Kirby Air Ride

        Today I’ll be talking about a game I truly cherish. Kirby Air Ride is, in my opinion, one of the greatest games I’ve ever come across, and it’s one that I can come back to anytime, and never really get bored. To be fair to other games, I do know what exactly keeps me from going back to them- I beat them. They were finished; everything, or most everything, found and done. I couldn’t bring myself to pick them up again because it would only be retreading the same paths.
        But with Air Ride, that never seems to happen. I suppose that’s partly due to structure- it’s a competitive racing game, so of course it’s not gong to have much of a plot or journey to go through. It can’t be ‘finished’ in the usual sense. But then, neither could a lot of other games, so that can’t be the entire reason.
        Perhaps it comes down to simplicity, and variety. Simplicity is certainly a good word for the controls; you only use the A button and control stick. The A button lets you charge up for a boost, and makes your vehicle lower so it skids along the ground, good for getting around corners.
        As for variety, while a lot of games may offer it in the form of more characters, here you’re just Kirby- but on different vehicles. All of them work differently in some way or another, including two specific types of craft. The regular ones, like the Warpstar, float unless you’re charging, and when you send them off a ramp or something similar, they will glide.
        Then there are the bikes, which function closer to regular vehicles from other racing games. They do touch the ground all the time, so while boosting does help for turns and speeding up, it isn’t needed to get them grounded. This is especially useful for boost panels. To activate them normally you have to push A while over them to give your ride a boost, but with the bikes they just do this automatically. Also, they do not glide, but instead jump, which means they will get much less air time, for better or worse.
        So, getting to specific machines, I’d say my personal favorite is the Shadow Star. This beauty looks quite different from the others, looking like a Warpstar that was dyed purple and given a more bat-like appearance. It also produces shadowy exhaust instead of smoke or light like the others, and even has different engine sounds. The developers wanted this one to stand out.
        However, I do wish that they actually said what was so special in-game, because I had no idea as to its abilities or benefits. They do not give vehicle stats in this game, but they do give a description, which was thus: “One hit punishes all! Fly on evil wings!” Cool, but what does it mean!? Well, as I found out from the internet, the Shadow Star has above average attack compared to the other machines. I didn’t even know different ones had different attack amounts, so that was fascinating.
        In addition, if you are directly behind another racer, you’ll get a speed boost. Shadow Star, emulating a shadow, catches up much more quickly than other racers. It has impressive offense, boost, is lightweight, and can glide well. The only real flaw is its low health, and that is only an issue if you turn on health in Air Ride mode, or in City Trial.
        Speaking of those, let me explain what they are. The game has three different modes. First is Air Ride, which is basic racing where you can pick your machines and race course. If you turn on health, then getting hit won’t just slow you down, but lower health, and when that runs out, your machine is destroyed and you’re out of the race.
        There are also enemies littering the tracks that Kirby can eat for abilities. These abilities work a little differently than in normal games. Sword automatically swings at foes in range, for instance. Wing and Wheel are especially notable in that they temporarily have Kirby forgo his machine.
        As Wing Kirby, he starts flying under his own power, and has very different stats. In this form his speed is average, and he is much more maneuverable than most, but he cannot charge or boost; pressing A instead makes him land. It can still be used to help around turns though. As Wheel Kirby, the reverse happens- he is less maneuverable, but faster.
        Top Ride forgoes the usual racing experience and instead lets you view the entire racetrack from above. You ride in either Free Star, which moves exactly in the direction where you point the control stick, and the Steer Star, which works like other machines. These tracks have no enemies for you to eat like the regular races, but instead power ups appear for you to use, and a variety of stage traps that slow down the racers. The races themselves are very short, and even with 6 laps, the usual amount for Top Ride, any course could probably be finished in about a minute.
        Then there is City Trial, my favorite mode. You and up to three opponents are given a giant city to race around in, and you start riding the Compact Star, a smaller version of the Warpstar. As the game says, “Good acceleration, good cornering, but a tad slow.” Throughout the city are three kinds of boxes. Blue ones contain power ups that improve your machines. For instance, the Compact Star is slow, so picking up a Top Speed power up would help.
        Red ones contain copy abilities like you usually get from the enemies, and machine parts, which I’ll get into in a bit. Lastly there is the green boxes, which contain unique power ups, like the Gordo, which lets you throw huge spiky balls that heavily damage anything that runs into them, or the Fireworks, which let you shoot fireworks out of a cannon.
        The blue boxes should be the main focus, though- those boosts are permanent, after all. But maybe you don’t like the Compact Star. Maybe you wish you were riding the Shadow Star or something instead. Well, no problem! Other Air Ride machines little the city, and you can hop off your current one to ride them instead. They do move of their own accord periodically, shooting off the map, but there will always be some about.
        There are also bizarre events that happen on occasion. Depending on the length of the game, there might even be two. It can be anything from the rails getting hit by meteors, item boxes bouncing, having fake items, or just have the same item, to UFOs popping up. There’s no telling what will happen, ensuring no two games are alike.
        Now, as I said before, red boxes may, rarely, have machine parts. These go to two Legendary Air Ride Machines, and there’s a fifty/fifty chance that the one you can get in the game is either Dragoon or Hydra. Assuming it pops up in the game at all… but anyway, find the three parts and you’ll trade out your current one for these far superior rides.
        Dragoon excels at everything but charging, which takes a while, and can fly longer and faster than any other machine. Even grounded, it still far surpasses most others, even if your foes have been collecting power ups and you haven’t. Hydra, on the other hand, has high stats in everything but turning, and has the highest durability and attack in the game.         Pretty much nothing can kill it, and it can kill them just by running into them. It actually surpasses the Dragoon in a lot of areas, but this comes at a cost. Like the more mundane Bulk Star, Hydra won’t move without fuel. So you have to charge into order to get it going, and getting it fully charged can take a long time. Not exactly ideal for most races, but provided you get it going, Hydra will quickly outpace and likely demolish the competition.
But getting back to City Trial, the reason you’re collecting all these power ups and the like is that after the timer runs out, generally five minutes, you and your opponents are given a challenge. It might be a one lap race in a track from Air Ride, or a shorter drag race, or even a battle between the players where they attack each other to see who can rack up the most points.
        One of the rarer ones is pretty much the only thing that could count as a boss fight in the game- the Vs. King Dedede challenge. Yes, he’s a playable character in this game, as is Meta Knight. Meta Knight acts as a fusion of Wing and Sword Kirby- he has the same abilties as Wing Kirby exactly, but it’s permanent, and he also has a sword to strike enemies with. King Dedede, on the other hand, rides on a larger than usual Wheelie Bike, which outclasses Kirby’s version entirely, with great offense, defense, weight, and a pretty good top speed, but a poor jump and acceleration. He also has his hammer, which he swings automatically at anyone who gets too close.
        As a boss, he naturally is even bigger and tougher, but also slower so you have a sporting chance.. His swings don’t just hurt, they send you flying, and unless you’ve been powering up your health, it might even take you out in one hit. While you can get up during City Trial to find a new machine to ride, that doesn’t apply in the challenges. Your goal, along with that of your rivals, is to find the ability power ups around the stage and use them to blast Dedede and beat him. Easier said than done, certainly, and it is far more likely for most attempts that you will run out of time before you can beat him.
        Personally, I only managed it because I had help from my nephew, who was visiting at the time. You can try the battle and any other challenge you have seen with other players, but if you’re like me and you generally are playing on your own, trying to beat Dedede alone, with an unimproved racer, would be impossible. However, you can nudge things your way through the option menu. You can change what the challenge will be, and so fight Dedede with your friend’s help and upgraded racers, plus the computer players if you so wish.
        But Dedede aside, you can see why this is a game I keep coming back to. It’s simple to play, different every time I turn it on, and always fun, every minute of it.

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