Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Game Challenge – Kirby 64 / MediEvil 2

Chronological Game Challenge – Kirby 64 / MediEvil 2

Hi! Here’s a surprise update for you all! I’ve been missing a few weeks of updates on challenge reviews, so this week I decided to double up to get back on track. Enjoy!

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: HAL Laboratory | Released: March 24, 2000 (Japan)
Original System: Nintendo 64
Played on: Wii Virtual Console

Goal: Defeat Dark Matter and 02

Actual Outcome: Defeated Dark Matter, 02 is more a 100% concern

Kirby can often be seen as Nintendo’s most accessible series. While Mario and Zelda are the popular keystones of their library, the reality is that both provide significant challenge throughout their games that could cause small children playing them for the first time to feel frustrated, with specific jump timing in the former, or knowing when to guard and dodge against a Darknut in the latter.

Kirby, however, is an adorably happy series that rarely offers up significant challenge for veteran players. But it’s kid-friendly in all the right ways, and presents interesting mechanics that could help them graduate up to the big franchises. And nowhere is that more apparent than in Kirby 64, Kirby’s only outing on Nintendo’s 5th gen hardware outside of Super Smash Bros.

Kirby 64 is not a challenging game. In fact, my playthrough consisted of about two hours of breezing through the levels in a game that isn’t particularly long either, with a handful of worlds with about five short levels in each. As I progressed, my life counter kept creeping up and not once did I see a Game Over screen. While this isn’t particularly unusual, it stood out quite heavily in Kirby 64 simply because the game as a whole feels like it’s just going through the motions.

Where Kirby’s Adventure and Kirby Super Star oozed charm and joy, Kirby 64 just kind of meanders. It ticks the boxes set by its predecessors and barely steps outside of them. There’s a mechanic for combining powers that’s fairly interesting, but it never really adds much strategy. Kirby just waddles his way through the levels and that’s about all that really seems to happen. I’m aware that criticising a Kirby game for its simplicity and twee cuteness seems unfair, as that’s exactly what you play a Kirby game for, but the experience as a whole feels bland.

It’s hard to pinpoint where this comes from. Perhaps it’s the graphics, which are chunky and pastel and look like a BBC pre-school show exploded, and lack the cartoony stylings of the NES and SNES outings. As such, it doesn’t quite have the same charm that the series is known for.

That said, as an accessible first game for children, it serves its purpose nicely. It’s vibrant, simple and it has the level of quality you’d expect from a Nintendo game. Just a shame there’s not much here for anyone over the age of 10.

MediEvil 2
Publisher: SCE | Developer: SCE Cambridge Studio | Year: April 19, 2000
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS2 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: See how far I can get in a single session

Actual Outcome: Three or four levels in

As we’ve discussed when I reviewed it, I’ve always had a fondness for MediEvil, and while the original game was a little rough in places, it still holds up well for me as a quirky action adventure. Despite having not played it for years, I’d convinced myself that MediEvil 2 was even better, improving on everything the first game got wrong.

I clearly was misremembering.

MediEvil 2 is a sequel to a game that initially appeared to have a conclusive ending. Sir Dan had defeated Zarok and redeemed himself, and returned to his crypt for an eternal rest, and had been welcomed into the Hall of Heroes at last in the afterlife. Surely the story was over, right? Well, fast-forward to the Victorian era, where interest in the occult has re-earthed Zarok’s spellbook which has fallen into the hands of an unscrupulous baron, and who has managed to raise the dead yet again. And guess which also-resurrected corpse has to sort out the mess?

And while this shift in setting is very interesting, placing Dan in more recognisable settings around London town, it doesn’t feel like much of an evolution. If the first game had been spectacular and refined, this wouldn’t be a problem, but in a game like MediEvil, which is good with caveats, the lack of real improvement where it’s needed is a problem.

Let’s focus on the good first though. Start on a positive. The new setting is indeed fantastic. I might be a little biased, as I have a certain fondness for Victorian-era mysteries and ghost stories, which this draws heavily from, but the setting is handled well and twisted just right into the Tim-Burton-esque imagery the series had set out for itself. You visit locations such as the British Museum where Dan is an exhibit, the Greenwich Observatory, Kew Gardens, and Whitechapel where you track down the infamous Jack the Ripper. It all works with MediEvil’s spooky charm, and provides some real variety.

However, there are just too many problems with MediEvil 2 for it to be recommended as highly as its predecessor. Combat remains as jerky and awkward as ever, but this time enemies seem to have gotten tougher, and the game simply hasn’t been rebalanced to address this. Museum guards with muskets have impeccable aim, wacky magician men who raise the dead in the street are alarmingly quick, and boss fights are all pretty much on a par with the Shadow Demon fight from Enchanted Earth in the first game (ie. the worst part of the first game).

This is before we get to the inexplicable boxing mini-game that turns up partway through and requires you to punch the limbs off a Frankenstein’s monster while avoiding getting your own limbs punched off, which had the potential to be a fun Monty Python and the Holy Grail style duel, but instead makes me desperate to get through it and get to the next level.

Also, they ruined Dan’s voice. Originally his guttural mumbling was exactly in line with what you’d expect a skeletal corpse with no lower jaw to sound like, but here he’s got a nasally high-pitched voice that sounds like Skeletor played by Richard Ayoade and filtered through a broken CB radio. And it really doesn’t fit the character, and slightly spoils the mood of the game every time he speaks.

That said, while it’s not as fun as the first MediEvil, there’s still enjoyment to be found here if you enjoyed the first game. Because it’s barely changed mechanically, the experience is largely the same but with a section where Dan wears a top hat and a fake beard. Which is worth the asking price alone, I feel.

So yes, ultimately MediEvil 2 is flawed and doesn’t address the first game’s flaws, but it’s decent enough.

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