while scanning the Cutter Ability will give the mech suit buzzsaw arms, which can cut heavy chains as well as decimate foes! There are other possibilities as well, some of which even activate scrolling shooter sections that help mix up the stage design, and all of them make the Robobot Armour feel like a genuinely fun, flexible addition to the Kirby series’ established platforming gameplay, and not a disposable gimmick to tediously separate Kirby: Planet Robobot from its 3DS predecessor.
Predictably, Kirby: Planet Robobot also boasts Amiibo functionality for New 3DS owners, and those who own the Amiibo scanning accessory for their classic 3DS, 3DS XL or 2DS. This comes with an entire new set of Amiibo figures, namely a ‘Kirby Set’ that features revised figure designs for Kirby, King Dedede and Meta Knight, and contains an all-new Amiibo figure of Waddle Dee. Mercifully, unlike the Super Smash Bros. Set renditions of the Kirby, King Dedede and Meta Knight figures, these figures are also very easy to find in almost all retail outlets that stock Amiibo figures, which is great, and makes the Amiibo support here a much bigger draw than in the series’ previous Kirby and the Rainbow Curse for Wii U, which relied on three figures that are now pretty much impossible to find without importing online or buying them from scalpers.
Also of interest is that there’s some added incentive to buy the Kirby Set Amiibo figures for those who actually do already own the Super Smash Bros. Set variations of the Kirby, King Dedede and/or Meta Knight figures, since the Kirby Set figures carry exclusive functionality that isn’t fully replicated in the Super Smash Bros. Set figures, making it further appreciated that the Kirby Set figures are actually well-stocked and easy to find and purchase this time. For example, scanning the Kirby Set Kirby figure gives Kirby the otherwise unattainable U.F.O. Copy Ability, a favourite from classic games like Kirby’s Adventure on NES, though if you scan the Super Smash Bros. Set Kirby figure, it will instead give Kirby a ‘Super Smash Bros.‘ Copy Ability that gives Kirby his moveset from Nintendo’s beloved crossover fighter franchise. Either way, this Kirby figure feature is probably the game’s best incentive for using Amiibo.
Likewise, the Kirby Set variation of King Dedede will turn Kirby yellow and give him Dedede’s cap to wear when the figure is scanned, as well as the Hammer ability, though scanning a Super Smash Bros. Set King Dedede will simply turn Kirby yellow and give him the Hammer ability, without the cap. Meta Knight, meanwhile will give Kirby the Sword ability and turn him dark blue, but if you scan a Kirby Set Meta Knight, Kirby will also wear Meta Knight’s mask, whereas he won’t get the mask if you scan a Super Smash Bros. Set Meta Knight. Of course, this distinction is moot with the Kirby Set-exclusive Waddle Dee figure, which gives Kirby a blue headband, and the Parasol ability.
This is fairly light, inessential Amiibo functionality that doesn’t have much of an effect on the game, but Kirby fans will enjoy the figures’ cosmetic additions, and especially the Kirby Set Kirby figure exclusively granting the U.F.O. ability when it’s scanned. All the better is that the Kirby Set Kirby, King Dedede and Meta Knight figures can also be used in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to give you access to those Amiibo fighters if you couldn’t find their Super Smash Bros. Set variations previously, and that’s awesome! Obviously though, the Kirby Set’s Waddle Dee figure doesn’t do anything in the Super Smash Bros. games, since Waddle Dee is not a playable fighter in the Super Smash Bros. series as of yet.
It won’t take avid gamers too long, probably around seven or eight hours, to blow through Kirby: Planet Robobot’s main adventure, and amass most of the collectibles, once again representing a focus on quality over quantity for this series. Fortunately, once you’ve saved Pop Star from Haltmann Works and located every collectible (though the randomized stickers will keep you busy for quite a while, as well as providing a decent incentive for StreetPass hits), there are plenty of extra modes and minigames to enjoy. One of these minigames, ‘Team Kirby Clash’, even allows players to play with up to three friends locally using just one copy/download of Kirby: Planet Robobot, via Download Play. Team Kirby Clash is an action-RPG-esque mode where players take control of four different preset Kirby variants, including a balanced knight-type, a sluggish, but strong barbarian-type, a healer-type, and a wizard-type, while taking on large boss-like monsters, and earning EXP that lets them level up to become stronger and more capable. It’s a pretty lightweight team-based mode, but it’s solid goofy fun if you have the requisite three friends, and aren’t limited to the questionably helpful A.I.
The other minigame, ‘Kirby 3D Rumble’, feels slightly reminiscent of the Checker Board Chase minigame from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards for Nintendo 64, only without the multiplayer capability and falling arena, and instead being set up in such a way that challenges players to move about and defeat enemies as quickly as possible from a top-down view. It’s a fairly disposable mode, but speedrunners may enjoy it, even if it feels like one of the less inspired Kirby minigames from the series’ past history.
If you’re looking for something a little more serious, beating the game will unlock a bonus mode where you play as Meta Knight, called ‘Meta Knightmare Returns’, a Time Attack-style mode that disables Copy Abilities and Robobot Armour, but allows you to make use of Meta Knight’s very powerful swordfighting capabilities as you try and rush through stages and defeat bosses as fast as possible. Again, speedrunners are probably the ones that will most enjoy this mode, especially since you can share your best times with players that you StreetPass with, but it’s great for at least one quick play session, especially since its multi-tier final boss fight is different than the one from the main game. Failing that, you can also simply grab your favoured Copy Abilities and take on all of the bosses in survival-style succession within The Arena, and as you may know if you’re familiar with recent Kirby games, completing this challenge unlocks the True Arena, with even more unique and powerful boss variations that will put even hardened gamers to the test!
When it comes down to it, Kirby fans are getting about exactly what they expect from a new Kirby platformer for 3DS in Kirby: Planet Robobot, without much in the way of real surprises for Kirby: Triple Deluxe veterans especially. Fortunately, considering the high gameplay standard of the Kirby series, Kirby: Planet Robobot still offers an especially good gaming experience for your 3DS or 2DS in a year that’s been rather starved for them, even if, or possibly because, it didn’t upend the series’ tried-and-true mechanics wherever it didn’t really have to.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is a pretty predictable investment for Kirby fans, or any 3DS or 2DS owner that especially enjoys any Nintendo platformer, but considering Nintendo’s somewhat grim year in 2016, it feels like exactly what Nintendo enthusiasts probably crave, especially during the Summer game drought. The game sports an inspired, entertaining gameplay hook, even if it sticks pretty closely to the usual Kirby platformer formula otherwise, and if you want something new and entertaining to add to your 3DS/2DS library, this is a fun crowd-pleaser that gamers of all ages and pedigrees can easily enjoy.
Obviously, it especially pays to be a Kirby fan to get the most out of Kirby: Planet Robobot, which packs in the same high degree of love and celebration for the series’ entire history as Kirby: Triple Deluxe did, but even those who are not yet familiar with the Kirby platformers, and simply enjoy the idea of a game that’s very cute and undemanding, will find Kirby: Planet Robobot to be a fair jumping-on point, just as Kirby: Triple Deluxe is. Kirby: Planet Robobot is ultimately just one of those games that’s very difficult to dislike, even when the most it’s bringing to the table are a few new Copy Abilities, enemies and minigames, and of course, that surprisingly cool Robobot Armour mechanic in certain sections. You won’t always be in Kirby’s new mech suit of course, but it marks some very appealing highlights to an adventure that’s already as cuddly and pleasant as this series’ platforming romps have always been!
- Robobot Armour mechanic is a cool twist on the series' tried-and-true gameplay
- Mechanization hook doesn't disturb the adorable, vibrant presentation
- Yet another catchy and highly enjoyable soundtrack
- Recycles quite a bit of gameplay and assets from Kirby: Triple Deluxe especially
- 3D is a bit sloppier, and leads to some performance issues