Kirby's Return To Dream Land -
Intro + Summary
In recent years, Kirby games have been reviewed consistently pretty well, but I never hear about many people playing them. Mostly, I hear about how the games are too short, too easy, or both, making the latest installments in the Kirby series simply not worth the $40 that could be spent buying other popular titles. This is why it took a lot of faith for me to invest in a Kirby game that cost $45 "used" after all these years. Still, I did it and I regret nothing.
Kirby's Return To Dream Land is a side-scrolling platformer that keeps the gay puff-ball's signature ability to inhale and copy his enemies at the forefront of the game-play experience. This time around, there are no yarn-related gimmicks or racing antics. It is just classic Kirby doing the thing he and we all love the most. This time, the antagonist is a mystery until the last chapter, and it becomes evident that the evil bad-guy is neither the classic Meta Knight nor King Dedede, because they are actually playable characters! Kirby's Return To Dream Land features 4 player co-op, much like how a number of modern Super Mario games do, making this title ideal for a either a group of friends looking to kick back and enjoy something silly and fun, as well as the perfect title for someone looking to play a fun single player game, which is how I played it.
Does anyone remember Kirby's Nightmare In Dream Land? It's a GBA game that I remember being played by a lot of kids who lived through my generation of gaming. Nightmare In Dreamland was an incredible, memorable, and fun Gameboy Advanced game featuring the very same Pac-Man impersonator starring in today's review! Why bring it up? Because unlike the easy, short, and mildly boring Kirby games of recent times, Kirby's Return To Dream Land feels more like the fabulous Nightmare In Dream Land than any other comparable game in the series. In fact, it feels like a direct sequel - a game that takes what we all loved about Nightmare, and added to it, enhanced it, and further illuminated the bright world that was the Nightmare from which we never wanted to awaken.
Kirby's Return To Dream Land (at the time it was released) was one of the few times we saw the Kirby formula in its purest form. Kirby's Squeak Squad for the Nintendo DS was received kind of well, Kirby's Epic Yarn although critically acclaimed was not the Kirby we all knew and loved, and the same could even be said about Kirby Air Ride for the Nintendo Gamecube, back in 2003. Kirby's Return is an awesome game because it succeeds in doing the things it tries to do.
For those who don't know, Kirby's only inherent ability is the ability to inhale enemies in each level. Kirby is usually able to copy the powers of his inhaled victims, sometimes resulting in Kirby wielding a sword, being able to breathe fire, or even turning into a laser-shooting UFO, all depending on the ability of the inhaled enemy. These copied abilities can be used to vanquish other enemies and reach the end of the level and/or unlock secret paths leading to collectibles. The main attraction to the classic Kirby games is the excitement that comes with using different powers in different levels. The objective of the game is to reach the end of each level, but the fun of the game comes from using different powers to do so. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that all any Kirby game would need to do in order to satisfy players is provide an abundance of fun levels in which the player can experiment with fun abilities. This, Kirby's Return To Dream Land does perfectly. I said PERFECTLY. With 7 worlds, 5 levels per world, 1 boss level per world, and countless collectibles whose collecting of allow you access to addicting mini-games, KRtDL offers non-stop variety in abilities and levels from the beginning to end, something recent Kirby games have been lacking.
To provide further contrast between Kirby's Return and more recent Kirby titles, I'd like to point out that Return has a very Nintendo-typical difficulty curve. For those who are unfamiliar, classic Nintendo games usually have a way of opening at an almost irresponsibly easy level, and then getting exponentially harder as the game progresses. I died in this Kirby game. I was concerned about my life-count in this Kirby game BUT, I never got frustrated at the Kirby game. Rather, I got frustrated at myself, because I got cocky once I noticed the game was easy and as soon as I got cocky, the game got hard. This game has the ideal difficulty level in my opinion. The later levels were quite difficult, but never made me want to rip my gorgeous hair out. The opening levels were difficult enough to suggest that I couldn't play the game with a blindfold on, while easy enough for me to learn naturally as I played.
Finally, a full arrangement of colors and appropriate art-style made this game a pleasure to look at, while its soundtrack literally had me going to Youtube and searching for the game's music even while the game was off, "Peaceful Place" being among my favorite tracks.
I find myself squinting and starring at the title of this section and saying "hmm...". Ehh I suppose you could say that this game isn't really much more than what it is. This is a platforming game starring Kirby and his friends using abilities to get from one end of the level to the other. The story is negligible and there isn't any depth to the game, nor is there anything that makes you care about Kirby other than how cute he is. Not that anyone was asking for an emotionally moving Kirby game! - I am just saying that this is not any game from which you'll walk away as a different person than who you were before you played it; it's just fun on a basic level.
The game can be a tad-bit repetitive towards the end, as it is very possible to become fluent in the ways of every ability at around the 6 hour mark of this 8 hour game. However, that hardly makes the game any easier, plus the number of collectibles will keep any completionist playing for long after they complete the main story. I completed the main story and only achieved a 63% completion rating. This being said, the game is fun enough to justify an 8 hour story mode with ease. If this game was 20 hours, while it got repetitive after 6, we'd have a very different game here.
The final short-coming is the following: once the main story is completed, the only reason to continue playing is to obtain every collectible. Once every collectible is obtained, you will be able to unlock every mini-game, and that's it. The only incentive to extending your playtime beyond 10 hours is to unlock mini-games that are fun, but may not be worth the hours of grinding. I wouldn't know- I didn't unlock them all.
To Whom Would I Recommend This Game?
Nintendo fans, ANYONE who liked Kirby's Nightmare In Dream Land, anyone looking to play some fun local multiplayer, anyone who is looking for an excuse to dust off their Wii (or Wii U), anyone who wants to see Kirby on a console as opposed to a handheld, anyone in the mood to play something short and sweet