Kirby’s Epic Yarn Review

Introduction

Kirby was one of Nintendo’s few IPs that started out great but ended up being neglected as the big N decided to milk their most popular franchises and start new ones like Pikmin and Animal Crossing. In 2009, what originated as a yarn game starring Prince Fluff as a new second party franchise for the Nintendo Wii somehow became a reboot to the Kirby franchise. Despite not quite being the game that long-time fans asked for, it still received positive reception from many critics and gamers alike. Coming out in 2010, it was released alongside Super Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M, and Donkey Kong Country Returns to make the Nintendo Wii “hardcore” again and retcon to its former greatness.

And yes, if you’re asking this now, this is one of my other short reviews that I’m doing before I move on to my third review style. If you never knew, this was one of five games that I bought in downtown Toronto back in the summer of 2014 at A & C Games and Game-Center. I heard about this game through online and in-store ads (opposite of how Nintendo’s marketing is today with the Nintendo Wii U LOL), but I never got it since I didn’t know much about Nintendo’s IPs back in 2010. I actually wanted to get it with Metroid: Other M, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and Donkey Kong Country Returns back in 2013, but they never had it so I got it last year at said stores.

When I first started researching about the game, I was also a bit skeptical about the game’s…uniqueness. It  looked and played so different, and it didn’t feel like a Kirby game at all (I played Kirby’s Adventure on an NES Emulator the time I was in China); yet it still had that charm and I knew I would enjoy it in the long run. So right after purchasing it, the next few days were spent (as well as other stuff) on playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn. For the most part, I actually quite enjoyed it despite it being so radically different from other Kirby titles. This may seem like a spoiler, but I love this game and certainly recommend it to Kirby fans…unless you have xenophobia.

Plot

Since the prologue (and basically the whole plot) is stated in the instruction manual, it’s technically not spoiling and is sort of redundant. Kirby is out for a walk in Dreamland when he sees and sucks up a bright red tomato upon a bush. An evil sorcerer that looks like a stereotypical Mexican gangster tries to stop Kirby but fails, resulting in a magical glowing sock to suck the pink ball up. Kirby wakes up and manages to find himself teleported in a world made of nothing but clothing and yarn. He tries to help a blue boy running away from a monster, but his copy ability fails as the wind passes right through his body when he tries to suck up air. Kirby then miraculously transforms into a car and saves the boy and ditches the monster.

The boy then introduces himself as Prince Fluff, the ruler of Patch Land, explaining that he is on a journey to stitch back the continents be finding magical yarn (hidden inside powerful monsters…um, spoilers). He reveals that Yin-Yarn was the cause of all this (the Mexican from earlier, and no, I’m not racist to them) and Kirby agrees to help Prince Fluff undo the damage and defeat the evil sorcerer. And that’s just about it, with the couple restoring Patch Land by defeating the boss of every continent to gather the stolen magic yarn. Of course, while Kirby is absent, Yin-Yarn takes over Dreamland by ambushing, kidnapping, and brainwashing Meta-Knight and King Dedede to defeat Kirby and not be a nuisance to his evil schemes.

Besides the previously mentioned , there’s not much else (other than the store managers and apartment roommates that I can’t remember their names and they are irrelevant to the plot). Patch Land consists of seven continents which are as generic as the 2D Mario games, such as grass, volcano, desert, etc. It’s definitley targeted to young children with its simplistic, colorful, and happy mood/atmosphere. Overall, it’s not really content heavy, cinematic, or as dark, but that’s because Kirby games aren’t like that nor were they to begin with or evolve into. The plot of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is pretty mediocre, but it’s excusable since it’s…Kirby and everything else in the game more than makes up for it.

Odd as it is there’s actually voice acting – well, at least only for the narrator. He speaks in all of the cutscenes and the lines for the characters. I admit this person (too lazy to check the credits in the game manual) does a great job at voice acting and sounds spot-on when imitating the characters when it comes to characters and expression (if they had their own actors though). Some of the lines do sound a bit forced, awkward, and/or cheesy, but it’s for children between the ages of 4-7. Maybe that’s why I’m not used to it (okay, sort of since I encountered such weird voice acting in Metroid: Other M and Sonic Colors).

Graphics

One of the things that brought huge controversy were the graphics as the game’s art style, engine, and textures was literally nothing but yarn. Besides that, the aesthetics were absolutely amazing – with no jaggies, pixelation, or geometric imperfections even when zoomed in or out. The graphics fool many to believing that it has 720p HD graphics instead of the typical standard definition, as well as being able to rival that of Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Sonic Colors. There is nothing wrong with the graphics since it is near-perfect and shows what the Wii is capable of and how much the so-called inferior hardware can handle. What once started out as skepticism is now turned out to become perfectionism.

What I said that the graphics had some flaws, I meant the resolution/frame-rate (specifically the frame-rate). While the game is rendered at 480p SD, the frame-rate is unfortunately at a low 30 FPS. It’s obvious since the movement is slow and the animation is unnatural and sluggish; plus, the delayed response of the controls may even fool gamers into assuming that the game has choppy frame-rate or frequently drops and stays at 20 FPS. But I guess the developers purposely designed it this way for the sake of simplicity for the children. Or maybe not because they’re probably using that as a scapegoat for bad game design – Mario and Pokemon have better animation and they’re pretty easy and are targeted to kids as well (especially the latter).

Though the actual characters may seem inferior to the plot, their models are actually quite important to the presentation of the plot and the quality of the graphics. Models in-game are literally 1:1 to their CGI counterparts, with the only difference being resolution and lighting effects (as the latter is pre-rendered at high definition quality while the former is limited by weak hardware). Since everything is yarn, the models of Kirby, King Dedede, Meta-Knight, and other returning characters and enemies may be a turn-off for some, but the basic shape of the characters are still relatively the same from past Kirby games.

Controls

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is played with the Wii Remote held horizontally, but occasionally is held vertically for in-game gimmicks, namely pointing. Moving is executed through the d-pad; however, tapping it twice left or right quickly transforms Kirby into a car to move faster, and pressing down while airborne makes him into a heavy weight to crush obstacles and enemies (and on the ground is crouching). The 1 button is to pull out a thread of yarn, which has many uses such as destroying obstacles and enemies; grabbing/throwing said subjects; opening zippers, buttons, and patches; and much, much more. Pressing the 2 button is to jump and pressing it while in the air transforms Kirby into a parachute, granting the ability to slowly descend to cross large gaps and accurately land in specific areas.

The yarn gimmick itself may seem simple, but it’s actually quite complex as it allows bodily transformations which imitate different copy abilities, so in a way, his yarn “incarnation” alone allows Kirby to use many abilities at once. The yarn thread is also an actual game gimmick as many enemies, obstacles, puzzles, and levels must be solved or defeated with it. Pointing is mandatory to renovate your apartment and there are these metallic-icons that serve as power-ups, transforming Kirby into different vehicles/creatures that feel cheesy and are inferior replacements of the copy ability.

I have mixed opinions/thoughts on the controls; while I do like the simplicity, I also dislike the gimmicks. Works fine for a 2D platformer (nothing broken or glitchy) but there always seemed to be a delayed response and sometimes fools me as well to assuming there’s lag or nothing worked, resulting me in pressing the buttons more than needed. Doesn’t result in cheap deaths (um, spoiler, but you can’t die and you don’t lose health either), but it unfortunately adds more challenge than there already is. The power-ups that came from those metallic orbs feel unsatisfactory and are a cheap way to make up for the exclusion of the trademark copy ability, which has been a staple of the series, and you can’t use them anywhere except in the specific levels they are in.

Music

Another changed portion that still seems amazing despite being so unique is the music. Though it’s mostly piano, it still manages to represent a variety of genres, tempo, mood, etc (who knew that one instrument could do so much?) If there were different instruments and sound effects used just like in past Kirby games – there are; however, they’re created from a keyboard – then it would be more memorable. Not saying that these compositions are forgettable, but because only piano is used, everything seems to blend in with one another. Oh, and there are remixes of famous compositions like Meta-Knight’s Theme and Gourmet Race remastered in piano. Some tracks I swear are plagiarized like the squid boss theme sounding almost exactly like the Jaws theme.

Gameplay

This may sound seemingly repetitive, but Kirby’s Epic Yarn is widely different from past (and even new) Kirby games. The main goal of each level is not only to go from point A to B, but also to collect as much goodies as possible, whether it’s beads, CD’s, or hidden treasure. You’ll be rewarded based on not on your skill level or time record, but rather the amount of beads you collected, with bronze medal being the worst and getting the gold medal for being the best (and extra beads for collecting the treasure).

Yarn is the main mechanic in this game, and while it seems simple in theory, it’s actually quite…wait, did I say this before? Anyways, almost every single enemy and boss must be defeated with Kirby’s yarn thread, including the fact that doors, puzzles, and treasures must be solved with the yarn thread too. Even the graphics, marketing, and controls are influenced by the concept of yarn. The different transformations that Kirby assumes are a neat thing as they allow Kirby to use many copy abilities to their fullest potential which is way better than those stupid power-ups!

Besides Kirby, you can also play as Prince Fluff. For the first time in Kirby, a second player can join in for simultaneous co-op play. Other than aesthetics, Kirby and Prince Fluff play exactly the same in terms of controls and stats. When the two join after using a power-up, it’s usually one becoming the form and other inside or on top as opposed to a bodily fusion (Dragon Ball Z pun intended). All in all, co-op mode is very underwhelming, especially the fact that it came out after NEW! Super Mario Bros. Wii (even Donkey Kong Country Returns that came out around the same time had better co-op despite being criticized otherwise). Oh well, Kirby’s Return To Dreamland improved with 4 player co-op, allowing others to play as Meta-Knight, King Dedede, and Waddle (Spear) Dee.

Patch-Land is divided up into 7 continents, each with their own geographic theme ripped straight from the NEW! Super Mario Bros. games. There’s the Patch Kingdom consisting of the castle, plaza, shops, and apartment; a grassy area; a volcano with desert; a gigantic mountain-sized cake; a tropical island with lots of water; an arctic tundra; and finally a futuristic sci-fi city in outer space. Patch-Land acts as both an overworld and hubworld as you can access the levels from a 2D plane, and unlocking more is done via obtaining and using patches. Another thing I forgot to say is that you can visit Dreamland, but only near the end and it’s stuck in yarn.

Let’s get right into the power-ups I keep mentioning. Sure, they don’t disappear once you get hit and they completely change the control scheme when used, but that’s just about it. These items are a sad excuse for removing Kirby’s copy ability, which are hundreds of times better than these gimmicks. Just like the unique power-ups in Super Mario Galaxy, they’re extremely limited on what they can do; forced even though unnecessary; and lack any significance or remembrance whatsoever.

Bosses are very satisfying unlike the generic enemies and boring items this game offers. Each of them are unique, and while they’re obvious of what they are, they’re still memorable. While I don’t remember the specific names expect for Kirby’s arch-rivals and Yin-Yarn, I do recall the others as a medieval dragon, fiery phoenix bird, giant squid, and an anthropomorphic pumpkin that is a magician. These bosses are extremely easy to beat; however, they are still challenging as they have a ton of health, use different tactics and go through many battle phases, and can only be damaged in certain areas with certain methods (though skilled players can accomplish otherwise). Collecting many beads not only rewards you a medal, but also a bonus patch to unlock the hidden level in each continent.

It’s been obvious that I’ve been neglecting the apartment, so I’ll simply explain it briefly here. The apartment is not only where “Kirby” lives during his stay, but also where the other people move in and live with them. These roommates not only have rooms that you can visit, but they also allow you to play mini-games with them. By the way, you unlock more roommates by purchasing more floors to build (total of three) which automatically becomes available as an offer by the apartment manager. These games have a set amount of conditions to fulfill, such as collecting beads, defeating enemies, or racing, and all have a time-limit; thus, they actually pose some kind of challenge. Beating each level unlocks fabric to decorate your room (including treasure found in the levels), and items bought from the shops can be used as well.

Similar to all Kirby games in general, there is little challenge for gamers to progress through. Levels are filled with simple puzzles, weak enemies, little hazards/obstacles, and easy-to-reach platforms. This was a design choice as Kirby is targeted to young children and was always easy. It’s so easy now that you can’t get injured; you won’t lose health nor will you die, as you will only lose beads and/or be saved by Angie which is an angel that picks you up from pits should you fall into them. Only the mini-games and bosses pose any real challenge as they force you to think and worry about your beads. The later worlds do tend to get harder as well as the bonus levels, but it’s still easy enough for even non-gamers and beginners to play through and beat.

Verdict

 At first it may seem lackluster; however, there’s a decent amount of replay value here. Medals, beads, and collectibles all serve as great replayability value for regular levels (and also bonus levels), encouraging people to improve their skill, scores, and medals. Bosses are always fun to beat and the hidden levels can only be unlocked by obtaining the bonus patch, in which you must surpass even the gold medal to obtain. The mini-games and decoration of the apartment also add replay value…oh, did I mention that you can take photos of your apartment, as well as decorating the rooms of your roommates too? The plaza shows all the stuff you unlocked, from the cutscenes to the fabric, and everything gets calculated into a percentage total which is a gift from heaven for completionists.

Wow, this review was very short too (I gotta stop breaking the fifth wall and I still never used a thesaurus). Anyways, I enjoy this whole yarn concept and how it was implemented into the gameplay, plot, controls, and even the graphics. I love the apartment as it lets you take a break from the regular stuff and lets you do many fun ‘n creative things such as the mini-games. I admit I love the easiness, as it took several years of frustration and stress away from me in only two weeks (that I received from playing video games from my childhood till now due to my inexperience or they were too difficult). I dislike the fact that it’s completely different from other Kirby games, that if it weren’t for the returning characters and enemies, it wouldn’t even feel like a Kirby game. It also fails to satisfy Kirby fans and myself as a reboot to the franchise (sort of nitpicking but still valid).

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is definitely a must-have game for the Nintendo Wii for its superb graphics, fantastic gameplay, and high replay value. Despite it being entirely different from the other Kirby games (past and future); filled with forced gimmicks; basic plot and cheesy script; and having many standard mechanics – especially the copy ability – being removed and replaced by bad gimmicks, it’s still a great game that deserves to be added to any Wii owners’ and Kirby fans’ collections. If you can still get it at retailers as the Nintendo Wii was retired in 2012/2013, then purchase it at a reduced price or buy a used copy. If not, then flea markets, vintage gaming stores, and online shopping is the way to go. I’ll grant Kirby’s Epic Yarn an 8.9 out of 10.

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