Today, I did what I had been considering for a long time: buying the original Kirby Super Star on Virtual Console. I had previously only played the DS version, Kirby Super Star Ultra, and I wanted to see how the original was in comparison to the upgrade—and so I can play the game with my brother. He's away right now, so this live blog will be solo.
My first thought upon booting up the game was, "Hehe. 'Halken.' How quaint." My second thought was, "Wait, this has an intro? Nice use of the Super FX Chip." It was pretty much a 2D version of Ultra's pre-rendered 3D intro cutscene.
So I create my file and am greeted with the same kind of bulletin board-style game select menu of the DS version. It's more vibrant and decorative since there are less choices and thus more room for that kind of stuff. There are six games available: "Spring Breeze," the shortened, easier version of Kirby's Dream Land (an already short and easy game, of course), "Dyna Blade," which is only marginally more challenging than the aforementioned, "Gourmet Race," a race against King Dedede to see who can gobble up the most food the fastest, "Great Cave Offensive," a moderately long, challenging trek through the increasingly less subterranean underground in which sixty treasures are hidden, and two miniminigames, "Megaton Punch" and "Samurai Kirby," the former of which is pathetically easy even on hard mode and the latter of which is a challenge on easy mode and horrifying on hard mode. I know this because those two were ported unaltered to Kirby Super Star Ultra. I seem to remember Ultra starting with only "Spring Breeze" and the multiplayer miniminigames, but it's been a while since I started a file in that game. Anyway, let's skip the super wuss game and start with the regular wuss game.
First time I've played "Dyna Blade"? I've played it to death on DS, but let's see what this game's tutorial looks like. It assumes that I already know how to walk, jump, and float, since it assumes that I started with the super wuss game. Oh well, that stuff doesn't really require a tutorial anyway. I'll probably end up watching that one anyway, for consistency's sake. Anyway, this tutorial is where I learn about power copying. Hey cool, a Waddle Doo. Wait, what's this? Interactivity in the tutorial? That wasn't in the DS version. So I mash A, which doesn't do anything, in the hopes that Kirby would leap up. Then I decide to try something else: inhale the enemy. I press B. Kirby jumps. Wait, B is the jump button? Awesome! Just like in Kirby's Dream Land 3. I got so sick of pressing A to jump in Kirby Squeak Squad and Kirby Super Star Ultra. It is then that I realized that Y was the button that turns Kirby into the vacuum cleaner he is. I gleefully push that button and watch as the Waddle Doo is pulled towards Kirby's gaping maw, never to be seen again. In this version, I press down or A to swallow the enemy, whereas in the DS version down or X does the trick. I opt for a change of pace and press A. I run around the stage, using every attack at my disposal. In particular, the aerial beam attack is a favorite as always. The game gives me some more abilities to toy around with before getting around to explaining how helpers work. They work exactly the same as in Ultra, but with A instead of X. There's a catch, though: to discard an ability, you can't just toss it away as a star by pressing select. No, you have to create a helper and immediately turn it back into an ability cap. It takes a little bit longer, which is pretty annoying. On the bright side, I'll be using helpers more often whenever my brother gets a chance to play.
Well, enough tutorializing. Let's track down that bird. The first room of Peanut Plain is much pinker than in the DS version. Maybe it's just my TV. It is on this descent I realize that Kirby does not bounce when he hits the ground divebombing; rather, he just lands, like in Kirby's Dream Land 3. Sure beats the uncontrollable bouncing in Kirby's Adventure. There is one similarity to Kirby's Adventure, though, and it's the way running works. When you turn around while running, you walk in the opposite direction. You don't run in the opposite direction. Double tapping the control pad again is no hassle, so it's no big deal. More minor differences in the control scheme include not being able to ascend with up on the control pad while floating—it's okay, that was useless in Ultra anyway—and swimming upward without facing up if you press B without moving forward in water. Kirby still faces up if you press up in water, so in this version there is sort of a difference between using up and using jump to swim upward. Another thing I noticed is that the animations don't have as many frames as in the DS version, obviously, and the controls aren't quite as smooth as in Ultra.
Those are the most prominent general differences and the level designs are all the same as in Ultra, so now I'll talk about what minor differences in copy abilities I could find. Parasol, for one thing, works a bit different than in Ultra. In this version, you have to press up to descend slowly, like in Dream Land 3. For another, pressing down while descending slowly does not make Kirby immediately divebomb, like in Ultra—instead, he has too wait as long as usual before he can do that. Although it doesn't control quite as smoothly, Parasol is still a very useful ability in this game. Whereas Sword is one of the worst abilities in Kirby Super Star Ultra, in this version it is not so bad. The combo is actually pretty cool now, as it can actually hit bosses a respectable amount of times. In Ultra, bosses usually have mercy invincibility just long enough to render that combo useless. Unfortunately, though, the sliding sword attack stops when it hits something, unlike in Ultra, where it can plow through enemies multiple times before coming to a stop. As for Hammer, there is a noticeable difference in the midair hammer spin attack: when not running, it does a full rotation twice instead of once, and when running I'm pretty sure it also does that even more times than in the DS version. The upward hammer swing is a lot less fiery than in the DS version, but that's really just a cosmetic difference. Hammer is still as useful as ever and it makes a wonderful sound effect when it hits an enemy. One swift bonk and the enemy dies immediately. I always love that.
The bosses in this game are faster than in Ultra, and so are their fights. When Bonkers throws his explosive coconuts, they explode quickly enough to make inhaling them difficult. Unlike in Ultra, though, a continuous breath attack, the sword combo, etc. actually deal decent damage to bosses, so the encounters are more enjoyable. The stars the bosses produce with there attacks disappear much faster and hurt when Kirby touches them, so you have to be a bit more careful. In the fight with Dyna Blade, I now had a reason not to stand right next to where she was about to land. I brought a parasol to that fight in the hopes of bouncing a star under her head so as to deplete her health in one attack like in the DS version, but that didn't work; the stars become tiny in those attacks and I couldn't stand so close to the bird because of the pointy stars. By the time I realized I actually had to fight fair, I was low on health, so I lost one of my many lives. On the second attempt I brought Beam and used the capture beam to direct stars in the general direction of the bird's head. Not quite as speedy as the parasol technique in Ultra, but still very effective. Dyna Blade had an awkward, shaky, rotatey defeat animation that was only there to showcase Mode 7, whereas she had a simpler, more sensical animation in the DS version. The ending cutscene is exactly the same as in the DS version but in 2D and with the "Dyna Blade" title theme playing instead of the slower, more sentimental remix. This meant I actually got to hear the whole song in the last cutscene instead of just most of it like in the DS version.
When I got back to the bulletin board, a new notice was there: "Revenge of Meta Knight." Well, I won't be foiling Meta Knight's plan just yet. My next adventure will be in a bit of a lower location.