Yo-ho! David here. My initiative for reviewing this particular game has several reasons for it;
- The unique control scheme, centered around a built-in sensor which enables tilting the cartridge (and naturally the unit holding it) to roll Kirby around, including the ability of giving it a quick shake to make our Hero of the Stars jump. As far as I know, very few games has this functionality, and therefore it could be interesting to unveil it properly.
- The fact that when I have searched for related articles around web communities, no one, or at most a select few, seems to complain about the aforementioned control-scheme lacking in several aspects, mostly just reminiscing about it as pleasant near-present nostalgia. Ah, the blinding speed of technological development. I mean to change that, based on my own experience of playing through the first half of the game (I could actually not bear to finish it, which is unusual for a first-party Nintendo title).
- This title is quite obscure for the people of the PAL region, as it was never officially released in that part of the world (in other words I had to import it myself). Therefore, knowledge about this game's existence should be promoted.
- It is a Game Boy Color title, in addition to belonging within a franchise I have some personal affection towards, both being attributes forming a driving force for me to make some noise. For you who have read my self-introduction a few posts earlier, this last point makes a lot more sense. Maybe.
My thought is that, as this is a game which is a little tricky creating your own screen shots out of (again, because of the control-scheme) I will shamelessly use a few videos I find representative enough to generate a clear image of what it is like, courtesy of AJNitr0 on YouTube, saving time and energy through only explaining things that may come off as unclear, and finish up with my own opinion about it all. Here we go then;
Things start off slow in this quite uninteresting first stage of the game, with some signs along the way teaching you the basics to prepare for what is yet to come (which this already seasoned player unfortunately doesn't take time to stop and read in this video).
Four stages and a boss battle later, you arrive at this cave. In this video you can also see the second effect of using the jump-technique; enemies and panel-items flip over and turn into something else!
This stage made me furious. Apart from the slightly annoying octopi that fires barely visible bullets, pushing you into the water where you will drown within 3 seconds, at 00:29 the real troubles begin. Down below I will develop my argument further...
And there you have it. Showing off the first course in the first three worlds was a conscious choice in an attempt to, in a rough way, give away the learning curve, and variation in world/level themes. If you crave more to get a satisfying picture of the game, just check our the origin of these videos where you can find all levels of the game covered.
First and foremost, I need to stress that this game is much more difficult to play, and thus harder to enjoy, in practice than it looks. The smoothness of the gameplay videos probably stem from a combination of adequate skill, yes, but also the fact that it is played on an emulator, substituting real-world, physical tilting with the press of buttons (which results in increased accuracy). This is where my main critique comes into factoring.
The Issue of the 'Inhuman' Sensor
Through the title screen, which you suitably already got a good look at considering you watched the first video, you have access to a sub-menu called 'Options'. Well yes, not very radical is it? Anyway, delving a bit deeper, we are going to look at the uppermost alternative in this menu, 'Position'. Here you can choose between two modes that will determine the neutral angle of the tilting sensor, and thus your play-style; "Flat" or "GB". The first one will make Kirby stand still while the Game Boy is held in a vertical position, and mo- ..err, ROLL in the direction you tilt, accordingly. As great as the idea might have been in theory (replicating the way you would hold a marble-game) the problem is, as you know if you have ever owned a Nintendo hand-held prior to the ones with back-lit screen, the natural position if you want clear vision on your side is holding the portable in a slightly angled sort of way. So, how to get around this very physical obstacle?
Well, the 'GB' alternative is supposed to solve that (Ah, what could it possibly mean..?), giving the neutral angle a twist as to make it adjust to the fact that the individual playing is a person enjoying their leisure, probably sitting like we humans tend to do; upright (or even leaned back, if he/she is feeling comfortable enough). Thus, it seems like a good thing it's there. Or rather, it would have been, if the controls now were not way off in accuracy.
Taking the example of mentioned and personally despised course 3-1, there is a few points where you have to make Kirby roll in a perfectly straight line, and this is where the true faults of the 'GB'-setting really shine through; I actually found it impossible to cross without resetting the game (yes. that is what you have to do to reach the Options-menu anew and change the 'Position'-setting...). Putting my human preferences aside and going 'Flat', I managed to cross after trying my hand at the course once again. Truly a case of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, or as we say in Swedish: "Pest eller kolera". Add the flimsy jump-functionality triggered by a quick physical motion of the Game Boy, with the many pitfalls of the level-design in mind, and you get something.. not likable.
With the fuss of this game centered around it's unique (and now unveiled as awful) control, the visual backing of the video-material in mind, I don't feel any need to describe any aspects of this game further, seeing as it is laid out as your average platforming-game.
It may seem like a strange thing to say, but I sincerely hope that my feeling of disappointment rang out in a clear tone. Bad controls make a bad game. Of course, it's completely up to you if you want to try this out for yourself, but there is definitely better games in the franchise. I have not been able to try it myself yet (at the time of typing this), but Epic Yarn seems to have pulled off a better job at originality, even though it does not strain as far away from the series basics. That is how it should be.