My Thoughts On: Kirby’s Adventure (NES)

I tend to obsessively dive into my hobbies for short periods of time, which is why you’ll see content on this site ebb and flow. That’s okay because I’m not here to make a living or be an “influencer” or anything like that. This is primarily intended as a place to document and share what I learn in my personal projects – things like hardware mods and repairs, homebrew experimentation, and tinkering with funky accessories.

Lately, my interest in more complicated projects waned around the busy holidays. It’s times like these that I sometimes remind myself that, while things like hacking hardware or learning a new mod can be rewarding in and of themselves, they ultimately serve another purpose: actually playing and enjoying video games!

With that in mind, I was looking for a new game to play over the holidays. I wanted something I hadn’t experienced before, but I also wanted it to be relatively relaxing and chill. No hardcore memorization, grinding, or perfecting of skills. Just something to have a bit of fun with and pass the time while on vacation. And that’s how I settled on Kirby’s Adventure for the NES.

I haven’t had too much experience with Kirby, despite being a Nintendo Kid growing up. I just never paid much attention to the series, even though it’s one of Nintendo’s most prolific and popular. I owned and completed Kirby’s Block Ball because it came with my Game Boy Pocket back in the ’90s. I picked up and played a bit of Kirby’s Canvas Curse in the mid ’00s because it was an interesting use of that unique (at the time) DS touch screen. Sometime in the late ’00s, I got into retro game collecting and added Kirby’s Adventure to my shelf of NES games, but never played it. And that was about the extent of my Kirby experience.

So I dove into Kirby’s Adventure shortly after Christmas, almost completely fresh and mostly unaware of what was to come. My thoughts on the game went through several stages as I played through it.

My first impression was that it was a very well polished game with colorful worlds, catchy music, and an overall cheerful vibe. Exactly what I was looking for. It is, undoubtedly, a technical marvel for the NES. But before long, I was getting a little bored. The first two to three levels are a complete cakewalk, offering almost no challenge whatsoever. And considering this game’s “Levels” are what most platform games call “Worlds,” two to three levels is practically a third of the game!

The difficulty level did start to pick up a bit in later levels, with trickier enemy placements, slightly more complicated boss patterns, and more hidden secrets and exits. But that’s also around the time where I started to get frustrated with the controls. I wouldn’t call this a complicated game, but Kirby has a lot of abilities. Obviously you can run and jump, but you can also duck, float, inhale enemies, dash run, slide attack, and blow puffs of air.

Frankly, that’s a lot to map to a controller with a D-Pad and two action buttons! So I repeatedly found myself cursing Kirby and yelling out things like “Argh, no! I didn’t want to float there!” or “Ugghhh, I wanted to inhale, not blow,” or “Wtf, why did you just run?” Tack on the dramatic slowdown that starts to happen with lots of action on the screen in the later levels, and I just never felt fully in control of Kirby. In a platformer, that’s kryptonite.

So for the middle to later levels, I was feeling pretty sour on the game. But since I knew it was short, I kept playing just to finish and see what else it had to offer. And then I had a revelation that changed my attitude. I stopped feeling frustrated about cheap deaths for one simple reason: this game has absolutely no consequences for failure, whatsoever. Died because my controller stopped responding during a nasty bit of slowdown? No problem, the game puts me right back at the same screen when I start again. Got a game over during a boss fight because Kirby kept floating away instead of running? No worries, I can continue on the exact same fight. Get tired of playing and want to turn the game off? Sure thing, there’s a battery backup, so I can pick up next time right where I left off.

Once I shook off decades of video game conditioning that told me that dying in a game is a bad thing, it became exactly what I was looking for – a chill, relaxing adventure. I beat it but didn’t reach 100%, so I think I’ll casually return to it in the next week or two to find its remaining secrets. And I’m intrigued enough to check out some more of the series. So all in all, I think this was a successful pick. Kirby’s Adventure isn’t perfect, but with the right mindset, it’s certainly worth a play through.

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