The Crystal Shards are iridescent, pointed gemstones. They are each primarily turquoise in color, but they also have purple and green areas on them. The Crystal that the shards come from is significantly larger, but has the same overall appearance.
The Crystal that the shards came from is an important artifact located in the palace on Ripple Star, home planet of the Fairies. When Dark Matter invades the planet, the Fairy Queen orders Ribbon to flee the planet with the gem. She escapes but is pursued by three Dark Matter orbs. They strike the Crystal, shattering it into fragments called Crystal Shards that spread throughout the galaxy. Ribbon falls to Planet Popstar, where she crashes into Kirby.
Upon hearing Ribbon's account, the pink puff agrees to help collect the Crystal Shards. A few shards fall into the hands of Waddle Dee, Adeleine, and King Dedede, resulting in Dark Matter targeting them. They join the adventure after Kirby defeats them.
Crystal Shards serve as the main collectible in the game; 74 must be obtained. Each stage contains three, and bosses each hold one. They are often hidden for the player to find, though others are kept under Elemental Blocks or only appear when certain conditions are met. Some mid-bosses also hold shards.
The Crystal opens portals to each planet the player visits. When all of the Crystal Shards are obtained, the fully-reconstructed jewel hits the Fairy Queen with an energy beam, purging a great amount of Dark Matter from her body. The Crystal is deconstructed for Ribbon's Crystal Gun, which is used to defeat 02 on Dark Star.
The story concludes with Kirby, Waddle Dee, Adeleine, and King Dedede each receiving Crystal Shard necklaces at a ceremony.