"Kirby" games are generally lighthearted, friendly affairs with plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more. The pink puffball is adorable on his own, but combined with his adorable friends and other Kirby forms, it's hard to resist picking up any new Kirby game that comes down the pipeline. "Kirby: Battle Royale" has all the sweetness and approachability you'd normally expect from a game from the "Kirby" catalogue, but somehow none of the heart. This feels like a pretty uninspired spinoff that would have been better off as a supplement to a larger game, but as a glorified collection of mini games dressed up as a "battle," it falls flat.
TAKE THE CAKE
The premise is simple. Kirby manages to enter King Dedede's Cake Royale, a competition between several scrappy combatants to name a victor, who will be rewarded with a delicious cake. King Dedede can't play fair, so instead of letting Kirby duke it out with his minions fair and square, he keeps making clones of Kirby characters to defeat Kirby. It's impossibly silly, but very cute, and does a decent job of framing what story there is here. From here, you learn how to play, albeit briefly. You start out with one Kirby form, but end up unlocking more throughout the game as you complete different mini games.
Those mini games are the bread and butter of "Kirby: Battle Royale." There are several different types of them, but they vastly vary in terms of quality and how fun each is. Battle Arena is one you'll see the most of, where you just beat up and hack and slash through enemy Kirby until you're proclaimed a winner. Apple Scramble is a much more entertaining setup that has you picking up apples and throwing them down a chute, working with a partner. I enjoyed every second I spent with that particular game, thanks to competent AI.
Coin Clash and Attack Riders were frustrating in several ways, especially given the fact that ghosts can completely screw up your entire lead and hard-earned coins during Coin Clash, and Attack Riders' vehicles aren't that fun to control. You've also got Rocket Rumble, Crazy Theater, Hockey, Ore Express, Flagball, and Robo Bonkers, all reasonably entertaining games when played a few times over. But they tend to lose their luster when you see them over and over again.
PLAY IT AGAIN, KIRBY
The mini games, while the spotlight of the game, are serviceable if you dedicate a small chunk of time to them each time you play. Unfortunately, "Kirby: Battle Royale" isn't conducive to that kind of setting, and as such you'll see the same mini games over and over because of it. When they're not that inspired to begin with, you get tired of seeing them. Unfortunately, to complete Story Mode (the main bread and butter of "Kirby: Battle Royale"), that's exactly what you have to go through.
You can fly solo in Story Mode, which assigns you a list of "quests" to complete by way of a small hub world. You can't do very much there beyond start new quests or customize Kirby when you've unlocked more goodies, and so the story is advanced when you complete the "leagues" each set of battles have been split into. When you make your way through all five leagues to win the Cake Royale, you've basically bested the game, and as such it's extremely short.
You'll get plenty of collectibles and goodies this way, and lots of in-game currency to purchase the upgrades and abilities you enjoy. But when you've blazed through mini games a few dozen times and you've finished up the Cake Royale, there just isn't much left to explore aside from the multiplayer and Battle Modes, which you probably won't want to see much of after playing the same mini games over and over already.
NOT MUCH BETTER WITH FRIENDS
As it turns out, there aren't a lot of people playing "Kirby: Battle Royale" via online matchmaking, it seems, and I didn't find nearly as many games as I would have liked to. When I did find people to play with, I was reminded how much I'd rather just play with bots due to some lag and the always-frustrating situations where people decide to drop out of the game and quit playing when they find themselves losing.
Alternatively, Battle Mode lets you play with a friend with a 3DS via Download Play, so that's just what I did. Setting games up in this manner is fast and easy, without lag or frustrating wait times. Unfortunately, you're still stuck with the same mini games you just played so many times in the Cake Royale, so if you really like them, you'll find some value with these modes.
FULL OF HOT AIR
"Kirby: Battle Royale" is clearly meant to offer another bit of multiplayer-centric fun for 3DS owners, but nothing about it feels like a full-fledged offering. The short Story Mode and the repetitive nature of the mini games available make for a game that you probably won't come back to after you've exhausted what it has to offer. It's good to see more Kirby on the handheld, but with Kirby: Star Allies on its way on the Nintendo Switch, it doesn't offer a can't-miss Kirby experience by any means.
ESRB rating: E
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