Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, that oft-overlooked 2011 Nintendo Wii jewel, was the first game my son and I ever completed in couch co-op. He couldn’t have been more than six or seven at the time, and playing with another player as opposed to against them was a fairly new concept. Still, it’s one of those moments I’ll always cherish—particularly the sweet taste of victory after that lengthy, multi-part Magolor boss battle—and it continues to make Kirby a hot property in our house.
We greet every new Kirby series release with no small amount of anticipation, and those with a prominent multiplayer component are particularly sought after. It’s with that attitude that we went into free-to-start Switch action title Super Kirby Clash, a four-player brawler pitting Kirby—in your choice of fighter roles—against a rogues gallery of Dreamland… uh, make that Dream Kingdom baddies.
Know Your Role in Super Kirby Clash
Cast in the familiar Team Kirby Clash mold, while its go-to mechanic is straight-ahead fighting, Super Kirby Clash has a dash of RPG lite elements to boot. Players earn experience and materials, which are used, in turn, to level up and craft better, stronger equipment. Weapons and armor come in four varieties, each tied to the four roles available.
Sword Hero is your basic fighter, using a dash-and-slash approach to combat and employing a special Hero Shield ability to protect the entire team. Hammer Lord is your tank, slow but powerful and able to employ the devastating Hammer Flip attack. Beam Mage is your ranged unit, chipping away at enemies from afar using the Time Beam special. Lastly, Doctor Healmore is the party healer, who, while a little underwhelming in the attack department, more than makes up for it thanks to the life-restoring Healing Area ability.
The More the Merrier
It’s perfectly possible to play Super Kirby Clash on your own, with competent computer-controlled characters filling out the roster as you power through the game’s trademark boss-fight-after-boss-fight structure. You can even use the Adventure Bell located in the game’s central hub to recruit your friends’ characters as your offline co-adventurers. The core Story Quest also easily supports single-screen multiplayer, which is as simple as sharing a Joy-Con.
Once you’ve got a few Story Quest battles under your belt, Party Quest mode becomes enabled via the game’s Quest Board, which supports single-system, online (available to Nintendo Online subscribers only), and local wireless multiplayer. For those of us lucky enough to live in multi-Switch households, Local Play is a real treat, even if it’s just a pair of players with the other two slots filled out by bots.
The Apple Economy
Since Super Kirby Clash is a free-to-start title, micro-transactions are built into the gameplay. This primarily concerns Gem Apples, the in-game currency.
Gem Apples are an important component in the crafting of weapons and armor (alongside the Fire, Water, Light, and Rare Fragments collected on your adventures) and are also used to purchase Support Items (like Potions and related character buffs) and Stickers (think of them as emotes used during online play). You can, of course, buy them with real money from the game’s Shoppe—currently, 50 Gem Apples will set you back 49 cents, on up to 5000 for $39.99—but some can be freely harvested every 12 hours from a tree located in the game hub.
Another way to score those sweet, sweet Gem Apples is by tackling the game’s achievement system. These Heroic Missions, viewable on your character profile, are tied to specific actions—from buying gear to playing Quests to enjoying the game with a friend. Clearing them helps unlock higher-ranking gear, and you get Gem Apple rewards too.
You can also plumb the internet for passwords used to acquire free Gem Apples, Potions, and Fragments. Although, at last check, there were only two such English passwords available.
Honestly, while it smacks of the dreaded pay-to-win system, the Gem Apple thing isn’t a total deal-breaker for me.
Early on, they are easy to come by as you trod new ground and blast through various Heroic Missions. As the game wears on, however, that well inevitably begins to run dry. This leaves you and yours with the choice to either wait/grind on for more Apples or, instead, opt to spend a little real-world coin at the eShop.
The bigger problem is the combination of this and Super Kirby Clash‘s Vigor system. Vigor is basically your in-game energy meter, and each Quest costs a certain amount of Vigor to undertake. The fact that there are separate Vigor meters for Story Quest and Party Quest modes is nice, but inevitably, these too will run out. At which point you’ll either have to wait… or pay two Gem Apples.
Super Kirby Clash: The Bottom Line
I like Super Kirby Clash. The problem is, I want to love Super Kirby Clash.
It looks and feels like a proper big brother to Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, complete with all that requisite Kirby charm. Its multiplayer options are as varied as they are enjoyable, and the experience really feels tailor-made to the Nintendo Switch.
I also appreciate its inclusion of amiibo support—a feature that seems to be waning, even in first-party releases. Tapping a Kirby series amiibo nets you some bonus Fragments for equipment upgrades. That’s not exactly earth-shattering, but it’s a nice addition.
The big bother is simply the time and economic constraints it introduces. They are geared, obviously, toward those in-game purchases. But, considering that the game doesn’t cost anything to download and that even meager Gem Apple purchases are doubly rewarded—they help level up your Gem Apple Tree, making it bear additional fruit—I honestly can’t complain.
If you and your family love Kirby like we do, definitely give Super Kirby Clash a shot. Even if “micro-transaction” is a dirty word in your household, there’s still ample fun to be had here well before you’ll be tempted to spend a dime.
Nintendo of America provided a Nintendo Online subscription, additional Joy-Con controllers, and a Kirby amiibo for the purposes of this review. This post contains affiliate links. And I can’t believe I’m just now getting around to writing the following phrase: How do you like them Gem Apples?!