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Review: Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe

Hiiiiiii again!

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My review: Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, with more stuff. You’ll probably dig it because Return to Dream Land ruled. Goodnight everybody!

Screenshot by Destructoid

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe (Switch)
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: February 24, 2023
MSRP: $59.99

Whoa, this thing is 60 bucks?! Well, you probably want a full review. It’s worth 60 bucks. Goodnight again! But seriously folks, it’s worth it. Over a decade ago, it could be tough to explain to people why I was originally so drawn to Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, and barely anyone even asked. Maybe it was because it released at the tail-end of the Wii’s lifecycle, but people barely talked about it back then, or since, in my circles. Hopefully that’ll change with this re-release on Switch.

If it had to describe it in brief why this game works so well, I would say that it’s just a plain old “clean” Kirby experience. There’s not a lot of nonsense here, and the hook of fixing up newcomer Magolor’s ship is a tad more interesting than “Dedede or some other upfront big bad most be stopped again.” There are a few hiccups that are still present. I’m not a big fan of the “Super Ability” mechanic (where Kirby basically goes Super Saiyan in select sections and destroys everything on-screen with the press of a button), especially in multiplayer where the other three characters are taking a backseat. But those sections are usually at the end of an already great stage, and bookended by a dimensional challenge room that you can open up with said Super Ability.

That’s the beauty of the Kirby formula. Most of the lows you’ll encounter are over in a flash, and it’s time to move to the next thing. With the ability to have four players tap in as Meta Knight, King Dedede, Bandana Waddle Dee (or any number of Kirbys), it also becomes a lightning rod for a relaxing multiplayer affair. Drop-in/out support further adds to the laid back feel of this packed game, made for pretty much everyone.

Return to Dream Land has a tight collective of copy abilities too, backed-up by the fantastic additions of Mecha and Sand — which are completely new to the Deluxe/Switch edition — as well as the returning ability of “Festival,” which was added from Kirby Star Allies. Sand in particular became a new all-time favorite of mine, and I found myself going for it frequently when I had the choice in pre-boss-battle rooms. It has just enough simplicity to it with the right amount of flair, as it’s a mixture of short and mid-range sand flinging and grabbing; to the point where you need to be in the thick of fights with a more active playstyle. A few existing copy abilities have been tweaked too to give them more mechanical options.

More Deluxe-specific tweaks include a “Helper Magolor” option, which saves you from pits like Beat in the Mega Man series: perfect for youngsters or first-timers who might sap the collective extra life pool. The addition of masks in Return to Dream Land Deluxe (which are like aesthetic optional collectibles you can paste on your face) is a cute idea, barring the fact that some of them look like you’re wearing other character’s skin (my wife had a field day picking out the most disturbing combinations).

OK, so onto the new stuff. One big draw of this re-release is the post-game mode Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler. Unlocked after clearing the core game for the first time (which will take you roughly five hours), this new mode will take you a few more hours to finish, and deals with Magolor’s redemption arc, who is playable (and full four player support, with everyone using clones of Magolor). I wouldn’t go in expecting anything really crucial lore-wise (which is kind of a given for a Kirby game), but it’s a fun little few-hour romp that puts you in the driver’s seat of Magolor himself, with some tricks of his own.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Little Mag can levitate, toss fireballs, chuck bombs, trigger a Shinku Hadoken blast special, and so on. At first you’ll have very little in terms of powers at your disposal, but you’ll quickly change that as you earn level/skill-up currency through collectibles and simply clearing stages. Those stages are designed with his abilities in mind, but sadly, the vast majority of enemies (even bosses) are reskins. That said, it makes up for that shortcoming in other ways. It has an addictive low floor/high ceiling formula, where you can technically clear everything without much trouble; but earning the Platinum ranking for each stage could take some time. When combined with the progression system, it’s a nice little extra on top of everything else. About that!

Merry Magoland is another new addition, which makes it way easier to play through the minigames present in the original, with some extras. My local group got sucked into Merry Magoland pretty easily, as it provides 10 distinct subgames to play with friends, with some variants/extras/additional difficulty settings. Think of stuff like the classic Samurai Kirby reaction time game, a shooting gallery (with reticles to boot), and so on. Every few levels we’d swap between the two and have a bit of friendly competition.

“Extra” mode also returns from the original (which is a riff on the series’ popular second, tougher challenge-like run), as does the arena challenge series. It’s neat how both the core game and Merry Magoland feed into each other too, as you can earn stamps for the latter in the former, and use mask rewards in any mode. Both even have a easy-access “swap to the other mode” button when you’re in both hubs. Synergy!

Screenshot by Destructoid

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is going to be a hard sell at full price for folks who already felt like they got everything they needed out of the original release: but if you remotely like Kirby and haven’t picked any series entries up in a while, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. HAL Laboratory has perfected the formula over the past three decades or so, cramming in tons of stuff to do and catering to a more hardcore aged-up Kirby audience: without forgetting the original ethos of the franchise. Hopefully with the Switch’s high install base, it’ll get the attention it deserves this time.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

9
Superb
A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.

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Chris Carter
Managing Editor - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!