Will the little pink blob eat up all your time, or is he too late for that?

Kirby’s Adventure (1993)

I have decided that I’m not going to be late for anything anymore. I know, I know, it sounds quite impressive but you may hold your applause. Don’t think that I’ve turned over a new leaf or anything weak like that. I’m not suddenly going to become the best timekeeper in the world, nor am I going to win half the battle of adult life by turning up to places on time. I just mean that I’m going to live my life like that Gandalf fella.

You know, it’s that whole thing about wizards, like me. I never arrive early, I never arrive late. I only arrive precisely when I mean to. It’s a lot more liberating living like this, you know, because it takes so much societal pressure off.

Let’s say there’s a night out for example, and people are expecting you to text them back and tell them where the hell you are, have you left yet, have you got the bags of salt, all that. Of course, as I don’t need to remind you, this happens to me an awful lot because I’m the life and soul of the party, as you may have read.

So, on any given night a lot of people tend to want to know where I am. Inevitably those people send me that woebegone text, plus a multitude of others as well as a few missed calls, as if I’d answer. At this point, I’m generally to be found still at home, still drinking, maybe even still in my underwear. Altogether, chances are I’ll be very close to that wonderful Finnish word kalsarikännit, the idea of drinking at home alone in your undies with absolutely no intention of going out. Although that’s not fully accurate – I do have some intention of going out, eventually. Although if it starts raining, then my legions of fans can forget it.

I usually get the last bus into town, and by this stage everyone’s already given up on the idea of me joining them. This means that when you do finally stagger through the front door (assuming you’re let into the place), then that means you do arrive to a proper hero’s welcome.

‘Oh my god,’ they cry, ‘I didn’t think you were gonna be here!’ And that’s when you give them a cheeky wink, then hit them back with a bit of your own cringe by telling them that heroes always arrive late. Guaranteed to knock ‘em bandy. I tell you this, it was clearly too little, too late for that little pink puffball Kirby when he made his arrival to the NES. He finally made it in 1993, when the Super Nintendo was already years old. We were gearing up for Starwing and Doom in 1993, for God’s sake.

Kirby had already taken a trip to Dream Land on the Game Boy, before they decided to give him a NES game as late as all that. I’ve never been quite sure why they always waited so long to release Kirby games on consoles – perhaps they didn’t want him selling too well?

He really does hit consoles when they’re well past last orders – that’s far too late, even for me. But Kirby’s Adventure performs some nice tricks on aging hardware, I will admit that. It’s a refreshingly tongue-in-cheek game for the NES as well.

The very first thing you see when you turn the game on is a cute little sequence where you’re actually shown how to draw Kirby. Now I’d say if you can’t draw Kirby, then you have some problems. There’s actually a classic photo out there of the original team who created Kirby, with some of the Nintendo heavy-hitters present, all presenting their own hand-drawn picture of wee Kirby.

Pretty much everyone in the picture draws Kirby just fine, which isn’t exactly an achievement. But the programmer, most likely in charge of coding Kirby’s considerable suction ability, he did his own thing, as programmers are wont to do. Their rendition of Kirby… well, let’s just say, he certainly does suck.

Anyway, a quick drawing tutorial will hardly inspire you to make a purchase. But I’ll just dawdle a bit longer, much like how I dawdle at home in my towel after a shower, by telling you that Kirby’s Adventure uses a fair bit of text for its time, and even delivers you a tutorial, something that NES games seemed to be allergic to.

Well, that’s not quite true. The likes of Bad Street Brawler, Deadly Towers and Dragon’s Lair do sometimes show you how to play in the instruction manual. But even these supposedly proofed documents tended to be written in some sort of Pig Latin guaranteeing that you had absolutely no idea what the hell was actually going on. To be fair, you’re probably experiencing that same feeling right now.

I understand that this is also the very first game of this not-so-illustrious series where Kirby actually was able to absorb his enemies’ power ups, once he’d fully consigned them to his bowels. Believe it or not, that unique selling point wasn’t in the first Kirby’s Dream Land.

That makes him a bit of a wizard, you know, only turning up in top form when he wants to. But Kirby without the ability to absorb new powerups is a very sad marshmallow indeed, so we can conclude that Kirby’s Adventure is really where the wee man began to get into his stride.

Ultimately, you know it’s always gonna be the same thing with Kirby – the first level is nice and grassy, you smash up a few hapless Waddle Doo enemies, this time you copy a few of them as well, eat a few juicy tomatoes en route and then you go and fight that windy tree.

Then you’ve got the same bosses as usual, like Bugzzy who suplexes you into oblivion, or sometimes you’ve got the gelatinous orange chef. You’ve got Meta Knight making his debut here as well, although King Dedede is the main man causing trouble. Well, I suppose I can’t get on Kirby’s back too much for repetition and similar game flows, because then I’d have to do likewise with Mario, and we can’t have that.

But with the Kirby series, it really is just rehashing the same thing over and over, except the games start off easy and end up getting even easier than falling outta bed. There’s nothing in this NES game that you wouldn’t get from Kirby Super Star, for example.

If you’ve played any instalment of Kirby that came out after 1993, then you’ve played this one as well. And you might get all smart and go, ‘well, what if you played Kirby’s Adventure on release?’ That’s easy – everyone had already moved on, so I really doubt many people look back too fondly on Kirby’s Adventure.

That’s a bit of a shame really, because this game definitely would have been a strong one if they could have brought it out sooner, or brought it to SNES instead. Well, whatever about the console of choice, there are some very impressive NES graphics here, once you get past the fact that Kirby and the enemies are a bit small. I particularly enjoy the backgrounds as well.

The game’s graphical prowess does bring with it some framerate issues, though, especially when there are all kinds of effects or enemies onscreen at once. You can do your best to minimize the frame rate, by not shooting projectiles everywhere, but then, it shouldn’t really be on you to do that, should it? As you’d also expect, the game’s got a nice bouncy soundtrack too, featuring some nice renditions from the first Game Boy game and then some other lofty tunes, that you’ll probably recognise most from Smash Bros.

You know, there was something that was quite stiff and unrelenting about the early NES games, particularly the black labelled ones. They barely knew how to program any text on the screen back then, and the programmers never allowed the games to have any personality or charm.

Kirby’s Adventure has quite a bit of chirpiness to show you that not everything on NES has to be so serious, and the soundtrack very much adds to that. As a cheerful bonus, the game will helpfully save your data and also track your percentage completion rate, which is great. Kirby’s Adventure does hold up somewhat, and you can definitely get a bit of juice out of it. I’d call it a decent send-off for the dear old NES. But like many other Kirby adventures, it’s just a day late and a dollar short.

16 April 2021

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