As the Nintendo Switch marches on into what will no doubt be another huge year for the system, the Nintendo 3DS is heading in a much different direction. Its output has slowed and any notable releases are limited to ports of older games from systems past. Last Halloween 3DS owners got to revisit the GameCube release Luigi’s Mansion while January saw Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story get a fresh lick of paint. Now it’s Kirby’s turn with the adorably cute Wii platformer Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
The Kirby franchise isn’t exactly a stranger when it comes to experimentation with a number of titles branching out into unique and often interesting areas. Kirby Air Ride, for example, placed the pink puffball into the world of racing while Canvas Curse and Rainbow Paintbrush did away with traditional platforming controls and had you instead maneuvering him by drawing paths on the touch screen. Meanwhile, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is arguably one of the series’ most successful spin-off titles and a true standout for the Wii system. Surely a 3DS port is a guaranteed home run?
Unlike more traditional Kirby games, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn doesn’t focus on inhaling enemies and absorbing their abilities. Instead, the little pink hero finds himself in a strange new world called Patch Land – in an evil sorcerer’s sock no less – where everything and even he are made of yarn and fabric. That means Kirby’s usual abilities have no effect here. The game doesn’t leave you completely defenseless though, Kirby able to whip a single piece of yarn to ravel his enemies up into projectiles and even lasso parts of the environment to reveal secrets or advance through the level.
Kirby can still transform, but like the Yoshi’s Island series, these occur at certain points within a level and usually revolve around some form of vehicle or animal. For example, the first transformation you’ll happen across is a giant robot tank complete with rockets while later instances include a fire truck, UFO ship, and even a surfing penguin. They’re cute and fun little breaks from the traditional platforming with each transformation offering its own handling style or tools – the aforementioned UFO ship can abduct enemies and send out a powerful shockwave attack while the fire truck rather unsurprisingly can put out fires with its hose.
The platforming is seldom too demanding, a large part of the enjoyment coming from exploring each level for its many secrets including treasures and gems. While levels rarely pose much of a threat when it comes to simply making it to the end, there is some challenge to be found in accumulating enough gems to land yourself a gold medal. Sure, Kirby might not take damage in the traditional sense should he take a hit but he will lose a large portion of his gems – in sort of a Sonic-like fashion – making reaching medal range tougher.
While Kirby games have rarely been about the harsh difficulty this is by far one of his easiest adventures to get through, even more so in this version since it adds power-awarding yarn hats that grant weapons like swords, bombs, and whirlwinds. Fortunately, the 3DS version attempts to up the ante by adding a new Devilish mode that only allows Kirby five hits in a level whilst a devil flies overhead dropping spiky balls and generally acts as a nuisance. The five hit limit is a neat addition that did result in a few deaths on my part, however the devil inclusion feels unnecessary and more irritating to deal with than anything else.
The game is split out into seven main worlds each housing four levels, a boss battle and two more unlockable levels focused around one of Kirby’s transformations. There’s a wide variety of ideas and environments on display all guaranteed to raise a smile or two and while it might hit all the usual tropes (deserts, grassy banks and snowy peaks for example) seeing them crafted from fabric and yarn makes them all feel fresh and new. Whether it’s discovering how even the oceans in Water Land are made from string or how Kirby can swing from a floating dandelion seed as it rises in the air the game is a constant joy to explore.
Two new mini-games have been added each focusing on one of Kirby’s long-time foes. ‘Slash and Bead’ sees you flying through slowly scrolling stages as Meta Knight gathering Fuse Beads and attacking enemies with your sword. ‘Dedede Gogogo’ meanwhile is all about running fast as the giant penguin leaping over pits and sliding and attacking enemies as you go. Both are good fun but lack staying power thanks to their low level count.
While we’ve been talking a lot about what’s been added to the game, there is one particular feature that’s sadly been removed and that’s co-op multiplayer. With another player taking control of Prince Fluff, the Wii original was a joyous two-player experience that suited the slower paced, more exploratory nature of the game. Other 3DS platformers like Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and New Super Mario Bros. 2 have offered this option so it’s disappointing to see it stripped away here.
If you want a break from tackling the game’s main levels, Quilty Square offers players the chance to decorate Kirby’s flat with furniture you find throughout your adventure. StreetPass allows you to then share your designs with passers-by but, really, this late in the 3DS’ life you have to question the likelihood of this ever happening. Manage to furnish other apartments with the right gear and this will attract new occupants each of which play host to their own sub-games focused on an area of gameplay such as collecting beads, racing or combat.
Back on the Wii Kirby’s Epic Yarn was a visual triumph, the clever use of fabric and textiles in the worlds you explored along with the cute animations of Kirby and his enemies giving the game its own distinct and charming sense of style. This makes it all the more disappointing then that Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn doesn’t take advantage of the console’s biggest feature, 3D. It’s a shame because this is a great looking version of the game and one whose art style could have truly benefited from some 3D effects.
If you missed out on Kirby’s Epic Yarn the first time around then the 3DS version is a great way to experience it even if its two-player option is sadly absent. While the newly added features fail to add an awful lot to the overall experience, the core gameplay and striking visual style still shine. Undoubtedly one of the most joyful and wonderfully charming games Nintendo has produced and worth digging out your old 3DS for.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo