This is a newer title, so I was kind of wary about writing about it. This is supposed to be a series more about obscure Wii titles, and Kirby games are anything but. The reception for this game was fantastic, I have heard sales were decent as well, so what gives?
Well, Kirby has had a bit of a tough time since Kirby Super Star came around and rocked everyones socks off in the mid nineties. Every single Kirby game in the platforming genre featuring the little dream puff has been compared, somewhat unfairly to that amazing game, and it's easy to see why; with a two player co-op mode, a ton of variety in the stages, and several different modes and mini games to play, Kirby Super Star was one hell of a title. The re-release on the Nintendo DS, Kirby Super Star Ultra was even better, featuring extra goodies as well as updated graphics, and even today the Super Nintendo iteration is still a blast to play.
I feel like people have been quiet about Kirby lately. The new collection for the Wii has helped to spark some interest, but I felt like there was a lot more hype and acclaim happening over Epic Yarn than the latest Wii release, Kirby's Return to Dreamland, and that despite being a traditional Kirby platformer (and shutting up the fans who whined about Epic Yarn) no one really had a whole lot to say about the new Kirby game. Maybe it's just me, but it just seemed to be a title that came and went.
As someone who gave Kirby's Adventure on the 3DS a near perfect score
, I am probably not the right guy to be reviewing a Kirby game. Kirby isn't one of my favorite franchises in general, but there is something so infinitely appealing about the games for me. They are what games should be about; having fun. From the power stealing, the cutesy art, the fun boss battles, and the hunt for goodies, Kirby has a very specific style that few other games have attempted to emulate. They are unique, solid adventures that anyone can pick up and enjoy.
And Kirby's Return to Dreamland? In my opinion, it is the best in the entire series, right up there with Super Star.
That's a bold statement to make. Kirby's Adventure is, in my opinion, the best platformer on the NES apart from Super Mario Bros. 3. In fact, it's one of my favorite games of all time. The hours I invested in that and Super Star cannot be counted by modern machines - at least three. Three hours. But after sitting down with the new one for just that long, and only completing the first three worlds, I realized this was not just a quick cash in on the Kirby franchise; all the attention to detail present in previous titles is here, complete with new powers, new enemies, and even a couple of mini games which are very reminiscent of Super Star, and a welcome addiction to an already great game.
The new Kirby finds that fine balance once again between two player co-operation, and a solid single player experience. The puzzles needed to collect energy spheres, the games main collectible used to unlock mini games and challenge stages, are all catered toward challenging a single player, while being made easier by having a partner around so you can focus on the fun stuff; beating up baddies, taking their powers, and generally getting in eachothers way, which usually results in lots of laughs.
There have been complaints that the second player feels more like a sidekick than an actual part of the game. Unfairly, the second players role has been compared to that of Tails, which is only true in that the camera will always focus on the first player. The second player is treated as expendable, but will not return infinitely; each time he suffers a death, gameplay continues, and he must consume one of the first players' lives in order to continue. The game is liberal with lives, so the challenge is not one of repeated deaths, but rather, discovery. In order to unlock everything the game has to offer, you need to collect several energy spheres in each level. Kirby games have always been challenging, with a ramping difficulty level, but the challenge usually lies more in exploration then obstacles. I was able to beat Kirby's Adventure without a hitch when I was seven; anyone complaining about how Kirby games aren't difficult enough is completely missing the point of the franchise. These are accessible, fun platforming titles, not gut grinding platform hell games.
The super powers are a neat distraction, and a lot of them are quite fun to utilize. The Wii remote is used to good effect here, relying on waggle controls only when it is necessary to do so. The problems that plagued great games like Donky Kong Country Returns are not present here; you will be using nothing but the d-pad and buttons a majority of the time, the way it should be for a 2D platformer. The graphics are gorgeously cutesy, and very much in proper Kirby form, and despite what others have said, I feel the game has a soundtrack that is both familiar and appropriate, and fits the style of the game just fine.
The gameplay in general is Kirby Super Star, but with more focus. Rather than splitting the story into several semi-disconnected chunks, you have a cohesive adventure with a large selection of worlds, and quite a bit of gameplay depending on how good you are at finding collectibles. There is even a hard mode you can unlock for veteran players, and few will be bitching about difficulty once they are able to unlock it. And yes, this is a game where you will want to revisit stages; not because there is necessarily anything else to collect, but because some of them are just so damn fun to play through.
Kirby's Return to Dreamland is an amazing package, one which I think people will reminisce fondly about down the road, even if it isn't receiving the praise it deserves right now. I see no reason why this shouldn't be considered a worthy successor to Super Star; playing them practically back to back, I found this to be the superior game, and I don't think that's something you will hear for most people. Personally, I find that unfortunate; when a great game like this comes along, even for a near dead console, it should be recognized, devoured, and celebrated. And that is why I wanted to mention it, to remind people that great games did come out on the Wii, some of them more recently than most people seem to think.
Even at a fifty dollar price tag, this is well worth getting, with or without a friend to play it with; though having a friend is always preferable.
It's the only game my wife will sit and play besides Minecraft, so that, for me, was worth the price of admission alone.