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  Navigation: Home » Nintendo » Preview » Kirby Air Ride  

Release Date:
January 2004*




Kirby Air Ride

Hey kids, see this: Kirby’s back and more bloated than ever. Since we last saw him, the rumours of his descent into fast food have proved sadly true and he’s now a human blimp, though to look at him you’d swear he’s only gone and moved into 3D land. Like all good Nintendo characters Kirby pops up every once in a while, makes a solid and critically acclaimed game, gets some good sales and slips back into the Nintendo vault. So far in the GameCube’s life it’s happened to Luigi, Mario, Link and Samus and it’s soon to be happening to the F-Zero and Mario Kart crew. But enough rambling, let’s move onto what’s happening to poor old Kirby this time around.

Kirby Air Ride actually has a pretty long history, going back to the early days of the N64 (remember that? Nintendo doesn’t want to) Nintendo first talked about this game however they managed to mess about with it so much via gameplay changes and delays that it was scrapped (or rather it wasn’t talked about anymore). But a few years ago information regarding Kirby Air Ride for the GC started to come out and now, having just been released in Japan and a January 2004 date for Europe and America set, we’ve got plenty of information about this interesting, if worrying, title.

Kirby Air Ride is, much like Kirby, a hungry whore of a kart game, stealing from every other kart game possible and mashing it all together in the hope of coming up with something not terrible. There’s the expected array of power ups, boost pads, short cuts in tracks, attack items for spoiling the other players’ race and tight and twisty circuits. Kirby’s unique slant on gameplay is present with the ability to eat other players and absorb the powers of that enemy, so if Kirby eats some water-based player whatever power he/she has can be used by Kirby who will also sport a new hairdo based off his new found powers. The powers include Sword Kirby, Ice Kirby and Bird Kirby with more in there but we don’t want to spoil it.

The controls are curious, let’s just say. A and the control stick is all you need, however there’s no acceleration – Kirby is in constant acceleration and what A does is slow Kirby down and, when released, gives you a speed boost. A also performs all other actions such as eating opponents, firing weapons and using power ups. It’s very simple and classic kart game material, but we wonder if there’s enough in that to separate it from being another Mario Kart clone. We’ve also got a major problem with not being able to smash up the acceleration button as there is none, part of the appeal of any decent racing game is hitting the buttons as hard as possible but here that relief is lost. One wonders what the developers were thinking of when they thought this system up.

Graphically… we’re just not impressed. Sure it’s light, fluffy and extremely colourful as you’d expect a Kirby game to have, but it’s missing flair and detail. I hope everyone remembers Nintendo talking about how easy the GameCube is to code for and how it’s as powerful as the Xbox and PS2, but if this is the case how is it that the company itself can’t create graphics engines with as much flair as the flagship titles on the Xbox and PS2? It’s unsettling that the best they can come up with is most certainly average.

Much more impressive is the track designs, which are not only similar to the creations of a drugged-up hippy but are as inventive as they come. Genius shortcuts, use of ramps, items unique to each track and events that happen when the A button is pressed in a specific location all add to the spice of the tracks.

Of course winning isn’t everything, much like the average Super Smash Bros. Melee, Kirby Air Ride sports dozens of unlockable features that aren’t dependant on winning. The game is split into three modes – Air Ride, Top Ride and City Trial and each mode has 120 extras to unlock. These can be unlocked by winning races, eating a certain number of a certain enemy during a race and taking a certain shortcut during a race. Rewards are nothing unexpected – tracks, songs and karts are amongst the treasure chests. Unfortunately Nintendo hasn’t said of specifics about each mode and while we’re sure there are differences between them, possibly significant ones, there’s no English text in the Japanese version. Here’s some non-specific quote from their single, very short, press release:

The Air Ride and Top Ride modes offer 3- and 2-D racing, respectively, while the City Trial mode takes the battle action from the Air Ride mode and turns it into a race for power-ups before launching players into full-on tournament battle.

We’ll wait and see.

Worrying was mentioned earlier in this article, but why is it worrying? Well, Kirby Air Ride isn’t the most impressive game we’ve ever seen for several reasons, all of which have been outlined above. It just doesn’t look like a strong title. Prove us wrong but this has all the hallmarks of an average game created by a company capable of so much more. Perhaps they’re saving their better ideas for F-Zero GC and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!? All we know is that uncertainty surrounding a 1st part title is never a good thing, especially at a time when Nintendo needs as much triple A material as they can possibly get.

Mark Murphy - (26 Aug 2003)

* release dates are only applicable at the time of writing
There are 2 comments for this article.

Rockin83 at 13:37, Sun 22 May 2005
kirby is cool

KIRBY at 16:02, Sat 22 Apr 2006
Kirby is best!

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