Kirby Battle Royale review: Not exactly cake

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

The sinking feeling you get when you see another major Nintendo franchise spin-off on the Nintendo 3DS is fairly accurate when it comes to Kirby Battle Royale.

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: January 29, 2018

Kirby’s usual activities consist of sleeping, eating, and inhaling creatures he meets to absorb their powers like some sort of terrifying pink alien. The latter is done away with entirely in Kirby Battle Royale when King Dedede makes a bunch of Kirby copies to force Kirby to compete in a tournament because Villain Reasons. Kirby could care less about all these Kirby clones, but Dedede has the one thing that will motivate him: cake. It’s a Cake Royale, everyone, and for this tasty reward, Kirby abandons most of what we know about Kirby gameplay.

To win said cake, Kirby teams up with Bandana Waddle Dee to win The Cake Royale, a competition consisting of multiple “leagues” of increasing difficulty. In each league, you must earn points by winning matches in order to enter a qualifier that will take you to the next league. Throughout both the matches and the qualifiers you’ll encounter a total of ten different types of competition that can be offered in either a free-for-all or team-based format, including a combat challenge, collecting apples, collecting coins, collecting chips, collecting cubes … wait a minute.

kirby battle royale
Credit: Nintendo /

Yes, there are ten different games (the same ones carry over into multiplayer), but they mostly amount to virtually the same thing. All of them include some level of combat, and at least half of them involve picking things up and putting them into a container somewhere in the arena while keeping your opponents from picking more up than you. There are a few exceptions, such as one game that sometimes quizzes you on math and another that’s almost a sport, but for the most part, the battles are painfully samey.

Adding to that is the fact that it mostly doesn’t matter which copy ability you pick. Most of the available abilities have been watered down considerably for Kirby Battle Royale, and they all tend to function on a level playing field in each different match type. A few have notable advantages, such as Bomb being useful in Robo Bonkers and Attack Riders or Beetle being fabulous at almost everything. But without Kirby’s signature ability to change his powers on the fly and have that change be meaningful, a lot of the Kirby magic is lost in Kirby Battle Royale. This could just as easily have been a game about Marios or cats or anything else putting on different hats and fighting over apples.

kirby battle royale
Credit: Nintendo /

The story mode takes only a few hours to complete and serves as a tutorial for what the game actually wants you to do: play with friends. Fortunately, Kirby Battle Royale offers all the necessary options to make this work. You can play locally with friends who have the game and a 3DS, or for those with just a 3DS, Download Play is available. You can play matches by yourself against CPUs, and finally, compete in Ranked play online.

Kirby Battle Royale is just the next in a line of lukewarm spin-off games seemingly intended to prove Nintendo is still supporting the system.

For what’s there, I have no complaints about any of this. Download Play is probably the best way to enjoy Kirby Battle Royale, as you don’t need everyone to shell out for the cartridge but you still get the fun and goofiness of your friends yelling while hitting a giant hockey puck at one another. Ranked online worked just fine in all the battles I tried, with quick matchmaking and games as lag-free as I’ve seen on the Nintendo 3DS. That said, the matchmaking tries to place you with people around the same rank as you, and the game struggled to find close matches, instead pairing me with folks who were much higher. It doesn’t matter that much for a Kirby game, but I do wonder if this bodes ill for matchmaking down the line if the game doesn’t attract a larger audience.

kirby battle royale
Credit: Nintendo /

Functional as it all is, the fundamental flaw of Kirby Battle Royale is that it serves more as a diluted Mario Party or Smash Bros. than a proper Kirby game, even a spinoff. The ten game modes become tired and familiar far too quickly, and experimenting with different copy abilities or gunning to unlock Kirby’s different customized hats doesn’t spice up the play. After about two hours, I had experienced everything there was to Kirby Battle Royale, and there isn’t an addictive enough loop here to warrant sitting in Ranked play for hours trying to improve myself.

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As a full-priced game, I’m not sure who Kirby Battle Royale was trying to reach. I don’t want to drag the Nintendo 3DS through the mud after its successful holiday sales and overall excellence, but Kirby Battle Royale is just the next in a line of lukewarm spin-off games seemingly intended to prove Nintendo is still supporting the system. Those desperate for a Kirby cuteness fix are better off waiting for Kirby Star Allies in March unless they can convince three other friends that a few hours of minigames are worth $40.

5.5. Kirby Battle Royale is like watered-down Mario Party. It’s a collection of ten minigames, half of which are fairly similar, and none of which are especially fun unless you have friends in the room with you, and even then only for an hour or two. The best I can say about it is that it’s functional online and off, but most of the Kirby magic has been sucked right out of this spin-off.. HAL Laboratory. . Kirby Battle Royale

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.