If there’s a franchise among Nintendo’s most famous that has gotten a lot of innovation on its games is Kirby. In just over a year, gamers all over the world have had the opportunity and pleasure to enjoy unique and extremely charming games like Mass Attack and Epic Yarn. But in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, the pink and cute Nintendo mascot goes back to his roots and provides everyone with a 2D action platformer where he will be able to inhale his enemies and take their powers again, and the truth is that this game is the perfect proof that getting back to “normal” can be a great thing.
Return to Dream Land is a very simple video game that makes players travel in several 2D stages using Kirby, Meta Knight, King Dedede and a spear-holding Waddle Dee, if you’re playing the game on the new cooperative mode. Each character has an exclusive set of abilities and powers making them unique and varied. The players are allowed to use different-colored versions of Kirby in case they want to enjoy the powers the enemies sometimes provide but the non-Kirby characters are excellent additions.
The story in the game is pretty simple, like in all games in the franchise. An alien ship crashes on Dream Land and its most important pieces gets scattered all over the place. The pilot then asks Kirby and the other three guys (who were strangely living in peace) for help to rebuild the ship so they immediately accept and go adventuring around the planet like every good Nintendo hero does.
Graphically, the game is very good. It is inferior to others which came in the same months like Skyward Sword but good nonetheless. It’s very colorful, charming and has a really great variety of textures, places to visit and see around the entire game. It is possible to see some minor inconsistencies here and there with the visuals, especially in the anti-aliasing but none of them make the game look bad or anything. Sadly, going back to the normal style of the franchise makes another game in it, like Epic Yarn, look prettier. But that’s definitely an artistic style thing.
During the game, Kirby and his companions will run, fly and walk around plains, beaches, old dangerous factories, frozen lakes and even on space itself. The environments are all different and they do a perfect job at avoiding repetition in both the visuals and the things the characters must do to effectively go through the stages.
The music and sound effects are awesome. As common with the Kirby games, the soundtrack will be very charming and relaxing but many of the songs will sound a little estrange for being in a game from the pink guy, especially in the Ice and Factory stages. Still, they’re all very cool and catchy and it’s not going to be weird if gamers all over the place start trying to find the songs online.
In the sound effects department, they have great quality as well, but since this is a cartoony and childish game, it is logical that the sounds will be cartoony as well. Sounds for Kirby’s powers, explosions around the stages, the wind flowing, waterfalls and even the cute ones emitted when Kirby jumps are there and the mix is very cool. Sadly, there’s no voice acting on it. It sound weird to complain about the lack of voices in a Kirby game but when the public had the narrator in Epic Yarn, it is only logical to be concerned about it. The game will make an excellent job on telling the story using videos that perfectly explain what happens in the story anyway.
The gameplay is a blast and definitely the thing everyone will think the game is awesome for. When playing as Kirby, the players will control him like in most 2D platformers, he will walk, jump, slide, block attacks, float in the air and inhale enemies to either spit them as a star which damages things or eat them completely and steal their powers. Several of the enemies don’t have any special ones, like the normal Waddle Dees but most of them will do. The game offers around 20 different power-ups, each with its own unique moveset and usefulness and they’re all amazing.
Among Kirby’s powers, the players will be able to enjoy the returning magic wand which shoots beams of light, the fire-breath, bomb-throwing techniques, martial-arts and many new ones like the razor-leaf, tornado power, and the water one that allows him to slide through the stages as if he were surfing and feels incredible. The variety in the power-ups is top-notch and will most of the times make going through the same levels a different journey depending on which powers the player uses.
But the normal powers are not the only ones. Some of the stages in the game will have a special, glowing enemy that will provide the pink hero with a huge, over-powered ability to literally spread chaos. He will be able to carry a sword the size of the screen and slash everything on his path with it, or call a fiery dragon to burn everything in a straight line or cover himself in snow and roll around places splattering his enemies. These special power-ups will usually result in Kirby opening a black-hole to an optional challenge stage where he’ll be able to fight a sub-boss for a prize necessary to finish the game with 100% completion.
Besides Kirby himself, the other three characters will be able to defend themselves in excellent ways as well. King Dedede holds a big hammer and has a great move set to destroy enemies with it. He’s great for dealing big amounts of damage to the bosses. Meta Knight is very fast and uses a sword like usual. His moves look similar to the ones he uses in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the Waddle-Dee carries a spear he can use to melee attack with a barrage of stabs of throw several of them at once to damage enemies from a safe distance.
This brings a problem with the gameplay; Return to Dream Land is extremely easy. Like most of the games in the franchise, the variety of environments, story, enemies, powers and music are excellent but since Kirby’s games are aimed at very young audiences, they end up being great games that are really easy to complete. And the fact that this one can be played with three friends causing rampage on the stages doesn’t give the bad guys any chance. The only way for the game to be slightly difficult is to go solo to the boss battles in each world in the “Extra Mode” which is a second run of the main quest with half health and faster and bigger enemies.
Fortunately, the main quest is not the only thing available for play. By getting some “energy spheres” scattered around it, the players will be able to unlock a few challenge missions and a couple of very cool minigames. The challenge missions make Kirby go alone with a set power-up to a special stage he must finish within a target time and grabbing as many coins as he can. Finishing these missions earns him bronze, silver and golden medals and they can be very tricky to complete, let alone get the golden medal. The two minigames are “Scopeshot” which makes the four characters use the Wiimote to aim and shoot at a big robot on the screen and slowly destroy its parts until it dies for points and “Ninja Dojo” which is a very cool minigame where the four heroes (and villains) use the Wiimote’s motion sensor to throw shurikens at some targets that move really fast around the screen. Both of them are very simple, yet fun as hell.
Besides that, there’s an amazing survival mode where Kirby and the other three characters can go and fight each of the sub-bosses and bosses in the main quest, one after another with a limited number of tomatoes to heal themselves. Getting a good score in this mode in “Extra” can be a pain but with team play and three friends who actually play good it can be achieved. As mentioned before, after finishing the story, the Extra Mode will unlock and allow the public to go through a harder version of the game.
In short, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is a great game that pretty much every gamer out there will enjoy. Playing it in co-op is certainly much better than going through it with just Kirby but both ways will be a blast. It looks very good though it’s not the best-looking game on the Wii, the music is great and very charming and the gameplay style is incredible. The game doesn’t innovate o reinvent 2D platformers in any way but manages to be a very welcome addition to the roster of the Nintendo Wii.
- Charming and colorful levels.
- Great soundtrack.
- Simple, yet great cooperative play.
- The power-ups are awesome and very varied.
- Different cool extras.
- Extremely low difficulty level.
- Not much to do after getting 100% in Extra Mode and challenges.
- Most of the “hidden” items are on plain sight.
- Graphics and Visuals………...8
- Music and Sound Effects….....9
- Replay Value………………...8
- Overall Score……………….. 8.5 / 10