Today, Kirby turns 30 years old. Over the past three decades, the lovable pink puffball has undertaken countless epic adventures, traversed colorful worlds, slayed nightmarish eldritch abominations, eaten obscene amounts of cake, and of course, copied a wide variety of enemy abilities by inhaling them. In fact, as of last month’s release of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby has utilized over 100 different abilities to mercilessly (and adorably) overcome his foes.
Needless to say, not all copy abilities are created equal. To celebrate 30 years of Kirby, we’re looking back on his 10 worst and 10 best copy abilities. For the sake of fairness, this list will judge abilities based on their most recent incarnations and omit those that have since been integrated into other abilities, like Fireball or Freeze. We’re also limiting the list to regular abilities that Kirby can acquire from enemies.
Building up energy by shuffling around, a la static electricity, is kind of neat, but it’s a pain having to make Kirby repeatedly flail around like an idiot every time you want the move to be of any use. Otherwise, you’re stuck shooting off tiny little stabs of energy. Since the Spark ability has already integrated most of Plasma’s features, it’s baffling why they bothered bringing the move back for Kirby: Star Allies.
Most of the moves in this copy ability’s repertoire, while certainly fun to watch, aren’t very effective. The main somersault move is too unwieldy to be reliable, and other attacks, such as popping a balloon animal or juggling flaming bowling pins, require you to be dangerously close to the enemy. This circus never needs to come back to town.
This dud proves that just because a copy ability is a classic featured in almost every Kirby game doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s similar to other short-range classic abilities, such as Sword and Hammer, but with a significantly less effective move pool. Oh, but hey, you can gently flutter to the ground to slow your descent. You know, like Kirby can naturally do. It’s high time this umbrella is shoved back in the closet.
Bubble doesn’t offer much versatility. Its unique attribute, featured exclusively in Kirby Squeak Squad, is turning any copy ability-wielding enemy into a bubble, which you can then hold in your inventory for later use. The problem is that your inventory’s capacity is low and typically full of more useful items such as treasure chests or life pieces, few of which are worth giving up just to have a copy ability on reserve. Since the inventory system is a Squeak Squad exclusive, the move would be little more than a glorified bubble wand in any other Kirby game. Might be why no other Kirby game has featured it.
Don’t let the name fool you: You won’t have a “ball” with this ability — if you can even hold onto it long enough to realize how much it sucks. With Ball, Kirby rolls and bounces around his surroundings, bashing into enemies. The catch? You have to gather up and keep momentum by pressing the jump button as Kirby hits the ground to avoid taking damage. The timing is finicky, and if you make a mistake, you’re going to get wrecked by whatever is around you. Even the developers have probably realized how terrible it is, because it hasn’t been seen since Kirby’s Adventure.
Characters shrinking in size is one of my least favorite platformer tropes, and Kirby is no exception. Sure, you can slip into small holes and passages that you can’t normally reach, but the tradeoff with theMini ability, featured exclusively in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, is that you also can’t hover, air gun, or slide. Is it really worth becoming a sitting duck to enemies just so you can reach a health pickup tucked away in an alcove? Probably not.
This ability lights up two specific rooms in Kirby’s Adventure. Yeah, that’s pretty much the extent of its usefulness over the past 30 years. Aside from making one specific door visible, you don’t even need it to traverse the rooms, as you can still see the outlines of the floor and enemies without it. It also doesn’t damage any surrounding enemies, and disappears after a single use. To top it off, it doesn’t even give you a funny hat to wear. Hopefully this ability never sees the light of day again.
A copy ability called Copy is about as redundant as it sounds. Scan an enemy to create a friendly helper version of them to assist you. It’s slightly faster than the traditional inhalation method, sure, but once Copy has served its purpose, there’s no reason to hold onto it. Copy is only featured in Kirby Super Star, and no one has missed it since.
Never has a Kirby ability taken so much work to get and provided such little enjoyment in return. Only seen in Kirby Squeak Squad, you actually have to unlock this ability by collecting all pieces of a ghost medal. And what do you get for your trouble? The ability to possess enemies — cool in concept, but poor in execution. You can grab hold of enemies and control them, but the clunkiness makes it ineffectual and slows the game down to a crawl. Leave this ability dead and buried.
The Kirby developers are no strangers to joking around with players, and that’s clearly what this copy ability is meant for. Still, an intentionally lousy copy ability is lousy just the same. Sleep is so unhelpful, in fact, that the developers have begun using it as a level obstacle that stops Kirby in his tracks if he touches it. In some games, most notably Kirby and the Forgotten Lands, the ability can restore 25 to50 percent of Kirby’s health — that is, if he doesn’t get hit by something while asleep.
At least one copy ability that clears the entire screen of enemies in one blast has to be on this list. While Kirby has had several such abilities over the years, like Crash and Festival, Cook takes things a step further. Not only do enemies get wiped out, but they transform into helpful health items too. It’s practical and nutritious!
There’s something oddly therapeutic about donning a rock and roll hairpiece and blowing away every enemy in your vicinity with sound waves. And this ability gets better with age! As of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, each time the move is used, the sound waves have a distinct arc, which makes taking out carefully lined up foes much more satisfying.
Wheel is one of those situational copy abilities. If you don’t have a long stretch of road, it can be a tad unwieldy. But when you do, hoo boy, prepare for a wild ride. Committing vehicular manslaughter (Wait, does it count as vehicular manslaughter if it’s just a wheel?) has never been cuter. You can take enemies out at a breakneck pace, and it’s even more thrilling when you have to outrace a particularly fast obstacle to reach a goal or item. What this move lacks in versatility, it makes up for in pure thrill factor.
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At their most basic levels, the Ice and Fire abilities are pretty similar. What helps Ice stand out from its fiery counterpart is if you freeze an enemy, you can then send their frozen corpses flying into other enemies. Plus, it’s the only copy ability that allows you to ice skate around like a dainty pink figure skater! Not only is it adorable as all heck, but it allows for much more elegant movement.
If any copy ability is vastly underrated, it’s this one. UFO has the long-range laser of…well, the Laser ability, the beam chain of…well, the Beam ability, and tremendous aerial maneuverability, all rolled into one super move. Frankly, it makes many of Kirby’s other abilities seem lame by comparison, which might explain why it isn’t featured in many games.
It’s big, dishes out a tremendous amount of damage, can be swung around while airborne and underwater, and can even smash pegs in the environment to reveal all sorts of nifty secrets. The only thing holding the Hammer ability back is its notoriously short range. Still, it’s a fair tradeoff for the devastating power at your disposal.
Beetle is the perfect balance of power and maneuverability. You get the slicing and dicing power of Sword with much faster and more efficient flight than Kirby normally has. Plus, listen to his cute lil’ wings fluttering as he stabs through his enemies like a shish kabob stick through pieces of meat! So precious.
The star of Kirby and the Forgotten Land — aside from mouthful mode, of course — has to be this newest move in Kirby’s bag of tricks. The elegance of Ranger lies in its simplicity: point and shoot. Hold the attack button down to aim. Unlike other beloved long-range attacks like Laser, there’s no charge time if you want to fire off several quick shots in rapid succession. I’m shocked it took 30 years to give Kirby a cute little pop gun, because it’s such a natural fit. No doubt Ranger will quickly become a series classic.
The only thing more satisfying than taking down your opponents with a flurry of punches, kicks, and smacks is the accompanying sound effects. Fighter’s speed, power, and ease of use turns plowing through baddies into a spring breeze. If you don’t feel like an unstoppable martial arts master when utilizing this copy ability, you’re doing it wrong.
This is the crème da la crème of Kirby abilities, and deservedly a fan favorite. Few things stand in Kirby’s way when he’s swinging this bad boy around. Using this ability while airborne makes Kirby an unstoppable ball of stabby death, and it’s also one of the few moves that works underwater. To cap it all off, as long as you maintain full health, the sword can fire long-range crescent blades, not unlike a certain Hyrulian warrior whose chapeau Kirby happened to swipe.