Each Kirby game essentially gives its creators carte blanche to mold the titular pink puff ball into whatever kind of action-oriented conduit they want him to be. Whether messing around with mischievous mice in Kirby: Squeak Squad or navigating a universe made entirely out of fabric in Kirby’s Epic Yarn, there really is no concept too frivolous or out of the box for HAL Laboratory to apply to their world-famous mascot. Kirby: Triple Deluxe is the first mainline entry to appear on the 3DS, and while it could have just as easily been a simple port of Return to Dreamland, the developers have made sure to take advantage of the system’s reliable technical capabilities, implementing a no-nonsense gimmick that gives Kirby’s newest adventure considerable depth in more ways than one.
Borrowing the foreground/background hopping approach of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and substantially refining it with the handheld’s namesake switch engaged, Triple Deluxe allows players to travel between multiple planes by way of special warp stars, discovering hidden pathways to treasures they could initially see off in the distance but had trouble envisioning reaching. 3D also enables players to see deviously laid-out enemies that at times appear to be in their way, but are actually patrolling just off the predetermined route. This straightforward mechanic works wonders to expand areas that would have otherwise been relatively dull, enhancing the visual blueprint of Return to Dreamland without losing any of that game’s nostalgic charms. Sporadic usage of the 3DS’s gyroscopic functionality is also applied (tilting from side to side for movement of gondola lifts, for example), but its existence is inconsequential in comparison to the 3D highlights.
Kirby’s inhale-and-copy technique is his lifeblood, and Triple Deluxe may represent the series’s best selection of pilfer-ready abilities to date. All of the favorites from Return to Dreamland (plus the formidable Wheel Kirby, which was absent) resurface here (Bomb, Cutter, Sword, Whip), as well as a fantastic foursome of fresh formats that serve specific purposes rather than being variants on preexisting mutations. Archer has expeditiously become the long-distance battle option of choice (there’s even a comical camouflage mode, which has Kirby hiding, Solid Snake style, behind fake blocks or other pieces of scenery). Beetle has Kirby looking a hell of a lot like Pokémon’s Heracross (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), growing damage-dealing wings and using his rhinoceros horn to grab enemies and fling them about. Circus is an absolute riot, with Kirby donning a clownish acrobat headpiece, juggling flaming bowling pins, and literally jumping through hoops to attack. Greatest of these new powers, though, is Bell. Finally, HAL Laboratory gifts us with a music-based combat tactic that possesses an elegant flow to its rhythmic assaults. Laying down a harmoniously ringing riff while pummeling foes to a pulp? Awesome.
The Mega Kirby sections in Return to Dreamland were eye-popping and fun to play, sure, but they lacked any real challenge. With the introduction of the Miracle Fruit, which gives Kirby a set of spectacular rainbow-hued ultra moves, Triple Deluxe takes away the auto-pilot sleepiness of those earlier Mega sequences and replaces them with hints of clever puzzle-solving elements. Hypernova Kirby’s sucking prowess is drastically upgraded; in effect, he can devour large foes and relocate previously immovable masses (in an early segment, laser-spouting robots are pulled across the screen to melt giant ice cubes).
If Triple Deluxe has a drawback, it’s its paltry story. Kirby games aren’t particularly well known for their narrative inventiveness, and that tradition unfortunately continues here. Seemingly out of nowhere, Kirby’s home is carried far into the clouds, a realm called Floralia, by some sort of magic beanstalk, and King Dedede is hauled off in the clutches of, ostensibly, a mysterious villain. Being the proper frenemy that he is, Kirby gives chase to set things right. Even if a five year old could have imagined a more substantial plot, the accompanying sky-centric locales are visually sound, making Triple Deluxe one of Kirby’s prettiest endeavors, and paving the way for what should be an even more dazzling Wii U installment.
Triple Deluxe regularly excels in its bonus features (multiplayer and StreetPass are in full effect), all of which add significant replay value. Two Super Smash Bros.-inspired scenarios exist in the form of Kirby Fighters (pitting static Kirby copy abilities against each other in various arenas) and keychain collecting, which is very much akin to amassing randomized trophies in post-N64 Smash Bros. solo campaigns. Boss rush is available after beating the game once, and King Dedede gets a chance to shine in both a NG+ version of the main mode and his very own rhythm time-killer called Dedede’s Drum Dash, an addicting gem that approaches doing for classic Kirby tunes what Theatrhythm Final Fantasy did for memorable Nobuo Uematsu arrangements.
Those who’ve grown weary of the standard Kirby formula likely won’t be swayed by what Triple Deluxe has to offer; it’s the same whimsical, virtually stress-free platforming that has kept this franchise alive for decades. Yet, the minor melding of the Return to Dreamland structure and the addition of finely tuned extras carries enough weight to make Triple Deluxe a must-have 3DS title for Nintendo loyalists. It’s Kirby at his purest and most digestible, whether you choose to spit or swallow.