I’m going to put this bluntly: I don’t like Kirby Triple Deluxe. It oftentimes feels like a product custom-built to represent all of my problems with Nintendo at the moment, particularly its reliance on nostalgia to carry the player through the beginning hours. By the end levels of Triple Deluxe, HAL Laboratory manage to make use of the installment’s meager innovations to end things on a reasonably high note, but there’s altogether too much tedium before getting there.
Triple Deluxe opens with a cutscene showing…well, it’s basically irrelevant. What sliver of narrative Triple Deluxe has is set dressing; as with all prior Kirby games, Triple Deluxe lives or dies by the strength of its mechanics. This has generally worked out well in the past: Kirby’s ability to suck enemies and copy their abilities was novel when it was introduced all the way back in 1993, and the series has generally been good about introducing some sort of unique wrinkle in each installment. Triple Deluxe offers up two: the ability for Kirby to navigate between two different platforming planes (or the background and the foreground), and a new ability called the “Hypernova”, which greatly increases his ability to suck up objects.
The “swapping platforming planes” conceit is a fine idea, but it’s nearly always executed with a boring amount of simplicity. It’s the sort of thing that seems like it’d open up a lot of potentially interesting design, but it the only idea HAL has for it 70% of the time is “enemies in the background attack Kirby in the foreground” (potentially because they thought people would really dig how things from the back of the screen would look like they’re coming RIGHT AT YOU in 3D). As a result, there are large areas of Triple Deluxe where the foreground is largely kept free of enemies or obstacles so players won’t have trouble against attacks from the back. In other words, most of the space you actually move around in during Triple Deluxe is purposefully distraction (or entertainment) free.
The “Hypernova” ability is used a little more sparingly, but it’s appearance in a level generally means a transition from one set of bland challenges to another. Here’s the trick to completing every single puzzle Triple Deluxe poses during these sections: hold down the B button to inhale. Sometime you have to time when you hold down the B button. Oh sure, I won’t deny a certain amount of enjoyment from how ridiculous some of the things Kirby sucks up are (for example: A half-mile long snake), but these qualities don’t make up for the fact that these sections are even more simplistic than the rest of the game. If the rest of the game was more challenging, the “Hypernova” sections would likely serve as a good complement, but as it stands they don’t accomplish much at all. It feels like HAL just whipped up some power-up because they needed a new gimmick.
The aesthetics also feel underwhelming: I understand that it’s difficult to make something as visually arresting as Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the 3DS, but it doesn’t change the fact that Triple Deluxe often feels like Kirby’s Dream Land at a lower resolution. Which is to say it all looks pretty good, with Kirby’s cutesy charm essentially intact, but there’s rarely a moment that feels wholly unique from previous games in the series. Well, that’s not entirely true: there’s a plethora of 3D gimmickry that mines the 3DS’s capabilities on that front for all they’re worth. When combined with the music, which is comprised of mildly remixed old themes or unmemorable new ones, there’s not a lot about Triple Deluxe that makes it stand out from other games in the series.
For all its faults though, Triple Deluxe manages to end itself on a high note by actually putting some of its mechanics to greater use. The multi-plane level design actually comes together with some interesting ideas, like sprinting after a falling item in the background while navigating obstacles in the foreground. Many of Triple Deluxe‘s bosses are also more intelligently designed in comparison to the rest of the game; for example, one boss had me jumping back and forth between the different planes to dodge attacks. It’s moments like these that indicate some of the more creative uses for the conceit, to the point where I was enjoying myself quite a bit, but it’s a shame Triple Deluxe doesn’t have enough inspiration to last more than a couple hours.
And when you strip away whatever twists this new Kirby offers, there’s very little here that distinguishes it from previous titles. A lot of the parts of Triple Deluxe that are enjoyable (or at least passable) come from earlier in Kirby series, and not from its own merits. Triple Deluxe ends up being a perfect example of a game from this current era of Nintendo: uninspired and riding on past success.