This Week in Games: Kirby Star Allies

by Heidi Kemps,

Here I was thinking this was going to be another pretty lazy week for gaming news. Then everything happened. Where do we even start? Well, let's look at a company near and dear to my heart:

SEGA ANNOUNCES SO, SO MUCH

This weekend saw the Sega Fes held in Japan. The event was essentially a two-day celebration of Sega's past, present, and future, highlighting both the company's storied history and announcing numerous new releases. There was a ton of news to come out of this event, so let's run everything down:

  • A brand new Sakura Wars game was announced. You may remember a while back that Sega did a poll about what long-running series fans wanted to see again, and Sakura Wars absolutely ran away with it. Details are sparse at the moment, but I'm sure we'll be hearing more about the project soon. Will there be a localization? I'd say that odds are a lot better now than they have ever been before, so keep those fingers crossed.
  • Border Break for PS4 got a firm release date of August 2nd in Japan. Again, no word on a localization, but if one's coming, we'll likely hear about it then.
  • Valkyria Chronicles is coming to Switch. Hey, the original VC on the go, rad! Too bad Valkyria Chronicles 4 for Switch got delayed (in Japan).
  • The Sega Ages series of retro reissues is coming to the Nintendo Switch, and emulation experts M2 are handling the development once again. The first five games are Phantasy Star (very good), Sonic the Hedgehog (classic), Gain Ground (underappreciated), Thunder Force IV (good but maybe not the best Thunder Force), and Alex Kidd in Miracle World (awful, despite the praises your buddy in the UK heaps on it). All the games are coming with a bunch of nifty bonuses and additions for the most discerning of nerds: for example, Sonic is including the unusual Mega Play arcade edition of the game in the package, and some of the really, really devout old-school Sonic fans are theorizing that Sonic Mania's drop dash might be in the game as well.
  • Shenmue I and II are getting a re-release on PS4 and Xbox 360 so you can see just how badly everything about the games have aged. Sometimes you really can't go home again.
  • The Megadrive Mini was announced to hop on the market for plug-and-play classic systems that the Famicom Mini and Super Famicom Mini have opened up in Japan. Unfortunately for retro purists, everything seems to indicate that the Megadrive Mini might be a rebranded, re-shelled Genesis Flashback with different games. The Flashback is known for having emulation issues, so many in the retro community aren't expecting great things here.
  • Persona 3 Dancing Moon Night and Persona 5 Dancing Star Night are getting some rad as hell costumes themed around Virtua Fighter and Yakuza. Not rad enough to make me buy the games, but I might get the DLC just out of principle.

KONAMI HASN'T FORGOTTEN CASTLEVANIA

Though if you're in the “burn all mobile games” camp, you might wish they had. Konami Japan announced a beta test for their brand-new Castlevania game which – yeah, you guessed it, it's a mobile game. Screenshots seem to indicate that this is an action game, as it's presented in the side-scrolling view we all know and love, but how it will work and control is a complete mystery.

The art, though! They brought Ayami Kojima back on board, and her promo art looks nothing short of stunningly gorgeous.

Personally, I'm not adverse to mobile gaming in the slightest, so I'll gladly give it a whirl, if only for that sweet, sweet Kojima art. Whether I'll bother playing it past the first couple of weeks… who knows? I'm just curious as to how the hell this thing's going to work.

SURPRISE, WE'RE GETTING THE PUNCH LINE GAME

Folks in Europe got the hotly anticipated make-anime-girls-stop-being-horny shooter Gal*Gun 2 a little bit earlier than in North America. Publisher P*Qube does a nice job with the packaging on their games, and a bonus promotional slip inside Gal*Gun 2's box immediately garnered some attention for showcasing a game the company hadn't even announced yet: The Punch Line visual novel.

Remember Punch Line? I don't blame you if you're straining your brain a little trying to recall it, as there's so much new anime coming down the streaming pipes these days that it's pretty easy to forget certain shows exist. I highly recommend checking it out if your tolerance for fanservicey elements is high, though: it's a weird, weird show from the mind of Kotaro Uchikoshi, who give us all the Zero Escape games. The game -- which P*Qube says is coming to PS4 and Vita in both digital and physical editions in Europe and North America – is a direct continuation of the show that explores several alternate outcomes. It's been a while since this game got released in Japan, and neither the show or the game was a huge success there, so it's honestly surprising to see P*Qube pick it up. I'm very glad they did, though.

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: NEW CHARACTERS AHOY FOR STREET FIGHTER V AND SOUL CALIBUR VI, MORE DBFZ DLC IN THE WORKS

Bandai-Namco once again decided to unveil a returning Soul Calibur VI character mere minutes after my last column went up, so I must highlight them this week instead. Our familiar face this time is handsome young warrior Siegfried.

Capcom, meanwhile, has finally shown us some footage of Falke, the Shadowloo Doll who fights with a polearm. If you're interested in her, you'll be able to add her to your in-game roster next week.

Honestly, I think both of the Shadaloo lackeys have been pretty dull, design-wise. Can we see G already?

Finally, we've got the barest scraps of news on a new Dragonball FighterZ addition courtesy of a camera image from a leaked issue of V-Jump. Expect a trailer soon.

NEWS BITS

That My Hero Academia arena fighter's getting a North American release. Hooray! Not sure why they're calling it “My Hero” and leaving off “Academia” though…

A brand new Record of Lodoss War game is in the works to commemorate the series’ 30th anniversary. It's a 2D sidescrolling action game starring Deedlit, and wow, the footage couldn't possibly look more Symphony of the Night-influenced. That cape...

Neko Atsume VR exists and singlehandedly justifies VR's existence. I no longer need reality when I can put on a headset and stare at cartoon cat buttholes all day. Perhaps they'll let us grab Tubbs and chuck him into the neighbor's yard.

Psyvariar Delta, a new addition to the somewhat-popular arcade shooter series, is coming to the Nintendo Switch in Japan. It's been ages since I've played a Psyvariar game, so I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Metal Max Xeno, the latest installment in the fairly-big-in-Japan-but-utterly-unknown-in-the-West post-apocalyptic RPG series, is getting a surprise localization courtesy of NIS America. Given that Kadokawa is the Japanese publisher and NIS has a good relationship with them, it isn't surprising that Kadokawa partnered with them – I'm just more surprised that NIS even considered publishing it here, given that the only other game in the series to come out here was Metal Saga. Remember Metal Saga? Yeah, probably not. Maybe this one will do better here.

Disgaea Refine, a remake of the original Disgaea, is coming to Switch later this year. Not many details are available yet, but you can bet that NIS America will probably drop info on the game around E3 time.

LATE TO THE PARTY MINI-REVIEW: KIRBY STAR ALLIES

You ever wind up so busy that you can't find time in your schedule for a 7-hour game? Well, that happened with me and Kirby Star Allies, but I finally set aside some quality time with the pink puffball. I've mentioned it here plenty of times before, but I really do love Kirby games: the aesthetics and world design are fantastic, the mechanics tend to be rock-solid, and everything about the games just tends to feel good. Honestly, there are very few Kirby games I'd call even “mediocre” – though there's certainly better games in the series than others.

So where does Star Allies rank? I'd say it's middle-of-the-road: better than stuff like Kirby 64 and Squeak Squad, not as good as the recent 3DS outings or Super Star. It's solid, but it could have been better.

The big issues with Star Allies are twofold. The game is heavily, heavily multiplayer-focused, which isn't a bad thing: it's a ton of fun coordinating with your buddies how to combine powers and solve puzzles using everyone's distinct abilities. But when you're going at it single-player and towing along four CPU friends, stuff tends to get messy, because the CPU often has no idea what you want to do. Need to add flame power to your sword? Well, hope your water ally steps out of the way to let Blazing Leo do his thing, because you can't specify who you want to help you. The CPU also has a bad habit of attacking when you don't want them to, which means you often wind up KOing enemies whose powers or friendship you want.

The other, larger issue with the game is the difficulty – or, rather, the lack of it. Star Allies might be the easiest Kirby game outside of the original Kirby's Dream Land. Not once did I ever feel worried about my health over the course of the game, as healing items are copious and your friends help to absorb a lot of damage you'd normally take. I've never minded the lax difficulty of most Kirby games, since much of the fun comes from the game mechanics themselves, but Star Allies is a complete cakewalk from beginning to end.

Were it not for those two problems, Star Allies would be a much stronger game. But as it is, it's still pretty darn great. The environments are bursting with color and whimsy, the controls and special moves are tons of fun to use (and the developers finally, finally put in a “hold down the button to drop your current power” timer so you don't ditch a copy ability by mistake), and there are lots of little surprises and gimmicks in the levels that make you eager to see what the next stage holds. For longtime fans, there's lots of throwbacks to earlier games that will make you smile – a musical riff here, a familiar attack from an older game there, and so many old enemies to turn into friends.

Kirby Star Allies is certainly flawed, but it only suffers in comparison to the very best that the Kirby series has offered in the past: it's still much better than many other 2D platformers. While it may be short, it's a pleasant experience throughout, and it's made better if you can get a few other folks together to enjoy a totally chill adventure through Dream Land and beyond.

…Wait, did I say there were only two major flaws? Actually, scratch that. 30 FPS Kirby? Really? I'm not one of those framerate police types, but jeez, the 3DS games ran at 60…

NEW RELEASES

YAKUZA 6: THE SONG OF LIFE

The latest chapter in Sega's open-world series finally hits Western shores after a delay and a weird screwup involving the demo. Once again, Kiryu's trying get back on the straight and narrow, but he discovers that his basically-adopted-daughter-at-this-point Haruka's been in a serious car accident – and she had a tyke in tow. The question is, who is the baby daddy, and why do all these underworld types suddenly care so much about a baby?

Once again, we've got the Yakuza melding of serious crime drama and goofy side stories with excellent combat and boatloads of minigames. As you might expect, there are heartwarming scenes involving Awkward Granddaddy Kiryu and action cinemas with babies getting thrown around like footballs. Most importantly, however, there's a cat café. Screw the baby, I'm spending time with my cats.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

YS VIII is finally out on PC. I've talked up this game a fair bit because it's super duper good and you should buy it, like, right now. The excellent crosshair shooter Wild Guns Reloaded is also on Switch this week and is another game I'd recommend from a genre that gets very little love these days. Finally, if you're itching more Neo Geo fighters on modern platforms, you can get Samurai Shodown IV on PS4 this week. Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is also coming to PS4 – though it's a divisive entry among Fatal Fury fans.


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