Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is the latest in a long line of Wii and Wii U remasters for the Nintendo Switch.
If you’ve played a sidescrolling Kirby title (or the 2011 original for the Wii), you’ll know what to expect here. The pink puffball’s gameplay remains some of the most forgivable platforming out there, thanks to Kirby’s ability to float, suck up his foes and take over their often inventive powers. If you happen to miss that pivotal jump, don’t worry — just suck up some air and float back to safety. This level of forgiveness is why nearly every Kirby title — except, arguably, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, which can get quite difficult –– is so great for inexperienced gamers.
On the other hand, the lack of difficulty is still the Deluxe version’s most significant issue. It remains one of the most accessible games I’ve ever played to a fault, even when you’re hunting down the not-very-difficult-to-find hidden ‘Gears’ featured in every level. But if you plan to play with younger or more inexperienced gamers, this makes Dream Land Deluxe the perfect intro to the wonderful world of gaming.
To be fair, there are new features that make Return to Dream Land Deluxe more difficult. First off, there’s a new ‘Extra Mode’ that features additional enemies, fewer healing items and more difficult bosses. While this is a welcome addition, it would have been better to select this difficult section off the top instead of being required to complete the game to unlock it.
On that note, there’s a new Magolor Epilogue that has you taking on the role of Magolor. This unique take on the standard Kirby formula borrows mechanics from the RPG genre and has players gaining new abilities as they move through the mode’s various levels. With this additional mode, Nintendo has essentially added a game within a game, similar to Super Mario 3D World and the addition of standalone game Bowser’s Fury on the Switch. While the Magolor Epilogue is only 20 levels long, it’s a great addition to Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, and I hope to see more of this type of gameplay in future Kirby titles. It’s also worth noting that the epilogue is playable with four other players, just like the core game.
Thankfully, despite the Deluxe version of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land being a remaster of a now 11-year-old game, there are several other notable new features and visual improvements. While the original was released in the pre-HD Wii’s twilight years in standard definition, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe features a fresh coat of high-definition visuals.
While Dream Land Deluxe is visually impressive overall in HD, the cel-shaded-style outline around the player and enemies sometimes stands out strangely compared to the rest of the world. The game features two competing art styles that don’t feel very cohesive. On the plus side, this means it’s far easier to see Kirby, Waddle Dee, King Dedede and Meta Knight when you’re playing co-op, which can sometimes get chaotic with four players. Sticking with the visuals, just like with Return to Dream Land‘s original release, it often feels like the camera is too zoomed in, especially if you’re playing co-operatively with other players. It’s difficult to see what’s ahead of or behind you, and it feels more restrictive than other Nintendo 2D platformers like the New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, for example.
Kirby also has new Copy Abilities, including turning into sand, which works just as you’d expect, and a far more interesting Mecha ability that turns you into something out of the Mech Warrior franchise. Both abilities don’t necessarily add a lot to the experience, but they’re still fun to play around with and complement powers featured in the original game like the Hammer (hitting enemies with a hammer), Cutter (bladed boomerangs), Leaf (razorsharp leaves), Whippy (whipping your foes), Hi-Jump (bolting through the air) and more.
Finally, there’s now a new home for the title’s several new and returning mini-games called Merry Magoland, allowing you to compete against your friends, Mario Party style, in challenges like the reflex-focused Ninja Dojo, the Bomberman-inspired Booming Blasters and several more that I won’t spoil. In Magoland, you can also unlock amusing Dress-Up masks that can be worn in the game’s story mode. All of this amounts to an entertaining diversion and a few hours of fun, but it isn’t the main draw of Return to Dreamland Deluxe and doesn’t compare to the bite-sized mini-game action offered by the Mario Party series.
In the end, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a solid 2D platformer that’s likely a little too easy for most players (unless you’re willing to play through it twice), especially if you’ve played other Nintendo platformer re-releases like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
Of course, this could be considered a good thing if you plan to play it with younger gamers. After all, Kirby’s Dream Land for the Game Boy was one of the first video games I ever played, and I credit it with helping me better understand the basic mechanics of platformers. There’s a good chance Return to Dream Land could be that same introductory game for children today.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe releases on the Nintendo Switch on February 24th, 2023, for $79.96.
Image credit: Nintendo
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