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Hello Kitty is the only person I know of who talks in picture bubbles.

Hello Kitty World

If you're like me, you probably grew up not knowing what Hello Kitty was. Then you found out at some point in life and promptly forgot because it didn't matter that much. In any event, if you don't know, Hello Kitty is a cat created in Japan back in the 70s as a mascot/logo for various products from Sanrio Co. Ltd. She's a white cat who wears overalls and seems to be missing a mouth and digits, but everybody else in her world has the same problem, so it's not like she's handicapped or anything. Anyhow, Hello Kitty apparently worked very well as a mascot, because she wound up with her own anime (the characters spontaneously develop mouths when talking) and a couple videogames. Which brings us to the subject of this review: Hello Kitty World, a NES game based on the mouthless feline.

Plot

So Hello Kitty's dad smokes cigars and her mom...wears octopi on her head. Huh.
There's not a whole lot of detailed story to this game, but there doesn't really need to be. The entire plot is summed up in the picture bubble at the top of the page: Hello Bear (or whatever his official name might be) is kidnapped by evil baloons and Kitty, who apparently has some attachment or other to Bear, is understandably distressed. So Kitty goes on a baloon-popping vendetta across various landscapes while trying to find him. Simplistic, yes, but on the other hand, you're not burdened with a lot of exposition: you can get into the game itself right away.

Gameplay

Soaring through the skies, popping the evil baloons...
Let's face it: a lot of licensed-property games suck. So when I find one, I approach it with anything from mild dread to gripping fear. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this game. It's not quite Super Mario Bros., but it's engaging nonetheless. At its core it's a NES sidescroller, but with a twist: Kitty normally floats around with the aid of a couple baloons that have defected from the evil-baloon army, and adjusts her motion via the direction pad and the A button. She can release the baloons when needed by pressing B, and then produce a tire pump, infinite supply of helium, and more baloons from her overalls pocket and inflate more baloons by pressing Down while on the ground, which is useful when non-lethal enemies (most of the enemies in the game) pop your baloons, leaving you stranded on one side of a chasm. The really enjoyable part of the game is the baloon-floating physics: moving around in the air is somewhere between swimming in Super Mario Bros. and cape flight in Super Mario World. Try it; you'll like it.

Music/Sound

The final boss, something of a cross between Crow T. Robot and Oscar The Grouch.
The NES sound hardware is capable of some pretty nice output, but sadly, few games try very hard. Hello Kitty World, on the other hand, while not legendary like the MegaMan or Super Mario Bros. games, is easy on the ears at the very least and downright catchy at some points. Of course, since everything in Hello Kitty's universe is ultra-cute, (even the bosses are silly-looking,) it's all essentially elevator music, but it fits the mood nicely and is far from obnoxious.

Graphics

The ending. Left to right: Hello Mouse, Hello Kitty II, Hello Bear, Hello Kitty, and Hello Mole.
Well, since Hello Kitty was originally designed solely as a visual decoration for stuff, it's unsurprising that a game based on her would look pretty good. And indeed this one does. Now I've seen more impressive stuff done with the NES hardware, but I've also seen a whole lot worse. So overall, while not technically dazzling, Hello Kitty World's graphics are pretty nice and definitely passable.

Conclusion

Well, there are definitely more memorable games for the NES, but this game is easy on the ears and eyes and fun to play. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a sidescroller with good controls and a decent gimmick.

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