Some call it a puffball, some call it a marshmallow, but most people prefer to simply call it Kirby. He might be puffy, but this guy is all hero. Kirby has come to the Nintendo 64 full of eye catching color and amazing detail. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is awash in the cheerful colors beloved of school lunch-box designers from Sapporo to Kyoto. The backstory scores high on the cute-o-meter, too, with Kirby and friends valiantly fighting to save the peaceful fairy folk of Ripple Star from the marauding Dark Matter.
Fans of Super Mario RPG will recognize similar plot elements from that Super NES classic, as Kirby and friends must round up six pieces of a shattered magical crystal in order to set things right.
The story is secondary to one of the most memorable video-game characters to grace any platform. As in earlier Game Boy and Super NES (Kirby's Dream Land 3) incarnations, Kirby has the amazing power to inhale enemies, acquire their attacks, then unleash them in brilliant new ways.
After inhaling a fiery enemy, Kirby can make a red-hot run through the opposition. After inhaling a rock enemy, Kirby can don a stony shield and bowl over the competition. Swallowing two similar enemies ratchets up Kirby's power even more.
Kirby 64 is primarily a 2D platformer, with Kirby following a track left, right, up and down through picture-perfect landscapes strongly reminiscent of Yoshi's Story. Besides permitting gorgeous graphics, the 2D approach allows developer HAL Laboratories (Pokmon Stadium) to concentrate on the play control, which brilliantly conveys the feeling of Kirby flying, floating, rolling and swimming.