The Kirby video game series began almost thirty years ago with the release of Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy. Dozens of games later, the series has grown into a core Nintendo franchise with its titles spanning several different genres. Countless characters and locales have also been introduced throughout the years, forming a surprising amount of story lore and even debates on whether Kirby’s achievements qualify him as one of the most powerful beings in fiction. Kirby Fighters 2 is the latest title in the series, which pits different Kirbys against each other in melee combat. This is a direct sequel to Kirby Fighters Deluxe, featuring several of its features but greatly expanding on them.
All of the story content of Kirby Fighters 2 comes from its story mode. In this mode, King Dedede and Meta Knight have decided to team up to take on Kirby. They challenge him to a 2 vs. 2 battle at the top of a tower. It’s up to Kirby to team up with a partner to meet the challenge of two of his biggest and most constant rivals to see whose bond is stronger. For Dedede and Meta Knight, it’s a rare chance to join forces to hopefully accomplish what neither has been able to do in the past: defeat Kirby for once.
Small story sequences play during the story mode, particularly after boss fights. Other than the introduction to the mode, the game does not offer much in the way of a plot besides these text segments and the final fight. This deviates from many other Kirby games, but this game’s focus is firmly on the battling aspect. For the purposes of Kirby Fighters 2, the lack of plot is not much of an issue. What will keep you playing match after match is the frenetic fighting gameplay itself rather than a storyline.
Kirby Fighters 2 has gameplay that anyone familiar with other arena fighting games will recognize right away. You pick who you would like to battle with, each Kirby featuring their own moveset inspired by his powers in past games, and then pick a stage. After that, you’re set to start fighting. You engage in combat in arena settings, with platforms for different areas to fight, items to make combat interesting, and stage hazards to keep you on your toes. It’s an experience tailored for playing with others, both locally and online, and features play modes for both methods of multiplayer gameplay.
What makes this game different from other arena fighting games is that death is not the end. Once your health has been depleted, you are able to come back to life as a ghost and roam around the battlefield. If you manage to hit an active combatant, you will be revived with limited health, which adds an exciting element to the gameplay. Another intriguing feature is that you gain points after battles in any of the game’s main modes, known as Fighters Rank. As you gain more points, you rank up and get rewards such as additional characters and stages.
Something you will notice early on is that the fighting in Kirby Fighters 2 isn’t quite as fast and crazy as the Super Smash Bros series. Kirby is not designed to be a fast character in many of his past games, so you can imagine that a game that features mostly different versions of him as fighters will lead to fights that don’t have an abundance of fancy footwork. Fortunately, this does not detract from the overall experience and actually serves to differentiate it from the other games it is otherwise extremely reminiscent of. Due to the slower pace, matches are balanced better in the online mode, as the more dedicated players aren’t as capable of exploiting the game’s mechanics. This is great for younger and casual players, but could be an issue for veterans of the genre.
The traditional battle mode of Kirby Fighters 2 allows you to set up a match however you like. You can have up to four players battle, mixing CPU and local players who have their own controller. Matches can either be free-for-all or team battles. You can change the rule settings such as how often items appear in the stage and whether stage hazards are active. This is a great feature for tailoring a fight that suits whatever you’re in the mood for. This is another familiar feature from the Super Smash Bros series, games notably also made by HAL Laboratory, but the settings here are less customizable. The item pool is also much smaller, so the options present are more than sufficient to help you find rule settings that work for you.
What little story content Kirby Fighters 2 offers can be found in its story mode. Your aim in this mode is to climb a tower in order to fight King Dedede and Meta Knight in matches that increase in difficulty with each floor. To start, you must pick a character you’d like to use in your ascent, as well as a non-Kirby buddy character from the character roster. This buddy will help you in fights as another combatant, and can be played by the CPU or a local co-op player. Note that the CPU in this mode is automatically set at a low level by default, often doing things like standing by active bombs and refusing to evade stage hazards. The experience will surely be more enjoyable and successful if you can find someone else to venture up the tower with, but playing solo with a CPU companion is more than manageable.
Depending on how you do in matches, you get point bonuses. These points are added up throughout the run and are awarded as Fighter Rank points at the end of the run, as well as a flat bonus for completion. After each floor battle, you get to choose one of three items that will give bonuses to your combat stats (like health and attack power) or increase different aspects of your battles, like improving the efficacy of items that drop during matches. These effects last for the duration of that current tower run.
The mode is separated into chapters, with the final floor of runs increasing as you complete each one. For example, the first chapter only consists of five floors. Once the final floor is reached, a boss fight ensues, featuring a few familiar foes from Kirby games of the past. There isn’t much variety in these sub-bosses (there are only two, in fact), at least until you reach the last few chapters, which is disappointing given the wealth of bosses there have been in the Kirby series that could have been included. Once the boss has been defeated, the run is completed and you are rewarded with Fighters Rank points.
Story mode is a great source of Fighters Rank points, and is definitely the best option for accruing these points if you plan to play mostly solo. You can easily gain dozens of Rank levels over the course of completing the chapters, as the fights aren’t too difficult and award much higher amounts of points per match than any other mode. The large point bonus you get from chapter completion is also a great help in increasing Fighters Rank.
The main problem you might have with the story mode is that if you happen to pick inferior items and find yourself unable to beat a high floor, even using the replay option to redo the floor won’t yield better results if you really are outclassed. The game makes no effort to make things easier in such a situation, and no difficulty setting is present in this mode. So you will be forced to start your run again, forfeiting all of your accrued points and the time spent getting there. This can be frustrating for those not adept at fighting games.
A popular option in most modern games, the online mode in Kirby Fighters 2 allows you to connect to the Internet, provided you have a Switch Online subscription, to battle in random or friend matches. Fans of online gaming will be happy to know that matches played in the online mode rewards increased amounts of Fighters Rank points per match compared to battle and local modes.
Random matches pair you with another player for a 2 vs 2 team battle against two other players. You are allowed to pick your own character, but a stage is randomly chosen. This process is sullied by the tendency of the game to not find enough people to join your match once the matchmaking process begins. This could be a matter of the game’s recent release and its small playerbase.
Friend matches allow you to play in online matches with your Nintendo Switch friends that can’t play locally. It requires that both friends own a copy of Kirby Fighters 2 and that you both enter the mode. One of you will need to start a group, at which point any friends of that individual will find that group available to join. You can play with a mix of CPU and human combatants. This is a useful option when couch co-op isn’t possible, or the anonymity of the random mode isn’t fulfilling enough.
Local Play Mode
If you have friends or family that would prefer to battle with you using their own Switch, and they are close at hand, the local play mode is what you’re looking for. Similar to friend matches, somebody has to create a group upon starting the mode, and any nearby players are able to join. You can play with up to three other people, or mix in CPU opponents as well. Like online mode, Fighters Rank point rewards after matches are increased in this mode.
Single-Handed Mode entails battling in a gauntlet of bouts by yourself. There are three difficulty modes to choose from, depending on how much you want to challenge yourself or how highly you think of your personal fighting prowess. Each fight is timed, with higher points being awarded for lower clear times. At the end of each run of battles, you are awarded Fighters Rank points suiting your total time and a flat point bonus if it’s your first time clearing that difficulty or using that character. This encourages trying out each difficulty and each character, acting as a decent way to increase your Fighters Rank.
Practice mode lets you practice your moves with any characters. Your opponents remain stationary, so you are able to test out combos or different strategies at your leisure. The stage used for the mode is also completely devoid of unnecessary scenery and hazards as well, allowing you to focus on practicing your technique. Move sets can be seen through the pause menu as well, so exploring each character’s style is fairly easy. It’s an effective way to try out new characters you’ve unlocked, hopefully finding one that feels right to you and fits your own desired playstyle.
Kirby Fighters 2 features over twenty total characters to choose from. A vast majority of these are different forms of Kirby, each one representing the different powers he’s used in past Kirby series games. The moves they use will no doubt spark memories of these games for those who’ve played even just a few. In addition, there is a new Kirby ability seen here for the first time, the wrestler. You only start with a few of these characters, but more can quickly be unlocked as you gain more Fighters Rank levels. There is a surprising amount of variety in these characters, even if they are almost all just Kirby in different clothes. It may even be difficult to choose one you like, since the majority will probably be viable for your battling needs. As you increase your Fighters Rank, you can also unlock different hats for each character, allowing customization of the fighters you use.
There is a great mix of items that can drop during matches in Kirby Fighters 2. Many will help you damage your opponents, while others serve to heal your health to varying degrees. Some include a high-damage microphone, pom-poms that buff your speed and damage after a quick dance, and a cannon you can carry with you throughout the stage that shoots cannonballs at your foes. Items add a fun and unpredictable element to battles, but those that take their battles more seriously can choose to turn them off or tweak items through the rule settings in battle mode.
The game’s stages represent several of the past entries in the Kirby series. Characters from those games, in both 2D sprite and 3D form, make an appearance in many stages to help or hinder you with items, or act as a stage hazard for combatants. You start Kirby Fighters 2 with only a few stages to choose from, but like the character roster, your selection of stages increases as you play more matches and level up your Fighters Rank. It is worthy of note that many of these stages are returning entries from the first Kirby Fighters game, though the sequel expands on the selection substantially.
Some may not like how much effort it will take to earn some of the stages, with some not being unlocked until the higher Fighters Rank levels. In addition, some of the stages have hazards that are a bit excessive in how much damage they deal and how much they get in the way of the action. This could add an element of randomness that isn’t to your taste.
Fighter’s Rank & Rewards
Points obtained from playing any of the modes Kirby Fighters 2 offers to increase your Fighter’s Rank, the game’s level system that rewards level-ups with various unlockables. Things that can be unlocked include characters, stages, and improved items for the story mode’s item rooms. As you increase your rank, point requirements for leveling up also increase. There are 100 total levels of Fighters Rank to achieve, leaving much to accomplish for completionists and Kirby enthusiasts. There are even a few secret unlocks that require alternate means to unveil their secrets.
Spreading the game’s stages and characters out like this could be a bit disheartening to some, since the game’s trailer advertises many features that are not available from the start. At the same time, unlocking these things like this means you will have something to look forward to for some time, which isn’t such a bad thing.
The game is full of colorful characters and environments. The animated elements of the stages are well-made and feature a mixture of modern and retro styles based on the games they are inspired by. The characters that appear in these stages as hazards also look like they are ripped straight from these classic Kirby titles, like Dyna Blade from Kirby All-Star. Game menus also have great transitions and animations. It is also worthy of note that this is the first Kirby game on the Switch that runs at 60 frames per second, making the action smooth.
The Kirby series has a wealth of memorable tunes, and Kirby Fighters 2 includes many of them. Each stage plays a remixed version of the song associated with that stage’s original game, or sometimes even the exact song. This brings a nice rush of nostalgia for anyone who grew up playing Kirby games or has played more recent entries. The songs greatly fit the fighting matches, exuding an epic tone or amping you up with boss music from past games like Dedede’s theme. You will either love the songs because they bring back memories or because of how they are just plain good.
Even if you climb the whole tower in story mode, there will still be countless things to unlock through increasing your Fighter’s Rank. In order to fully enjoy the game, you will need the full suite of stages and characters to choose from, so replaying the story mode chapters or battling in one of the other modes is essential in unlocking these things. If online matches get your blood pumping, the online mode is a great way to keep enjoying the game for quite some time. Kirby Fighters 2 is also the perfect party game when you have friends over as well.
What makes Kirby Fighters 2 notable compared to other arena fighting games is its accessibility. Many games of its ilk take themselves very seriously, while this one puts sheer fun before anything else. It trades the speed and complicated fighting mechanics of Super Smash Bros for a more simple and efficient style of battles that more than holds its own in the genre. That makes it great for the whole family and fighter fans alike. The variety of character types is a pleasant surprise in a game dominated by one character. The references to classic Kirby games will absolutely delight any fans of the series, as the songs and characters in each stage are crafted so well. For only $20, you get a game that will give you an innumerable amount of hours of entertainment and a heavy dose of nostalgia that only a pink ball of fluff with a limitless appetite could deliver.
Final Rating: 8/10.