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(Note: this was written in 2011, before other Kirby games were made that copied some of this game's best features)
Kirby games have a simple formula: Kirby can suck up his enemies or spit them out as projectiles, or he can swallow them to gain special powers in many cases (i.e. eat an enemy with a sword, Kirby now has a sword). He can also fly, infinitely in most of the games. There have been changes to the formula from game to game, but it's pretty much consistent.
Kirby Super Star refines the formula to a perfection that, in my strongly held opinion, has never been reached since.
Some of the tweaks are subtle, such as giving Kirby a life meter that loses different amounts depending on the strength of what damaged him, rather than a simple 6-unit bar that decreases by one no matter what.
But the other tweaks are so ingenious that it really makes me wonder why there hasn't been another Kirby game like this one.
The biggest change is the abilities. In most Kirby games, each special ability has only one attack. For example, fire power might make Kirby shoot a fireball, and do nothing else. Sword power might make him swing his sword, and that's it.
Here, however, each ability has many uses, with a lot more depth. Take fire power for instance. Kirby can breathe fire, aim the fire up or down, suck it backwards into himself to set himself on fire, jump and turn into a fireball in midair, or charge forwards suddenly in a burst of flame, all based on different mixes of the attack button, jump button, and/or movement. Most of the abilities have at least 8 moves that can be performed with them. It's a shame that almost no other Kirby games work this way, as the sheer versatility of the abilities is a lot of fun.
The Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer is a great addition, and has made its way into other games. A second player can become a "helper", swap abilities with other characters, and quit at any time. It can also be AI-controlled (a feature that does not exist in other Kirby games).
Finally, the way the game is divided. Instead of one long quest, you get multiple quests ranging from bite-sized to fairly long. All of them have the same play mechanics, but different "rules". You can just jump into one quest or another for a slightly different experience.
Kirby Super Star is the perfect refinement of the Kirby franchise, and it's a shame to see almost nothing out there like it.
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