Monday, May 27, 2013

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64) Review

Written: May 20th-26th, 2013 / Published: May 27th, 2013
Year: 2000 | Developed by: HAL Laboratory | Published by: Nintendo

Disclaimer: Spoilers, venting, some moments of anger, and it's going to be one lengthy review
*sigh*  Do I really have to review this game?  =(  Couldn't I just review a different Kirby game instead?  I'd be willing to review those.  Umm, how about Kirby's Dream Course?  That game is super fun.
You're out of practice and have to spend more time with it again
Oh, ... right!  Okay, how about Kirby Mass Attack?  That one's great!
You swore that you'd review it once you 100%ed it
Oh, yeah, I did.  =/  That may have been a mistake (curse my completionism!); perhaps I'll do an Impressions post on it instead.  How about Kirby's Block Ball?
You planned to do a 2-for-1 Special review of it alongside Kirby's Pinball Land some time in the future
And I will someday!  I just have to find a good time to do that, that's all.  Kirby's Epic Yarn, then?  <=(  I love that game!
You started getting footage but have taken a hiatus from it since then
Damn!  Kirby's Retu--?
All right, all right!!!  <=O

Exploring a very dark cave
Okay, I just want to throw it out there to set things straight: I don't hate this game, I don't even think it's bad.  =(  Kirby, also known as of one the greatest video game characters of all time, has been entertaining and charming gamers for twenty-one years now, and his library of games is largely fantastic.  The '90s was a good decade for Kirby, debuting the pink puffball and introducing us to some of his really good games; such as Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's Dream Course, Kirby Super Star, and especially the two sequels to the first game--the revered Kirby's Dream Land 2 and the highly underrated Kirby's Dream Land 3.  He even appeared in a long-running manga series in Japan and made memorable video game cameos such as being an enemy in one of the last dungeons of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, show up on a banner in Stunt Race FX, and most of all, become a playable character in the well-known Super Smash Bros. fighting series of games.  =)  Yep, the '90s proved to be a very good run for Kirby despite a few setbacks, and it didn't seem like he would have a truly dark cloud in his long résumé of games.

Ninja Star: "Youuuu'll neveeeeeeer
see meeeeee cominnng!"
But then the 2000's hit, and while the decade itself wasn't bad for him, the franchise didn't exactly start it off with flying colors.  After leaving the original Game Boy for the Game Boy Color, HAL Laboratory made a rather clever game called Kirby Tilt'n'Tumble where you moved the character not with the Control Pad but with the handheld itself.  It did well enough, and many proposed that it get a sequel.  Spoiler alert: there never was one, which disappointed some of the people that enjoyed that.  Then in 2001 an anime adaptation of KirbyHoshi no Kābī, was released in Japan that ran there for two years with a span a hundred episodes (some of them being two-parters); the series itself was decent, even though it wasn't exactly spectacular, but it provided some good laughs and messages, as well as some rather emotional moments (robotic dog episode, anyone?) despite a lot of it being silly.

But then the following year it came to America (as Kirby: Right Back at Ya!) and was dubbed by those money-grubbing monsters at 4Kids!  >=(  Not only did they change the background music and alter the pitch of its many characters, but a lot of scenes were either edited out or totally altered at the expense of peeving off fans and non-fans of both Kirby and anime alike!  Scenes that were tearjerkers and/or serious before were turned to jokes, King Dedede's "demon beasts" were changed to "monsters" (because "it would scare the kids"), the show became dumber in the transition, and worst of all, a lot of the text that was visible and in plain English in the Japanese original were removed in the 4Kids dub!  ...  Do they think that kids aren't smart or something, because newsflash: THEY ARE!!!!  DX<  They might not show it sometimes, but they are a lot more intelligent than you give them credit for!  *is overwhelmed, but calms down*  But on the rare bright side, if not for a glimpse at a magazine that I no longer own sadly (advertising ploy, obviously, but I was mostly interested in the game), I would not have found out about Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land for the Game Boy Advance, and I would've never become the big Kirby fan that I am today!  =)  Though I'm still mad at 4Kids for how they treated the series.  =<  Shame on them!

Fully immersed underwater
But I digress, though: in 2003, Kirby Air Ride was released for the GameCube to a positive reaction from gamers and fans and to a not so positive reception from critics.  Not sure wh--?  Oh, but I digress again, my bad!  Before all these events would happen, there was one game that ignited the '00s decade for Kirby back in 2000 for the Nintendo 64.  And needless to say, it didn't fare quite well at the time.  Even though more people got to play it at release than they did Kirby's Dream Land 3 (though to be fair, today's title was released a year prior to the Nintendo GameCube) a lot of people didn't really know how to react to it.  Some found it to be an improvement to Kirby's Dream Land 3 whilst others felt the exact opposite at various levels, to the point of calling it one of Kirby's weakest (if not the weakest of) entries.  This was also Kirby's first 3D title, structured as a 2.5D sidescroller, so naturally you can't expect perfection the first time around.  But you do expect something, right?  <=|

I remember having seen a commercial for this game only one time back when it was released, and I recall it being a fairly entertaining trailer.  I never played it when it came out in 2000, but I almost got a chance to play it before having ordered my copy of it in 2011 after having gotten my own Nintendo 64 in Christmas of '10 (after feeling that I wanted to spend more time with it outside of visiting hours).  I was at an acquaintance's house years prior when I saw the cart for it.  I played some games over there, but not that one, even though I wanted to.  Totally blew an opportunity there!  XD  I never even downloaded it on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console; which actually says a lot about how hesitant I was to try it at first considering all the criticism I heard regarding it in the past.  But during the summer of '11 I gave in to curiosity and decided to bite the bullet, so I ordered it from eBay and ... it's better than I initially thought it was going to be.  So, why the polarization and is it all justified?  Let's all discover the answers as we delve into Kirby's lone Nintendo 64 title Kirby's Dream Land 4, I-I mean Kirby's Dream Land 64, I-I-I mean... Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards!  =\

So the game begins in Ripple Star, a planet inhabited by fairies, when all of a sudden Dark Matter appears and spreads darkness all around it!  Aaaaaahhhhh!  ...  Seriously?  /=
You've been defeated two times before, what's going to make this time so different, aside from the fact that another planet is threatened this time?  However, it's not after the fairies but Ripple Star's sacred treasure, the Crystal because... crystals are Dark Matter's kryptonite.  Huh!  So a Chu-Chu-haired fairy called Ribbon escapes with the Crystal, however Dark Matter plans to intercede and scatter the Crystal into a million pieces (or... less).  As a result, Ribbon falls out of orbit and lands in Pop Star, Kirby's home.
Kirby, seeing that Ribbon is in desperate need of help, offers his assistance and will try to collect the remaining pieces of the Crystal and salvage her home planet before it's too late, even if they have to transport themselves to different planets to do so!
Nostalgia Critic in Stephen Hawking voice: "Wait a minute!  It was night a second ago, now it's day!"
So they head off towards the sunrise and our adventure begins.  Ribbon will help him by collecting the crystal shards he gathered and... something else I'm certain.  But they won't be going alone, for in Pop Star they'll be gathering some more allies.
Like fan-favorite Waddle Dee, who is more than delighted to help Kirby on his latest quest, ...
but not before fighting a fan-service version of Waddle Dee, Waddle Doo, after having been corrupted and transformed by Dark Matter.  Consider it a gift from HAL for not at all seeing Waddle Doo in Kirby's Dream Land 2 and 3.
After that is Adeleine, who despite sharing the same painter garb and having the same profession, does not look anything at all like Ado from Kirby's Dream Land 3.  She'll help Kirby, but first...
Aww, brings back good memories of the last game.  =)  Adeleine has been infected by Dark Matter and fights Kirby in much the same way Ado did before, by painting enemies and bosses from canvases that come to life.  This time around there are new enemies from the canvas, such as a painted version of one of Dark Matter's previous forms.
Once they're all down for the count Adeleine gets in a hissy fit and goes after Kirby.  Oh how will he get out of this one?
................. Woooooow...  =|
Just trip her and she'll snap back to normal.  Don't these painters know that trying to attack head on will serve no purpose other than to get their behinds handed to them?  Apparently they don't know how to jump over slides.  Then the last ally that will be joining you is Kirby's longtime nemesis King Dedede.  =)  However, he has been infected yet another time by Dark Matter, which means his second phase will have
Just when you thought that wasn't disturbing enough the first time around.  <=|  Once you've defeated the penguin monarch he'll be liberated once more and will reluctantly join Kirby's group to save Ripple Star.  =)
"Hmmph, fine!  I hope I don't have to help Kirby anymore after this!  This is really cramping my style!"  Boy is he going to disappointed in the next eleven years.  =D  All right, the gang's all assembled, now let's talk about the game.

Kirby bravely escapes a sand-filling room
All right, we're finally here.  As I said earlier, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a 2.5D platformer, in that it's all 3D but the game is structured like a regular sidescroller is.  This is also one of those games that is supported exclusively by the Control Pad, so the Control Stick is not at all required.  If you're playing the game for the first time you have the option to learn the basics of the controls (since the button controls are different) or you can decide to skip it and just play the game.  Each planet is divided into portions, and in each portion you can collect up to one or more crystal shards.  And seeing as the planets are divided into portions, it'll resemble a hub world.
Or it'll resemble something out of a point-and-click game.  But hey, I'm okay with that.  If I can get over Anthony Hopkins not at all reprising his role as the titular character in the NBC Hannibal series, then I can most definitely get over this change of the stage selection as well.

Whispy Woods has had enough of the abuse
he's put up with all these years, and now he's
truly pissed off!  D=
The controls are like this: A to jump and float after pressing up; B to swallow, exhale, or use your ability; and to discard the ability you press either shoulder button or any of the four C buttons.  Kirby can also run by double tapping either direction, duck, and slide by pressing A while ducking.  Curiously, Kirby can move as he inhales.  =I  You know, like any regular Kirby that came before and after!  The health this time has been reduced to six blocks, and that's fine; that's how the series started in the first place.  Kirby can still copy an enemy's power-up after having inhaled an enemy with power, but for this iteration HAL has added a whole new twist: this time around Kirby can combine two abilities (either different or the same), and depending on the abilities the combo will prove to be very fascinating.  Try anything!  You may be surprised at what the final results will be like.  =)  If you decide to discard the (combo) ability, it won't bounce out from you but it'll stick out from Kirby's hands, and then he can either place it back in his mouth or he can throw it above or ahead of him.  =I  You know, as has always been the case!  One of the many things Kirby can do is float for longer periods of time, and that still rings true for this title as he
Wait, why is he descending...?  Wait, huh???
Are you serious?!?  D=<  He begins to drop down slowly after around thirteen seconds have passed and then automatically exhales a puff and can't fly higher until after he lands?!?  What kind of Kirby game does that?!?!?  That's like saying that watching a fullscreen format of a movie that was intended to be shown in widescreen will not alter the movie experience at all, when Lord knows that's not true (sixty years of pan-and-scan, people; why is it still here????).  It's like playing an ActRaiser game not having town simulation events and opting for more sidescrolling action!
Oh, that's right, there already is one.  XD  Though to be frank, that one's not as bad as a lot of gamers make it out to be... as a game on its own, that is.
It's like reading a novel for older children where some of the main characters (twelve to thirteen year olds, mind you) almost die of starvation while they're incarcerated for days without any food by a ruthless tyrant that rules a tiny portion of the land!
You know, for kids!
Oh, wait, that happened!
It's like Lucy blaming Charlie Brown for their team fumbling and losing that one football game by one point when the slimy vixen herself was the real cause behind it all.
Oh, wait, that happened!!  )=<  And just when you thought Lucy van Pelt couldn't possibly be an even bigger brat than she already is.
It's like Disney consciously making animated shows for kids with some of the most overtly homosexual stereotypes ever seen on TV.
I have nothing against gays, I just despise how gratuitously gay Disney made these characters.  Also, Kyle Massey really needs to die.  Actually, scratch that; Fish Hooks and all its characters need to die and disappear
Oh, wait!  THAT... FREAKING... HAPPENED!!!!!!!!!!
You cannot possibly stoop any lower than this in the Kirby franchise!  You, you can't!  *awkward laugh*  What's next?  Next thing you know they're going to make Kirby talk like a normal character would or something like that.  But they would never do such a thing as th--
*begins to gasp in horror but covers mouth swiftly*  O.O
... If I ever review that game it's getting a serious beating by me!  No one makes an obnoxious jerk out of Kirby in my town!!!
I'm sorry, I've gotten far off topic, what was I covering again?  Oh yeah, the gameplay.  Okay, so Kirby cannot float indefinitely this time around, which is likely to upset several gamers, but if you can get past that that's fine.  I wouldn't mind it so much if the gameplay was differently structured, like in Kirby's Epic Yarn or Kirby Mass Attack for example, but since the gameplay structure here is pretty much equal to the remainder of the series I can't help but find that questionable.  It's not like you're required to do that often but in moments that you do, you have to make sure that you do it in a good amount of time.  Throughout the adventure there are moments when the other characters will help you: Waddle Dee will usually ride alongside Kirby through certain paths, Adeleine will either paint power-ups for you or images you may need to solve certain puzzles in the next room, and King Dedede will carry you on his back as he moves around and uses his mallet to break down barriers so you can cross.  Not bad, and I actually like that addition.  Among his many actions Kirby can also climb down very thin platforms, climb ladders, climb over ledges, and he can swim.  And usually he cannot inhale while underwater, so as he's underwater he blows water bubbles in any direction.
Well, of course!  I mean everyone knows that Kirby has always been able to do that underwater while he wasn't in Kine's mouth.  I mean what was I thinking?  *starts laughing and abruptly stops*  Are you starting to notice a pattern here?  <=|  I don't wish to deviate anymore from the review like this any time soon, so I'm just going to end this segment by saying Kirby's controls on the Nintendo 64 are decent at best.

Fear me and my fiery Masamune!
The soundtrack was composed by famed Jun Ishikawa, accompanied this time by Hirokazu Ando, who also did some work for the music in the series.  While it's not quite as good as Kirby's Dream Land 3's soundtrack in my opinion, it is a very good soundtrack in its own right, far surpassing that of Kirby's Dream Land 2, which I thought was weak overall.  =)  The instrumentation is good, and a lot of the songs blend so well with the atmosphere.  Case in point is Pop Star level 2, the Quiet Forest, which is so ambient and beautiful that it matches its aptly quiet location, eventually seguing to a breathtaking chorus.  It's so good that I wish they used it more than once, because I love that song.  =(  What is it with Kirby games only having one ambient track that's only ever used once?  The same thing occurred in Kirby Squeak Squad.  The various planet themes are good, and a lot of the songs are fun and catchy; with some nice slow tunes in the mix.  There are some remixes from past entries as well, particularly King Dedede's theme and the first level theme from Kirby's Dream Land 3 (nice).  The regular end of planet boss theme isn't really spot-on, but there are some songs that get progressively darker near the end.  The final boss themes are foreboding, and I like how epic they sound (particularly the secret one).  The sound effects are good, with several lifted from past games, and for the first time in this series he's got sound.  He doesn't talk regularly, but he does say few words and the sound pitch is perfect for him.

Atmospheric underwater cave
Now let's discuss about the visuals, and this is something I'm going to cover thoroughly for various reasons.  It goes without saying that this was the first Kirby that was programmed entirely in 3D, and it shows, there's no doubt about that.  It's very colorful, with areas that have a lot variety in terms of design, and it's nice to see the characters, enemies, and areas in all dimensions.  The shading and lighting is very effective, but to a point.  Here's where it falters, and I already stated it before: it's 3D.  There's nothing wrong with going 3D, don't get me wrong; but timing can be a critical issue when creating visuals for any medium, especially video games.  When 3D video games started becoming the rage in the mid-'90s, everyone was blown away by the visuals... at the time.

After several years and after video game technology evolved, a lot of people began to see them as dated.  And of course, the visuals here are dated, but I don't particularly mind that as a whole, and here is why: I don't care about a game's looks if it doesn't play good.  If a game has quality control, then depending on how it's structured it's a quality game.  I noticed that there are some people that claim that if a game doesn't look good, then it's not good at all, which in my opinion is a bunch of bullshit.  I do not agree with that close-minded assumption of a game looking good to be good; let me ask you this, what is a game's visuals if it plays like crap?  What's the point of playing a good-looking game if it does not at least play decently?  A lot of 3D games from before 2001 are a victim to this unfair shallow assumption by some; just because the visuals may not be as impressive today as they were back then, it does not at all mean that the gameplay has changed.  Think about that for a minute.  Though to be fair, I do see where they are coming from; it revolves around age.  With 2D visuals they will be constant no matter what decade you're playing it in, so as a result they preserve a timeless look and feel (especially the really good-looking ones); 3D games from the mid-'90s weren't quite as lucky due to the fact that the more time passed the more technology evolved, and the more it evolved the more you could improve the 3D visuals from before, so comparisons are inevitably going to be made.  Having said that, I think Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards has some really good visuals, especially for its time; though I'm not coy to admit that it definitely shows its age, especially with some blockiness around the edges.
Here, take it!  I don't want it anymore

All the areas look colorful and detailed, and there is a degree of depth and atmosphere as you explore these areas.  Some examples are the first few areas, the jungle area, the snow area, the underwater locations, and the high-tech areas to name a few.  I like how the colors match their respective environments, and the textures that were used for the environments are pretty solid.  Despite the fact that the game is 3D, it's a 2.5D platformer, and I should talk about that.  In most Kirby games the camera centers on Kirby as he moves while it maintains a consistent angle throughout; not so much the case here.  You'll only ever move left and right, but there are moments when the camera alters its pans and angles as Kirby gets to a certain point, as well as moments that it closes in if it's a small room.  There are even moments when you get farther in the stage but notice the point you started in back in the distance (or the other side of the loop you were in).  And all I'm thinking at this point is how similar it is to the PlayStation One classic Pandemonium!, in that you only move left and right but throughout the game the camera centers on you as it spins, turns, spirals, pans, et al.  I mean, this isn't a Kirby game!  It's Pandemonium! if it was transitioned to the Nintendo 64 in the guise of a Kirby game!  I know that this was the brave pink puffball's first 3D game ever, but come on, couldn't you have done it a little differently?  While it's not entirely bad, it does make this title stand out, and I honestly cannot help but find it distracting sometimes.  The visuals are still good, don't get me wrong, it's the camera that gets to me.

There are also cutscenes that play any time you defeat a boss at the end of each planet, when the game starts, and when you beat the game.  The cutscenes are pretty nice to watch and they animate really great, though I couldn't help but notice that they play at a much quicker frame rate than the in-game's visuals themselves.  Maybe it was an attempt to convey a sense that you were watching an FMV, which is not a bad attempt, but considering that the Nintendo 64 is a cartridge-based console and that it didn't have quite that capability like the PlayStation One (a CD-based console) did, HAL just had to do what they worked with.  Even though the visual quality is equal both during the cutscenes and in-game, but otherwise not bad.  I also liked how the story unfolds in a small, framed aspect ratio.
Fun in the snow

The characters, enemies, and bosses are designed so well, and I really like their 3D design, especially Kirby's, though I have noticed one thing that was off.  It's not the backgrounds, but the enemies.  When Kirby and the other characters are in a certain area, their lighting and shading will blend to match that of the area and mood; the enemies stand out in this department if only for the fact that their color palettes never change, they're always the same no matter where you are.  It's like that Gratis dungeon stage from ActRaiser 2 where the enemies merge with the lighting and shading of the area while the Master never once does that.  That's not seamless immersion, that's just incomplete rendering.  Were they afraid that if they converted everything to match their surroundings it would make the game more difficult?  Though considering ActRaiser 2's difficulty, it's probably a good thing they didn't go through with that.  Otherwise there's nothing wrong with the enemies.  What's pretty nice about each character is how well they animate, and the facial expressions they make are good time in an anime kind of way (even if they do look plastered on the head).
Look out, Kirby's turned into Pikachu!

Given that it's a Kirby game, I think it goes without saying that it's an easy game.  It's easy, to a point, and in my opinion it's significantly more difficult than Kirby's Dream Land 3, but not for the reasons you think (particularly when you attempt to 100% it).  It's not due to the camera angles, given how distracting they can be at times. Each of the planets are divided into separate portions, and in each portion you're to try to obtain up to three crystal shards, and you must attempt to collect all of them; and here's why: different endings.  Maintaining the tradition since Kirby's Dream Land 2, you'll only access the good ending once you've collected everything that's required to see it.  As is expected to be the case, it's a lot easier said than done, particularly when there are many different ways to claim them.  Some shards might be out in the open, obscured behind a certain foreground or portion, be claimed after defeating a mid-boss, or they might be found behind or inside an obstacle which must be broken.  And anytime you revisit the stage after having collected them the crystal shards will be replaced with tall blue stars.

Speaking of obstacles, here is the deal: they can only be broken if you have a(n) (combo) ability, but not just any (combo) ability, but one that will ensure that it will be passed through.  You have to pay close attention to the obstacle, for it will give you a clear hint as to which (combo) ability to use.  The first time I played this game it totally crossed my mind, and I had to look up a guide a lot (something I rarely ever do for a Kirby game), but looking back I don't think I really needed the guide much.  But I can explain: in the other Kirby titles you were given a subtle hint as to which ability you could use to break the barrier or obstacle to get through; by the time I caught up with Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards back in 2011, I never expected there to be literally color-coded obstacles.  But here's an example of just such an obstacle: suppose there is a box with a shard inside it, which is colored orange and yellow, then you would need the Needle + Spark combo ability to break it; another exemplification is that there is a shard that is blocked by black and green rocks, then you'd use your Cutter + Bomb combo ability to do away with that.  A lot of the obstacles are fairly obvious regarding their hints, but for a few you'll have to properly discern which (combo) ability would prove most effective.  In some cases just getting to the obstacle without losing your (combo) ability, or your life, might prove to be a bit hard.  And that's cool, I like how there are moments such as these.

Here's where it all falters: you don't have to necessarily beat the stage to keep the crystal shard, you can exit from it and you would still have it in your possession!  That just enables gamers to not try to get all of them before finishing the stage; and I thought it was bad enough that Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time did this.  I'm sorry, but that doesn't augment replay value, it decreases it!  A lot!  Why couldn't it have been more like Croc: Legend of the Gobbos where you only had to beat the stage to save a certain amount of Gobbos but could always try again to save all of them in said stage?  That's replay value!  But more on the challenge.
Kirby and King Dedede working together

Most stages and stage portions are filled with enemies, and some might be coming from the distance while some might try to sneak up right behind you as you move.  What's fascinating is how this time around there are columns, borders, and blocks that will stand in the distance but should Kirby move closer it will try to fall down on you in your direction.  That's great!  More of that, please?  =)  There are also other ways that you'll be kept busy while preserving the easygoing difficulty, which is fine.  The regular boss fights are simple, but the end of planet bosses I wish to talk about.  They all require very simplistic patterns in order to take them down; but just when you thought it was all over, they surprise you by going into their second phase!  Oh, and I'm not talking one or two end of planet bosses, I'm talking about all of them!  The first time I played this game that totally caught me off guard, and even now I find the second phases difficult as Kirby alone, but more manageable with (combo) abilities.  It also applies to Dark Matter and his final form, .  If you've managed to collect all the crystal shards and beat Dark Matter, this is what happens.
The crystal is returned to Ripple Star, until suddenly it shines bright and shoots out a beam to reveal
that the ruler has been corrupted by Dark Matter since the attack and no one knew!  So the beam hits her and all the evil is being removed from her body, escaping to the outer reaches of space and creating a new planet in the process!
Oh, no, since Dark Matte-I mean, 0² has fled, how will our heroes ever catch up to and defeat him?  =O
Well, Kirby has a solution!  He's going to pull out a... cell phone?  Wow, he had a cell phone this whole time?  Well, I guess that precedes Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, then.  Okay, so who is Kirby going to call?  Not the Ghostbusters, I reckon; in fact, considering what a lot of people consider Kirby to be, it would be best not to call them at all.
No, Kirby is going to call a gigantic Warp Star.  So that's how they always know when to pick Kirby up and wait in certain locations in the series!  It's beginning to make sense now!!  So he heads off to the dark planet and with Ribbon by his side he's going to battle 0² with a crystal gun.  And what occurs during that encounter is
Oh, my God!  (=O  Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards just turned into a rail shooter!  A rail shooter!!  And oddly enough it makes the whole battle epic.  So you're fighting a giant winged eyeball with a halo on his head?  That sounds cool!  The thing is you have to careful for is his attacks, so you'll have to move wisely and strategically to make sure you don't take a hit yourself.  Another intense final boss battle from HAL Laboratory, and his eye bleeds if the crystal gun shoots it. Proof that HAL is not afraid to take risks and go the dark route from time to time.
See, even the concept art in the end credits agree with me.
Once Dark Matter's ultimate form 0² has been ousted once and for all, Kirby and his allies get rewarded for their brave sacrifice and assistance; plus they are given crystal medals, a relic that will always remind them of and remember Ripple Star.  All hail the good heroes of Pop Star Ripple Star!  =)
"My hero!"  ...  (Aw, shucks!)

Ceeeeee-lebrate summer, c'mon!
So that was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards for the Nintendo 64.  What in the Pop Star happened?  The series was doing so well before, and then this game came out and polarized fans and gamers as a whole, turning into one of Kirby's first truly low points of his career.  Okay, so maybe I'm being hard on it.  It's Kirby's first 3D game, so it's not spectacular, but it is decent.  The music sounds good, especially 0²'s theme, some of the remixes are nice, the controls are decent, and considering it came out in 2000 it looks really good in its own right, even though I'll admit that it does look dated and that some of the foregrounds and backgrounds do look like cardboard cutouts.  That, and the enemies are the same palette no matter what while the main characters blend in with the surroundings, but you know what, outside of that one noticeable detail the visuals are good.  I even like Kirby, the characters', and enemies' designs and animations; especially Kirby's, whose design is close to that one he uses right now.  And hey, at least you get to look forward to watching the victory dance any time you defeat an end of planet boss.
*spins, jumps, lands, waves*  "Haiii!"
Mine cart riding is a blast
>=|  I suppose the main beef I have with this game is that it doesn't really feel like a Kirby game, despite being traditional to the series.  It does new things and it does have some good ideas, but it just strays far from the traditional formula that it ends up feeling different.  The camera is different and reminds of me of that of Pandemonium!'s (at times it even feels like I'm playing that game), Kirby can move as he inhales, he can inhale underwater, he doesn't do the victory dance after vanquishing the end of planet boss (even though the victory fanfare is in the sound test), he can carry the ability that he doesn't want anymore, he doesn't float in the air indefinitely, you can keep the shard you gathered even if you quit the stage midway, and he can climb.  Maybe I wouldn't mind it so much if the others games did that... except that this is the only one!  Kirby's Epic Yarn was not a traditional Kirby game, and yet because of how it was executed and how fun it was it felt more like a Kirby game than this one ever did.  If I didn't know any better I'd say that this one game was directed by someone else.
Oh, well that explains it!
I won't lie, I didn't expect Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to be a great game upon playing it for the first time, or even up to par with the likes of Kirby Super Star and Kirby's Dream Land 3.  I didn't expect it to be this different from the series as a whole; now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being different so long as there's a redeeming value.  This title just felt not as good as the best the series had to offer, in my opinion.  But on the bright side it is decent, so I shouldn't complain too much.  For the most part it is fun, cute, and charming, and it is fun to play, even though the replay value is diminished thanks to the fact that you don't have to beat the stage to keep what you gathered; I was disappointed about that.  I will say this much, this game does have some good ideas, and I liked how Kirby would get assistance from Waddle Dee, Adeleine, and King Dedede from time to time, as it helped flesh things out a tad bit.  And a lot of (combo) abilities are pretty fascinating in their own right.
Kirby is such a bright young fellow
Such as the Bomb + Spark combo.  Kirby turns himself into a lightbulb and brighten dark rooms.
"Happy birthday!  Now douse my fire out before I blow up!"
Bomb + Ice will cause Kirby to become a snowman who explodes upon contact with an enemy.
Fire + Needle is a weird combo ability in that Kirby stretches inward and turns into a bow.  I can't imagine that feeling comfortable.  =/
Whoa!  Needle + Bomb transforms Kirby into a Gordo!
So and So: "Triple Salchow!"
Ice + Cutter = Ice Skating Kirby; so I guess Kirby is competing to be in the next ice show.  I think.
I'm not certain how it is, but the Cutter + Stone combo ability turns Kirby into a stone rendition of an animal helper.  While it's nice to see the animal helpers again (especially Nago, Pitch, and Chu-Chu, who are criminally underused), unfortunately they're simply reduced to being cameos.  A lot of them still retain the abilities that they had in the previous games, but unfortunately being stone makes them heavy so they move slowly as a result; also, Coo and Pitch share Kirby's exact flight impediment here: they cannot fly forever.  This would be Nago, Pitch, and Chu-Chu's second and final appearance in a Kirby game, Rick, Coo, and Kine would go on to serve more cameo appearances in the future.  Shame!  =(
In a rather disturbing fashion, the regular Boomerang ability allows Kirby to split half his body and use it as a boomerang until it reattaches back to him.  I shudder to think of what would happen if the Boomerang ability doubled.
Oh.  Well, I guess that's that!  Did I mention how disturbing this game can be at times?  It probably wasn't HAL's intention for it to be, but it just sends a weird vibe to me.  The regular baddies from the past titles have returned, including many regulars.
Sir Kibble will always be a welcome addition to the enemy roster, even though in this game he has a tendency to be rather wobbly.  There are even a few enemies that only show up for this game alone, and probably for good reason.  A Kirby enemy should be both cute and imposing; would you feel intimidated and/or charmed by a Kirby enemy if it looked something like this?
Look out!  An electrically sentient household appliance with eyes and feet!  Aaaahhhh!
Oh, and because I had a kick out of poking fun at this the last time, I'll do it once more.
"You would release a lot of Kirby games in America but not Devil World?!?  I'm so mad I could just *breathes fire* AAAAAAAAARGH!!!"  Boy, Tamagon really needs to see a therapist.
What's cool is that in the options you can access a few mini-games (among other things), which is the only time the game can be played up to four players (you can choose between the four characters).  They're a fun diversion once in awhile, and are quite nice.  These are the mini-games, or as I like to call them: Mario Party: Kirby Edition.  Because, why not?  XD  They feel like Mario Party events.
If you enjoyed the hopscotching mini-game from Kirby Mass Attack, you'll have fun with this one.  You must race against the others as you hop along, but try to be careful not to fall in the water or trip.
Nope, too easy!
In this one you must try to get the most amount of fruit and hearts in your basket that fall from the trees above you.  Can you beat the others at fruit-gathering?
Here you compete against the others and try not to fall down several times.  You can create lines to make them fall down, and they can do the same to you if you're not careful.  Will you be the last one standing?

You go ahead and eat that strawberry shortcake,
Kirby, you've earned it
So is Kirby 64: The Crystal Shard a good game?  Enough.  It doesn't surpass a lot of the games in the series, especially not the first Kirby's Dream Land, but as a title on its own it's fun while it lasts and it does offer enough entertainment.  The stages are fun to look at and navigate, and a lot of the music is great.  The controls are decent, and it's okay to play every once in awhile even though it's the most untraditionally traditional Kirby I've yet played.  Save for the mini-games and the fact that there are two endings, I'm sad to report that there isn't much replay value for this installment. There is potential for there to be something great, I'm certain of it, but it doesn't go through with that.  The final boss theme in the end is intensely epic, and the cutscenes are fun to watch.  Me, personally, I think it's good to a point.  It's fun, but nothing too fantastic.  Is it one of Kirby's weakest entries?  Yeah, it sort of is, but you could do a lot worse.  Fortunately HAL made up for it eleven years later when they crafted Kirby's finest 2.5D platformer Kirby's Return to Dream Land.  So far the 2010's have proven to be successful for the hungry puffball, and if this keeps up, then it just may turn out to be Kirby's most successful decade yet.  But we're only three years in, so we'll see how it pans out.

Do I recommend this game?  I'm a little split on that.  If you're a casual or die-hard Kirby fan, then I think you should check it out.  As for others, your mileage may vary.  If you wish to play a Kirby game that has a lot of replay value, you won't find it here.  If you're curious to see how Kirby's only Nintendo 64 adventure is like, I think it's harmless enough.  If you just want to play a fun game, then this might fit the bill.  I'm glad I played it, really I am, but it's not a title I'll visit quite as often as the others in the series.  But I won't mind revisiting it one day.
P.S.: To each their own.  =)
P.S. 2: Goodness, this might possibly be my longest review in my blog.  I hope my next reviews won't be quite as long.
P.S. 3: I couldn't help but quote Iron Man 3 for one of my captions, I saw it three weeks ago and I thought it was great; almost as good as the first one, in my opinion.  Also, when else am I going to get a chance to reference Iron Man?
P.S. 4: Of all the novels I had to be worked up over, it had to be one for older children for which I'm not entirely certain how popular those series of novels are, but only the second book.  The Thief Queen's Daughter (image from Wikipedia) was okay, but the fact that Ven, Clem, and Char went for four straight days without any food really killed it for me (you know, for kids).  I don't know about you, but I'm very protective about children.  =(
P.S. 5: It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown screen grabs were taken by my Region 1 Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown DVD; it is the property of Paramount.  I really didn't want to rewatch it after almost a decade, really I didn't.  Of all the crap that Charlie Brown has put up with in the past, being scapegoated for the loss of the football game when it wasn't even his fault is unforgivable!  Damn you, Lucy van Pelt; you are dead to me!  To my shock, it was worse than I remembered, and I couldn't sit through it because of all its problems (not to mention it's mean-spirited), but I did for the sake of the review.  That's one night I stayed up past midnight that I won't be getting back any time soon.  I love Peanuts, I really do, but to me this was the absolute worst Charlie Brown special I've watched due to its mean-spiritedness.  =(
P.S. 6: I apologize in advance for some of my outbursts I made early in the review.  And I would like to apologize if some of the comments I made earlier have offended you.
P.S. 7: I feel so dirty looking up footage on YouTube and making that collage of the two animated characters being homosexual, just to prove a point.
P.S. 8: As far as I'm concerned no one likes pan-and-scan, and I feel sorry for those who do.  I know it's just my opinion and all, but I'm one of those people who would rather watch the movie in the aspect ratio the director intended to show it in (i.e. 1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, 2.39:1, 2.40:1) than watch a cropped up version.
P.S. 9: I don't hate Kyle Massey, and I'm sure he must be a nice person.  I'm just sick of his always being around, and he wasn't so bad the first time around (in That's So Raven, but he was a secondary character back then).  He just kept getting worse and worse as the years went by, in my opinion, to the point that he's one of the characters in Fish Hooks.
P.S. 10: Oh, and speak of the devil, I really hate Fish Hooks.  It's one of the worst animated TV shows I've seen (by Disney of all companies) and the fact that it's got three (third one not yet out) seasons as we speak really makes me sick to my stomach.  If you want to romanticize high school accounts, fine, do that, but do it in a way that doesn't make me want to question everyone's sanity and intelligence.  =(  I'm not kidding about the creepy animation, it really does look creepy, but without any charm (particularly the weird facial expressions).  The fact that it even exists, let alone is allowed to be shown in Disney Channel is questionable beyond belief.  It's confused, unfunny, tasteless, and contrived, and every character is unlikable, right down to the stereotypes and the voice acting is unbearable (inlcuding Massey's).  There is so much wrong with it, but it would take too long to go over, so I'll explain some more later.  And if you do like Fish Hooks (and are sober), please tell me why.  I won't say you're crazy for liking it, I'd just like to know the reason behind that opinion.
P.S. 11: I'm probably going to get in trouble for this, but if you'll notice in my collage there is an inventive title that's crossed out even though I wanted to vent my negative feelings about Fish Hooks.  The last two words will probably get me in trouble, but that's how I honestly felt about the show; and considering the last word, I don't like it very much, but I thought it was justifiable after having heard a similar usage for that word in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (don't ask) when Steve Carrell's character called all the sick things and tricks that Jim Carrey's character was doing to himself "monkey porn".  Thus far that movie's my least favorite that I've seen in theatres this year.
P.S. 12: Regarding the Enemy Info cards: don't worry, they don't amount to the percentage at all; they're entirely optional.  Same goes for the boss gauntlet option.
P.S. 13: At one point I thought Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards was better than Kirby's Dream Land, but that's changed since then.
P.S. 14: Dear lord, I hope this doesn't become a controversial review due to some of my comments.
Thank you for reading my review!  Please leave a comment and I hope you have a great day!  Take care!  =)