It’s been nearly 7 years since a mainline Kirby game has appeared on a Nintendo console. Return to Dream Land marked something of a turnaround for the pink puffball, showing the potential of Kirby’s gameplay formula that could not only celebrate the past but mix things up enough that they felt fresh. And with Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot taking the series to new heights on the 3DS, it feels like it’s all come full circle now that Kirby Star Allies is releasing on the Switch. The question is, does this Kirby adventure change things enough to keep fans coming back or has this formula become a bit stale? The story of Star Allies is about what you’d expect. A new enemy threatens Popstar by showering it with dark hearts which corrupt any who encounter them.Kirby sleeps through the whole event and wakes up to find Dedede stealing all the food in Dream Land. Setting out to stop him, Kirby eventually discovers the greater crisis and attempts to set things right. Now while there are some fun surprises to be seen, it never quite matches the ideas in Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot. This time around, the big new gimmick is that Kirby can toss Friend Hearts at certain enemies and they will join his team, helping to solve puzzles and fight anything that comes your way. It leads to a lot of variety and choices as there are plenty of these friends to interact with, and they possess the full set of moves that Kirby does when using their power. In fact, some specific allies have even more moves than Kirby with that Ability, such as Chef Kawasaki.The concept is taken a step further thanks to the idea of combining powers such as Fire and Sword or Lightning and the new Staff or even Fighting being able to toss friends around the stage. Experimenting with the different possibilities is naturally fun. By all accounts, this should have led to a complete homerun. One of the things I loved about Planet Robobot was how the Armor was integrated into the levels. It felt like an extension of Kirby’s abilities rather than just a bonus for a portion of the gameplay. It always introduced something new. Combining abilities had the potential to do just that. And for a large portion of the game, it does. But eventually, I felt like I had seen all the game’s tricks. I knew that elemental powers would combine with weapon abilities to slightly change up the properties of attacks, that certain abilities only had a few choices to merge with, and some were only modestly powered-up. Even the four person Friend Abilities didn’t mix it up that much. Friend Circle and Friend Train both have you barreling through enemies, but Friend Circle focuses more on platforming while Friend Train messes with your head somewhat with how it can climb walls.Friend Bridge is mostly used for puzzles, and Friend Star turns the game into a kind of shooter and is probably the best of this set. I knew what to expect from all of them very quickly. And that in itself is not bad. The familiarity ensured that I knew what to do at all times. The problem was that the game felt like it ran out of ideas for what do with these powers. I was still having fun. It just wasn’t exciting me in same way that past Kirby games had. And part of that is because there’s just less to explore in levels this time around.Throughout Star Allies’ 40 levels, there’s only one or two items to actually discover. It’s either a large puzzle piece or a secret switch that immediately grants access to an extra stage. And a lot of times, they’re extremely simple to find or the solution to reaching them doesn’t take any real thought at all. There are exceptions, but the exploration just felt weak this time around. A major highlight, however, was the bosses. There are so many in this game, ranging from original ideas to returning favorites to variations on ones you’ve already fought. Each one was lot of fun to fight although admittedly some went down pretty quickly. But that kind of tied in to an idea of the combinations that I really enjoyed. Enemies were affected by different elements. If one’s on fire, then water or ice will quickly defeat it. It one’s in water, then electricity or ice could be the key. It’s a basic idea, but it’s implemented really well, especially in boss fights where working together with this idea could make them especially satisfying.And working together is key. The game is perfectly playable in single player. The AI is really smart and can help you out in pinches. They even pick up on contexts when puzzles need to be solved. But the problem with that is it makes an already easy game, even easier. Star Allies is one of the least challenging games in the series with only one extra mode really offering anything in terms of real difficulty. Now this isn’t a bad thing to me. Kirby games are meant to be simple, but the addition of CPUs during single player makes an easy series even less difficult. Now you don’t need to keep them around for a good portion of the game, but if you didn’t, you would be missing out on what makes it unique and fun in the first place. That’s why the multiplayer is where I had the most fun.It’s great couch co-op where you tear through levels with friends and figure out the best way to take down bosses. The game is still pretty easy, but rather than the CPU knowing exactly what to do, you have to talk it out with friends. Even the extra modes are just a little more enjoyable when you have people with you. It’s not essential, but you can tell that this is how it was meant to be played. The mini-games Chop Champs and Star Slam Heroes are fine when you try to beat your own score, but even just that small additional competitive element with friends made them stand out that much more. Two more modes are unlocked once you complete the five to six hour campaign, and they should be familiar to anyone who’s played the 3DS games. One has you take control of any ally as you play through a truncated version of the game with its own unique final boss. There’s less health items, but it’s not that much more difficult than the main campaign. There is some replayability though as it keeps track of your time beating it with each Friend, including the Dream Friends that you can unlock.The other mode is where you’ll find the greatest challenge as this new take on the Arena allows you to adjust the difficulty. And though it starts out simple, the final difficulty is where I was absolutely challenged the most as I’ve yet to actually beat it. I got close in multiplayer, but alone, it felt especially rough. Star Allies looks incredible. There are levels in this game that pop with color and style. While none of the themes are especially unique, they are good takes on classic concepts. And naturally, it still looks great in handheld mode. But my favorite part of the style was actually the World Maps. Each World had its own style and really showed the progression in just how much of a threat this new enemy was, starting with Dream Land then all of Popstar and eventually the galaxy.It was a more understated style of storytelling through gameplay that I enjoyed. Now some have taken issue with the fact that Star Allies only runs at 30fps. And while that is disappointing, I never felt like it took away from the experience. Granted, I’m a person who has trouble telling the difference between 30 and 60 unless it’s side-by-side so your attunement to this may affect your enjoyment.The music is also outstanding. There are great new tunes, new remixes, callbacks, and just a style that Kirby absolutely nails. It’s a little more atmospheric than past Kirby games, but it works and still knows when to pump up the excitement. Star Allies also has a wonderful moment involving the HD Rumble, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself. Kirby Star Allies is a solid entry in the Kirby franchise, but it’s also the first real sign that this formula that began with Return to Dream Land is starting to show its age. The ideas presented here are a lot of fun, especially in the beginning, and the game itself will charm the heck out of you.Newcomers with an interest are very likely to enjoy it, but those of us who have been with Kirby for a while have seen most of these tricks before, and done better. I really do like the game, and if you’re like me, you’ll get a kick out of what’s here. But it’s probably time for the next game to introduce a new formula to build off of. Thanks for watching and be sure to hit that subscribe button for future reviews and even more from GameXplain. .