The character of Kirby has generally been introduced to the most different types of gameplay mechanics than any other main character in Nintendo's stable of well-known mascots. We've twisted and titled our Game Boys to move the pink puffball through a series of mazes, we've earned high scores with a pinball version of Kirby, and we've even played through a Tetris-like game with falling blocks with the pink hero. For the Game Boy Advance, however, Nintendo and their many partners opted to take the normal, more traveled route with their mascot. Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land was a remake of Kirby's Adventure, the NES classic, and the subject of this review, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, takes the traditional and familiar gameplay of the Kirby series and adds onto it a Castlevania flair. Is the end result amazing?
Once upon a time there was an amazing mirror. A dark force emanates from it, unleashing a Dark Metaknight to go up against the real Metaknight, a protector of Dream Land. Not only does the Dark Metaknight swipe his sword and slashes Kirby, splitting him up into four alter egos, but he also shatters the amazing mirror into nine different pieces, spreading them across the various lands. That about does it for the narrative. But then again, if you're playing a Kirby game for the engaging story, then you must the live-action Transformers movies for Shia Lebeouf's stupendous acting skills. Oh, snap! Regardless, the story is just a means to get the player interested in the game, and it managed to do so, at least for me.
Despite having nine worlds, you might believe that this adventure will be like Kirby's other some-odd journeys-- a linear progression from world to world, collecting mirror pieces. This would be where you are dead wrong. Sure, the game starts you out in the clouds, chasing after Dark Metaknight, but as soon as you enter the room where the amazing mirror rests, the decisions are all up to you on where you wish to go. The game is completely nonlinear, offering multiple areas to visit, doors to enter, and secrets to uncover.
At the beginning of the game you are limited to entering the first area, but there are numerous choices in the form of doors to pass and venture through. The areas of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror are essentially large, elongated rooms to explore. Some doors lead to completely different areas while others lead you through a labyrinth of passageways. Getting lost is incredibly easy, and this is one part of Amazing Mirror that I detest. The general feeling of frustration as you think you're making progress only to end up in a room you have already been in. The map does little to assist you in moving forward. I had to use a guide to assist me which not only slowed the game down to a crawl, but it was annoying looking up at the computer, looking down at the hand-held, and doing this time and time again.
There are nine areas in total to explore. There's a palace made of ice, a haunted mansion, the typical nature/forest area, a red hot volcano, and many more. If you somehow manage to find the correct path, you will end up in a room leading up to the boss-- not to be confused with the many sub-bosses that patrol various sections of levels. You'll know you're close when you reach a room with a series of abilities just waiting for Kirby to consume. Boss battles can range from laughably easy to surprisingly difficult. Kirby will clash with giant elder trees made of stone, Master and Crazy Hand of Super Smash Bros. fame, and even Kracko makes his much anticipated return to kick some pink puffball fanny. Well, he doesn't have legs to kick with, but be quiet. Don't ruin the colloquialism. After beating a boss, Kirby earns a shard of the amazing mirror. Though if you return to a place where a boss fight occurred, you will once again have to face the boss. There's no way to opt out of battle which is obnoxious, personally speaking.
I mentioned abilities, and Kirby comes full force with the power to inhale enemies, digest them, and take their ability right from them. There's all sorts of abilities in Amazing Mirror such as Beam, Ice, Fire, Wheel, Spark, Burning, Sword, and many more. As long as Kirby does not take damage he will keep the ability. If you press Select or get hit, the ability will disappear from Kirby, and bounce away in the form of a star. Kirby can suck it back up to reclaim it, but it will completely vanish after a few seconds.
Since Kirby was split up between four versions of himself, pink Kirby can at any time (as long as he has juice on his walkie-talkie) call the other Kirbys to take on enemies and play through areas with him. Some obstacles like giant gray blocks can only be moved when all four Kirbys are sucking in air simultaneously. The problem with doing this solo is that the AI is terribly brain-dead. They push you into hazardous traps and enemies, get in your way, and do a poor job of actually assisting you. Thankfully, you can team up with a human friend or friends and play through the game with them via link cables and extra Game Boy Advances. Sorry, 3DS Ambassadors, but you are stuck trekking through the game alone.
Even after all of the mirror shards have been restored and evil has been vanquished once more by everyone's favorite pink blob (seriously, what other pink blob can you think of that wouldn't hurt the feelings of a famous actress?), there is still plenty to do. Gunning for 100% is a task that should give most players something extra to do. Treasures are hidden and placed in inconvenient and/or secret locations, just waiting to be opened. These contain maps of the area, CDs for the Sound Test, new colors for you to paint Kirby (who doesn't love a goth-looking Kirby? Ugh.), health, and batteries to charge up our hero's walkie-talkie. In addition to gathering treasure, there are several sub-games to try out with or without human opponents. The fun just never seems to stop with Kirby & the Amazing Mirror.
The worlds of Kirby's second and last Game Boy Advance entry are full of vibrant colors. Backgrounds are gorgeous and glamorous, characters are well-detailed and animate wonderfully, and little effects like rain and splashes when Kirby and others enter water are nice touches. All this and a steady framerate make for a splendid-looking game that is easy on the eyes and a testament to the ideology that you don't need high-powered hardware to make great-looking software. I think I've nailed that point home enough in every review I write, so let's move onto sound. The tunes heard in-game are pleasant, and they're what you'd expect from a Kirby title. Don't be surprised if after countless hours retracing your footsteps because you don't know where to go that you begin humming selected songs.
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror is one of the odd games out when it comes to Kirby adventures. Normally when terrific Kirby titles are brought up, Amazing Mirror is seldom mentioned. I can see why some might want to forget about the game (i.e poor map system, easy to get lost, high difficulty for a Kirby game, awful teammate AI, etc.), but there is enough positive content to justify picking up this underrated gem. It might have a few cracks in the mirror (whoever did those is bound to have some bad luck), but don't let that deter you from trying out Kirby's Castlevania and Metroid-inspired outing.