Kirby gives the Nintendo 64 an Irish Goodbye

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (2001)

What’s your drink choice, then? I’m including teetotallers in this, not that I meet many, but one’s drink choice often says a lot about one’s personality. And I’ve gone through a good number of drink combinations in my time. Right from the off, as in when I was a very small child, it was full fat Coca-Cola day and night. Isn’t that desperate? Lord knows what the tooth fairy must have made of it. I wouldn’t even give full fat Coke to a thirsty dog these days.

No, for soft drinks I seem to favour Coke Zero, and by “favour” I mean I could drink three or four cans of the stuff a day without slowing down. When the fitness regime comes back around, as it does for a few weeks every year, then I do try to cut down. I hardly think it’s any much healthier than regular Coke either, but the calorie count can’t be beat.

You’ll be begging me to drink more water, but I say – leave it out. I once tried this “eight glasses of water a day” malarkey and found that I was getting nothing done, I was needing to run upstairs for a slash that often. Yes, my skin was crystal clear and I probably felt phenomenal even if I didn’t realise it at the time. But I can’t be dealing with that kind of liquid commitment, not if it’s gonna taste of nothing.

Hard drinking wise, I’ve been through the full gamut. I started off with the young teenager’s classic, cider – or more accurately perry, namely the then-new Pear Bulmers which, much to my cost on more than one night out, initially contained a mild laxative. Tell me how something like that gets through quality control?

I’m not joking you on that, either. You didn’t want to picture this, but I was sometimes having to adopt what’s called the Superman pose on the toilet, with me sat down, squatting but leaning forward with my fist against the door (locks broken or simply missing, obviously), trying to keep a barrier up between me and the rest of the snorters. 

Plainly that couldn’t continue, so I had to find something new. Beer was still unpalatable to me – it’s bizarre how much of an acquired taste it is – and it’s still an unpalatable drink of choice now. No longer because of the taste, but have you seen the calories in beer? It’s got to be one of the worst around for fatness, not to mention the bloating, the awful bloating.

I needed a different drink, and I found one, an old screwdriver – that is, vodka and orange. Maybe a few bubbles on top to “garnish”. I’m a bit of a mixologist, don’t you know? Some people want to drink but not get drunk. Me, I wanted to get drunk by not drinking, and a voddy and orange will almost get you there. Nothing masks the taste and smell of alcohol like orange juice; try that Burkey tip for yourself next time you’re forced into a corporate breakfast.

Of course, for all that we Irish pat ourselves on the back about our drinking ability, it’s bloody expensive to get tanked up over here, especially when you get into spirits, which you’ll only get in wetty measures as well. You go to the continent and they’ll charge you half the price for twice the measure, sometimes a triple, sometimes an attempt on your life. You don’t even taste the alcohol, whereas you try mixing vodka and coke (my precious Coke Zero, even) and it’s a mess, not a natural combo at all.

But what is a natural combo and, though I hate to be hipster (as I explained already, I shy away from all beers, especially craft ones, or “real” ales, or Indian ales for that matter) but my drink of choice these days is a gin and tonic. It’s strange, I’d always associated this as strictly a girls drink, and a fella could never get away with ordering one. Could you imagine? You’d be mocked at the bar and have to run home, crying. What would that do to you, only turn you towards more drink?

Later when I became less sexist, I viewed gin for what it really was: the drink that a depressed housewife whose spirit had been broken would day-drink to take the edge off. Well, alls I can say is that it doesn’t often give me a hangover very often, and that’s quite important and significant when you’re in your 30s.

It’s a beautiful combo is gin and tonic, and if you’ve got your head about you you may just also put together a few beautiful combos of your own in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, and I’ll let you guess what console it’s for. That was the selling point for the game you know, little puffball Kirby now having the ability to ingest not one but two of the enemies you’ve seen a million times before.

He could do this to equip a fun little two-hit combination of powers, of which there are a great many to enjoy. That’s about the only USP for this game really, given how by this point in 2001, Kirby was just like the N64 console itself, by which I mean thoroughly clapped out. Punch-drunk and down in the gutter. I’ve probably said it a million times, or however many Kirby games there have been, but you always know a console is done when Kirby finally shows up.

Still, I don’t mind a bit of 2.5D, and the graphics are… well, the usual saccharine kaleidoscope of Kirby, meaning that at least they haven’t aged badly and they don’t look like mud, or hit you with any of the melting walls you’d get on a PS1 game. The post level cutscenes seem to have a bit of framerate about them, not to be expected from N64 games usually. In truth the game is not bad, really. I wouldn’t like to have gotten it for Christmas or anything, but it’s playable enough and fun to try the different combos. 

I just fear that, and I’ll whisper this, games like Klonoa did it better. And crucially, Kirby 64 was just released far too late to have any kind of impact. I doubt if I ever even saw it on the shelves, when N64 games were rare as a €4 pint. But guess what, it’s still way too easy, it’s still way too short, and you’re still playing the same levels, beating the same bosses, swallying the same enemies… and you might think you could lay that type of accusation against Super Mario games as well, but cop yourself on – there’s a big difference between your 7 euro plonk and your Chateau Margeaux, you philistine.

I suppose the real challenge is to track down all of the hidden gems (and this game might be a hidden gem itself, depending on your taste) to unlock the creepy final boss. That won’t take that long too either, with only 20 odd levels to wrap Kirby’s laughing gear around. It really is a piss-easy game, one of those ones where you just tut when you do make a misstep and eventually die.

In fact you sometimes become that bit too complacent and die in Kirby games, and it’s up to you whether or not you keep going. It’s a bit like that midnight hour, when you’d had what alcoholics-in-denial might call “a good few drinks”. Do you go up to the bar and get more beers, shots even, and properly commit to the morning hours ahead? Or do you cool your jets and call it a night? Having had one too many bad experiences with Kirby, I think I’d have to advise you to sit this particular session out altogether.

4 November 2022

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