Kirby’s Air Ride GameCube Review

Believe it or not Kirby’s Air Ride was first revealed almost 10 years ago; it was at E3 1995 that the game was first announced as a launch title for the N64. Obviously it never made the launch date and in the following years many rumours reared their heads. The game was supposed to be released as one of the last games for the N64, but that never happened and then it was an expected Cube launch title but it failed to materialize. You could say good old Kirby was stuck in development hell, and many wondered if Nintendo ever let him out. More of us wondered if all this development time would result in a playable game. Well, the good news is that Kirby Air Ride has finally been released and the bad news…well, I think you should read on…..

Gameplay

First things first, how does the game control? Well let me say this – Kirby’s control scheme is far from complex. In fact, I think the guys at HAL set out with one thing on their mind, and that was trying to redefine the word simple. You can forget about “R”, “L”, “X” “Y” and “B” buttons. All your attention needs to be focused on that bringer of greatness that is the “A” button. What do you do when you want to accelerate you may ask? Well the simple answer to that is you do nothing. Kirby has decided that he wants to accelerate himself and there is nothing you can do to change that. Of course if you want to break you can press that all important “A” button. What if you want to release a power up? You press that lovely green “A” button, but when you release the power-up you will brake as well so there is a element of tactics employed. Also Kirby’s trademark inhaling of enemies is controled via Mr. “A” as well. To get a boost you must brake, which seems like a very weird addition. It means you must hold down – you guessed it – the “A” button, which in essence slows you character down but builds up a small boost after you let go. This feels like a very weird decision and I feel it does not work. Now it may seem I am against simplicity in games – infact that is far from the truth. I am all for it! You see Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 are up there in my list of favourite games for the GameCube. Super Monkey Ball is a prime example of simplistic controls not hindering addictive gamelay but Air Ride is the exact opposite of this. You see, deep deep down inside the bowels of the game a good game is trying to break out but it can’t. The simplicity of the controls are chaining it down and sapping away the enjoyment and fun of what has the ability to be a very engaging and exciting game.

Kirby Air Ride for all intents and purposes is three games in one. However as all of them use the same one button for control they all feel the same. Air Ride mode is the basic racing mode that we have seen and done many times before in other games. Top Ride mode does exactly what it says on the tin (or instruction booklet) and lets you enjoy (and I use that world lightly) the game from a top-down view. City Trial is the most original mode in the game; it gives you five minutes to speed about a city to accumulate power-ups. Then you must play a mini game with your vehicle and see how you fare. The game does support LAN which is a welcome addition, but I can’t help feeling that the game does not deserve it. If this game was able to support it, why could a superior game like F-Zero GX not have it?

Graphics

The graphics are trademark Nintendo. The game has the same rich bright colourful lively colours we have learned to expect from Ninty over the years but the fact that it started its life as a N64 game definately shows. It does not look as polished as other titles you may have played on your Cube. The game certainty does not push the power of the GameCube; none of the graphics are going to impress you much. There are a few nice touches in there – the backgrounds of the levels look good, but like I said before nothing impressive. I feel like I am struggling to find good things to say about the graphics, or infact good things to say about the game as a whole, but a few things which are of a slight impressive sort are the character models. They are the one part of the game that genuinely look like they belong on a next-gen machine. The game also runs at a smooth 60 frames per second but that should be expected as the graphics aren’t pushing the machine.

Sound

The music is adequate, although it is not the best soundtrack Nintendo has ever put together and definitely not a patch on what we have heard previously from the likes of the Mario and Zelda. As with all Nintendo racing games each track has its own tune but unlike other Nintendo games nothing is very memorable. It seems no heart was put into composing them; they sound far to generic and even border on downright annoying at times. In complete contrast to the soundtrack the sound effects are well done, as all of the attacks, grinds, explosions and crashes sound full and how you would expect them to.

Lifespan

There is simply not enough tracks to make the game last long enough, but as the game is so disappointing you could consider this a blessing in disguise. There are 9 tracks in Air Ride mode; one of these is unlockable so if you last long enough to unlock it you can then have some fun with your one measly unlockable. In a effort to add some longevity to the game 120 challanges have been given to you in each game mode. The challenges range from simple ones like finishing first and range to weirder ones like using a certain power-up a set number of times while still trying to win the race. If you want to complete 100% of the game you will have to complete all of these.

Overall

If you could pick the game up for £20 then it might be worth it, but even then it may worth renting it first. There are far to many better games out right now and Air Ride is a disappointing effort for a next-gen racing game. Nothing is done here that could not have been done on a PSone or N64. If Kirby’s Air Ride was a mini game in Mario Party it would be acceptable, but this game is a huge letdown. It is not only a letdown to fans of the Kirby franchise but is a letdown to fans of Nintendo as a whole. We know they can do much better than this, and fans of the company with such high expectations expect more than this. If they used a better or more regular well known type of control system the game might have scored a bit higher. But the game is too simple to be enjoyed by gamers of any age. Man cannot live on one button alone.

5.8 out of 10

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