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What’s Wrong with Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

July 22, 2012

I’ve been in a bit of a retro games kick lately because I keep playing new games and being disappointed with them. It’s a shame but I’ve been having a good time. Thankfully, I just borrowed the games I didn’t enjoy from the library so no harm done!

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland was one of these games. I must have missed it when it came out so I thought I’d give it a try. Despite largely positive reviews (or so wikipedia tells me) it really fell flat on my brother and me and I’m here to tell you why!

please don't burn down that forest kirby

Kirby’ Return to Dreamland has many issues, one of which being the most advertised feature of the game. This game adds Super Powers to Kirby’s repertoire which essentially boil down to the comic above: Press 1 to win! I realize that Kirby games aren’t really meant to be challenging but watching the same animation over and over to kill all on-screen enemies isn’t entertaining at all. The areas where you get the super powers are specifically designed for them so there isn’t much choice in whether you get them or not. Kirby is all about choice so this doesn’t work.

Another major flaw were the various held items. What are these doing in a Kirby game? You can get a candle, a bomb, a stomping boot thing, and maybe a couple more. See, Kirby is all about sucking, blowing, floating and copy abilities. When you are holding one of these items, you can do absolutely none of these! Why is there even a bomb? Why isn’t bomb power used here instead? Lightbulb power in the past was used to light up dark areas. Why add a candle? And what is that Mario stomping boot thing doing in here? None of these make any sense in a Kirby game and yet most levels featured either one of these items or one of the previously mentioned super powers. Talk about boring levels!

This game also fails in being remotely compelling with the plot. Don’t worry, I know: This is a Kirby game. The plot is always something along the lines of the bad guy stealing Kirby’s cake. This one somehow manages to be even worse. Someone’s ship crashed so you decide to fix it. Yup, that’s it! There aren’t even any overarching bad guys! You just fight enemies because it would be a boring game without them (hint: it’s a boring game anyway). At some points you go into this strange monochrome dimension where you fight a Sphere Doomer (!!) every single time. Never a different boss. What is this thing? Who cares. It probably shows up right at the end but my brother and I couldn’t make it past world 5 due to boredom.

One final point that isn’t necessarily a problem but something I’ve noticed. Over the years, Kirby’s abilities have gotten more useful. Back in the old days, each ability had one function. Now, pretty much every ability has a dash attack, a standing attack, a low attack, a vertical attack, an aerial attack and maybe even more! This sounds like it should be a good thing, but it doesn’t work for me. Before, each power had limited use depending on the situation so there was a great incentive to switch all the time which was what made Kirby interesting. In this new one, there is little reason to ever bother switching. Almost every power is the same but with different colours. Why bother switching to ice when you’ve got fire? Not much of a difference. We just got water power (one of the few new ones) and steamrolled through most levels while barely paying attention. Nothing was gripping nor interesting.

Part of me felt like I must just be getting too old for Kirby here at the ripe old age of 23. It’s always difficult to examine old games due to the whole nostalgia thing but I decided to give it a try with Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Boy did that game ever get it right. Wow. The combining powers ability was genius and made for so many interesting (and very silly!) abilities that really make this game unique. There are so many different powers that really are vastly different that there is a huge incentive to switch to try them all and to get the right one for the situation. The secrets in the levels are unlocked by actually using powers which seems so obvious for a Kirby game but apparently the Return to Dreamland team forgot about this basic concept? Kirby 64 is incredible and you should really try it if you missed it. It’s on the Wii Virtual Console!

Just this morning I decided to download the original Kirby game on the Nintendo 3DS eShop which I had never had the chance to play before. A fun but short game. Kirby doesn’t even have the copy ability in this one but luckily I had researched it first so that wasn’t an awful surprise. Really interesting to see so much of what makes Kirby already there sans copy ability. Most of the iconic enemies were all there and all of King Dedede’s attacks in particular were exactly as I know them from later instalments. It was very short but it probably would have dragged if it was longer since there were no copy abilities. The fire-breathing spicy food parts were funny, though. An excellent beginning to it all for only 4 bucks.

It’s really a shame that Return to Dreamland fell so flat for me considering that it seems to have been reviewed quite positively on most major game sites. Same situation as Skyward Sword, I guess. Decent games but so bad in comparison to what has come before.


From → Games

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