While it’s sadly undeniable at this point that the 3DS is reaching the end of its lifecycle with the advent and popularity of the Switch, Nintendo is still lending relevancy to its elder handheld this late in the game. Given that I largely overlooked the original release of Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii back in 2011, 2019 has provided the perfect opportunity to correct past mistakes and play through the most complete version of the game to date with Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn.
Fittingly told in the style of a children’s storybook, Epic Yarn sees our favourite bulbous protagonist dislodged from his home in Dream Land by the evil sorcerer Yin-Yarn. Dropped in the mystical Patch Land, Kirby immediately springs to the aid of a young boy named Prince Fluff. The Prince explains that Yin-Yarn has torn Patch Land asunder, unravelling the magic yarn which ties the world together. Despite not being able to use his usual mechanics of flight or inhalation due to being transformed into yarn, Kirby decides to help the young prince restore order to Patch Land by collecting the seven pieces of magical yarn. While the narrative certainly doesn’t bring home any prizes for ingenuity, it’s still serviceable and delivered in such a befitting manner. The small cutscenes in between each area offer enough insight into the story, and the narrator’s voice work lends itself well to the fairytale/fable feel of the story.
Gameplay is king in Epic Yarn, with a range of different playstyles utilised throughout to keep each level fresh and exciting. Firstly, there are different hats which imbue Kirby with different abilities, such as a bomb hat and a metal hat which equips Kirby with a sword. Another neat gameplay wrinkle is also available to anyone who owns Kirby based Amiibo’s, as they grant you both new hats and abilities to play around with. In following with that, Kirby can also transform into various machines, such as a mech, train and spaceship, amongst many others. While hats are available in every level, the machine transformation aspect is used moderately throughout the game to offer satisfactory diversity without oversaturating you with choices to navigate. While I enjoyed the gameplay for what it was, admittedly it did take me a good few minutes to settle into the fact that the game is a departure from the traditional Kirby mechanics as aforementioned.
There are a few points of interest which differentiate Extra Epic Yarn from its predecessor. Foremost is the addition of Devilish mode, which offers players the ability to play a far more difficult run of Epic Yarn from the original “Normal” mode. I feel this is the most prominent inclusion to this re-release, as it changes the overall tone and approach. To round out the content on offer are also two new mini-games featuring franchise favourites Meta Knight and King Dedede, where you’re able to play through isolate stages and collect materials to use for items in your apartment. While I did find these modes unnecessary, I think they will be a welcome addition to those who enjoyed the decorating aspect of the original.
If the gameplay is king, then the design of Epic Yarn is queen. Each level leans into the yarn theme amazingly, with the ability to manipulate the environment. While this alone is a static function interspersed throughout levels, it adds a unique spin to a genre which I feel has been guilty in the past of being too linear. Even the way the map environment unfolds after every level with new patches changing the landscape shows off the polished touch that Nintendo brings to all of its games. Regardless that it is only a small part of what’s on offer, it’s such a well thought out and nuanced addition which merely adds to the layering of the overall experience. As was the case with the original, you’re also able to furnish your apartment as well as those of your neighbours. In true minimalist style, all I needed was a throne, sword, piano and TV. I like to keep it classy; you know how it is!
Despite being reasonably thin on voice acting and soundtrack inclusion, I don’t think this was to the detriment of the game. The deliberate choice of sparing narration and the use of audio to highlight critical points generally works a treat, and a subtle soundtrack provides just enough ambience and evocation to blend into the game seamlessly. Despite the graphics quality of the 3DS being limited also, the beautiful artwork of Epic Yarn still manages to stand out and draw you into every aspect of the various worlds and surroundings. As was evidenced further on, Nintendo knew they were onto a winner with this style of art (amongst other things). Kirby’s Epic Yarn would eventually pave the way for Yoshi’s Woolly World and its sequels.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a game that still holds up today, so it’s no surprise it’s just as great on the 3DS with the release of Extra Epic Yarn. Much like with Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey earlier in the year, I’m excited that Nintendo is still offering us the opportunity to play these older games we may have missed. With the coming release of Yoshi’s Crafted World, as well, there’s no time like now than to revisit the title that ushered in this fresh approach to platformers by Nintendo. The new features might not add much to the overall experience, but if you haven’t played it before, do yourself a favour and boot up the ol’ girl for one last good old fashioned adventure.