Considering that stars are such an important object in the Kirby universe, it makes a lot of sense for Nintendo to close out the Wii life cycle in a similar fashion to a star. This year seems to be when the console itself is showing the most brightly, before fizzling out completely, and what a better way to do that than with a compilation of Kirby titles.
Kirby is one of those characters that has always been around in Nintendo’s history, but somehow still winds up with little attention compared to his more renowned brethren, such as Mario and Link. It’s a shame too, as he is definitely one of the more experimental characters in their line-up, starring in such things as his own pinball game long before Pokemon and Metroid started doing this thing.
Kirby’s Dream Collection brings together six games: Kirby’s Dreamland, Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby’s Dreamland 2, Kirby Super Star, Kirby’s Dreamland 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. While they’re all very similar in terms of gameplay (read: none of the experimental stuff I talked about is here), they span numerous consoles from the original Game Boy all the way to the Nintendo 64. It’s time to find out if this collection is a worthwhile display of twenty years of the Kirby franchise.
Like most platformers released during prior eras, while the Kirby games do have some semblance of a story to hold the adventure together, you quickly forget about it once the adventure starts. This isn’t to say the story is bad, per se. It’s just not the primary focus of these games, and almost every single one amounts to Kirby saving Dreamland from some mysterious dark force. There’s usually a persistent cast as the games go along though, as characters like Meta Knight and King Dedede make regular appearances, both as friend and adversary.
When you first fire up the game, you’ll be given an option of playing one of the six classic games in the collection, viewing some of Kirby’s history, or participating in some challenge stages. The challenge stages are crafted using the engine from last year’s Kirby’s Return to Dreamland on the Wii, and task you with taking on one of Kirby’s many powers and trying to clear a level with it within the time limit. It was refreshing to see that there was more effort put into this package than Super Mario All-Stars which, despite the quality of the games on the disk, amounted to a retail version of a Virtual Console game.
Story/Modes Rating: Decent
The visuals are all over the place in this package since it contains games spanning consoles released over the last twenty years. While the new challenge stages should sit just fine with most everyone, some of the Game Boy titles are going to be quite an eyesore. Both Kirby’s Dreamland and Kirby’s Dreamland 2 are presented in their original monochrome state, so no Super Game Boy type recoloring techniques are utilized here. In addition, they don’t use very much real estate on your television, especially if you’re playing in widescreen. So prepare yourself for a persistent border going around the outside of the playing field.
While the other games make use of a border while playing in 16:9, they’ll definitely sit much better visually with newcomers. Kirby’s Adventure uses the NES version graphics rather than those of the GBA remake, but aside from that, games like Kirby Super Star and Kirby 64 look rather sharp. Kirby’s Dreamland 3 is something of an odd duck for a late SNES release. It seemed as though the developers tried to experiment with a new art style, making the game appear as though it was drawn with colored crayons or something similar. The end result is a bit lackluster, but you eventually get used to it.
Graphics Rating: Mediocre
As with the visuals, the music and sound effects are basically untouched from their original incarnations. This means that, despite much of the soundtrack being instantly familiar to anyone who has dabbled in some of the more recent entries in the series, they may be put off by how tinny some of the older entries sound on their speakers. That aside, the music utilized throughout the franchise is incredibly catchy and you’ll likely catch yourself humming along to much of it. Especially the song that plays after completing a stage successfully, leading to a montage of dancing Kirby’s.
Also, don’t expect much in the way of voice overs either. While Kirby does make a few sounds here and there, it comes across as child-like babble. The other characters will communicate via text boxes as well, which, given the ages of the titles on display, shouldn’t be too surprising.
Sound Rating: Decent
Despite the number of games included here, all of them share the same style and play basically the same way. The game can be played with any of the Classic Controllers (and even Gamecube controllers), though you can certainly just take a Wii remote and turn it on its side of you like. You have a button that jumps and one to suck in enemies. Once you have an enemy in your mouth, you can then either spit it back out at other enemies or swallow it by pressing down. In all of the Kirby titles except for Kirby’s Dreamland, swallowing certain enemies will grant you additional powers. For example, a fire enemy will allow you to blow fire and so forth. If you have possession of an enemy power, it takes the place of your ability to absorb enemies and obstacles, though you can abandon your power at any time with the push of a button.
In Kirby’s Dreamland 2 and 3, you’ll encounter trapped animals that you can ride on once you set them free. Each one has a special ability, such as the fish being able to move faster in water. However, if you absorb a power while riding an animal, the way you use that power will change depending on the animal. Having the Cutter ability might turn Kirby into a boomerang while riding the hamster, but will instead cause him to fire small blades while being carried by the owl. It’s a fun system to experiment with, and one of the things that makes these titles worth coming back to time and again.
While you still maintain the same basic gameplay elements for much of Kirby Super Star, that game is technically advertised as having eight games in one. Each of these “games” is more or less a self-contained adventure, though there are a few minigames here and there sprinkled in to add a bit of variety, such as a foot race to collect food or a contest to see who can punch the biggest crack into the planet. If you played Kirby Super Star Ultra that released on the DS a few years back, you should know more or less what to expect.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, while still taking place in a 2D environment, has you venturing into the background and foreground, sometimes rotating the camera to accommodate the non-linear path. It also introduces the capability to absorb two abilities at once. If you wound up with two of the same ability, it would end up being a stronger version of that, but if you mix and match two different ones, you’ll end up with something entirely different. Sometimes this is necessary in order to collect all of the crystal shards in the game. There are dozens of combinations that you can come up with too, as mixing rock and fire will turn Kirby into a volcano, while freeze and electric will make him into a refrigerator that fires off food. Again, experimentation is what makes this so enjoyable and it pervades nearly all of the games in the collection.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Classic
For the most part, each of the games have areas to unlock or items to obtain beyond what the main adventure offers, save for Kirby’s Dreamland, which can be completed in one sitting. Others, such as Kirby 64 have crystal shards to gather in order to unlock the final battle, and this is just with the core games. If you manage to clear all of that out, there are the challenge stages made with the Kirby’s Return to Dreamland engine that are exclusive to this collection and can be repeated to try and improve on your best times.
If you’re looking for some form of couch multiplayer experience, both Kirby Super Star and Kirby’s Dreamland 3 offer cooperative play for two players. Kirby Super Star in particular allows Kirby to expel whatever power he is currently carrying and spawn a creature that a second player can take control of. Much like the Sonic games, if player two dies, it comes with no penalty, as Kirby can just spawn another. Kirby’s Dreamland 3 works similarly, except a character named Gooey can be spawned at any time, at the cost of some of Kirby’s health. Gooey is something of a derpy blob that can absorb abilities or spit monsters the same way Kirby can, though he can be swallowed up again (sometimes by accident) in order to return Kirby’s health.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards has a few competitive minigames for four players that involve catching fruit in a basket, a hop race, and a battle of sorts where the goal is to cause the opponent to fall by eliminating the blocks they’re standing on. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to any of these, but they make for entertaining diversions if nothing else. Of all of the Kirby titles on the market, this one is going to give you the most bang for your buck.
Replayability Rating: Great
I’ve always described Kirby as a platformer for people who aren’t good at platformers, and while that isn’t to say experienced players can’t enjoy them, it is one of the easiest franchises in the genre. Much of that is owed to the fact that there really isn’t a whole lot of platforming to be done. Yes, Kirby can jump just as Mario and Sonic and other genre characters can, but he can also suck up air and float through the sky. This removes the difficulty of having to make treacherous jumps, though there are still things that can shoot and fly at you to knock you down. Also, extra lives are easy to obtain, as most of the games offer some sort of mini-game at the end of each stage that will award you a ton of them. Kirby has an entire life bar to get through before perishing as well, so you won’t blow through them all that quickly. Some of the bosses can be quite challenging at times, but many of them will have their own stage, and since the game autosaves after each (except for Kirby’s Dreamland), it’s really a non-issue.
That said, those experienced in the platformer genre might find the offerings here a bit too easy for their tastes, so this is another thing to consider before picking it up. As an entry level game in the genre, though, you really can’t do much better than this.
Balance Rating: Great
Many of the games on this collection have been released numerous times, whether it be in the form of remakes or on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service, and many of them have been around for so long, you’ve likely played many of them before. There have also been many games in the series since these had originally released that are very similar in gameplay, such as Kirby: Squeak Squad or Kirby & The Amazing Mirror. In other words, these are the least innovative games in the entire franchise, and while fun, don’t offer the kind of originality found in some of his other titles like Kirby: Canvas Curse.
Originality Rating: Bad
Nearly all of the games in this collection are incredibly engaging and kept me coming back for more, save for a couple. Kirby’s Dreamland, while it is the game that started the franchise and was entertaining for its time, doesn’t stand the test of time the way the others do. It’s also incredibly short and doesn’t offer much reason to revisit it upon completion. Kirby’s Dreamland 3 was also a bit polarizing, though now having revisited it after so long, it’s not quite as bad as I remembered it to be. The presentation and level designs still feel incredibly uninspired when compared to its fellow SNES entry, Kirby Super Star, so it’s hard to get as excited for it.
As for the rest of them, I had a blast playing through them, with Kirby Super Star and Kirby 64 being the highlights of the bunch. The former offered much variety while being able to experience it with a buddy and the latter introduced an ability combining mechanic that led to some incredibly enjoyable combinations as a result. Anyone who missed out on them the first time around will definitely be pleased.
Addictiveness Rating: Very Good
I think fans of the franchise were definitely keeping an eye on this one, and rightfully so. This is far and a way a better effort than Super Mario All-Stars, as it not only brings together a solid collection of games from the series’ history, but highlights Kirby’s last twenty years in a way that’s sure to please fans. It gives a timeline of when each title was released, even ones not featured on this disk, and lets you take a look at the package design and trailer for the game. There are even a few episodes of Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, which was the anime that released awhile back (although they placed it within the timeline rather than providing an option specifically for accessing it). In addition, although each game that originally utilized a save feature still has that capability, you also have a suspend save similar to what Virtual Console titles get. A full manual for whatever title you’re currently playing can be accessed from the Wii menu too.
Appeal Rating: Classic
At a $40 price point, Kirby’s Dream Collection is a tad more expensive than Super Mario All-Stars that came before it. However, I can justify the inflated price point for the additional effort that actually went into this package. While the outer box isn’t nearly as eye catching as Mario’s, you do still get an art book and soundtrack highlighting the last twenty years of Kirby. The art book is certainly a better effort than the Mario one, as is the content on the actual disc itself. My only complaint is that the game doesn’t look much like a collector’s item, though perhaps Nintendo doesn’t feel that there would be many among the Kirby fanbase. Perhaps that’s true to an extent, though given the after market values of some of the SNES and N64 releases, I think there is more than what they are giving credit for.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Classic
Final Score: Good Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
In a similar move to 2010′s Super Mario All-Stars, Nintendo is celebrating twenty years of Kirby with Kirby’s Dream Collection. It brings together six of his earliest platforming exploits, ranging from the Game Boy era to the Nintendo 64. In addition, fans are treated to a timeline highlighting Kirby’s entire history, along with a few episodes of the anime and both packaging and trailers for each game. Challenge stages exclusive to this collection, combined with the soundtrack and art book bundled with the game, make for a great collector’s piece for fans of the franchise. Some of the games might be a tough sell for those that didn’t grow up with the series and the outer box doesn’t make it as “collectible” as it could be, but otherwise this collection offers something for everyone. While this might be one of the last significant releases that we’ll see out of Nintendo for the Wii, I sincerely hope characters like Samus and Donkey Kong see a similar treatment going forward.