Some thoughts on Kirby: Return to Dreamland
As prevalent as Kirby games have been on Nintendo systems since the pink ball first appeared, it is amazing to think that Kirby: Return to Dreamland is his first main series console outing since 2000’s (I think) Kirby 64. Most of his games have been relegated to handhelds and even then were mostly remakes and offshoots. The few home games have been aberrations (Air Ride) or not really Kirby games at all (Epic Yarn, though it is delightful). For his first primetime outing in a decade, Kirby proves that he still has it.
Return to Dreamland is also a return to Kirby’s best game, Super Star on the SNES. Kirby’s trademark power-ups in both games have more than just one or two uses; most of them give Kirby an expansive new move set. It may take some time to learn how to use some of the powers, but for most of them, it is worth it. And the best always has been and always will be fighter, tied with parasol. While sometimes a specific power-up is needed, the game most fun when you simply chose a power you like and wreck the game with that. Another thing Return to Dreamland takes from Super Star, though admittedly it likely also takes it from New Super Mario Bros Wii, is the co-op mode. Four players can play simultaneously. While it is one of the games biggest draws on paper, it is mostly the games greatest failure.
Okay, maybe it’s not quite a failure, but 4 player is not as good as it could and should be. Disappointing is what I’d call it, especially compared to the madcap perfection of NSMBW. There a several problems in playing with more than 2 players. First, the screen is zoomed in too far, crowding the players into a tiny area. There is just not enough room for 4 characters. The second problem is the ability for players to ride on each other’s backs. Not that it is a bad idea, but it is way to easy to accidentally hitch on to one of your buddies, messing up some tricky platforming section. This is compounded by the zoomed in problem. The two together make 4 player a mess.
Kirby: Return to Dreamland falls just short of classics like Kirby Super Star and New Super Mario Bros Wii. It is still very good, and mostly enjoyable, but the aforementioned flaws–and a few others like the shared life pool–make merely a very good game instead of a great one. It does capture that wonderful joy that is inherent to the Kirby series, easy to beat but hard to master and fun for everybody. It just further cements the Wii as the best system for Nintendo games since the SNES.