Kirby’s Return to Dream Land
: HAL Laboratory
: Nintendo Wii
: October 24, 2011
Kirby’s Epic Yarn was a fresh idea for the Kirby series. While it offered a fresh, new and creative idea, fans of Kirby noticed a key feature missing from this certain game. Something that makes the Kirby franchise what it is: Kirby’s copy ability. This returns in the first traditional Kirby platformer for home console in eleven years. The last game available with this style of gameplay was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. So how’s Kirby’s Return to Dream Land? Let’s find out.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land begins with Kirby hauling a piece of cake over his head on another sunny day in Dream Land. King Dedede and Waddle Dee are giving chase right behind him. Kirby runs past Meta Knight, reading a book, when the strangest thing suddenly happens. A spaceship in the shape of a sailboat bursts forth from a wormhole in Popstar’s, Kirby’s home planet, atmosphere, crashing right into Dream Land. Kirby and the others board the ship and stumble upon Magolor, an alien creature who was piloting the ship until the moment it crashed. Magolor tells Kirby that pieces of the ship have broken off during its crash, and in order to leave the planet, Kirby must gather the parts of the ship and return them. Additionally there are quite a number of energy spheres that makes the ship, the Lor Starcutter, operational. Kirby agrees and the rest of his partners follow.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land was originally intended to be released on the Gamecube just before the Wii was intended to launch. It looks similar to the Gamecube’s graphical prowess, but there’s no problem to be found here. This is a Kirby game after all. The games in the series are all about worlds, places, and characters that are found in our dreams. This game, being the first traditional Kirby game in over a decade, acts as a homecoming to the series of sorts. Everything a Kirby fan has come to know about these games is one big welcome back for both Kirby and the player. Forest, desert, and water environments are some of the familiar locales you’ll see. Kirby’s flashy abilities bring familiarity back and the Super Abilities are some of the cooler moments of the game you can see.
Nintendo’s always had a flair for sound effects and music. Additionally, the Kirby series has offered some of the catchiest music in side-scrolling platform gaming in each of the series games. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land brings a little of the old back and a whole lot of new. Familiar music such as Kirby’s theme and the boss fight theme bring back nostalgic memories. All of Kirby’s recognizable sound effects are ever present, inhaling, exhaling, flying, and the copy ability sound effect.
Kirby veterans are sure to get acquainted with the game’s control scheme rather quickly. The game is played by holding the Wii remote sideways and plays identical to the old school Kirby games of years past, such as Kirby Super Star. Kirby will jump, run, and slide his way to victory by exploring a series of levels in each of the game’s various worlds.
Kirby’s greatest and most memorable weapon is his Copy ability. Any enemy with a noticeable way of attacking can be inhaled by Kirby and swallowed to gain their unique ability. There are dozens of different abilities that Kirby can unleash on his foes. Many fan favorite abilities return such as Sword, Cutter, Fire, Ice, Stone, along with many more abilities. If Kirby is without an ability, he can still inhale enemies in the stage along with star blocks and exhale them straight at his enemies. Shaking the Wii remote can increase the amount of objects that Kirby inhales, which means that he can expel at giant star projectile toward his enemies with the more things he inhales. Additionally, copy abilities can help Kirby get to areas he couldn’t get to without them. This comes to be especially useful when the player is looking for the energy spheres scattered throughout each stage.
A new feature to Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is the Super Abilities, which grant Kirby extremely powerful attack power for a limited amount of time. With a Super Ability many enemies and objects in the stage can be destroyed at once, such as the Super Ability version of the Sword ability, which has Kirby swing down a gigantic sword that covers the majority of the screen. It’s fun to see happen before your eyes and fun to use.
The goal of the game is to gather all the parts of Magolor’s spaceship by moving through each stage of each world. The last challenge in each world is a boss fight. Defeating the bosses awards the player with a part of the ship. Once this happens, the plot only thickens, and it was a good plot for a Kirby game. One that I will leave unspoiled for you.
You’ll probably run through Kirby’s Return to Dream Land in a few hours if you have plenty of Kirby experience under your belt, which can be a downer for fans of the series looking for something lengthy, but there are a few reasons to give this game more replay value.
Firstly, the game features a drop-in/drop-out cooperative multiplayer mode if you, family, and friends want to play all together. Kirby, King Dedede, Meta Knight, and Waddle Dee are all playable characters though only Kirby can use his Copy ability while the others rely on their predetermined skills. Guess you’ll have to vote on who plays Kirby since he’s virtually every character in the game in one. Players will all share lives rather than everyone having their own lives. This can be a problem, and is one of the flaws the game has. Say your other friends aren’t too familiar with the game; it can lead to a lot of lost lives. Rather than everyone accounting for their mistakes, it falls on everyone. So the game can end quickly. Though the game isn’t very difficult to start with, you can see how pooling together everyone’s extra lives can make things hectic because of inexperienced players.
The energy spheres hidden throughout the game is a virtual Easter egg hunt. Finding and collecting these spheres unlocks special content located in the spaceship. Locked doors can be unlocked by collecting the required amount of energy spheres to open it. Mini-games and challenges are among the content to be played on the side, such as Ninja Dojo and Arena. These are quite fun to play as some mini-games have you following predetermined rules to finish a challenge. I was eager to play over and over again to test my Kirby gaming skills to get a better score than the last. These challenges are creative and thankfully there are plenty of them to tackle.
After finishing your first run through of the game, an Extra Game mode is unlocked. Think of it as the game’s Hard mode. You can play the game again but this time Kirby’s health meter is lower than normal, making for a challenging run through, especially in the final levels of the game.
Whether you think it’s more of the same or not is up to you. I for one have been looking forward to a traditional Kirby game for years. Kirby’s Epic Yarn was great, but Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is the true Kirby game I’ve been waiting years for. The game’s simply great. Sure even the most skilled Kirby players can run through the game quickly, but it’s the experience and the reminder of good times with older Kirby games that makes this Kirby game stand out. There’s plenty to look for, the abilities are numerous and memorable, and the challenges and mini-games are a fine addition to keep your attention on the game even after you finish it. For gamers that enjoy a good challenge, the game’s harder difficulty should keep them on their toes for a good amount of time. As we approach the end of the Wii’s lifespan, it’s Nintendo’s first-party characters that we can look forward to at the close of a generation. For this reason, new and old Kirby fans should give Kirby’s Return to Dream Land a run through. This Kirby fan enjoyed every moment and if you’re a Kirby fan, you can too.