Kirby games are ridiculously easy. That is one of the main accusations Nintendo’s pink puffball needs to contend with, and – in a way – it is true. Compared to the brutal platforming heights reached by Mario, the historically insane difficulty of the Mega Man series, and the challenges faced by players when they tackle the average Donkey Kong adventure, Kirby’s journeys through Dreamland are a breeze.
The problem with such a statement, though, is that it is often said negatively. It is as if there is no fun in smashing through enemies as if they were made out of paper, or if developers are to blame for the fact Kirby can deal with most situations without breaking a sweat. There is, and they are not.
It all boils down to this: Kirby is a force of nature. Behind that cuddly little face of his lies one of the universe’s greatest powers, and no matter what designers throw at him, he will be able to overcome it easily. For foes, he is a weapon of mass destruction; he is biologically engineered to survive in the harshest conditions and surpass the most hostile obstacles. He is unstoppable.
That is why controlling that bouncy blob of cotton candy is such a joy to those with a passion for virtual annihilation. It is like carelessly waving a wrecking ball dangerously close to the most glorious Minecraft structures; unleashing a massive UFO attack paired up with a chain of tornadoes over a perfectly built Sim City metropolis; or building a roller-coaster that launches its train high up into the air on the brilliant theme park simulator created by Chris Sawyer.
To be fair, the level designers do attempt to detain his progression through the levels. Sometimes they do it through smart platforming tricks and ideas, and sometimes they have to resort to extravagantly exaggerated methods. However, for the former, Kirby can count on the aid of players to navigate around the troubles; while, for the latter, there is always the obscenely powerful transformations that multiply the character’s atomic power.
In the end, that is one of the funnest aspects found within each of the franchise’s titles: witnessing how developers desperately attempt to block his advances, and how they fail miserably as Kirby either merely shrugs off the ordeals or blows them up spectacularly.
For Mario, Sonic, and Donkey Kong, bottomless pits are death. Not the kind of death that is cruel and final, but it is tough enough to take away one of their lives. Not only does Kirby mostly ignore the concept of a life counter – apparently, he is immortal – but he can escape the clutches of most pitfalls by inflating himself and floating away.
When he does fall from grand heights, there is no gory ending; no loss of energy. Where his peers are made of flesh and blood, Kirby’s elastic consistency causes him to drop like a feather. To him, gravity is a minor inconvenience.
And then there is water, the nightmare of most platforming stars. Mario is such a poor swimmer his underwater levels have become infamous. Sonic’s aversion to it has turned the seemingly mundane substance into his kryptonite; his deadliest foe. The Kong family, meanwhile, is pretty average on those scenarios without the help of Engarde.
As for Kirby, he seems to be rather comfortable when taking a swim. Water is so pleasant to him he carries a pair of goggles to better enjoy it. The casual look adds a vacation vibe to the whole deal, giving off the impression that he is simply relaxing in some tropical resort instead of saving the world. And that goes without mentioning the instances on which he turns into a dolphin or into a submarine, which further extends the mockery towards his peers’ inability to deal with water.
Actually, his freewheeling underwater-wear might indicate that, to him, all that occasional fuss around Dreamland, and his subsequent adventure is like a bizarre annual hobby. It does not look like he is on vacation, he is – by all means – on vacation.
When it comes to enemies, Mario can be rather clumsy when dealing with them – especially when he is not equipped with a power-up. To Sonic, they are speed bumps, if speed bumps could get one killed quite effectively. To Donkey Kong, they often mean instant death; therefore, they must be dealt with through extreme caution.
To Kirby, on the other hand, they are a silly formality. Armed with only his fists, feet, and mouth, he can mow them down like there is no tomorrow. Since it takes a ton of hits to bring him down, Kirby can face them with nothing but his own arsenal. However, in order to make things interesting – and more sadistic – there is always the option to suck away their powers and use them to bring armies of bad guys into submission with a large array of techniques.
Sometimes, more powerful entities with a larger set of moves will show up trying to showcase their force, but resistance is futile. All of their fireworks are for nothing, because Kirby cannot be defeated and will find a way to humiliate them. It is the gaming equivalent of that iconic Raiders of the Lost Ark sword fight scene that shows that efficiency always trumps flash, only it is repeated a hundred times through the course of a game.
Of course, there are also the mighty bosses. Whether it is the goofy Dedede, the mysterious Meta Knight, the signature Whispy Woods, or other menacing demon-like combatants, Kirby can come out as the victor by simply mindlessly attacking. Mario would have to pull off major acrobatics to avoid incoming attacks while waiting for the opportunity to strike, and even Link would need to carefully find the creature’s soft spot.
Kirby has the option not to wait. He can just punch the boss until he cries fro mercy, turn into a magnificent fireball, slash him to pieces, freeze him to death, or drop on his head like a destructive anvil. Heck, he might even just doze off in order to flaunt his natural supremacy. He is not a killer with a defined working method; he can get frighteningly creative.
Hence, the next time you are going through a Kirby game and come to the erroneous conclusion that things are too easy, just remember: you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. The challenges he faces would have been hard for any other platforming star out there, but, for Kirby, they are nothing but a minor pushover.
Playing a Kirby game is watching as this cute little being turns all stage hazards and enemies that dare face him to cosmic colorful dust. You are in control of a massive galactic power that nonchalantly brings everything to the ground. He might dance, laugh, enchant, and act carelessly, but – perhaps unbeknown to him – he is a machine of utter obliteration. There is nothing that can be done about it.