My favorite detail of Kirby: Triple Deluxe? If you tilt your 3DS while browsing the keychain collection you accumulate during the course of the game, the entire set will sway in response to gravity. Dangling from their chains, left and right, back and forth – a whole board of them, all at once.
It's a stupid thing to take notice of, a completely incidental detail that has no impact whatsoever on how Triple Deluxe plays. The keychains play the part of collectible here, amounting to little more than random knickknacks you collect, trade, and pick though levels to find. So far as I can tell, the only reward for gathering keychains is being able to browse a cork board crammed with them... and, of course, watching them swing as you rotate your system. They are completely meaningless.
What I love about the keychains isn't the objects themselves; rather, it's the obsessive attention to detail they represent. The keychains could have been presented as a simple gallery of still images, but instead they're fully modeled objects based on character sprites from the complete Kirby discography; you can turn each one completely around and zoom in on the HAL and Nintendo logos on their reverse sides. Collectively, they're presented as having been hung on a massive board, dangling from a pin toward gravity.
The only reason so much detail has been lavished on such a completely incidental detail, I think, is that if the Triple Deluxe team had scrimped on this one element, it would have stood out as horribly negligent compared to the rest of the game. Every second of the game – both the playable portions and otherwise – drips with loving intricacy. Triple Deluxe may be as laughably unchallenging as every other Kirby platformer to date, but more than ever challenge isn't really the point. Kirby has always been about breezing through a string of fantastic worlds with wacky power-ups, and Triple Deluxe delivers in spades.
The fundamental rules of the game work more or less like they have since Kirby's Dream Land 2, roughly 20 years ago. It's a platformer where you never lack for devastating powers to bring to bear against your opponents, and you never have to worry about falling into a pit or being unable to make a jump, because you can fly at will.
Triple Deluxe offers something like two dozen different powers to use across roughly 30 worlds crammed to the brim with amusing details, rendered in the best graphics ever to grace the franchise. About half the stages include the all-powerful Hypernova skill, which lacks the variability and secondary effects of other abilities but makes up for it by allowing you to demolish practically everything in your path. The Hypernova sequences exist entirely to present set pieces of total destruction, over-the-top platforming in which Kirby becomes so overwhelmingly powerful that by the end he's swallowing even mighty end-of-world bosses whole.
The Hypernova sequences could amount to little more than the Mega Mushroom romps in New Super Mario Bros. – a brain-dead dash to mass destruction – but HAL went the extra mile to make those elements doubly interesting. Kirby's enhanced suction opens up box puzzles, hair-trigger tests of timing, and other unique applications of level design. At the same time, you get to partake of ridiculous events like tearing apart the scenery or sucking an army of Waddle Dees through the world's most glorious twisty straw. Any time you come across an annoyingly difficult or even indestructible enemy during the course of the normal action, you can rest assured that at some point you will be allowed to completely annihilate it with the Hypernova.
As much fun as it is to play Triple Deluxe with its built-in god mode activated, the most involving moments of the game generally come when you're afflicted with reduced or limited powers. Triple Deluxe tends to restrict Kirby's capabilities in order to create puzzles from the level design, and these scenarios – carrying keys, wearing helmets that fire cannonballs into the background, racing to collect an essential item before it drops into a pit, or simply being forced to proceed without any power-ups at all – can indeed be remarkably puzzling.
Triple Deluxe makes good on its name, which of course reduces down to "Kirby 3D," don't you know. The action almost always transpires across two planes (near and far) and every level plays with interactions between the two platforms in interesting ways. Many enemies can attack between planes, and even now-standard visual gimmicks (like trains rushing toward the camera) really shine here thanks to a combination of great graphics and clever level design mechanics resulting from the 3D effect. You don't see a game that justifies the 3DS's headlining feature too often, but Triple Deluxe really benefits from it.
While the action rarely rises to be truly challenging, it's always engrossing. Besides the core game and its 30-odd smartly crafted stages, Triple Deluxe features a handful of minigames as well as some clever time attacks (one of which is remarkably expansive) that become available once you complete the story. While it lacks the incredible breadth of content of its partial namesake, Super Deluxe, the sheer amount of superfluous detail packed into each and every screen of the game means the content that is present truly shines.
Triple Deluxe's only real shortcoming has to do with the game's power-ups. You can pick from quite a few of them, but the majority are fairly redundant. Also, some of them offer so many features that you can unwittingly trap yourself in an attack animation at inopportune moments – accidentally running while using the Ice power, for example, will cause you to go skating along at breakneck speeds. Kirby has a tendency to stay locked in an attack animation too long, leaving himself vulnerable, so the game's few tough battles can become frustrating as a result of the small but noticeable control complications.
Triple Deluxe isn't a game for players who thrive on intense challenges. But for those who want to soak up a brisk, candy-colored adventure packed with variety and loving little details, the latest Kirby delivers. It manages to do the low-impact action thing without feeling insubstantial. Despite its breeziness, it never feels like you're just pressing forward to win. No, you're pressing forward to see what comes next.
It's interesting how Mario's detractors don't hesitate to use his name with scorn, but Kirby invariably commands respect. Maybe it's because Kirby's games are consistently great – and anyway, you don't want to talk trash about a little dude capable of inhaling you and stealing your soul.
Triple Deluxe not only preserves Kirby's name, it elevates it. The platforming action is solid by itself, but what's especially admirable is how HAL Laboratory incorporates elements like traveling between the foreground and background and Kirby's Hypernova ability. They're not just gimmicks; they add layers to the gameplay, so to speak.
For the most part, standard Kirby logic applies to Triple Deluxe. Kirby travels from world to world – this time via an ever-growing beanstalk – and visits the levels within. He jumps, floats, and inhales enemies to acquire their powers. But unlocking boss encounters in Kirby: Triple Deluxe requires Kirby to find Sun Stones, which are scattered in each level. While the mandatory Sun Stone collection could have easily turned the game into a slogging collect-a-thon, the stones are cleverly hidden and fun to track down thanks to Kirby's ability to travel between graphic layers.
The multi-layered settings also mean enemies need to be dealt with creatively from time to time. Triggering a switch in the foreground may disable a cannon in the background, for instance. A particularly memorable interaction between the dimensions occurred when I entered a room and found myself unable to see my surroundings because a Giant Waddle Dee in the foreground was giving a pep-talk to a line of regular Waddle Dees (the last of whom was dozing, seemingly uninterested in his mentor's words). I triggered a switch that yanked the floor from under the Dees and sent them all plunging to their doom. How horrible. How whimsical.
Triple Deluxe's creative use of the Miracle Fruit, which sends Kirby into his Hypernova mode, is also noteworthy. When Kirby goes Hypernova, his inhaling power increases tenfold and his stomach is (probably) replaced by a bottomless void. Nothing is safe – not enemies, not trees, not missiles, not even trains.
While this temporary increase in Kirby's appetite could have just been treated as a fun way to power through bad guys (hello, Mega Mushroom), the power is actually used to solve puzzles and battle mini-bosses, including a Waddle Dee re-enactment of The Three Little Pigs that's too cute for words.
- Graphics: If you hate grimdark dudebro aesthetics, you'll love Triple Deluxe. It features some of the most impressive and creative graphics on 3D – practically HD quality fare – and it absolutely explodes with color.
- Audio: Infuriatingly upbeat, but it manages to stand right at the precipice of shrill without falling over the edge.
- Interface: The influence of Smash Bros. has done great things for Kirby. Each of the dozens of power-up here offers a ton of advanced techniques, and half the fun comes from just blasting through the levels with utmost skill.
- Lasting Appeal: With a decent story mode, lots of expert-level collectibles, and tons of bonus material – including a cool alternate take on the main game – Triple Deluxe has legs. And the keychain collecting is entirely too compelling. There's something maddening about those empty keychain board spots....
Even if you tend not to care much about Kirby games – understandably, given how toothless they can be – Triple Deluxe merits attention. Smart level design and a remarkable level of detail make this portable platformer one of Kirby's greatest adventures to date.