Nintendo has realized that within the last few years, games have become complicated. Things like button combinations, subscreens, menus, and multiple things happening at once all add up in complexity. Kirby Air Ride tries to simplify game play by only using the analog stick and “A” button. Is using one button the best idea for a racing game? Well?. not really.
All three modes of play in Kirby Air Ride (KAR) are based around the racing element of the boost turn. Once “A is held down, your craft will begin to slow down, but boost power will be stored. After “A” is released, an energy boost will give your craft a boost of speed. Mario Kart 64’s sliding boost turn is similar to this. U-turns are now something to take advantage of.
Kirby rides on a hovering craft somewhat similar to an F-Zero racer. There is no acceleration button because your machine perpetually gains momentum and it would require the use of another button. There are many different types of craft available. The player can choose from a machine that excels in handling, floating, bursting, or speed. However, no matter which machine is chosen, the fastest one always seems to win.
If the player wanted, he could complete a race without even touching the controller. The computer handles the acceleration as well as the path of the machine. The designers of this game really did develop a simple game.
A Kirby game wouldn’t be complete without the ability to absorb powers. While racing and an enemy draws near, a quick tap of the “A” button will cause Kirby to suck up and absorb the creature’s power. There are many abilities Kirby can use such as a flamethrower, porcupine, or even Link. Some powers are used automatically when an opponent comes close to the craft such as Link’s sword, but other powers require taps of the “A” button. However, sometimes abilities can interfere with the boosting process. For example, say the player has the flamethrower power. When he hits “A” to use it, fire comes out but he slows down because of the boost button. The weapon attacks should have been assigned to another button to avoid this problem.
The three modes of play are Air Ride, Top Ride, and City Trial. Air Ride is a single race similar to Mario Kart. Players ride through courses in a 3rd person perspective. The Kirby that comes in first place, wins.
Top Ride is a race that plays out very similar to Super Sprint, and close to R.C. ProAm. All players race on the same screen through the overhead camera perspective.
The same “A” button boost ability is also applied here. Weapons, instead of absorbing powers will also be found. Because of the overhead screen, there are two forms of control. One control set up allows the player to turn in any direction by using only Left and Right while the other moves in the direction of the analog stick. It’s great that the game gives you this option to fit any player’s needs. In my opinion, Top Ride is probably the best because everyone races on one screen, many weapons are available, and the environments are interactive.
City Ride is the longest and deepest mode of play. The object is to ride around a city while finding upgrades, power-ups, and new machines while fighting your opponents. Stat upgrades are placed around the huge city. Categories like turning, boost, and speed can be increased when the proper items are found. If you successfully land an attack on an opponent, his power ups will be dropped. Many different things will happen in the city. The lighthouse will light up or a meteor shower will rain down, all of which affect game play in some way. These events are random or can be triggered by doing specific things to the city. Once time is up, all the players compete in a mini game. There is a numerous amount of these games to unlock and all are pretty fun. Games such as drag races, who can fly the furthest, and a target game similar to Super Monkey Ball’s Monkey Target are all fun and different. Once unlocked, these mini games can be played without competing in the city. They can be accessed through the Stadium menu.
To increase replay value, a checklist will show what conditions the player has unlocked. Each mode of play has about 120 different tasks to complete. Some are simple but some will take some work. To accomplish all these tasks could take weeks.
The game has very similar graphics to Super Smash Bros. Melee. Even the menu system is the same. This is not a bad thing because everything is very clean, detailed, and pleasant. The game even has a nice opening FMV. To help players understand KAR, tutorial movies can be watched at any time. The graphics are very smooth and play at a clear frame rate. The music compliments the graphics well because each tune is catchy and the sound effects are colorful.
I feel that KAR doesn’t reach its full potential. This game proves that it is possible to make a game with only one button, but it isn’t as good as it could be. In a way, Nintendo is speaking hypocritically. They encourage companies to make simple games, but they go ahead and develop the most complicated and stragetigic Mario Kart ever, Mario Kart Double Dash. The switching of players adds an incredible amount of depth but with depth comes complexity.
Never the less, KAR is surely worthy of a rental as you and multiple friends will enjoy Top Ride and the Stadium games from City Trial. There is a ton of replay value in unlocking objectives, improving times, and multiplayer mode. KAR is one of the first GC games to offer LAN support. The replay value, smooth graphics, and catchy tunes all lead to signs of a superb game, but the single button technique drags it down. However, the more time you spend with this title, the more it will grow on you. Players might not understand the gameplay of KAR, but if they invest a little time into it, their attitudes might change. A purchase of this game at a cheap price will please some gamers. However, if you don’t want to play this game, then at least watch the cartoon on Saturday mornings.