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November 6, 2015

Kirby's Dream Land

It was a nice day in Dream Land… WHEN THE NIGHTMARES CAME! …Oh wait, I’m burning the steps. Nightmares don’t come around until the sequel. There were no nightmares in the first Kirby’s Dream Land.

With still five games to review in Kirby’s Dream Collection, I decided to switch things up a bit. I noticed that if I don’t review the Kirby games much faster, with at least one in every review cycle, I’ll need to catch up on them later, and I don’t want that just yet. I also noticed that I had less and less Nintendo DS games (so much so that I have almost twice as many Wii games left to review now), so my old schedule wasn’t working anymore. For a while, I was using this reviewing schedule:

1 movie or 1 TV show -> 2 Nintendo DS games -> 1 Wii game -> 1 WiiWare or Virtual Console game -> 1 Top 12 list.

It will be replaced by this:

1 movie or TV show -> 1 Kirby game from Kirby’s Dream Collection -> 1 Nintendo DS game -> 2 Wii games -> 1 WiiWare or Virtual Console game -> 1 Top 12 list.
Note that this order can be changed a little, though it should always include all of these parts. Really, the only major addition is the review of a Kirby game in each cycle of reviews, and 2 Wii game reviews instead of 2 DS games.

Now that my announcement has been done, it’s time to move on to the actual review.

And that was BEFORE the copy abilities!
Will anything ever be able to stop this pink hero?
Kirby’s Dream Land was released for the Game Boy in 1992, which means Kirby is about as old as I am. It makes me feel all kinds of weird to know that I’m the same age as an all-copying puffball with a high-pitched voice. Although, contrary to popular belief, Kirby was not always an all-copying puffball. (And since the Game Boy games couldn’t contain recorded voice clips, he didn’t have his high-pitched voice either.) However, he already had his special talent: A vacuum mouth. And the ability to inhale and spit out almost anything in his way. As the cute little book packaged with the Kirby’s Dream Collection Wii box states (the one I'm holding on this review's title card), this is all done by the press of one button. Quote from the book: “By removing an enemy from the field and giving Kirby something to attack with, this simple combo blends defense and offense perfectly for a novice player.” Kirby can also jump (kind of a prerequisite for a platformer, don’t you think?) and fly when you press Up. What’s more, when he flies Kirby inhales a lot of air, which he can then spit back like he would do to an enemy he inhaled. No enemy to inhale in sight? Take flight, land and throw that air!

And don’t ask me how he does that. The physics of Kirby’s anatomy are mind-boggling. I tried to ask some scientists, but Neil DeGrasse Tyson rejected my interview, stating that this wasn’t his domain. Maybe an astrophysician wasn’t the right person to ask that question to. I’m dumb like that sometimes. And no, I am not asking my question to Matthew Patrick.

Now, the book states “for novice players”. That’s probably because this game could be considered easy enough for young player, and too easy by a certain “elite” of gamers. You know what? Screw them, novice players have the right to enjoy games too. And indeed, this game is easy. And short. But it’s fun, and it’s sweet. As is the case with a lot of games back then, there wasn’t much of a plot, and the only way to know about it was to read the user’s manual. King Dedede, the greedy penguin, has stolen the food resources of Dream Land and stocked them all in his castle. Oh, and he also stole the Sparkling Stars needed to harvest said food. With nobody having anything to eat, Kirby decides to take matters in his own hands and save Dream Land from starvation.

His trip begins in the Green Greens, award winner in the “most redundant name ever” category. It’s a straightforward level to test the basics, with some enemies on the way, a bottle of “pep brew” (which heals hit points) that can be found. A good level to start off with. However, in Kirby’s Dream Land, every level is split in parts… Oh hey, kinda like my reviews! Also, some of the levels have a mid-boss of sorts. In Green Greens, the mid-boss is Poppy Bros. Sr. (no relation to Hammer Bros.), a larger version of another enemy, Poppy Bros. You’ll find that this happens pretty often in the Kirby series; it was a common thing also in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, which I reviewed if anyone’s interested.

Ride the Warp Star, Taste the Warp Star!
...Wait, wrong commercial. Wrong media entirely.

Past that point, Kirby reaches a Warp Star that brings him deeper into the forest, where he has to fight… Whispy Woods! And for a first boss, it’s alright. Now, the air that Kirby inhales can be used against most enemies, but it’s ineffective against bosses, and there are no enemies in sight. So what happens? Whispy drops apples on Kirby. Because those apples sure can’t be inhaled by Kirby and thrown back in Whispy’s face, right? Right? Oh wait, yes they can!

So, we beat Whispy… and we make him cry. …I’m not sorry. …Wait a moment, is that maple water? Damn, I gotta collect these tears! Quick, I need a bucket! I’m gonna make some incredible maple syrup! It’s a bit early for the season – five months too early – but I don’t care! Whispy Sweet Syrup will be the rage in next year’s sugar shacks!

If you’re not from Quebec or Maine, you probably have no idea what I just said.

Yeah, no, you won't make me cry.

At the end of every level, Kirby collects one of the Sparkling Stars. Then he splits in three and makes a little dance. Adorable, right? And apparently it’s all pieced together from sprites Kirby has in the game. Huh, you CAN make a character dance! Hitmontop’s Carlton pales in comparison.

How the Hell can we differentiate these two?
Level 2 is Castle Lololo. In there, a lot of traps, but still nothing insurmountable. The mid-boss is Lololo, who pushes blocks in hopes of hitting Kirby; no luck for him, Kirby can inhale them and spit them back. And he always comes from the right. The level continues for another part, and then we get the actual boss: Lololo… and Lalala. That’s a lllllllot. L yeah. Like, wow. Our likable lead will not lay low. Let him larrup the lovers with low-blows and large alloy lumps, he’ll level this local and let loose his liveliness! It’s likely Lololo and Lalala will leave him be! …Seriously though, this boss fight is a lot harder than the first one, as the two can come from either side, and they both push blocks, and Kirby has to go up and down to avoid getting hit, while still inhaling blocks to toss back at them. Boom, right back at ya!

It’s actually pretty brilliant, as just like Kirby’s inhaling technique, Lololo and Lalala’s blocks both serve offense (to ram into Kirby) and defense (when Kirby throws an inhaled block at them while they’re behind a block). Cool boss idea.

Well, Kirby, you were too hurried to eat that fish,
you're probably gonna have to eat the fishing pole.

Are we storming the ship?
Level 3 is Float Islands. On the menu: Islands (duh), a pirate ship, a cave, and a whale that sends Kirby into the clouds, where he can mysteriously walk. Oh hey, solid clouds. The video game worlds have no shortage of those. Hey Kirby, tell me if they taste like cotton candy! This time, there is no mid-boss, but we do have a slightly more difficult boss to take care of: Kaboola!

But before I can explain that battle, I need to explain the power-ups in this game. Yes, like almost every platformer, there’s a few power-ups to help Kirby on his way. Let’s put aside the healing items, and the others are:
-The Bomb, which Kirby can inhale and toss back, causing the enemies in its wake to be destroyed;
Must resist...
To put on a show...
-The ever-hilarious Mike, which lets Kirby destroy every single enemy on the screen. He needs singing lessons. But then he’d lose this super ability! Okay, he doesn’t need singing lessons. But I do;
-The Superspicy Curry, thanks to which Kirby can spit fireballs on command and destroy enemies and blocks in his way. The effect lasts only a few seconds and ceases when Kirby gets in water, but it’s otherwise such an effective item that it became an item in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and it also came back in Smash for 3DS and WiiU;
-The invincibility candy, exactly what it says on the tin (though some would love to argue that the name is imprecise, and that this is in fact a lollipop… but that’s a whole new level of nitpicking);
-And last but not least, the mint leaf, thanks to which Kirby can fly for a longer time AND throw blasts of air, though unlike those he expulses usually, those can hit bosses.

Gotta dodge the bullet,
and defeat it... him... her.
No, it's "her", look it up.
I explain this because Kaboola is a blimp, and the battle against her is airborne. Kirby gets a special mint leaf before the fight and has to fight Kaboola in a horizontal scrolling shoot’em up. Yep, gameplay change! Kaboola needs to take a few hits for one of the rectangles in her HP bar to vanish, but that’s not too difficult. Just be careful as she can still surprise the player by ramming into Kirby.

Who's a cute little Kracko?
Who's a cute Kracko?
Yes you are!
After Kaboola, it’s the Bubbly Clouds. Yeah, we’re still high in the sky. This is where things can get rough. Look out for the enemies and the cannons, and make sure to know where Kirby is landing. The mid-boss is an eye surrounded with spheres called Kracko Jr. It’s not very hard. Then we go through the level some more, and here it is… Kracko. That cloud, that goddamn cloud… Damn if I hate it, and for a good reason – it’s a lot tougher than Kaboola. I’d even dare say that it’s the most annoying boss in the game. Worse than King Dedede. The problem with Kracko is that you can’t always tell what it’s going to do, nor do you always have time to react accordingly. As with every other boss, you need something to throw at it, so Kracko may let out an enemy one in a while. That’s when it doesn’t surprise you by swooping down! Or when it shoots bullets in a circular pattern! I hate that boss. I just hate it. Still, this [expletives expunged] cloud is defeated and we can move on to the final level, Mount Dedede!

Well, damn. Note to self: Stop taunting villains.

Every door will lead to pain.
The only difference is the amount of pain.
Well, more like Castle Dedede. Or, Room Dedede, as this is one boring castle. All that is actually in this castle is five doors, four of which lead to past levels. Thankfully, you can pick the order in which you visit each door, but you HAVE to visit each door. And yes, before you ask, you need to complete a small (new) part of each level and then beat its boss again, except they’re a little harder. Whispy Woods, Lololo and Lalala, Kaboola, and Kracko – that flipping cloud! AGAIN! Goddammit! It’s almost impossible for me not to lose a life here. Thankfully, your progress is saved, so whenever you die and reappear in Castle Dedede, you don’t have to re-do the parts you’ve completed. My suggestion is to beat them from the hardest to the easiest, so that you don’t go into battle against Kracko the hardest with just a few hit points left.

After all four doors have been completed, the fifth one opens, and it’s nothing except a fight against King Dedede… in a boxing ring. The penguin has a load of Hit Points, but will cause stars to appear whenever he slams the ground with his hammer or his body. Kirby can then inhale those… uh… impact stars???? And throw them back. It’s a suitably difficult battle for a last boss, but still simple enough that a “novice player” can beat it after a few tries.

Too bad Kirby wouldn't be getting the ability of a boxing
champion until 2014... don't quote me on that, I'm probably
wrong. Pardon my lack of continuity knowledge.

When Dedede is defeated, he gets knocked out of the ring. The Sparkling Stars get inside Kirby and he inflates like a hot air balloon. He pops out on top of the castle and winds up dragging it with him, thus raining food on all of Dream Land and saving its inhabitants from starvation! The end!

Even Dedede's jaw can't
believe it.
After which, when King Dedede falls back, we get a special code that one can input at the Start screen to get the Extra Mode: A more difficult mode where the enemies and bosses are more powerful, less simple to avoid, trickier to defeat. See? They DO have an option for better players who want a challenge!

I tried it, and I lost before reaching Kaboola.

Still not enough? If you somehow beat THAT (Extra Mode is very difficult, and the fights against Kaboola and Kracko are almost down to luck), you get another code that can be used at the start screen. This one unlocks Configuration Mode, where you can set exactly the level of difficulty that you desire. You want to turn Kirby into a one-hit-point-wonder? A case where getting hit only once means instant Game Over? Have fun!

I guess that covers everything in the game… So, how it is?

A dash of magic, and we get color!
That, or it's just technological advance.
Either way, it increases the pretty of this GB game.
I like it! I like it a lot. It’s a very simple game, with two difficulty levels and the possibility to set exactly which difficulty you desire. It’s also short, five levels, which may be a problem to some; however, that makes it a perfect game to play if you only have half an hour to spend. Yeah, that should be enough, right? The controls are easy to learn, though a few details tend to irk me about them (check the next paragraph to find out). The story is nothing all that spectacular, as this was back in the days of excuse plots, but it’s still alright to watch. What a shame that no one with the supplementary material would not understand the importance of those stars collected after each boss... Oh, and of course, the team behind this game did everything to make sure that this was an enjoyable experience, what with the cute cutscene before each level, and the little Kirby dance after a main boss has been defeated…

Kirby: Producing weaponized air since 1992!
I only have a few issues with this game: The screen is small, so sometimes enemies will come out from the right and you won’t see them in time to stop Kirby from moving. When you press Up, Kirby inhales air to float, although sometimes you’d prefer to have him just jump towards his destination. Also, when he throws out the air he had inside to float, he’ll fall back to the ground and on his face, which will make him jump a bit forward, which may make him hit an enemy nearby. …Oh, and Kracko is too hard. But that’s all I got, really. In the end, this is a great game.

And while Kirby doesn’t have his copy ability here, Kirby’s Dream Land still paved the way for everyone’s favorite pink puffball – well, aside from Jigglypuff, of course – and turned a basic game into an entire franchise comprising 16 main series games, 11 compilations and spin-offs, and Kirby being a playable character in all Smash games, with King Dedede and Meta Knight joining in Brawl. Oh, and a cartoon, Kirby: Right Back At Ya! Which I would like to write recaps of at some point. Maybe next year. In fact, the next Kirby game review will most likely be Kirby's Adventure for the NES, which takes this game, rolls it in a ball, pulls out a bat and knocks it out of the park. And that's not counting all the remakes that this game has seen; the advantage of being short is that it can be added to other games pretty quickly.

This castle doesn't look too inviting...
But I've seen worse.

Still, do I recommend this game? Oh, yes. So very much. Play it, have fun. It might take a moment to get used to Kirby not having his copy abilities, but it’s still a very enjoyable experience. After all, who doesn't like to see the origins of a hero?

Let’s see… what am I gonna review next week… A movie? Hm, maybe later… For now, I’m in the mood to review a Nintendo DS game… except I have no idea which one to review! Hm… Oh! I know! I’ll ask on the Google+ Community!

See next Friday what the people have chosen!