Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is a return more than just the title implies. Last year’s Kirby’s Epic Yarn was definitely a fun game but the one thing that it wasn’t would be a traditional Kirby game. Gone last year was Kirby trademark ability to suck away enemies and steal its powers. This year, Nintendo has decided to stay a little closer to the original schematic but now including a never before seen 4 player co- op, a first for a Kirby game.
Now is this return to the standard formula a welcome return, or should they have continued trying out new directions for the franchise leaving the past in the past?
Now when I say this game returns to the original Kirby formula it follows it down to a tee. You’re Kirby, a cute little pink blob who can float your way around a level whose biggest asset is your ability to suck in enemies and gain super powers by eating them up. If this sounds pretty familiar then you know what to expect from a Kirby game and it’s really no different in this game. There’s been no real attempts to make this anymore than a fun platformer for people who enjoy Kirby games. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I still have plenty of fun playing classic style games like this but don’t expect any new tricks. The most innovative part of the game is the Wii Remote, you control holding the controller sideways like a NES gamepad and the only new trick control wise is if you want to activate Kirby’s super suck mode by shaking the controller, which has far more suction than the normal attack. It’s not much and that’s where the new really ends when you’re not talking about the mini-games they added in for a side attraction but we’ll get to that later. Suffice to say you’re not getting anything new or innovative in this package but you’re getting a refinement of the standard formula that’s over 20 years old now. Sure there’s plenty of abilities for Kirby to suck up but most are rehashes from older games. The enemies are also a pretty standard Kirby affair as well. It’s up to you to decide if this status quo has worn its welcome for you or not though it hasn’t for me.
The story for the game isn’t all that extensive, Kirby and friends notice a spaceship that looks oddly like a flying boat crash landing. They investigate the crash and agree to help the alien Magolor fix his ship and get him back home safe and sound. The story never really develops all that much with the twists being a little obvious. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve eve played a Nintendo platforming game, as it’s never been about the story but the fun platforming action. The one story point that is relevant to the gameplay is that each world has a missing key part of the ship, which you must defeat a boss to get. Along with that each level has gears from the ship that fixes sections of the ships that contain Kirby power ups, mini-games and challenge levels.
Since this a Kirby then the actual difficulty isn’t in getting to the end of a level but finding collectables within the level, which range from about 3 to 5. Some are carefully hidden; some need you to have a specific ability of Kirby’s to access it and some will have you go into a black and white sublevel. Here there is an slowly approaching wall that’s following after you that you need to outrun and this will lead to a to a faceoff with a Sphere Doomer a creature that’s hoarding two of these valuable gears. This is the meat of the game and where you’ll be spending a lot of your time trying to get 100% in every level. With the gears you have access to mini-games, power up centers where you can start levels with specific power ups and challenge levels. The mini-games include shooting robots on the screen with the Wii Remote trying to discover their weak spot, throwing shuriken at targets and facing a gauntlet of every boss in a time trial. All of them have multiplayer and can be a nice distraction when you need a break from the main game but it’s nothing overwhelming special. As for the main game once you beat you’ve got a Extra mode you can go through that will present an even harder version of the original game with less health and much harder bosses. If you haven’t had your fix after all of this that’s another way you can sink your time.
The game has drop-in in co-op where three of your friends can just grab a Wii Remote and drop themselves into the game as Meta Knight, King Dedede, Waddle Dee or a second Kirby on the screen. This is one the game’s biggest selling points, especially for those who’ve gotten all the replay value they could get out of New Super Mario Brothers Wii and Little Big Planet 1 and 2. The characters play closely though not exactly like their Super Smash Brothers Brawl version and are a fun change from playing as your standard Kirby. The entire game can be played with co-op though you can you continue your game alone with no problem whatsoever. It’s a nicely done feature and the only thing that it’s missing would be some sort of online play, which is a weakness across Nintendo systems in general.
The game has a playful and cheerful presentation in both graphics and music. The world is entirely colorful and even when you’re in a dark alternative dimension in black and white chasing down a Sphere Doomer it never comes across as more than a little less cheerful that usual. This style lends itself well for a Wii game that will never be able to match the Microsoft and Sony machines in graphical power. The game’s sense of style transfers well and looks quite nice when up scaled to 1080p using my home receiver. All in all I can’t complain about the graphics and I can definitively fall in love with this cheerfully colorful world. The music continues the trend of being colorful and cheerful. The tunes are catchy and are fun to hum to and are what I’ve come to expect from a Nintendo game. I can definitely say that HAL has their vision for a Kirby game clearly in their mind and are flawless at executing it.
All in all Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is a Kirby game that doesn’t try to be anything else. There’s the addition of the multiplayer that’s definitely tons of fun but that’s as far as the evolution of the franchise goes in this installment. For me I had plenty of fun with the standard Kirby romp and the likes of New Super Mario Brother’s Wii as a blast from the past with fun multiplayer. If you’re sick of Kirby then you should stay away from this but if you have fond memories of Kirby Super Star or in fact any of the other Kirby platformers then you could do far worse with your $50 than Kirby’s Return to Dream Land.
Click here to buy Kirby Return to Dreamland online from EBGames.com
Click here to buy Kirby Return to Dreamland for the Wii from EBGames.com for a great price.