Don’t tell anyone, but I really like the title there. It’s so appropriate!
Yup, this has got to be the worst yet the most addicting Kirby game I’ve played. The little guy’s come a long way from being a Nintendo mascot, and sweet Jaysus I’m talking in Gamecube era past tense. To clarify, when I said worst game, I don’t mean it’s low quality or boring. On the contrary. As a standalone game, it’s pretty fun, but in relation to other Kirby or racing games in general, it’s average. That said, I wouldn’t expect Kirby to go riding around on a giant gaz guzzling wheelie bike, running Waddle Dees over while firing giant zap orbs at other Kirbys, murdering them, then stealing their items. It’s GTA meets Dreamland. Found the perfect description of Kirby Air Ride, right there. GTA meets Dreamland. Wonderful!
What makes this game good? It’s simplistic, aesthetic, and offers a variety of modes with a variety of options. It even has a milestone checklist that allows you to unlock new colors for your Kirby, or new stars for different modes, or new music for different stages. Or art. Whatever! There’s a lot to do, so let’s get crackin’!
Air Ride mode, surprisingly, is not the bulk of Kirby Air Ride, though it is the earnest racing portion. In Air Ride mode, the player chooses from one of the many (around twenty, I believe, if not slightly more) stars, each with different core strong and weak points. Before choosing the stage and riding away, the player may change the number of laps, whether or not Kirbys can be defeated and DQ’d from the race, whether enemies appear, whether items appear and how many, how many laps, etc. It’s very flexible. All selections aside, the racing is rather straightforward. Rush down the squiggly racetracks, grind on rails to go faster, suck up enemies to take on abilities that’ll slow your foes down, and go for gold! Yeah! A good slice of fun and challenging.
Second, there’s Top Ride, more of a micro-racing mini-game. The setting choices are the same, sans enemies entirely, but the gameplay is much different. The player may choose between two stars, one that follows the direction of the control stick, and one that rotates (counter)clockwise in relation to the direction of the control stick. It’s more about control preference than style. The racetracks are very tiny, so tiny that the need for splitscreen is completely removed. All players, true to the name of the mode, view the itty stage from the top down, racing through a quirky assortment of obstacles while using equally quirky items to bother enemies a few laps behind you. Mercy speed boost or not, you’ll have fun with Top Down mode.
Finally, there’s City Trial mode. This will eat up your time like Kirby eats up everything. City Trial is a sandbox arena in which boxes full of items are regularly dropped to help or hurt the players. Intermittent events, like meteors falling from the sky, or Dyna Blade suddenly swooping in to kill everybody, will give each round of City Trial a sense of versatility while removing any potential feelings of repetition. Unlike in other modes, players are initially stuck riding crappy Compact Star, which can be traded for other stars found across the map. Whether you trade or not is up to you. At the end of every City Trial is a stadium mini-game that is ultimately decided by how many stat-boosting items the players have procured during their 3-7 minute period spent in the city. Right you are, Kirby stars have stats. All base stats are 0, but can be upgraded by collecting the color and shape coded items that appear frequently within the city. Top speed, turn ability, star weight, flight capability, it’s all factored in, and it makes for a great decisive finale.
Best part? The game only requires two controls. The stick, and the A button. That’s it! If you want to fiddle with the camera, the C-stick can do that, but it’s really superfluous. It just goes to show that a game doesn’t have to be complex to be awesome. Take that damned Gamecube down from your attic or up from your basement, go get a copy of Kirby Air Ride, and enjoy the ONLY successful Nintendo racing game aside from a few of the Mario Karts!