I'm going to be very honest, I first picked up Kirby Fighters Deluxe because I noticed a sale of Kirby games on the Nintendo eStore involving the first two Kirby's Dream Land and I figured I might as well pick this up as well (since, well, it would cost less than £10 to pick up all three games, which I didn't think was a bad offer!). I didn't know what the game was at all: I just thought "Kirby? AWW, IT'S SO CUTE! YES, PLEASE!" and picked it up right away.
...Yes, I find Kirby adorable. Don't judge me!
Anyway, I did some research and it turned out that Kirby Fighters Deluxe is an enhanced version of one of the modes available on Kirby: Triple Deluxe. Having not played the game the mode is originally from, all I can do is use the internet to check information on it and it turns out that there's a few extra features added to the mode, but there's a stage locked from stage selection and two classes (Beetle and Bell) locked from selection unless you have save data from Kirby: Triple Deluxe on your Nintendo 3DS. Since I don't have that, I can't comment on that content, so this review is of the game is of the base game (so, purchased without being able to access the extra content).
So, with that out of the way, let's get started!
One of the first things to notice about Kirby Fighters Deluxe is that it's basically a Super Smash Bros. clone. I've even played Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS to check how it plays in comparison to that and the controls are very similar to that game. This is likely to be a coincidence on the control scheme front (bear in mind, while Nintendo are a developer of games, they're a HUGE company, so not everyone is going to be working on the same games, and they're also a publisher of games, so there's third party companies releasing games on Nintendo systems which have no members connected to the first party Nintendo games being released), but the fact the game is basically Super Smash Bros. with a focus on Kirby is a minor point of criticism, as it's hardly the most original of games in that aspect.
In fairness, it WAS originally a bonus mode for another game, so I can't be too harsh because it was unlikely to have been the main focus of the game development time, and it's being sold for a fairly cheap price (full price on the Nintendo eStore at the time of writing is £6.29), so it's not like you're going to make a huge loss from purchasing the game. This doesn't, however, negate another criticism I have of the game: you can tell that the assets are basically from Kirby's Return to Dream Land (well, specifically, they're from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but, if you've even seen gameplay from Kirby's Return to Dream Land, you'll notice the assets are basically the same for that game as they are here), so you get the feeling that the game, while not rushed per se, didn't have the same focus as some of Nintendo's other properties that were being released when this was did. I don't mean that this makes the game bad (the vast majority of first party Nintendo games are at least enjoyable games), just that you would be forgiven for thinking that this game was made more as a stop gap between Kirby games than as a proper Kirby game (which is not helped by the fact that the Kirby game before this one, Kirby's Dream Collection, was a compilation of six of the early Kirby games and the one after this one, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, was released about a year after Kirby: Triple Deluxe in most countries!).
Whether this recycling of assets is a major problem or not does not, however, impact the fact that the game looks beautiful on the Nintendo 3DS. While you'll probably not notice most of the art direction due to focusing on fighting your opponents, it's certainly a very colorful looking game and it manages to avoid making the large color scheme look garish as well. It's very nicely done, so huge credit to everyone involved in the art direction for the game: you've done a wonderful job here!
Moving to the gameplay itself, you basically have three modes as part of the game: single player, local multiplayer (there's no online multiplayer for this game) and training (which is basically offline multiplayer). I'm not going to cover multiplayer, as I've not been able to play it (the joys of being the only person among your group of friends who regularly has his Nintendo 3DS on him...), but I can comment on the single player and training modes, so I'll do them separately.
In single player, you select which class of Kirby you wish to play as (which also includes alternative costumes, if you beat any of the difficulties with the appropriate class of Kirby for the new costume), select the difficulty of the game (you get a choice between easy, normal, hard and very hard) and go into it. Nothing too complicated here and, even in the base game, you get ten classes available to you (specifically, Sword, Cutter, Beam, Parasol, Hammer, Bomb, Whip, Archer, Fighter and Ninja), with Beetle and Bell available if you have save data from Kirby: Triple Deluxe on your Nintendo 3DS (and have StreetPass on: apparently, it doesn't detect the save data if you have StreetPass off). They all play fairly differently from each other, too, although not enough that you'll not be able to work out the basics of what each class on your first use of them.
The single player is basically a series of nine battles, seven against other classes of Kirby and two sort-of boss battles. For the standard battles, I do think that the difficulty of the Kirby battles seems a bit oddly decided (for example, the first battle is a one-on-one fight, while the second battle is a two-on-one battle, with YOU having the ally) and the fact that the game doesn't set up some of the battles properly is a bit concerning (there's clearly occasions where the game is MEANT to have teams going up against you, but makes the battle a free-for-all instead, which means that the CPU opponents will sometimes deliberately attack each other instead of you), but the overall single player for the game is still enjoyable and you'll probably be able to have a lot of fun with them if you like this style of game. Just be aware that, on higher difficulties, your opponents get ruthless, so I'd suggest you start on the highest difficult ONLY if you're know the controls for the game already. Don't jump into the highest difficulty blind to the actual controls to the game!
The two sort-of boss battle occur in stage 5 and stage 9. For stage 5, you face Kracko (the cloud with an eye, for those who don't know the names of various Kirby characters). I honestly think this boss battle is a bit too easy on lower difficulties, since you have a second Kirby alongside you which makes it possible for you to win the battle without fighting Kracko yourself, but the higher difficulties rectify this by not only making Kracko go through his moves far quicker, but also making him deal more damage to you. Even if you're an expert dodger, you're going to have to contribute to the fight on higher difficulties because the second Kirby will be beaten very quickly if you try to leave the boss fight to them on their own! For stage 9, you fight King Dedede...sort of. See, the boss fight starts out with you fighting waves of mini versions of him that mostly get defeated in one or two hits (which you have to face a larger number of on higher difficulties), then you finish by fighting two smaller versions of him (not the mini ones you fight in waves before that, but still recognizably smaller than him) and King Dedede himself. This last fight gets interesting in that, if you defeat the smaller versions before you defeat Dedede himself, he will grow to twice his size (paging Dr. Freud...) and get a far more powerful set of moves which, on higher difficulties, can be ruthless if you're not prepared to deal with them. I like both boss fights, but I will admit that it feels a bit disappointing that the final fight wasn't purely a one-on-one brawl against King Dedede himself, without the other versions of him being there to make things more difficult.
The training mode is basically an opportunity for you to play Kirby's multiplayer offline against the CPU. You can play against up to three opponents, with you selecting their difficulty and their class. You then can chose stuff like handicaps that you want to have in place. It's only once you do that that you have the option to decide teams, which I feel is a very poorly thought out method of making the option of teams available: I actually spent a good amount of time the first time I tried to set up a team game trying to find the option for multiplayer because I thought it was going to be on the main menu like with most games. You do have the option, however, of putting all three opponents on a team against you, which isn't done in the single player! You then select the stage you want to fight upon (one of which isn't available without access to saved data from Kirby: Triple Deluxe) and then battle. Aside from the layout for multiplayer team battles being a bit awkward to get used to, it's fairly good fun and certainly a good opportunity to practice if you want to play against friends!
The music and sound for the game is something I've not commented upon. Honestly, this is because I usually play the game with the volume off, but what I heard whenever I had the volume on was very good! I will admit to getting a bit nostalgic when I heard the music from the first stage in the single player matches, as it's a remix of the music from the first stage of Kirby's Dream Land, and the victory music whenever you win a match never failed to bring a smile to my face due to it being a remix of the victory music that's been ever present in the Kirby games.
The classes are all pretty well balanced against each other. I personally favored Sword and Hammer for my classes whenever I played and preferred to avoid Bomb, but, for the most part, I found every class to be very well balanced and enjoyable to use. A few classes could have been slightly better balanced (I think Hammer's attacks in general are a bit TOO powerful and I found Bomb a bit underpowered due to how difficult it is to make attacks actually hit your opponent short of placing the actual bomb on top of them), but all of the classes have their strengths and weaknesses which make playing them all fairly interesting!
What do I think the game could do better? Well, the only game mode that you have in terms of multiplayer options are stamina battles, where you have a life bar and, when that runs out, you are defeated. While you do have the ability to return as a ghost if defeated and, if you deal damage as a ghost while there's an opponent on the battlefield you can damage, you revive with some health, that's the only method of playing the game, which means that the game will get fairly repetitive very quickly due to the lack of options to customize games.
I also find the locking off of content purely to those who have access to Kirby: Triple Deluxe to be a somewhat aggravating decision, because it's basically locking off content that should be available to people from the start and also is a method of encouraging people who already have Kirby: Triple Deluxe to have to spend more money on what is basically part of a game they already own. While spending an extra £6.29 isn't too bad if you own Kirby: Triple Deluxe, the game still sells for £34.99 on the Nintendo eStore, which is a bit much if you're only buying it to get access to the two locked classes and the locked stage! I think a sensible idea would be to either make the two classes and stage available to those who own Kirby Fighters Deluxe on its own or, if Nintendo does want to stick with the locked content option, allow for a discount on the game to those who already own Kirby Fighters Deluxe and/or Dedede's Drum Dash Deluxe (which is another game that is a side game in Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but is not one that I've played).
Ultimately, if you and a bunch of friends meet up regularly for gaming and you all can't afford Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS to play against each other, this is a pretty respectable substitute for it if you're fans of Kirby and it's certainly a game that is fun enough to be worth a play on its own. It is flawed in that the lack of variety means it will wear thin fairly quickly and most people will probably be frustrated by the locked off content, but it's certainly a decent time killer!