Want to feel old? It's been nearly 10 years since Kirby's Epic Yarn hit the Wii. I honestly couldn't believe it's been so long, as the Wii feels like it was living under my TV just a few years back.
While Kirby's Epic Yarn might be a bit long in the tooth by video game standards, it's not like it was the last time we saw Kirby. There have been countless other Kirby released in the past 10 years. The multitude of them have been fantastic, but even with that being the case, Kirby's Epic Yarn still stands out as something special in the Kirby pantheon.
There were just so many elements of the Kirby franchise that Epic Yarn kicked to the curb (Kirb?). While most Kirby games are seen as easy, Kirby's Epic Yarn pushed things even further towards the 'gameplay for anyone' category by removing character death. The visual side of Kirby's Epic Yarn was extremely unique as well, as it took on a craft-like approach to design. Even Kirby's infamous copy abilities were removed, instead letting Kirby tackle enemies and interact with the environment via a yarn whip. No doubt about it, Kirby's Epic Yarn set out to take the traditional Kirby platforming experience and make it feel fresh.
While some were extremely skeptical of Kirby's Epic Yarn prior to launch, the praise was heaped on heavily when the game released. The lion's share of outlets praised pretty much all areas of Kirby's Epic Yarn, noting its different approach to the character, all while still feeling like a mainline series entry. It was something new and different, and the experiment was deemed a success. To this day, Kirby's Epic Yarn is a shining example of Nintendo's ability to constantly reinvent their staple characters.
Now here we are 10 years later, and Kirby's Epic Yarn has come back. Instead of a sequel, we're getting an expanded version of the original game called Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn. This revamp gives you nearly everything the original included, while offering up new features that are exclusive to this version. The end result is a very welcome return to original game, while providing aspects which seem to have improved things overall.
First up, a quick refresher on what the base experience of Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is. You play as Kirby as he wanders about landscapes crafted from felt, string, buttons, and more. Your goal is to explore each level and hunt down beads. These beads are all over the place, from resting out in the open to hiding in some pretty sneaky scenery pieces. Kirby uses his new yarn whip to interact with the environment and suss out where those beads are. Pull back pieces of the scenery, ravel up enemies with your whip, yank on zippers, swing on button ropes, and take on much more to hunt down where these beads are hiding.
Bumping into enemies causes beads to fly out of Kirby, and you'll have a limited amount of time to recollect them. Do your best to make it to the end of a level with as many beads as possible, and lock them in with the goal bell. Then you can use those beads to purchase furniture and and wallpaper for your apartment, which you gain access to right in the beginning of the game. Then hop back into new levels, rinse, and repeat! There's a couple other hiccups along the way, but that's pretty much the base experience of what Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is. Now let's get to the new content.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn includes two new mini-games. These games feature Meta Knight and King Dedede, and the first level for each game is open right from the start. While you'll be collecting beads in both of these games, the core gameplay is different from what you do in the main mode. When playing as Meta Knight, you'll have to take out enemies as the level slowly auto-scrolls. At certain portions, the stage will stop scrolling, and you're forced to take on waves of enemies trying to steal your beads. Once you make it through the predetermined amount of time for these waves, the stage will continue to scroll on towards the goal. Make it to the end, and then see how many beads you managed to collect.
King Dedede's stage is an auto-scroller as well, but it's much more fast-paced. The King uses his power to pretty much blast through anything in his way. Smash blocks and enemies with Dedede's mallet to grab some beads, but make sure not to bump into hazards like exploding blocks. Those will knock back Dedede and cause him to lose beads you can't recover. Race on towards the goal to once again see your beads tallied at the end.
Both stages have beads littered all over the place, and you'll definitely miss some of them along the way. Sometimes it helps to learn enemy patterns to see the best route for collecting beads, especially when it comes to Dedede's game. There can be enemies who block access to big bead stashes, portions of the level that need to be traversed to activate a bundle of hidden beads, and even enemies carrying bead bags who try to run away from you.
There aren't many of these mini-game stages, which is probably why they were built for replay. Collecting as many beads as you can becomes quite addictive, as can trying to find the best path ahead to collect a massive bounty. You'll get a rank at the end of each stage, and I can personally say that anytime I got anything less than an S rank, I was compelled to jump back in and reroute my approach. Both mini-games are certainly enjoyable, but I found King Dedede's speed-focused approach to be a bit more engaging.
You'll be using your beads to unlock special Kirby-themed bead creations, and you'll need specific amounts of each color to create these pieces of art. Once again, this is yet another way the game gets the most out of the few mini-game levels it provides. You also have to gain access to these empty bead patterns before you can fill them, which means you'll have multiple pages of creations just waiting for you to access. In other words, you'll be running through these Dedede and Meta Knight levels numerous times in order to unlock everything. Design like this can waffle between super-addictive and uber-repetitive, but thankfully, I found these them to be quite engaging throughout.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn also adds a new mode for the game's main experience. Devilish Mode aims to provide something for players who found Kirby's Epic Yarn to be too easy. At the start of each level, you'll have the option of running through Normal Mode or Devilish Mode. In Devilish Mode, a little devil character will follow you throughout the entire stage. Your goal is to try and make it to the end of the level without getting hit. Your health is represented by star pieces, of which you have 5. The more star pieces you make it to the end of the level with, the more pieces you'll have to fill out a special roadmap. This roadmap gives you access to new pieces of furniture and other goodies.
Is Devilish Mode harder than Normal Mode? It is indeed, but I wouldn't say it's anything crazy by any means. Devilish Mode is pretty much the equivalent of a Lakitu from the Super Mario Bros. series following you the entire time. The devil character, among other attacks, throws down little spike balls to try and take you out. No matter what the attack, his moves are much more telegraphed than a Lakitu. On top of that, you can sometimes hit the devil to not only get beads out of it, but send him flying away for short amount of time.
If you were hoping for Devilish Mode to dial up difficulty to 11, you'll be quite disappointed. That said, Devilish Mode does give you extra incentive to play through in order to gain those new decorations for your apartment. Throughout my playtime, I bounced back and forth between Normal Mode and Devilish Mode, which I found was the best way to enjoy this new content.
The other big change in Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn comes from the brand-new Ravel Abilities. This is the content hardcore fans of classic Kirby will be really happy to see. In Kirby's Epic Yarn, you only had your whip ability, 'stomp' ability, and some transformation sections to plow through enemies. In Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, Kirby can now gain Ravel Abilities, which are pretty much the Copy Abilities you'd find in a traditional Kirby game.
Enemies will be carrying little orbs that represent these abilities, and if you grab one of them, Kirby will wear it as a hat. Anyone who has played a regular Kirby game will be very familiar with these Ravel Abilities. Kirby can get a sword, button bomb, bobbin yo-yo, and more. These make dispatching of enemies easier, but quite honestly, enemies were never really an issue to deal with! Still, this is a way for traditional Kirby fans to feel more at ease when traversing Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn.
To be completely honest, I think the addition of these Ravel Abilities was a smart one. They're available in levels to give fans a more normal Kirby experience if they want it, but those abilities can be skipped completely, and you can still get the experience Kirby's Epic Yarn originally provided. If I was going to nitpick, I'd say that I would like to see Ravel Abilities as a menu option that you can turn on and off, rather than having the player simply avoid Ravel Abilities in stages. Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn was such a unique experience due to its removal of copy abilities, and once again, that experience can still be had here, but only through the player's active avoidance of characters with Ravel Abilities.
As you can see, Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn has a considerable amount of extra content, some of which changes the fundamentals of the experience. The mix of all this content had me a bit iffy going in, but I do feel it to be a welcome and sizable addition worthy of the 'Extra' moniker. It helps make this game feel fresh for anyone who played Kirby's Epic Yarn when it came out, and it does nothing to hurt/hinder the experience for those who never had a chance to play the original game.
The only real bummer here is the lack of co-op play. Local co-op was a pretty big part of Kirby's Epic Yarn, letting you sit side-by-side with a friend to take on the entire adventure. That option simply isn't available here, which seems like a real shame. Even if the only way to access co-op was through two copies of the game, it still would have been nice to see the feature retained. I imagine co-op was removed due to system limitations, or perhaps Nintendo felt co-op just didn't make sense for this 3DS conversion. Whatever the reasoning, there's no way around the fact that the mode's loss is a considerable bummer.
The negative side of things bleeds into the game's visuals as well. Kirby's Epic Yarn was a huge deal for a number of reasons, visuals included. Seeing the Kirby universe twisted into a crafted creation was a sight to behold on a TV, even if the Wii couldn't put out true HD visuals. Seeing all that beauty scrunched down onto the 3DS screen can be disappointing if you nitpick. There's no denying the Wii version looked better, but Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn still looks good. If you've never played the original, this version might be just as impressive as the Wii one. As someone who did play Kirby's Epic Yarn, seeing the unique visuals brought down to the 3DS screen is a bit disappointing. Everything here still looks great and retains the fresh feeling...just not as much as it did on Wii.
While audio is obviously going to be of a lower quality as well, the downgrade here isn't anywhere near that of the visuals. I played Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn with headphones, and truth be told, I thought the music quality was pretty great. The soundtrack itself is still just as fantastic as it was in the original game, with some extremely playful and charming takes on classic Kirby tunes, as well as wonderful original tracks. I never felt like I was getting a downgraded audio experience, even though there's no doubt overall audio quality was dropped down a bit from Wii. If I couldn't really tell during my playtime, then it honestly doesn't matter to me! A delightful soundtrack that definitely enhances the overall experience.
Is Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn worth it for those who played the original game? I honestly didn't think it would be, but I'll be damned if I didn't feel the opposite after my playtime. It was so nice to jump back into Kirby's Epic Yarn with this Extra edition. The core game itself is still extremely enjoyable to this day, and I think I might have appreciated it even more this time around. The amount of whimsy and attention to detail in every level is absolutely fantastic. It's such a warm and fuzzy experience that it's hard to put down.
The extra content actually does quite a bit to flesh out the experience, and gives you new reasons to jump back in. With new apartment decorations to grab, Devilish Mode is worth the time to anyone who loves to collect. The Dedede and Meta Knight mini-games seem simple at first, but provide a ton of replay, as well as a deep appreciation for route-planning and pattern-learning. The addition of Ravel Abilities gives Kirby purists a reason to experience a Kirby game they might have skipped the first time around. Seeing how these Ravel Abilities are implemented into levels, as well as how they change your gameplay approach, can be a real blast. There really isn't any extra content here that's a complete miss. What you get ranges from enjoyable to game-changing.
If you own Kirby's Epic Yarn on the Wii, you could certainly fire it up right now and get the bulk of the experience in Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn. The content you're missing out on is window dressing, but it's some pretty nice window dressing at that. It's up to you to decide whether you find the extra content worth a double-dip. Are the new modes and features worth a purchase, or are the concessions with co-op, visuals, and audio enough to push you away? I can't make that decision for you. Once again, all I can tell you is that I found the end result to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience with its extras, and equally as wonderful in the core gameplay as it was nearly 10 years ago.
If you didn't play the original, I can wholeheartedly recommend Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn. As a matter of fact, I'd label it as an essential experience for the 3DS. One of Nintendo's most unique adventures that definitely stood the test of time.