Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Review

NOTE: This review is mediocre and I'm not the least bit proud of it. Please do not waste your time with it. ~T-Man 2013

-------My Rating System-------

A(-)(+) A top notch experience all the way through. It may not necessarily be perfect, but whatever flaws it does have won’t take you out of it or make it any less worth your time. (Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2)

B(-)(+) A very fun experience bogged down by some significant problems, whether they’re related to the story, gameplay, or both. However, it’s still a good or even great game and worth the price of admission. (Kingdom Hearts: Recoded)

C(-)(+) A mixed bag. Generally fun to some extent and may shine in some areas, but is either too flawed to fully recommend or far too short for its price. Conisder it for a reduced price, at least if you’re a fan of its genre. (Rayman 3D)

D(-)(+) Subpar. It may not be terrible, but it is severely flawed and whatever it does well ultimately fails to save it. Even if you’re a fan of the genre, this is barely a bargain bin purchase. (Sonic Heroes)

F Insipid, disgusting, despicable, and insufferable. It is a scar on the face of human accomplishments that time shall never heal. The best thing we can do is avoid playing it at all costs. It is the only way to prevent its parasitic disease of awfulness from spreading. (Shadow the Hedgehog)


It’s been quite a while since the last traditional Kirby game that wasn’t a remake – nearly twelve years. We’ve seen plenty of Kirby games throughout the past decade, most of which have tried out new and creative ideas. 2010’s Kirby’s Epic Yarn, for instance, took place in a universe made completely of yarn and featured many gimmicks based around that, and last year’s Kirby Mass Attack features you controlling up to ten Kirbies with the touch screen. While most of these games are great, many missed the gameplay that made Kirby’s original adventures so much fun - or, at least, I did. Fortunately, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land brings that style of gameplay back. A throwback to the Kirby games from the NES, SNES and N64 eras, it features the same enemy-swallowing, ability-copying gameplay that made those games famous. So without further ado, let’s dive in.


The story of Kirby's Return to Dream Land involves a tiny alien’s starship crashing on Pop Star, and its pieces are scattered around the planet. Fortunately for him, our resident pink…puffball thing, Kirby, along with former enemies Meta Knight, King Dedede and Bandana Dee are right nearby and decide to help the alien by getting these parts back…which apparently entails beating the crap out of everything they see. Real classy, Kirby.

Obviously the story is very simple and downplayed, but it’s a Kirby game, so that should go without saying. What really matters here is – of course – the gameplay, and that part’s pretty dang good. Return to Dream Land is the first all-new pure Kirby experience since 2000’s The Crystal Shards, and it does a pretty great job of following up on that style of gameplay. If you’ve never played a traditional Kirby game, how it works is that Kirby can use his apparently amazing lung capacity to inhale enemies and/or objects and then subsequently throw them at other enemies and/or objects, or swallow them. Some enemies actually have special abilities, and if you eat those enemies, you will gain that power and be able to spam it on anything you see until it gets knocked out of you or you just get tired of it. Classic powers like Beam, Sword, Fire, Ice, Cutter, Electricity, Needle, and Stone are still here, as well as some returning from Super Star like Wing, Hammer, Fighter and Ninja (the latter three being some of my personal favorites). However, Kirby also gets a few new ones this time around – namely, Leaf, Whip, Water and Spear. Powers in Kirby aren’t only used for fighting enemies and bosses, though; there will be times when you need to use a specific power to open up the way to a secret.

These powers pretty much work just as you would expect: you press the “1” button (as the Wii Remote is held sideways in this game) and you use the attack. However, Return to Dream Land handles the powers in a way that makes them even more fun to use than in most other Kirby games. It’s exactly like Kirby Super Star (Ultra), for those who have played it – the attack you use with a power varies depending on what direction you’re holding on the D-Pad, whether or not you’re running (some powers, such as Water, even change how you run), whether or not you’re in the air, how long you hold the “1” button, or even other factors. Take Ninja, for instance. Tapping the “1” button makes Kirby throw a knife and holding it makes Kirby do a slash with a katana. If you a hit an enemy with said slash and keep holding the “1” button, Kirby will do another slash that sends out a wave that kills all enemies in the immediate vicinity (or does extra damage if you’re fighting a boss). If you attack while holding down in the air, Kirby will do an eagle kick, and if you tap the button while running, Kirby will boost forward and all enemies he boosted past will receive a flurry of slashes. Essentially, each power is like playing as a different character with its own moveset, and that’s a big part of what makes this game so much fun.

Speaking of different characters, Return to Dream Land offers a co-op mode where other players can play as Meta Knight, King Dedede, Bandana Dee or another Kirby, and the movesets for the non-Kirby characters are amalgamations of powers available to Kirby. It’s pretty fun and the game lends itself quite well to a co-op experience. However, there is one small frustration I found with it. One character can give another character a piggyback ride or carry another character while flying. While this is fine, rather than having you press a button to do this, the game makes you do it automatically. It’s a small annoyance, but it is there.

There is one more thing that deserves mentioning when it comes to the subject of powers. In some levels, you will find an enemy carrying a superpowered version of a normal power. If you eat said enemy, you will get it and let’s just say that what comes next is pure satisfaction. These super powers are really fun to use, destroying everything in your path as well as activating gimmicks. You will also need these to access the secret areas, and if you go through those and defeat the optional bosses at the end, you will get Energy Spheres (more on those later). All in all, the super powers are pretty awesome.

So, the gameplay is great, but as I’ve said before, in a platformer, one of the most important aspects is the level design. It’s basically the butter to a platformer’s bread. As for how Kirby’s fares, well, I’d say it’s serviceable. Its level designs are far from the most challenging and innovative you’ll ever see, but there’s a lot of diversity and the designs can even get pretty creative at times. Particularly, the secret areas I found quite creatively designed, posing unique challenges you won’t see anywhere else in the game. The level designs aren’t exactly brilliant, but they’re fun.

But although Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is a very good game, there are a couple of pretty significant things that keep it from being a must-have. First of all, most hardcore gamers are going to find the main mode of the game very easy, at least up until the last couple of worlds. I understand that most Kirby games are easy to make them more accessible to younger and more casual gamers, so I won’t say that this is an inherent flaw, but I do think it limits the interest of the hardcore audience a bit. Secondly and most importantly, it’s...really short. Most people shouldn’t take longer than three days to beat it, and depending on how much time goes into each sitting, it may not even take that long.

However, while the short length is a flaw, there is plenty of extra content to keep you playing even after you beat the main game and it’s still worth a purchase because of it. For one thing, completing the main game opens up an extra mode, which cuts down your life bar by a significant chunk and puts you up against tougher enemies and bosses. If you found the game too easy the first time through, this mode is definitely worth playing. While the level design isn’t changed aside from the enemies you face, the bosses at least should give you quite a challenge. There are also 120 Energy Spheres to collect within the levels, which open up challenges for the game’s powers as well as two mini-games that you can play with your friends, which are pretty nice. There are also two boss rush modes a la Super Star. Overall, the extra content is pretty substantial and does a good job of keeping the game worth the price in spite of the short length and easy difficulty.

The Good:

+ First all-new traditional Kirby game in years
+ Powers come with full movesets like in Super Star
+ Super powers are awesome
+ Co-op mode is fun
+ Diverse, reasonably creative levels
+ Lots of extra content

The Bad:

- Main mode lacks challenge
- Pretty short


As a Kirby fan since childhood, Return to Dream Land was a great experience for me. It brings back the same style of gameplay that I fell in love with so long ago, and it’s just as fun as ever. As for how it compares to the other Kirby game for Wii, Epic Yarn, well, I’d say which one you would like better depends on what you’re looking for. Kirby’s Epic Yarn deviates from traditional Kirby gameplay, but in return offers an incredibly unique and creative experience. Return to Dream Land, on the other hand, is a pure traditional Kirby experience. Personally, I had more fun playing Return to Dream Land, but Epic Yarn did take me much longer to complete. Whatever the case, I would definitely recommend both games. So with all that said, I’m off. See ya.

Grade: B

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