E3 2008: Hands on with Kirby Super Star Ultra on DS

Super pink

E3 2008: Hands on with Kirby Super Star Ultra on DS

Just like the marshmallows with which he shares a resemblance, Kirby's fate started out sweet but has suffered some sticky spots these last few years. His best adventures have been put long behind him, making us pine for those sweet days of classic pink platforming.

Enter Kirby Super Star Ultra: a return to form that relies on remixing one the beloved character's greatest adventures with a helping of DS touch-enabled love.

Kirby Super Star Ultra casts you as pink pugilist Kirby in a series of side-scrolling adventures and mini-games. Instead of serving up on long quest, you get a mix of eight action stages and five touch-enabled mini-games. Interestingly enough, most of these are enhanced levels from the Super Nintendo title Kirby Super Star, although this DS remix packs in two new side-scrolling stages and three mini-games designed specifically for touchscreen play.

Action stages play out as full side-scrolling games, just a bit shorter in form. As Kirby, you can jump, float, and attack enemies with a bounce of his body. Of course, our pink pal's greatest ability is taking on the powers of his enemies which can be done by sucking them through his giant mouth. In Kirby Super Star Ultra, you're able to go even one step further: drawing in an enemy and then spitting them back out yields a helper that supports you in your side-scrolling adventure.

Even better, a buddy can link up with you locally and control the helper through the course of an action stage. It's an innovative first for the platforming genre and one we were left eager to try out.

The premise behind each of the action stages is quite basic, usually casting Kirby in a quest to defeat one of his mortal enemies. In the first side-scrolling adventure entitled 'Spring Breeze', Kirby is asked to rush to a castle where his nemesis King Dedede has seized all of Dream Land's food. Naturally, a bit of a duel ensues, which results in Kirby's successful reclamation of the supplies. Another action stage has Kirby crawling through a dank cave in search of 60-odd treasures. 'The Great Cave Offense', as it's called, winds through tight corridors and dark alcoves that require careful orienteering.

Beyond the side-scrolling stages, we were able to try out mini-games. Of the five shipping with the game, three have been specifically designed for the touchscreen. Additionally, they all support local wireless multiplayer for up to four. As you'd expect, the mini-games are pretty basic. 'Gourmet Race', for example, has you speeding to the finish line in an attempt to beat King Dedede. Winning the race, however, requires more than speed – you also need to chow down on as much food as possible along the way.

Even though Kirby Super Star Ultra doesn't offer anything that we haven't already seen before, it's a refreshing remix with a bit of new content that is simply fun to play. It would be nice to see a brand new Kirby game hit DS, but the co-operative side-scrolling stages should distract us during the wait. Kirby Super Star Ultra is due in North America at the end of September. A European date has yet to be confirmed.

Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.