When Kirby Fighters Deluxe was released on Nintendo 3DS in 2014, it was an interesting diversion that lacked the sort of substance you would expect from a fighting game. It didn’t feel particularly fun to play, the content was relatively light and overall, it wasn’t an especially fun time. With that experience behind them I had hoped that HAL Labs’ sequel Kirby Fighters 2 would learn from the mistakes of the past. Instead, Kirby Fighters 2 is another lacklustre 2v2 Kirby fighting game that feels like a slog more than anything else.
Kirby Fighters 2 pulls together all the different Kirby powers you know and love, along with a few friends, to create an instantly recognisable roster of fighters. Beginning the game, you’ll only have access to an extremely small roster of those characters, with it expanding as you level up. I absolutely love Kirby, and so had an instant attachment to the fighters of the game, but it was frustrating to only have 3 fighers (Sword, Staff and Bomb) and a single buddy (Bandana Waddle Dee) available at the beginning. I’ve long loved the approach of games like Super Smash Bros. where you unlock characters over time, but this was simply too restrictive right out of the gate.
To unlock those remaining characters, you’ll have to raise your fighter level – an overarching level you gain experience towards by playing. Along with fighters you’ll also unlock badges (which are used as powerups in the story mode), new stages, songs and also cosmetic hats for your Kirbys. You should be able to reach a high enough level to unlock all characters with a single full playthrough of the game’s story mode but doing that is a more onerous task than it should be.
Kirby Fighters 2’s story mode is a pretty basic and bland adventure, which largely describes recent Kirby stories. There’s hardly any actual writing and only a couple of actual cutscenes. In reality, the story here is simply a flimsy excuse to put you into a tower where you have to fight your way to the top, floor by floor. Where the story mode really goes wrong is in its structure and random difficulty spikes. Each floor presents a new fight you have to complete, with these ranging from a simple battle, to stages with specific challenges/modifications and finally to boss battles. The first chapter requires completing just five levels, but Chapter 4 has you complete 30 floors. None of these floors feel particularly engaging, and the game is prone to throwing modifications on you that cause sudden and unexpected spikes in difficulty. I would regularly go through multiple floors with absolutely zero challenge, just got the game to introduce an ‘Enemies do massive damage’ or equivalent modifier that made the game feel simply unfair in difficulty. Boss battles would also sometimes pose inordinately difficult challenges, but because it was difficult to deal enough damage to win before the timer ran out, as opposed to the bosses themselves being difficult to fight.
Beyond the story mode, Kirby Fighters 2 is a relatively barebones experience. Battle Mode, Online Mode and Local Play Mode are all effectively the same thing, with the only difference being in how you connect to play. You select 1-4 players, pick Team or Solo mode, update some rule settings if you want and away you go. Beyond that there’s Single-Handed Mode, which challenges you to play through nine solo battles using a single hand, and Training, which is a basic blank space for you to test characters out in. As far as fighting games go, this is about as barebones an experience as they come.
Games light on content can still be fun and engaging if the mechanics are great, but this is another place where Kirby Fighters 2 falls over. As far as mechanics go, Kirby Fighters 2 is extremely simple and therefore accessible. You have a single attack button, which is modified by directional inputs and contextual situations (ie. Holding to charge or changing when you’re in the air), and the ability to swallow and spit enemies out. That’s basically it. There’s no real depth here beyond the ability to combo a few of your attacks together. You’ll largely just reuse the same combo you find to the most effective over and over, occasionally guarding or jumping to avoid damage. Add to this some slow, trudging movement (as is traditional in Kirby games) and controls that sometimes feel unresponsive, and you’ve got a pretty bad time.
Overall, Kirby Fighters 2 is simply a below par fighting game. From mechanics to content, the game is simply a mediocre experience. Nothing is broken or outright terrible, but no single facet of the game moves beyond average at best. The only real drawcard here is getting to play as Kirby characters in a different way compared to the main series, but if you’re after a new fighting game, there are a myriad of better options.
Kirby Fighters 2 was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch with a review copy provided by Nintendo. For more information, check out the official website.
-Kirby powers translate well - Mechanics are relatively accessible
- Simply not enough content - Mechanics are basic and uninteresting - Story mode has frustrating difficulty spikes - Characters initially available are too restrictive