Many major Nintendo franchises have received a modernized return to their roots on the Wii. Mario, Donkey Kong, Punch-Out, Wario and a few others saw new releases with the style of gameplay that originally made them classics many years ago, and now itís Kirbyís turn. After the unique experience that was Kirbyís Epic Yarn, Kirby is finally ready to suck up enemies and beat up even more enemies again in Kirbyís Return to Dream Land.
This time, Kirby is travelling the vast regions of Dream Land to find the lost pieces of a spaceship. Heís not alone, though - Meta Knight, Dedede, and a Waddle Dee are always ready to help him out if additional players take control over them (more on that later). Thereís no explanation as to why the bad guys are helping Kirby out, but thatís not an issue.
Thankfully, Kirby has it a lot easier than Captain Olimar. Various Bosses protect the scattered pieces of the space ship, so Kirby must travel through many Levels and complete stages within each level to finally defeat the boss and recover a ship part. Itís standard progression in 2D platformers, but it works.
If youíve played Kirbyís Adventure or Super Star, youíll feel right at home in Return to Dream Land. The game takes the structure of Adventure and mixes it with Super Starís gameplay refinements (complete with full movesets for each ability), and itís all presented with a modern look that makes use of fully rendered 3D backgrounds and models. The game is as simple and self-explanatory as itís always been, but it has a lot of hidden depth and room for experimentation and replayability. Kirby can hover around the stages endlessly, and can also inhale enemies. He can spit them out as stars to use as projectiles, or if the enemy has an ability, he can swallow it and copy said ability. This is the core element of the game (as it was in every other main Kirby title) and what makes it so unique. There are over 20 different abilities each with its own unique set of moves. Most of them allow you to pull off different moves by pressing the 1 button, by holding it, by pressing it in midair, by pressing it while dashing, by pressing it in midair after dashing, and more. It makes for a complex array of moves and a lot of diversion when playing the game.
While Return to Dream Land is technically a platformer, there is a lot of combat in the game, perhaps more-so than platforming. You wonít be doing many tricky jumps or travelling through dangerous terrain; itís mostly about experimenting with abilities and finding out which ones work best for each situation, or just which ones you have the most fun using. Rarely is a power required to get through the main game, so you can pick and choose freely. If you have an ability when you complete a stage you get to keep it for the next one, so you can use certain abilities in stages where you wouldnít normally find them. You can also get rid of your power-up at any time should you want to pick up another one. The abilities are also very balanced, thereís no moves that are clearly better than others. Itís a very intuitive setup, and while learning how to get through the game is very simple, thereís a ton of room for variation, allowing you to optimize your fun based on your preference. Itís easy to see where the gameplay found in Super Smash Bros. gets gets some of its inspiration.
Aside from the regular abilities, there are also Super Abilities which you get by inhaling big, sparkly versions of the regular enemies. Everyoneís been using this description, but it truly is accurate Ė these are the regular abilities on steroids. However, youíll find that theyíre not as spectacular as they appear to be at first glance. These only have one move, which pretty much defeats every enemy and breakable structure on screen. You can manipulate a few of them, while others do their job on their own and all you need to do is press the 1 button to activate them. They also take a while to perform, so they break up the flow of the game a bit. I found myself not using them unless in a real pinch. Theyíre useful, but not fun at all. Steroids are not cool, kids.
In each stage there are also hidden Energy Spheres for you to collect. These are optional, and often very well hidden. Usually, a specific ability (and then some smart maneuvering) is required in order to reach them, or you might have to enter a bonus room and defeat a Sphere Doomer in order to obtain them. You donít need to collect these to finish the main game, but they do add an extra challenge for those willing to collect them. These Spheres unlock stuff in the hub world, such as a few mini games and Challenge Rooms. In these, you must use a specific Copy Ability to get through as fast as possible while gathering as many points as possible. You get ranked on these rooms, and there are 4 possible ranks you can get. The highest rank is extremely hard to get and definitely adds even more replay value to the game.
As I briefly mentioned before, the game features Co-Op for up to four players. These players can play as non-pink Kirbies, or as Waddle Dee, Meta Knight and Dedede. These have basically the same moves as Kirby, except his inhaling, of course. Waddle Dee is a permanent Spear, Meta Knight is a permanent Sword and Dedede is a permanent Hammer. Co-Op is fun, and itís very simple for players to drop in and out of the game. Like most 2D platformers on Wii, multiplayer is welcome and can be very fun, but it doesnít change the gameplay dramatically. There are a few unique moves that can be performed only with other people Ė players can share health, stack each other up, and Kirby can even swallow his teammates and use them as projectiles. But, again, itís not a game-changing experience.
Return to Dream Land is a deceptively beautiful game. The game has a very modest, but very sharp, clean look. It will never wow you with its visuals but everything is very well integrated into the visual package, and itís very pleasing to look at. Beyond that, there are a ton of delightful enemy designs and animations. Everything is cute, and some Bosses look badass while still being cute. Seeing Waddle Dees swinging on ropes and cappies dancing their asses off brings a smile to my face. Not to mention fish with swimming goggles!
The soundtrack is equally serviceable. The instruments used never stand out, again going with the simplistic tone of the game, but some of the melodies are pretty fun to listen to. Itís decidedly weaker than those in previous Kirby titles, but itís not bad by any stretch of the imagination. You wonít find any Gourmet Race or Butter Building caliber stuff in here, though.
ďDeceptively simpleĒ is a perfect term to describe Kirbyís Return to Dream Land. Itís a game thatís very easy to pick up and get through, but thereís lots of room for experimentation and variation in the gameplay, not to mention hidden goodies to collect and Challenge Rooms to extend replay value. But, then again, all traditional Kirby games are deceptively simple. And thatís the thing Ė Return to Dream Land offers virtually no significant changes to the Kirby formula; itís merely updated for the modern age. Kirby fans should know exactly what to expect from the game, and if they fancy doing it again, they should have a great time with the title. People who are not familiar with the Kirby franchise should definitely jump in if a fun, unique action-based platformer with the classic Nintendo touch sounds like something up their ally.
Double Kirby Return to Dream Land Review! I hope this inspires more people to do "Another Take" reviews. Which reminds me, I have to share these reviews on Facebook and Twitter. I really need to get my hands on this game. I find it interesting that the graphics look great in pictures and yet you and @TriforceBun both say that the graphics won't wow you.
Great review GE, I definitely have no need to be persuaded to pick up this game, which I fully intend to do once things settle down a bit. I found it pretty interesting for you to describe the new characters: Waddle Dee is a permanent Spear, Meta Knight is a permanent Sword and Dedede is a permanent Hammer. It makes it sound like there's little reason to actually want to choose to play as them, considering they're nowhere near as versatile as Kirby and his multitude of abilities, though it's nice the characters were added for the sake of completion and as a service for the fans. Still, wouldn't it have been nice if the three new characters had some special exclusive ability? But it could be too much of a game breaker, considering the main mode is designed such that Kirby alone should be able to complete it.
I liked playing as the other guys since they have their own specialties too: Dedede has an extra move or two and can throw hammers indefinitely, Waddle Dee can jump quickly and attack in mid-air easily (without having to exhale), and Meta Knight has several Wing-type moves as well as great aerial mobility and speed. In addition, all three guys never lose their weapons--Kirby (especially during boss fights) often has to chase down his dropped ability while the others can take a licking and keep on kicking. Butt.
(Oh, TriforceBun has a good review here too, so I'll comment there as well).
Cool, I just 100%'ed the Normal Game (beat the game with all 120 Energy Spheres and got bronze or better on the Challenge Rooms, and also beat Arena) and started playing a little bit of the Extra mode. Now it's getting tough.
All around it's another excellent Kirby Adventure game.
GelatinousEncore review said:
Return to Dream Land is a deceptively beautiful game.
Yes! The animation is great, and the polygonal graphics work really well. The backgrounds are nicely detailed and lush. There was one level later in the game with these vast space backgrounds filled with enormous planetoids, moving slightly as the camera scrolls along. Reminded me quite a bit of the Mario Galaxy games.
I love how cleverly Nintendo implemented/ stole some of the popular Mario gameplay elements. There's the equivalent of donut blocks (they drop if you stand too long on them) as one simple example, but more importantly, is a form of the Kuribo's shoe, except Kirby's shoe has spikes. This shoe makes for some challenging platforming!