Friday, 18 June 2010

Kirby's Star Stacker

Something Nintendo related?! Could it have something to do with their E3 performance?

This is (wait for it), "Kirby no Kirakira Kizzu" (カービィのきらきらきっず) for the Super Famicom, affectionately called "Kirby's Star Stacker". The western world saw this game show up for the Game Boy, but the SNES port/update didn't make it across the waters for whatever reason, meaning it's one of the only Kirby games to be held captive by the Japanese. Make sure you wash your hands after you touch this one - don't want to catch something with all that kanji in the air.

Though it has yet to come to western shores, Kirby's Star Stacker hasn't been forgotten. It showed up on the Wii's Virtual Console service in Japan a year or two ago, and this is because there's no such thing as a "truly obscure Nintendo title". Bad platforms such as the Virtual Boy have their own big fanbase, and there's communities translating Satellaview games for English speakers. Nintendo are always re-releasing or referencing past works, so even the worst of its library that should be left to rot (see: Urban Champion) turn up as trophies in Super Smash Bros.

Anyway Kirby's Star Stacker is a puzzle game, because someone thought the Super Nintendo needed some more games inspired by Tetris. You may already know of a similar Kirby puzzler for the SNES in the form of Kirby's Avalanche (Kirby's Ghost Trap in Europe), but this is a localised port of the hit game by Compile, Puyo Puyo (as was Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine on the Mega Drive). Kirby's Star Stacker on the other hand is straight from Hal Laboratories/Nintendo, making it slightly more "official".

Things are mainly inspired by Kirby's Dreamland 2 on the Game Boy, though the art direction uses the stylings that would later be recycled in Kirby's Dreamland 3 on the SNES. It's an artistic style that not everyone agrees with, and I must admit on many occasions during his career, Kirby games have questioned my manhood with their excessive amounts of frilly, fluffy aesthetics and reliance on the Japanese "cute" factor. Some people like that though, so I can't complain.

The basic idea of the game is to clear everything on screen, though gameplay is slightly more complicated than the likes of Tetris or Puyo Puyo. There are three types of blocks based on the KDL2 animal buddies. Lining two blocks of the same colour together causes them to explode, while if you happen to have some star blocks between the two animal blocks, you'll get more points and the star blocks will be removed as well. If a bomb gets in the way the surrounding blocks may be destroyed too. Though it's difficult to explain, it's easy to get the hang of.

Assuming of course you have good eyesight. The watercolour graphics mean the colours aren't as well defined as in Puyo Puyo... or Tetris Attack... or Dr. Mario... and if you're colourblind, chances are you might have even more problems. When many pieces appear on screen it becomes difficult to see where combos lie, and a game over becomes inevitable. It could be worse, but it is made more difficult by the Kirby theming.

There are loads of game modes and a variety of options for each. There's your generic story, endless, flash and versus modes but because all of the menus are in Japanese, it's not always too clear for the non-Japanese user to understand. Many of these features were also included in the Game Boy game, but obviously with the extended resolution, colour and nicer sound the Super Nintendo version is a much nicer experience in general. The music is identical to that found on the Game Boy, though is obviously of a much higher quality. It's all very Kirby-ish so there's not much to be said in that regard.

I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise when I say this game is quite good - not many Nintendo titles are "terrible" and Kirby's Star Stacker is no exception to this rule. But having said that, it doesn't come as a huge surprise that this game never made it out of Japan - it doesn't add that much to its Game Boy sibling and it would have needed a lot of localisation for a western audience (and even then... I couldn't see this selling in large numbers). Still, a nice puzzler. Give it a go sometime.


  1. Kirby's Rainbow Resort translated the menus and dialogue in this game and made a HTML guide of it.

  2. this game was well past the last published nintendo game, kirby 3.
    after that game nintendo dropped support for the console in the us.