Kirby Super Star difficulty / gameplay balance hack

Started by Subrosian, January 03, 2017, 10:18:55 PM

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I always thought Kirby Super Star was a really well-made game in many aspects, and it was awesome how it had not only a wide variety of abilities, but also each with their own movesets. However, the low difficulty, and some cheap abilities and moves kind of broke the gameplay for me, and I found myself only making use of a handful of those abilities throughout the game. This hack is intended to remove those cheap things and increase the difficulty of the game from 'easy' to 'somewhat challenging' (in my opinion) in a few basic ways. Also, it is intended to balance the abilities (and their moves) and encourage the player to actually use all of the various abilities.

What I did:

  • I removed guarding, as it allowed Kirby to avoid damage way too easily. (You never were able to guard in other kirby games AFAIK, anyway.)
  • I weakened long-range and/or projectile moves in: cutter, plasma, beam, sword, and ninja. The idea is to make 'safe' moves less effective compared to close-range moves that would involve some risk.
  • I made abilities function more as "powerups," where Kirby would lose their ability after getting hit only once or twice on average. Kirby can not re-inhale the ability star that comes out. Also, when Kirby transforms his helper into an item, Kirby can no longer inhale the item to recycle the ability/helper.
  • Finally, I made kirby and the helper have 50% of their original HP.
Some things I was planning on doing as well:
  • Disallow selecting an ability if it was lost or made into a partner in Milkyway wishes (since easily losing an ability is kind of pointless otherwise)
  • Make the bouncing ability star disappear a bit sooner, maybe make the helper item disappear rather than just sit there
  • Make Kirby transfer some of its health to form the helper's health instead. (If I do this, then I would probably increase Kirby and helper's max health back to a bit higher.)
  • Double bosses' HP, but not double the damage of bosses. This is to give bosses enough time to cycle through all of their attack patterns before they would likely die. However, I haven't found all of the ROM locations for boss damage right now.
    (I do have a version of the hack where I doubled HP of the bosses, and instead of giving kirby and the helper 50% HP, doubled damage of all of the enemies but not bosses, thanks to a JP source I found with these ROM locations. However, some other objects, such as spikes, do not do double damage.)
  • Any other changes to abilities' damage that I might consider
Here's my current version of the hack (v0.4)
An unheadered ROM of "Kirby Super Star (U).smc" should work. (CRC32: 89d0f7dc)

I would appreciate any feedback and critique about my changes/ideas, any other suggestions to improve the hack, etc. - though I would prefer that suggestions don't take that much effort to implement. This is pretty much my first time using ASM, and I doubt I'll have much time in the future to work on the hack. For example, I doubt I'll work on enemy AI, or (edit: major) level edits if they would take too much time.


I never found the Cutter or Ninja to be especially powerful. On the contrary, I think Cutter is one of the weakest abilities in the game. I think nerfing it would probably make it outright unusable. Same with Ninja. The kunai do almost no damage. Yeah it's safe but if you're doing that then it's soooooo slow. I'd say trying to make Plasma more in line with those would do more for balance than nerfing already unattractive options. I'm also not a fan of losing the ability to reinhale abilities once they're knocked out of him. Part of what makes Super Star, and to an extension most of the series so much fun is not having to deal with Kirby's cumbersome method of damaging enemies. While every enemy can technically be beat by just inhaling, it's pretty clear that a goodly portion of them weren't designed to be dealt with that way and merely have that function to keep the player from being unable to progress (Wham Bam Rock immediately springs to mind). I do agree with making the star bounce around less to add higher stakes to getting it back. I think that'll add some much needed urgency to things. I'm not sure how I feel about not being able to recycle the helper, but I feel like that's probably a fair change.

I'm concerned about is boss HP. I agree they all need a universal bump, but I think doubling it might be too much. That'll make some of the longer bosses a total slog (again, Wham Bam Rock, how I hate thee). LoLoLo and LaLaLa would be another one. Really any boss that has a vulnerability period. I think 50%-75% would be good, adjusted on a case by case basis. Finally I think cutting Kirby's HP by 50% might be a tad extreme too. Some attacks already do upwards of 40% of Kirby's attack, and if I'm not mistaken Marx has one that does more than 50%. Bosses that have one shot kills don't sound fun. They sound tedious.

Oh, and I just thought of this. Removing guard is a great idea, but maybe make it a power specific ability? Like I think it's thematically appropriate for Fighter and Mirror but not really the rest of them. Obviously severely reduce how effective it is, but it could be a neat thing for those powers. Just a thought.


Planet Robobot has guarding in it, last time I checked. Triple Deluxe might since it runs off the same engine, but I don't own that one. You're right about it being a very situational move, though, and I don't think I'd miss it too much.

I think something like cutting Kirby's health by 25%, boosting enemy health by the same amount, and increasing the damage enemies do by 12.5% would be somewhat reasonable, although like Ark says it's really something that would have to be handled on a case by case basis. You might consider making Gordos do critical damage like they did in the original Kirby's Dream Land.


I thought that Cutter was good since you could kill a lot of enemies with the ranged attack in one hit. In the hack, most enemies die in two hits. Ninja's kunais were weak but they could be shot rapidly and actually did DPS similar to Cutter before. The rest of the moves of Cutter and Ninja are untouched though. Basically I was trying to encourage more close-ranged play, as a part of making the game more challenging, since what would it matter that you would have less health if you could still avoid damage by staying afar?
I'll give some more thought about Cutter and Ninja though.

I guess the idea behind making Kirby unable to re-inhale the ability after getting hit was to make it difficult for Kirby to keep using the same ability, so Kirby would have to keep using different abilities. True, against bosses you might lose your ability and then have to fight by just inhaling for the rest of the boss. But in the levels, for the most part, you're able to come across another ability quite quickly, so basically, you would have to keep using each new ability that you would find if you wanted to use an ability, so that just about every ability would have a chance to be used. But even then I guess it probably is too imposing (and rather arbitrary) to make the player basically 'have' to keep switching abilities like that so I probably will revert that; it was mostly an idea I was personally curious about and thought it might be an interesting twist.

Sure, I'll work on some case-by-case modification of enemy damage and boss HP. I mainly based Kirby's 50% health reduction on how little damage kirby takes when he runs into an enemy, or even takes damage from spikes (it is actually quite low). (And I personally just wanted the challenge, haha.)
About Marx's move, was that the black hole attack? If it's just that move (and I think it's quite easy to avoid anyway), I think that seeing how he's the last boss and it could be considered his 'ultimate attack' with its own animation and all, making it one-shot wouldn't be unreasonable - in my opinion, it actually would make sense. Dying leads to just having to restart the battle (in Milkyway Wishes), anyway.

Sure, keeping a less effective version of guard for Mirror and Fighter sounds like a good idea.


I haven't played Super Star since it came out, so I'm not sure if this actually applies or not, but I know in newer games like Kirby 64, the bosses were way too easy to kill if you had a good powerup. In the original games (except, obviously, the very first one), to me it always seemed like it was more effective to fight bosses without using any powerups.


Nah, it's always been like that, really. Hammer Flip murders everything in Super Star, particularly the stationary bosses.


It's been a long time since I played, but my knee-jerk reaction to "double boss HP & damage, half Kirby's health" is "cheap way to make the game harder, definitely won't make it balanced." It's been years, so maybe Kirby does just have too much health or enemies' have too little.

Have you considered speeding up some of the bosses? My memory says that some of them need actual speed to be threatening, not super damage / health.


This is a bit of a bump, but this is the kind of hack I was looking for after spending several hours replaying Super Star Ultra and becoming really bored with its difficulty nerfs. While I've always enjoyed Kirby as a sort of laidback "play how you want" platformer, every mainline Kirby game since Squeak Squad has become easier than the last, so I've been feeling pretty starved for some genuine challenge.

If you ever plan on updating this, here's some feedback I have on the changes you made here.

* I'm still trying to decide what I think about the HP nerfs. Kirby I think is fine and usually requires about three or four hits to take down, but the ally consistently dies in two hits, which is a bit ridiculous considering how eager it is to facetank damage in the first place. I think a better resolution would be to give Kirby and his ally the same health pools, but to make the ally immediately explode on 0 health (if you can find out where the timer is for that).

* Blocking was definitely the main offender in the original game and runs contrary to Kirby's gameplay formula, so removing it was a good choice. It especially makes the RPG battles more compelling, since you now have to find more creative ways to avoid damage instead of tanking through all of them easily. Now, I do think it would be possible to balance blocking so that all attacks do chip damage against it -- but with that being said, I don't miss its absence in the slightest.

* Though I don't have much to complain about the moveset damage tweaks, Ninja in particular feels unusable. Ninja's problem is that many of its close combat moves are unreliable -- the standard B and standard aerial B moves require Kirby to come into point blank range (high risk of running into the enemy hitbox), and the dash move rarely kills its enemies, which also can cause Kirby to lose his ability by literally running into the hitbox of the enemy he just attacked. Since Kirby loses this ability in one hit, I feel like there's no opportunity for me to use Ninja effectively. The shuriken throw and the drop kick are the only moves that I feel comfortable using with this ability, and the former isn't as strong of an option as most of Kirby's other ranged abilities. In order for Ninja to have a functional role in this hack, I think either Ninja Kirby would need to have some of his close range options strengthened or his long range damage nerf partially rolled back (maybe with an attack speed nerf to compensate). I'm better off giving Ninja to my ally so that he can machine-gun shurikens at the nearest enemy before getting squished, and I don't think that's a healthy role for the ability to play.

* On that note, I think pretty much every other ability here works great under the new system. The ranged cutter nerf wasn't overbearing, and Cutter's close quarters moves are generally easier to use than Ninja's, so I still found myself using the ability fairly regularly. On the whole, my ability usage has been pretty evenly spread out, as the design philosophy for favoring close vs long range works pretty well with the other changes present. For instance, while Hammer is basically untouched and can wreck face with hammer flips, the lack of blocking and the risk of losing that ability permanently after even a single hit is enough to balance it against something like plasma, which no longer relies on fully charged attacks for DPS. Perhaps the only other change I would make in the moveset department is to slightly buff Beam's standard B move, which has always been needlessly underwhelming even against the tiniest enemies.

* I can't count how many times I kept habitually trying to swallow the ability star back up. It would be nice if the ability star just disappeared entirely so that I'm not fighting against my instincts.

On the whole, this was a pretty fun modification that did a lot to change up the meta for me. Even some of the early game bosses that I would have easily just shrugged off such as Kracko and Dedede have a lot more presence due to these changes, and I'm forced to actually respect their attacks and try to out-maneuver them. Meta Knight in this hack marks the first time I've ever received a legitimate game over in KSS (outside of Arena mode), but because there's always a strategy to maneuvering around enemies, and since the game is very forgiving about starting you back up at reasonable checkpoints, it never feels frustrating or unnecessarily punishing. The only area of the game where it feels like this hack doesn't feel particularly graceful is Milky Way Wishes -- and that's only because the changes to losing abilities is rendered meaningless. But that's a minor point.

Anyway, thanks for making this. Cheers.


Quote from: cobaltbw on June 16, 2018, 02:11:15 PM
Every mainline Kirby game since Squeak Squad has become easier than the last, so I've been feeling pretty starved for some genuine challenge.

This. Quite a bit of this. I've been playing Kirby since I was, like, 2 and they've definitely been getting easier since the mainline DS games.

I'm not too much a fan of getting rid of the guard function but I can see how making it an ability-specific move would be a good compromise. I also agree with making those moves Fighter and Mirror; I would also throw in Ninja (perhaps make the guard function a disappearing power like when Kirby gets hit?) and Plasma (it's really tedious to charge it up by fidgeting back and forth and it would be a nice compromise for nerfing an ability that is 98% projectile).

Quote from: cobaltbw on June 16, 2018, 02:11:15 PM
* I can't count how many times I kept habitually trying to swallow the ability star back up. It would be nice if the ability star just disappeared entirely so that I'm not fighting against my instincts.

I disagree. Losing an ability in the middle of something critical may be a bit much. Maybe just shorten the time that it's available?

Quote from: cobaltbw on June 16, 2018, 02:11:15 PM
It especially makes the RPG battles more compelling, since you now have to find more creative ways to avoid damage instead of tanking through all of them easily.

Not sure if other people do this, but, for as long as I can remember, I always used Mirror when fighting the Computer Virus. Just stand in the bottom left or bottom right, hold Y, and you'll only get hit when the knight enemy "throws knives". Perhaps you could find a way around this, even if it's as simple as not making Mirror available before fighting the Computer Virus (and then trolling the player by giving it to them immediately after, like on an ability pedestal or something).
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Quote from: cobaltbw on June 16, 2018, 02:11:15 PMWhile I've always enjoyed Kirby as a sort of laidback "play how you want" platformer, every mainline Kirby game since Squeak Squad has become easier than the last, so I've been feeling pretty starved for some genuine challenge.
Eh, the challenge is there for those who want it, I think.  Finishing some of the stages in Mass Attack without damage, for instance, or the final stage of Blowout Blast.  And the True Arena in Planet Robobot is proper nasty.
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I know the thread is a bit old, but I wanted to thank you for the effort! I always really liked Kirby Super Star, but felt it was way too easy.