Kirby’s Dream Land is a game that I have such fond memories of experiencing during my early childhood years. I really enjoyed the game, yet somehow I don’t think I’ve played another Kirby title since. When Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe was announced for the Nintendo Switch last September, I made a pledge that it would serve as my return to the Kirby series.
It’s a pledge I’m so happy to have made, as Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is an exceedingly enjoyable albeit simplistic 2D platformer that remasters a largely forgotten Wii title, and adorns it with new bells and whistles in the form of more content and a fresh new art style.
The adventure kicks off with the titular pink puffball Kirby frolicking around on his home planet Popstar, accompanied by his buddy Bandana Waddle Dee, and his two iconic frenemies King Dedede and Meta Knight.
All of sudden, a giant ship materialises from a rift in the sky, hurtling towards the surface of Popstar, losing parts of its machinery in the process. The group arrive at the crashed ship and meet its captain Magolor, who now requires the five missing parts of his vessel, known as the Lor Starcutter, in order to repair it and return to his home planet.
Being the thoughtful little guy that he is, Kirby and his allies agree to aid Magolor and retrieve the missing pieces of his starship, and quickly set out to do just that.
As one would expect from a game of this ilk, there isn’t too much in the way of story in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe. Despite this, the short tale it tells is rather entertaining, and has its own surprise twists and turns that you may or may not see coming. I especially enjoyed the latter moments of the adventure, which I won’t delve into here for obvious reasons. Overall though, the story is solid, and is charming albeit probably a tad too formulaic.
On the visual front, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe looks great in both handheld and docked modes. The original art style present in the Wii version of the game has been replaced with a more comic book-esque aesthetic, with characters featuring thicker black outlines.
The backgrounds are also exhibiting more detail, and the colours are far more bright and vibrant than what was seen on the Wii. It looks brilliant, and much like Nintendo’s last release Metroid Prime Remastered, it also maintains a steady frame rate, with no noticeable drops experienced throughout my adventure.
Similarly to the visuals, the soundtrack is also really enjoyable. I can’t say there was any track in particular that blew me away, but the soundtrack succeeds in providing plenty of tracks that feel befitting to the charming and cutesy world of Kirby. Green Greens is the track that comes to mind when I think of Kirby, so it’s nice to listen to it here.
Like most of the games in the mainline Kirby series, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a side-scrolling 2D platformer. Whether it be on your lonesome or with up to three friends joining in on the adventure via local cooperative play, your goal is to make it through the various levels in each world, and defeat the subsequent bosses at the end of each world for a part of Magalor’s destroyed airship.
Levels contain simplistic yet satisfying 2D platforming, collectibles in the form of Energy Spheres that can be collected to unlock minigames on Magolor’s ship (which are great to play alongside friends), and combat that is made far more amusing than Kirby’s default inhale and spit out of enemies thanks to his array of copy abilities.
Particular enemies when inhaled by Kirby and devoured can grant him with an ability matching the attributes of the swallowed foe. For example, swallowing of the sword wielding enemies will grant Kirby the sword ability, rewarding Kirby with a sword of his own, as well as a set of new attacks. Abilities can be removed at any time if you find yourself not enjoying a particular ability, or you simply want to be free to give a different ability a try.
The sheer array of copy abilities available throughout the adventure (there are more than 20 abilities, with two being new to this remaster) does a fantastic job at keeping the gameplay loop fresh and interesting, and the fact that some abilities are often needed to access particular optional areas to collect energy spheres, they ultimately encourage exploration as well.
Super abilities can also be found within particular levels, and as their name suggests, they provide Kirby with a far more powerful attack. The Monster Flame ability allows Kirby to unleash a furious fire dragon that shoots across the screen and eliminates all those within its flames, while the Ultra Sword provides Kirby with a comically large Sword that will slice all enemies in its path, often sending them flying into the screen in an adorably charming albeit brutal fashion.
If you aren’t playing as Kirby, and are instead playing as Meta Knight, King Dedede, or Banana Waddle Dee, you aren’t able to make use of these ability types, but each character still has an entertaining moveset to perform throughout levels.
I for one had an enjoyable period playing as Meta Knight, and really liked how he played. Thankfully, multiple players can play as Kirby through different coloured models, which means additional players can still play around with the copy abilities if they so choose.
The Kirby franchise has never been one to revel in its difficulty, instead opting to keep things approachable for players of pretty much any skill level, but also making gameplay interesting and engaging enough to keep all players invested in the adventure.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe continues that trend, and although parts of me do wish that the platforming was a bit more challenging and that the enemies put up more of a fight (even boss fights are an absolute cakewalk), the reality is that we were never going to get that. It’s easy to pick up nature made it a great co-op experience to play alongside my girlfriend, and the enjoyment of just playing a wholesome video game on the couch without needing to fret about difficulty was refreshing.
While the core Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe experience is solid, there are in fact various other modes present in the game, many of which require the game to be completed to be unlocked. Completing the main mode at a completion rate of 70% unlocks Extra Mode, which is essentially a harder version of the main mode, with less health and more powerful enemies.
Wrapping up the main mode also unlocks The Arena, which is a boss rush mode that sees you needing to defeat a bunch of bosses on a single life, with the ability to heal a limited amount of times in between battles. It’s a decent enough additional mode, but your enjoyment of it will hinge on how enjoyable/challenging you find the boss battles to be.
Its more difficult variant, The True Arena, is unlocked upon completion of Extra Mode, offering up more enemies, including those from yet another mode unlocked after beating the main story, known as Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler. This epilogue sees you playing as Magolor, who has lost his abilities and must travel through another dimension in order to retrieve them.
It plays similarly to the core gameplay of the main mode, but relies on chaining combos in combat to gain more currency, which can be used in the overworld to power up Magolor’s abilities. It’s a really enjoyable piece of additional content, and with 4 worlds, it’s actually quite a decently sized mode too, adding an extra 2-3 hours to the overall package.
Merry Magoland is yet another entirely new mode in the Deluxe version. It essentially just serves as a hub where players can access the various minigames present in the main mode, without having to unlock them with Energy Spheres as you would in that mode. Playing these minigames in Merry Magoland award stamps, which unlock masks of Kirby characters from throughout the series history, which can then be worn throughout the main game.
The desire or incentive to collect the masks wasn’t really there much for me personally, but I’m sure those keen to fully complete the game will have fun collecting them all. I did however have plenty of fun with minigames, as well as exploring Merry Magoland via Kirby and his Warp Star.
One of my favourite minigames was Booming Blasters, which also happens to be a new minigame in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe. It’s a top-down arena shooter in which you must use a laser gun to attack your foes, with the win awarded to the last player standing. Smash Ride is another highlight, and is essentially a 4-player match of bumper cars, where players must knock players off the stage, while avoiding attacks from other competitors. They’re all definitely worth checking out.
Although the core adventure will only take roughly 8 to 10 hours to complete, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe manages to pad out the game with a raft of interesting and amusing sub-modes, whether it be the Mario-Party style minigames available in Merry Magoland, Magolor’s epilogue chapter, or the various other goodies available upon completing the main story mode.
In summary, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a great 2D platformer that looks brilliant, controls delightfully, and is charming as all heck. With plenty of content spread across its various modes, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe serves as a solid deal for newbies to video games and veterans alike, and is worth picking up if you’re after a 2D platformer to play alone or with friends and family.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron