by Matthew Thompson
In an effort to get my thoughts on more games up on the site, I’m going to be trying out a new format. Inspired by my recent TV Pilot Mini-Reviews which I thought turned out well, I will write up some shorter game reviews and bundle a few together for one post. Looking back through what I played earlier this year there were quite a few games I didn’t get the chance to talk about. Three of these were Nintendo platformers which seemed to be a perfect group to test things out on. So here are my thoughts on platformers from three classic Nintendo series that came out over the last couple of years.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)
This is very much a sequel to the Wii’s Return to Dreamland. If you played that game, you kind of know what you are in for. With their simple platforming and fun power-ups, these recent entries in the Kirby series kind of feel like a 2D Ratchet & Clank to me. More action/platformer than skill-focused genre entries like Mario, DK or Rayman.
As for how it compares to its direct predecessor, I thought there were some good and bad in the changes made for the 3DS title. Gone are the black and white platforming segments and with them what little challenging traversal the game had. While the Hypernova power is fun (the boat/drill section made particularly good use of it), I preferred RtDL’s Super Abilities. I liked the level themes a little better overall here (the back-to-back water and ice worlds on the Wii game left a bit to be desired). Though I wasn’t a fan of the last world in Triple Deluxe which contained a bit too much rehashed content. The copy-abilities remain as fantastic as ever. There are some truly imaginative newcomers like Circus and Bell along with my new favorites Archer and Beetle. I did miss Water which was my favorite in the previous game, but with plenty of new winners and old classics I guess I’ll live.
One thing I really liked about Triple Deluxe was its use of the two different planes. It was a great fit for the handheld’s 3D capabilities. And I thought how they leveraged this to create unique attack patterns where enemies would swing in and out towards you made for some interesting levels and memorable boss battles.
Overall this ends up being a slight step back from Return to Dreamland, but still an enjoyable adventure for everyone’s favorite pink ball of fluff. Certainly a good reason to break out the 3DS. Grade: B
New Super Luigi U (Wii U)
This is by no means the re-invention of 2D Mario I was asking for in my review of NSMB U, but as a change of pace DLC/budget title, I think it works well. It re-uses the template of NSMB U, but this time around you play as Luigi in much quicker levels. Upon entering one, you typically hear the familiar jingle that warns you that you’re running out of time in Mario games. So you have to be quick about things. You’ll find a more hazardous route to the finish here too. It can be a bit maddening at times, but you’ll get tons of 1ups along the way and Luigi’s extra high hops will help you make some moves you couldn’t before. Sprinting through a level non-stop, soaring through the air with some of Luigi’s long leaps and hitting everything just right can deliver a really satisfying feeling. Overall it’s a fun time if nothing particularly special. Grade: B
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
This is easily the most fun I have had with the Donkey Kong Country series to date. I think part of it is the controls being much better than on Returns for the Wii (it has been ages since I played the originals, so that is a tough comparison), but it is mostly because this is just an excellent game. When it sticks to traditional levels, Tropical Freeze is about as good as 2D platforming gets. A deep moveset combines with intricate level and art design to create some truly special levels. And it really hits the sweet part as far as difficulty goes. Regardless of how much I died, I never got mad and conquering a tough section always gave me that great sense of accomplishment that makes me love the genre so much.
It is less successful in other areas. The swimming portions control well for a platformer. Better than most genre contemporaries if a step behind the recent Rayman games. Even so they still aren’t as fun as the regular levels and they would have been better spread out a bit as opposed to having a whole world dedicated to them. Mine cart and rocket levels are still a little too trial and error at times, but are better than before and the change of perspective during certain sections were a nice way to spice things up. The boss fights are probably the game’s low point. They generally just go on way too long and replaying large parts of them to get to where you died, just to learn what to do next isn’t all that fun. It is the one part of the game that can feel more frustrating than challenging.
Those issues aren’t a big deal in the grander picture and Tropical Freeze is a must play for any platforming fan. The traditional levels are just so good and while the other bits aren’t quite as outstanding, I do think they are better than their counterparts in Returns. It also includes what may be the soundtrack of the year thanks to the return the series original composer David Wise. He has crafted some brilliant tunes to go along with the various level themes. This will likely be near the top of my GotY list come year’s end and I’d advise any Wii U owners who haven’t checked it out to do so. It’s fantastic. Grade: A
That will do it for my first stab at my new gaming mini-reviews. I hope to tackle some other games I never gotten around to doing full reviews for (like Watch Dogs, Strider, Destiny, etc.) in this format soon. Thanks for reading!