Kirby’s had a stellar life on the 3DS, more so than any other console he’s appeared on. Counting main series titles, Virtual Console games, and eShop Exclusives, Kirby’s 3DS library spans over ten games in total. Through all of this, the pink puffball has managed to avoid the constant flow of remakes to the 3DS in the past few years. That’s all about to change with the release of 2019’s Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, the most recent (and possibly last?) official Nintendo port. It’s not such an unexpected idea, as Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World hit the system just two years ago. This port managed to bring some great new features to the table, making it the definitive version to play.
Extra Epic Yarn appears to have the same goal in mind, bringing a few new modes and abilities along for the ride. There’s a catch though: this Kirby game is already controversial for lacking a true challenge. Without the standard Kirby difficulty, the title has become a prime arguing point that Kirby games are “too easy”. It looks like Extra Epic has a plan to remedy that with the new Devilish Mode, but will the other new features in this remake get in the way? Or is this port the perfect last hurrah for the 3DS’s amazing library? Note: This review will encompass the whole game as a standalone title, but you can skip to “The New Stuff” sections if you’ve already played the original.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn‘s story is extremely simple. The cutscenes containing this story are still narrated and told on a little stage, adding to the high charm factor. One peaceful day in Dream Land, a sorcerer named Yin Yarn randomly appears and begins turning everything into yarn. Kirby runs into the sorcerer after trying to get himself a snack, and Yin Yarn sucks him up into a magic sock! Kirby is flung into the brand new world of Patch Land, a place that’s been torn apart into multiple pieces by Yin Yarn’s magic. Now it’s up to Kirby to find the six magical yarn MacGuffins and stitch the entire world back together. He travels with his new companion, Prince Fluff, to defeat the bosses that hold the pieces of magic yarn. Then he’ll be able to travel back to Dream Land and face his new enemy! Fortunately, Kirby has some new abilities to work with, including new vehicle and animal transformations. While a simple tale, it properly weaves everything together in a nice little bow.
Story: The New Stuff
Despite the three new modes added to this title, the game never purposefully ties them together with the main adventure. No new cutscenes or even text boxes will be found here. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but it would have been nice to see some added personality to an already adorable story. Prince Fluff has a much smaller role too, as his 2-Player Mode is completely absent from this version. He still shows up to give Kirby an item once per stage, and at the end of each level to celebrate. Fluff’s role in the overall story seems a little minuscule because of this.
Many have told the story of Epic Yarn’s nonexistent difficulty, but very few have discussed where the actual challenge lies. Kirby’s Epic Yarn runs on a treasure-collecting score system, with Bronze, Silver, and Gold Ranks. This means the difficulty is based on how many beads you’ve collected at the end of the stage. Kirby can’t actually die from anything, but his now-hollow body is extremely fragile. Whenever he takes damage, he drops a whole Rank’s worth of beads, sometimes more.
Thus it is up to Kirby to run, jump, whip, and pound his way through each stage, collecting beads and defeating enemy roadblocks. The lack of an infinite jump is a bit jarring at first, but the stages are more tightly designed around exploration with his new moveset. Kirby’s newest move is the yarn whip, which grabs nearby enemies. He can either unravel them or turn them into yarn balls, which act as projectiles. Each stage is well-crafted on a quilt-like fabric that ties the style together with the gameplay.
Along the way, Kirby will also run into many kinds of transformation segments, almost identical to the ideas presented in Yoshi’s Island. Kirby will turn into a tank to shoot down enemies, a train to collect treasures, and a mole to dig through dirt. Some of these transformations have their own bonus stages completely dedicated to the playstyle. Because of this, every stage in Epic Yarn feels unique. Quality is favored over quantity, as most of the stages have some nice length to them.
Gameplay: The New Stuff
The treasure-hunting goal remains the same in Extra Epic Yarn, but there are some new game-changers in this version that effectively break the challenge of gathering these treasures. These Ravel Abilities are essentially one missing piece of the Kirby formula: Copy Abilities. They function the same as the abilities found in older Kirby games. Each has one different move that can be aimed in different directions. When damaged, Kirby will drop the power-up and have to recollect it before it disappears. Knitting Needles let you make a yarn ball at anytime. Button lets you make and throw bombs at insane speeds. Bobbin gives you a yo-yo that slams enemies far away, even through walls. Marking Pins throw a tiny army of pins into the fabric of the land, defeating enemies. Wire gives you a Meta Knight sword-like swinging combo. And Nylon is the most broken of the six, as it grants you a double-jumping whirlwind that vacuums in beads. The range of all these abilities defeats the purpose of fighting enemies up close. And unlike the others, Nylon can grab beads from far away as an added benefit. This ability makes almost every puzzle in the game a joke, as you no longer have to actually solve the puzzle to get the treasure. Nylon also gives twice the usual amount of beads from a defeated enemy, making collecting items from the shops even easier.
This all becomes a big problem for Devilish Mode. Here, Kirby has a life meter with five pieces. If Kirby completes a stage with all his Life Pieces in tow, he earns five pieces towards a new reward chart. For every five pieces, Kirby gains a new house decoration exclusive to this version. On top of failing the stage if Kirby loses all his Life Pieces, he also has to deal with a little Devil character. These new enemies attack him constantly every few minutes of gameplay. Sounds challenging, right? Well, yes and no.
For some unruly reason, Kirby can use the Ravel Abilities in Devilish Mode. All of the Abilities can damage the Devils at close range. This means Kirby can defeat most of them the moment they appear on the stage. They then fly away for a short time before reappearing. The Abilities make the Devils feel like just another roadblock, which often cancels out the intended challenge. Prince Fluff will also give you a Life Piece refill halfway through the stage. If you lose a piece after that, you might as well restart the whole stage if you plan on 100%-ing the game. Some stages become an arduous chore because of this.
The transformation segments have been heavily edited to match the 3DS. The use of motion controls in completely gone, which is both a good and bad change depending on the transformation. Some like Dolphin, UFO, and Tank work perfectly fine, while others feel completely clunky. Fire Truck uses the L and R buttons to aim the nozzle, which feels awfully stiff. Train is even worse, now using the Circle Pad to draw tracks. Transformations like this seem like a missed opportunity to use the Touch Screen or even the gyro as a more precise method.
The generals controls have a weird problem too. Since the original game was played with a Wii remote, you might think that the D-Pad would be more comfortable for this version. That is true for aiming Kirby’s yarn whip, but for moving…not so much. See, Kirby runs automatically when snapping the Circle Pad to the left and right. On the D-Pad however, you’ll need to double-tap the direction you want to move. For some reason, this only seems to work half of the time. Sometimes double-tapping while moving just doesn’t cause Kirby to run. This was a problem in the demo too, and it’s a shame that it hasn’t been fixed yet. The traditional 3DS Kirby games were more lenient with this, but with Epic Yarn double-tapping requires ridiculous speed. The Circle Pad is more comfortable for both walking and running, but at the expense of making diagonal aiming more difficult. This is a confusing compromise that makes neither the Circle Pad nor the D-Pad a better control method. The Circle Pad quickly became the better option for running around stages quickly, and moving it slowly still lets Kirby walk.
One more thing: While Meta Knight and King Dedede’s separate modes are fun, they are rather simple and only have four stages each. You’ll auto-run through levels as King Dedede Poochy-style, and swing about auto-moving levels as Meta Knight. It’s a nice addition, but nothing to write home about.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a beautiful game, managing an arts-and-crafts style with gameplay ideas. The puffball himself has a variety of adorable new animations. He’ll turn into a car when he runs, a weight when he ground-pounds, and a submarine while underwater. The enemies are adorable too, as even Waddle-Dees squeak when they fall over.
Looks: The New Stuff
Kirby’s Epic Yarn has made a surprisingly smooth transition to an inferior handheld, even better than Yoshi’s Woolly World. The colors are actually more present and saturated in the 3DS version. This may be due to the screen’s few color limits, but it looks fantastic nonetheless. Not only that, but the stages are just as easy to see as before. The stitched-up platforms are plainly visible, and nothing ever feels unfairly placed or hidden. No 3D support this time, which is a shame. There wouldn’t be much to gain from an extra layer of depth in Epic Yarn anyway, which has a flatter style than Yarn Yoshi’s 3DS outing. Goodbye third dimension, we’ll miss you.
However, the game does occasionally trip up when it comes to the framerate. While Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn usually runs at the standard 60 frames per second, the 3DS can only handle so many objects on screen at once. If Kirby drops a lot of beads at once, the game will slow to a complete crawl. This makes it difficult to collect everything lost in time, and breaks the immersion of a normally smooth game. This problem is worsened if a lot of enemies adorn the screen. This game was played on the New Nintendo 3DS for this review, so it is unknown if the Old 3DS has suffered a worse fate. Certain other sections in the game will just lag at complete random.
The soundtrack here is certainly calmer than the usual Kirby game, but that’s not a bad thing. Like Yoshi’s Woolly World, the soundtrack has been adjusted to match a new aesthetic. Smooth jazz, orchestra, and big band music is key here, and it all sounds fantastic. If you’ve been looking for some chill Nintendo music, you’ll find it here.
Music: The New Stuff
There are only a few new tracks in the remake, but they all feel like welcome additions…most of the time. Meta Knight and King Dedede both get new tracks for their respective modes, which combine old and new melodies for their long-running themes. These two tracks just feel like they belong in Epic Yarn, using a calm yet peppy tone.
The new Devilish Mode theme also feels right at home here, which feels appropriately mischievous. The only problem is that the Devil’s theme replaces a stage’s music every time it appears. When you defeat it, the original music resumes. And when the Devil reappears, its theme not only fades back in, but resets too. This means you’ll be hearing the first few seconds of this theme a lot, which can become irritating after playing every stage in this mode.
If you’re wondering what else Epic Yarn has in store for you, say hello to Kirby’s Pad. All of the furniture you collect throughout the stages and other new modes can be placed in your apartment, Kirby’s temporary Patch Land home. The little hut is still fully customizable via the Touch Screen (too bad the transformations didn’t receive the same support). The surrounding apartments have the same characters as the original title, each with a different set of challenges. Clearing these speedruns and collectathons will earn you fabric to decorate your house.
There are a staggering amount of objects to collect in the remake. The Wii had a total of 168 collectibles, while the 3DS version clocks in at a whopping 259. The Devilish Mode collectibles really stand out here. Each has a special animation when interacted with, and some objects even have a legitimate use (one gives Kirby an instant hanger of Ravel Abilities). This does make the new Items a little more interesting. But if you don’t plan on completing the game, this may not be all that exciting.
The entire DS lineup has run its course at this point, and it seems that Nintendo has recently cut off their support for the 3DS. This will likely be the last remake Nintendo publishes for the system. That said, it seems to be a nice sendoff for the 3DS. The system has a massive library of fantastic games, and the lineup of quality ports only adds to this. While it isn’t that much extra epic, it’s still a quality title. At its worst, it’s a slightly less detailed port with little added to mix things up. But at its best, it’s a chance for new players to experience the game with some optional, mostly harmless perks.
If you haven’t played Epic Yarn before, you’ll probably want to pick this up. Despite the issues mentioned above, the game is still plenty of fun. If you have finished the original though, you won’t be missing much. If you’ve never heard the tale of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, now is the time to give it a shot: for the most part, you won’t be disappointed.
8/10 “A well-woven remake with a few messy stitches.”