Kirby Fighters 2 Review: Baby's First Brawler
It’s strange to think that outside of Mario, Kirby features in so many Nintendo spinoffs. Between racing, pinball, and other one-off adventures, Kirby just keeps finding games and genres to pop up in.
Marking Kirby’s third appearance on Nintendo Switch, Kirby Fighters 2 was surprise-released last week, becoming the latest game to suddenly launch on the eShop. A sequel to Kirby Fighters on the Nintendo 3DS, KF2 presents itself as a Kirby-focused 2D brawler, inevitably opening itself to Super Smash Bros comparisons.
After spending the weekend with it, I can say there is certainly an enjoyable game here, though it's wrapped in a simplicity that’s better suited to younger audiences.
Kirby Fighters 2 Review: Baby's First Brawler
Kirby Fighters 2 has a full story mode that’s split across different chapters, letting you play alone with an AI buddy or in 2-player local co op.
This time around, King Deedee and Meta Knight have teamed up to defeat Kirby, inviting him to the Buddy Fighting Tower, a lofty structure that seemingly extends into the heavens. Not understanding a thing in the letter sent by King Deedee and Meta Knight, Kirby figures out that something’s up with the invite, and soon makes his way to the tower with a friend in tow.
Enemies lie in wait on each floor of the tower, and you’ll have to beat them to proceed, with each floor eventually ending in a boss battle.
Outside of the main tower mode, there is a Single-Handed mode, which sees you competing in nine consecutive solo battles. There's also a Battle Mode, where you fight using copied abilities, all of which Kirby must gain. This acts as your local multiplayer on one console.
Since Kirby Fighters 2 is a party-focused game, there are also options for both four-player local play with other nearby consoles and online multiplayer, bringing some nice variety to the brawling outside of these other modes.
As you may expect, there are only a few fighters to choose from at the beginning. As you play, you unlock more of the roster, which tops out at 22. Most of your choices are Kirby variants that have absorbed certain abilities, including Sword Kirby, Wrestler Kirby, and Yo-Yo Kirby, though other characters are also present, such as Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, King Dedede, Gooey, and Magolor.
In combat, each character has an HP bar, of course, and you have a set amount of time to defeat your opponents in each match. Every character has a basic attack with directional variants, allowing you to charge it up, too.
It's all standard fighter stuff.
Rather than absorb enemies to gain their powers like Kirby does in Smash Bros, Kirby can gobble them up instead, spitting them out for further damage. Items also appear during matches, from health-restoring food to the Buddy Star Blaster, a two-part weapon that deals heavy damage when used by you and your ally.
A small bit of your health is replenished between levels, but it's never fully restored, so it's important to proceed through the tower carefully. Once all of those health refills are all dished out, you can choose one of three power-ups for your team, which offer perks like raising your maximum health or improving specific attacks. However, these reset upon starting a new chapter.
If you go down in a fight and your ally is still alive, your character’s ghost can be revived if your ally lands a hit on your foes.
Your performance in each match is graded, and you're given points based on several factors, including how much time is left, whether you were revived or not, and how much damage you took during the match. These points go toward a leveling system called Fighters Rank, which unlocks new story items, stages, and abilities as it increases.
Leaning into Kirby's signature colorful aesthetic, Fighters 2 is a minor celebration of the series' history. There are numerous throwbacks to previous entries, like the game's many retro-inspired stages. If your Switch has save data from Kirby Star Allies or Super Kirby Clash, you can even get exclusive hats for your fighters.
As such, Kirby fans will find much to love here, but it doesn’t mask the fact that Fighters 2 just isn’t particularly interesting. While it shares Smash Bros’ basic 2D fighting premise, each character in Fighters 2 has a smaller move set than their SSB counterparts, making them feel rather basic. Combat is certainly functional but it’s not exciting, and after your 10th consecutive fight in Story mode, repetition soon sets in.
If you came into Fighters 2 looking for a similar experience to Super Smash Bros., you’ll find this quite limited by comparison.
Kirby Fighters 2 Review — The Bottom Line
- Great introduction to fighting games for young audiences
- Fun in Multiplayer
- Colorful visuals
- Combat is rather simplistic
- Story mode is repetitive
- Limited appeal
It’s clear that HAL Laboratory designed Kirby Fighters 2 to be accessible for younger players. In that regard, the game succeeds. As an entry-level fighting game, Kirby Fighters 2 works quite well, making for a good multiplayer experience that comes with several flaws that are hard to ignore.
With a repetitive story campaign and basic game mechanics, it mostly appeals to kids or diehard Kirby fans.
[Note: Nintendo provided the copy of Kirby Fighters 2 used for this review.]