When he made his debut in Kirby’s Dream Land in 1992, Kirby, the lovable marshmallow-like creature, won the hearts of players of all ages. Maybe it was his ability to eat enemies in his path, or perhaps it was his cute appearance that made him so lovable. Whatever it was, Nintendo and Hal Laboratories knew that they had a new star on their hands, and in 1993, Kirby starred in his first game released on a Nintendo console. The game was called Kirby’s Adventure, and it was notable for being Kirby’s only NES title, as by this time, the 8-bit system was slowly fading away as the Super NES was becoming more popular. Even so, the game went on to become one of Kirby’s most beloved games of all time. It was the game that introduced me to Kirby seventeen years ago, and in honor of the upcoming release of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which is sure to be a classic in its own right, I shall tell you more about this wonderful masterpiece.
In Dream Land, it is traditional for its residents to take a nap after lunch so that they can have pleasant dreams and share them with everyone. One day, everyone woke up feeling tired because they did not have any dreams. Believing that something had happened to the Star Rod, the magical item that brings sweet dreams to everyone, Kirby sets off to the Fountain of Dreams, where he finds King Dedede, who confesses that he broke the rod into seven pieces, giving each piece to one of his friends. Assuming that Dedede is up to no good once again, Kirby goes in search of the missing Star Rod pieces in hopes of repairing it and restoring it to the fountain. The story has a childish feel to it, but Nintendo games in general do not really need a strong story to be good, and that turns out to be the case here.
In this platform game, Kirby must explore seven worlds, each with 4-6 stages, in order to reclaim the pieces of the Star Rod. Kirby has plenty of moves at his disposal, from sliding to dashing to floating in the air in order to cross over gaps or to reach higher places. Chief among his abilities, however, is inhaling enemies and spitting them out at other foes and obstacles. This game also introduces an ability that has become commonplace in many Kirby games: when Kirby inhales an enemy, he can swallow it and steal its ability. For example, if Kirby swallows a knight, he can gain a sword. By swallowing a penguin, he acquires the ability to freeze other enemies solid. Most of these abilities have unlimited uses, but they are lost when Kirby is hit. If he can swallow the star before it disappears, however, he can gain the ability back. The powers that Kirby gains feel limited when compared to later games when more abilities would appear and the existing ones would be upgraded, but the copy ability is off to a strong start here.
Every stage is divided into sections, each with its own set of obstacles and secrets. Should Kirby get hurt, he can collect medicine and tomatoes to restore his health. He has six hit points, and he will lose a life if his loses all of them. Extra lives can be collected if Kirby can find them. At the end of every stage, Kirby can gain extra points or an extra life depending on when the player presses the A button. Some stages have switches that, when pressed, can reveal more special areas on the world map. These switches are in hard-to-find rooms that may require you to use a specific ability in order to reach them, but by activating each switch, you can get the maximum score of 100%.
In addition to the normal levels, other places will show up on the world map as you complete stages and hit switches. There are bonus games that you can play to earn lives and points. There is a game inspired by the claw machine found in a variety of arcades in which you try to grab Kirby dolls to gain extra lives. In another game, you must eat the eggs that King Dedede throws at you, but he also tosses bombs that you have to avoid. The last mini game served as the inspiration for the Samurai Kirby mini game in Kirby Super Star in that you must press the A button with good timing to take out your enemies before they can do the same thing to you. The mini games are fun, but once you play them, you cannot go back and try them again, although once you beat the main adventure, you can play each game to your heart’s content.
Besides the bonus games, you can visit a museum where you can eat an enemy and gain its ability without having to backtrack to a stage in order to obtain it. Battle arenas are similar, except you must first fight a mini boss in order to copy its ability. Warp Star Stations allow you to quickly backtrack to previous worlds so that you can earn extra lives or abilities, find any secrets you might have missed, or to simply replay the levels for fun. Lastly, each world ends with a boss battle, and the bosses themselves range from being pushovers to giving you a bit of a hard time. These battles are exciting, however, and every boss that you defeat will surrender a piece of the Star Rod.
The game is simply a lot of fun, with plenty of neat stages and cool secrets to discover. Kirby’s copy ability has become a staple of the series, and it is easy to see why that is the case. One flaw that the game has is that it can be beaten in about a couple of hours or so, even though your progress is automatically saved when you complete a level. There is some added length in the form of trying to find every hidden switch, and there is a harder mode that you can unlock that challenges you to beat the game with only three hit points and without being able to save your progress. Still, even more modes and stages could have been added. All that said, the game is fun while it lasts, and deserves to be considered one of the best Kirby games there ever was.
Since the game was released late in the NES’ life, it sports some pretty colorful graphics. They look quite bright and cheerful, and add to the game’s overall charm. Clearly, the graphical capabilities of the NES had come a long way since the system’s early days, and thus this is one of the best looking NES games of all time. The music is filled with happy, bouncy tunes that have become favorites of many Kirby fans. For me, standout tracks include Orange Ocean, Ice Cream Island, the forest music, and especially Rainbow Resort. Thus, even when the NES was approaching the end of its life, it proved that its games could still possess memorable soundtracks, and the one featured here is nothing short of classic.
Seventeen years after its release, Kirby’s Adventure has not lost even a fraction of its charming appeal. What it lacks in length and difficulty, it more than makes up for with exciting levels, awesome secrets, cool abilities, and the classic Kirby charm that players have grown to love. While the original NES game has become a bit tricky to find, the game itself is available on the Wii Shop Channel for players to download and experience for themselves why it is considered to be among Kirby’s best games. It, as well as Kirby himself, is appealing to players of all ages, and is proof that the NES could still be home to amazing games even with the rising popularity of 16-bit systems and with the era of 32-bit and 64-bit systems fast approaching.