So, I’ve got to be honest with you guys; I’ve never really been that big of a Kirby fan. The series is slightly older than I am, but I never really had the chance to play one until recently, this year in fact, and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been missing out. The Crystal Shards is a genuinely fun, unique adventure, that still holds up today. Let’s find out why that is.
For the most part, when I think about gaming in the N64 era, there are several games that come to mind. Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye 64, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. All great games with something in common, they're all 3D. All of the aforementioned games, with the exception of Majora's Mask have another thing in common as well, they were released before 2000. Now, with that being said, you would expect that Kirby would be making the transition into a fully 3D, free moving adventure, especially with Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time having been successful efforts in transitioning their franchises from 2D to 3D, but HAL Labs made the bold choice of having The Crystal Shards be a 2.5D game, that is to say, a game with 3D assets, like characters, levels, etc, that has its movement restricted to a 2D plane. This might seem silly, especially given the information I gave previously, but this gave one huge advantage over other games. Thanks to using 2.5D, an awesome balance was struck between tight gameplay and visuals.
Alright, so now you know a bit about Kirby 64, you're probably wondering what else it brings to the table other than tight controls. The biggest selling point, at least in my opinion, which isn't a feature in any other Kirby game, is the ability to fuse different powers together to make amazing new combinations that allow you to pretty much breeze through the game. Most people are probably familiar with Kirby's ability to suck things up and steal their powers, however, normally you can only hold one at a time, or at least that's how it is usually. Generally, you choose the best power for the situation, and do your best to beat the level without losing the power. Now, however, fusing your abilities not only makes you stronger, but changes how you tackle levels entirely. Bosses are much easier to clear with certain combinations, and certain paths can only be opened by having two specific powers combined. It's definitely an immensely satisfying experience walking though enemy after enemy as a giant rock. Seriously, you should try it yourself.
With tight gameplay, good level design, and awesome music, there's not much that isn't awesome about this game, however, I do have a few nitpicks I'd like to share. The first thing that really bothered me about The Crystal Shards is it's difficulty level. While some parts are tough, especially later in the game, with the right power-ups you can pretty much breeze through the majority of the levels, which contributes to another issue, the games length. I honestly feel like the base game is too short. Yes, there are shards to collect, some of them well hidden, it doesn't stop you from breezing through a large portion of the game.
Minor issues aside, The Crystal Shards is a fantastic game, and one that you should play if you get the chance. I mean, who doesn't want to walk through all of their enemies as a giant rock, right?