Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64) Review

By Adam Riley 06.07.2008 12

Review for Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on Nintendo 64

Kirby has carved out a very large following over the years since his first ever game back towards the end of the NES' lifespan. Soon enough any game with the pink puffball's name attached easily sold millions around the world and thus all eyes were obviously on the character's 3Ds but on the Nintendo 64 following the massive success of Super Mario 64. However, HAL took a slightly different route than expected, keeping closer to Kirby's traditional 2D side-scrolling roots than anyone expected. Was the choice a wise one, was that old magic still ever-present in this home console update, and should gamers consider splashing out 1,000 Wii Points on it now the game has reached the Virtual Console?

For Kirby's first solo foray into the world of three dimensions, Nintendo and HAL decided to let him bring along a few friends, as well as one that is normally seen as an enemy. There is Ribbon, a cute little fairy that floats around, Waddle Dee, Adeleine, who draws special items for Kirby in certain levels, and the infamous King Dedede who is actually on-hand to give Kirby a ride and smash through tough obstacles at various points in the game. But what are they all fighting for, and why is King Dedede helping out rather than being the one committing dastardly deeds for a change? Well, it seems a being known as 'Dark Matter' has been devastating Ripple Star, the home of the peaceful fairy folk, so Kirby & Co. must bravely fight to abolish the disturbance by reclaiming six broken shards of the Star's magical crystal. Pretty rudimentary stuff as far as a storyline goes, but it sets up the journey quite nicely.

Now, whilst people might be quick to don those rose-tainted glasses and begin lambasting Kirby 64 for being too childish before even trying the game, it should be remembered that the core team behind this is the same three that worked on the highly lauded NES original - namely the talented trio of Shinichi Shimomura, Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto. They also completed this project in just fourteen months, following much confusion as to which direction Kirby should be taken in for his 3D (remember the tech demo 'Kirby Bowl', which turned into 'Kirby Air Ride' before being scrapped and eventually resurrected on the GameCube? Best to forget it, really...). So a modicum of respect should be shown, rather than writing this off straight away. Therefore, being one of those to previously dismiss the game when initially on the N64, the bullet was firmly bitten this time round and a complete play-through of the whole adventure ensued. And what a surprisingly pleasant experience it turned out to be...

Screenshot for Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on Nintendo 64

Rather than taking the full vast open 3D world approach that both Mario and Donkey Kong's exploits ventured into for their '64 reprisals, HAL placed Kirby back in the safety net of side-scrolling games of yore, whilst mixing in a numerous different viewpoints, as well as three-dimensional tricks and special touches to spice proceedings up considerably, with everything accompanied by some familiar Kirby tunes from the past, plus numerous catchy new ones that have been carried over to later iterations on GBA and DS. In essence the whole game plays like a dream, with players helping Kirby wander backwards and forwards around the six worlds on offer, floating and rolling about, sucking up enemies and taking on their powers along the way, all the while attempting to locate each and every shard of crystal dotted around a level, with three to find per stage. Whilst in previous adventures players could just make Kirby float at the top of the screen to avoid all enemies and scoot to the exit with ease, now Kirby runs out of puff after a short while, falling back to the ground, which means more skill is definitely required to navigate to the goal. Sadly, though, this aspect is countered by a significant decrease in difficulty and overall speed of play.

Screenshot for Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on Nintendo 64

Kirby now saunters about in a very lackadaisical manner, even when running, almost as if the impending threat of Dark Matter is not his top priority. This seems quite suited to younger players being introduced to the world of Kirby for the first time, since it means avoiding enemies is far easier than in previous games where shooting around sometimes led to accidental bumping into monsters and untimely deaths. Mid-level bosses are pathetically simple as well, with many just standing in one corner and letting Kirby hurl projectiles until a few seconds later they are annihilated. However, as unenthusiastic as this might sound, Kirby does control smoothly as gamers progress through the varied levels, and end of world boss encounters are quite inventive (especially the final encounter with Dark Matter where the boss is impervious to all previously used abilities!), making Kirby flex his sucking abilities and make best use of the newly implemented mix-and-match power scheme.

Yes, things are slightly different in The Crystal Shards. Whereas in the past Kirby was only able to suck, swallow and take on the power of one enemy at a time, now he can absorb two different powers at once, giving him a super ability. Players can still adopt the singular abilities if they prefer, ranging from the likes turning into a walking/rolling boulder to blowing icy cold air from his mouth and emitting electric sparks. Yet now two powers can be combined for extra strength, with an example being when two bomb throwers are sucked in a proficiency in firing missiles is acquired, rather than the simple launching of bombs that would have been gained otherwise. Part of the fun in Kirby 64 indeed comes from experimenting with the various 'Power Combos' available, seeing what certain mixtures of enemy will give what useful talent, and with around thirty combinations to play around with there is something for everyone's taste.

Screenshot for Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on Nintendo 64

Sadly, again, the drawback has to be that some skills make the game even easier, especially the three-missile launching one, as players can just sit back and constantly fire off at will, clearing the path of any danger before even venturing near oncoming foes as the missiles actually home in on monsters. But a degree of restraint goes a long way and the game can be considerably enjoyable if you mix up the different abilities and go in search of all the hidden crystals to gain that elusive 100% completion score. All-in-all The Crystal Shards should last probably around eight hours for the first play-through, with a couple more when tracking back to find hidden content. There are also three mini-games to add a little extra longevity as four players can get together on the one system and have a great amount of fun playing through 'Bumper Crop Bump' (catch falling fruit and gems in your basket, bumping others out of the way in the process), '100-Yard Hop' (race competitors by hopping one or two places at the appropriate time) and 'Checkerboard Chase' (all players are on a Draughts Board and a laser obliterates it, tile by tile, until only one space remains and your opponents have fallen to their death). Whilst all exceedingly basic, when the hardest difficulty levels are unlocked, they become surprisingly addictive...something you will find about Kirby 64 on the whole, to be honest. Now it only costs roughly $7.50 as well, gamers should definitely give this the chance they did not give it seven years ago.

Screenshot for Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on Nintendo 64

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Kirby 64 shows just how well a 2.5D side-scrolling platform game can be, mixing the tried-and-tested platform mechanics of past entries with an impressive selection of varied worlds to play through, clever boss battles, plus an innovative take on the usual trademark power absorption technique Kirby uses for attacking. The only real drawback is the reduction in speed of the main character, which adds to the already decreased difficulty in what appears to be an entry-level edition of the series. Thankfully there is still more than enough fun for veteran fans to warrant a try.


HAL Laboratory




2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Definitely worth checking out now its on VC. I avoided it like the plague when it first came to N64, mainly because of the ridiculously high price (

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

It's fun. Doesn't have the charm of 2D Kirbies though I feel. It feels a bit more klunky and slow paced. I agree with the 7 score, and the music and graphics were very nice. It's always been that way with Kirby games, I really feel they pushed the NES to the limit with Kirby's Adventure.

If it's a choice between this and Yoshi's Story, this no question. Smilie

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I'm currently playing through Kirby's Adventure at the moment - so much fun! There's a terrible amount of slowdown, sadly, but still a corking game. Leaning towards a 9/10 for that, to be honest.

If you play both this and the NES game back-to-back the speed difference is so much more noticeable...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Agree with the score have it on VC (I can't believe I actually bought it, my points could have been better used). It's good but way too slow and like SL said doesn't have the charm other previous 2D Kirby Games had.

Heh, I played the NES game and Squeak Squad back to back. Squeak Squad is great and fast paced. I think the power ups in Kirby 64 are generally a bit slower, but the fusion is a good idea, there are loads of combinations. I think Cutter is pretty awful though Smilie.

And I think the slowdown in KIrby's Adventure is understandable. It's the closest to a SNES game out of all NES titles I've played.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

There are some pretty poor combinations included, but I think that must surely be purposeful to encourage players to keep mixing things up.

Mouse Attack/Squeak Squad's a fantastic game, as is The Amazing Mirror on DS. Loved both those games! Shame Capcom's subsidiary Flagship (the team behind both) has been dissolved...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Completed it just earlier. Was really pleased to hear some of the music I knew well from other titles in the Kirby series. For some reason Kirby music being used in multiple games is always one of the biggest highlights of playing this series. One of the reasons I just want to "keep playing" is to hear the music for the next stage, and see if I recognise it from another game ^^

I want to play World 7 but at the moment I really can't be bothered to find all the Crystal Shards. Smilie I guess replay value is another thing Squeak Squad has over this.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I'm hoping they keep the same graphical style / approach for the Wii version of Kirby...but obviously make it more like the recent DS/GBA outings rather than this N64 game.

Next up I'm going to try and get Kirby on the NES completed and reviewed, with any luck...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Its been so long since I've read a C3 review (or any Ninty related review for that matter) but that was worth the wait. Smilie

Tom Barry [ Reviewer - Editor - Resident Sim-Racer @ ] 

Cutter and Bomb combination makes the game entirely too easy but, it's my favorite powerup combination.

I wish that people would make another three dimensional Kirby at least once more.

the one thing that stood out in this game was the final boss 02 (Zero Two) he was so awesome and cant wait to see his third form. (if its possible)

Mario, Mega Man and Rayman FTW!!!

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?

There are 1 members online at the moment.