Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Review
Let me start off by saying that I wasn’t a fan of Kirby’s last Wii game, Kirby’s Epic Yarn. While it was nice to see Nintendo take a different approach with one of its top franchises, it fell short because it took away the one thing I loved about Kirby, stealing enemies’ powers. Luckily, with Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Nintendo went back to the tried and true Kirby formula and made a game that gives New Super Mario Bros a run for its money.
One thing Kirby games have never been known for is its story. In Return to Dreamland, you are just playing around with Waddle Dee and King Dedede (with Meta Knight reading a book). All of a sudden, a ship crash lands and five ship parts are scattered across the world. In obvious fashion, you go help the man inside the ship find the missing parts. And so the adventure begins!
The actual adventure is presented in very similar fashion to Kirby’s Epic Yarn. You have an over world where you can go to the ship or any of the lands that contain a ship part. Inside the ship, there is a ton of minigames and challenges that can be unlocked once you collect a certain amount of energy spheres in each level (3-5 per). Finding those energy spheres means you have to battle tough enemies or solve clever puzzles.
As far as the lands are concerned, they are all very basic variations of the 2D genre staples: fire level, water level, ice level… Etc. The only downside to the lands is that there are only 5 levels in each (6 if you include the boss stage). With there only being 7 lands and 5 levels each; the game only packs in 35 levels. Compare this to NSMB which has about 64.
Where Kirby does exceed though, is in the length of each level. On almost every one, I would think it was about to end and it just kept going and going. I never felt like any level overstayed its welcome mainly because of all the different power-ups you can acquire throughout the game.
It is crazy how many different powers are included in the game. Throughout the six hour campaign, here are all of the power-ups I encountered and there were still some I missed:
Fire (can turn into a fireball), Cutter (throws a blade), Needle (turns Kirby into a spiky death trap), Spark (turns you into a Pikachu), Leaf (turns you into a Bulbasaur), Water (turns you into a Squirtle), Umbrella (gives you an umbrella!), Whip (turns you into Indiana Jones), Rock (huge damage from above), Tornado (makes you whip up into a tornado), Hi Jump (you jump high), Ice (freezes everything), Bomb (turns you into Bomberman), Spear (makes you a Spartan warrior), Fighter (gives you super fast punches), Hammer (you get a hammer), Ninja (moves fast and has throwing stars), Wing (lets you fly), Sleep (heals you), Beam (turns you into a mage), Sword (turns you into Link).
Whew. Switching between all of these power-ups is half of the fun in the game. I couldn’t even pick one that I like the most but the Sword makes you look exactly like Link and when at full health, you shoot a laser from your sword.
In addition to these basic powers, you will encounter super powered version during the game. Certain boss fights require you become super powered and at other times, it is just to help clear a level. The first time I used the super powered sword (about 20 minutes in), I was so happy. Seeing Kirby swing a screen occupying sword was one of those things I will never forget in gaming. Needless to say, I had a big smile on my face all the way through the game because of all the cool power-ups.
Speaking of the boss fights, there is one in almost every single level. While the bosses in the beginning of the game are extremely easy (I didn’t even die at all until the boss at the end of the third world), the ones at the end of the game really up the ante and give you a big challenge. I’m very thankful about the difficulty jump because I began to worry that the game was too easy. Luckily, I did find myself dying a little bit during some of the better boss fights and even during a brilliantly fun 2D shoot’em up level while riding a dragon. Yeah, you get to see Kirby ride a dragon!
Once I did beat the final boss in the game, I was left extremely satisfied by the whole experience… when I beat it solo. Since Dreamland allows for up to 4 player simultaneous gameplay, I started playing with friends and noticed some problems. Basically, you never want to go past 2 players. Having more than 2 means that half of the people will essentially do nothing for a large majority of the time. Also, if they get too far away, the game warps them to the leader instead of the camera zooming out ala NSMB. So, the multiplayer is a bit of a letdown but being able to have 4 Kirby’s on screen at once is so awesome!
After you finish the main campaign, the game is far from over. There are about 50 mini-games to play once you gather enough energy spheres. While most are shallow, they do provide a few hours of fun and gives you a chance to try and beat high scores you (or your friends) set. Add this to a sort of new game plus and you have a game that begs to be played for months and months solo or with others.
All in all, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland is a return to glory got Kirby. Classic 2D game play mixed with amazing power-ups equaled one of the best times I’ve had with games this year. While the multiplayer is a bit of a letdown, there is more than enough fun to be had in just the single player. My faith in Kirby games has been restored and I really hope we get a 3DS sequel soon.
This review was based on a full retail copy of the game provided by Nintendo.