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September 2, 2016

Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition

Alright, so for those who weren’t keeping count:
-In January 2015, I discussed my 12 favorite Kirby abilities.
-In early May 2015, I reviewed Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, because I owned the title on the Wii’s Virtual Console.
-Then, thanks to Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Collection, I reviewed Kirby’s Dream Land in November 2015.
-After which, I started 2016 with a quick post about the Kirby anime, which didn’t really measure up to my expectations. Also, I was hoping to post recaps of the episodes of the Kirby anime, one per day, on days that had no reviews, but I was unable to follow through with that promise due to real life issues jumping in.
-Still, I reviewed Kirby’s Adventure afterwards, still in January.
-Then, in March, it was Kirby’s Dream Land 2.
-Then in May, I took a look at the nine games in Kirby Super Star.
-Two weeks ago, I reviewed the final classic Kirby title in Kirby’s Dream Collection, Kirby’s Dream Land 3.
-And finally, I reviewed the three episodes of the Kirby anime that were made available in this collector’s item, then gave 12 additional recommendations.

Today, we end this. It’s the last post about Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition! I will be done talking about Kirby games for a long while after this! I feel a bit sad, kissing the franchise goodbye on this blog… but as they say in French, “ce n’est qu’un au revoir”. Who knows, I might buy more Kirby games later, and then, I will come back to the puffball to discuss his mighty exploits again. Therefore, allow me to honor him for what is, at the moment, the last time.

Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition is, as I described it, a collector’s item for Kirby fans everywhere, released in 2012 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the franchise. It is a bundle of six classic games for the fans who may not have owned one or another of those, and it’s a great introduction for players like me, who know the series but have only played one or two titles and wanted to see more. It’s sold in a box that contains the game, yes, but also a 45-track CD containing the highlights of the soundtracks of Kirby games from his humble 8-bit beginnings to today, as well as a collectible book that details the History of Kirby and offers interesting info on the development of the Kirby games and the creation process that went behind its unforgettable characters.

I won’t talk about the booklet much, in part because I tend to read it a lot, but mostly because I have a bad tendency to forget where I last put it the next time I actually need it. I’m kind of a scatterbrain like that. I’ll just say that it shows sketch drawings of characters like Kirby, Dedede, Waddle Dee and Meta Knight, showing their evolution on paper before they became sprites, and later, 3D models. The game also goes back on all the games released before the 20th anniversary collection, including the spin-offs like Kirby’s Pinball Land (probably just as bad as a certain game called Mario Pinball Land) to Kirby Air Ride. Great stuff!

On to the music CD found in the Wii game’s box. It contains 67 minutes of music, spread over 45 tracks. Yes, you’ve read that right. Of those, 14 tracks are under 1 minute in length, starting at 0:32 (with the main theme for Kirby’s Dream Land, no less!), 22 are between 1 and 2 minutes in length, and the last 9 range from 2:11 to 4:42. The last few tracks include:
-“Returning to Dream Land”, a medley of tracks from what was then the latest game, “Kirby’s Return to Dream Land”;
-“Electro Kirby”, a great techno song that contains parts of famous Kirby tracks;
-“Gourmet Race To Green Greens: Chamber Music”, an orchestral version that combines these two songs, and it sounds really epic;
-And “Dream a New Dream for Tomorrow”, a very peaceful track, perfect to close the album with a last nod to the “dream” theme of the series.

I suggest that you seek out this CD, or at least check out the YouTube playlist I’ve found that lets you listen to all the songs.

Next up is the Wii game itself: It opens on an 8bit Kirby walking into frame with his allies. A CGI star shows up, which Kirby inhales, turning them all into their CGI forms (though King Dedede isn’t too happy with his now protruding tummy). Waddle Dees pass by and form a big 20 in Star Blocks. Kirby inhales the blocks and spits them out, then gets clobbered into it by Dedede, forming the title screen. We get to a screen with three options: “New Challenge Stages”, “Classic Titles” and “Kirby’s History”, We’ll go in the last option for now, since I covered everything in the middle option and the first option can wait some more.

In “Kirby’s History”, we can see everyone’s favorite copy puffball running through a hall, stopping next to points with years on them. On every year, there’s either a Kirby game’s box art when a Kirby game was released that year (or more than one, in some cases), or golden 8-bit statues of retro Kirby characters for years that saw no new release in the Kirby franchise. When you pick a game, Kirby inhales it, bringing you to a screen where you can rotate a 3D model of that game’s box (.....yaaaaay?), or watch a moment of its gameplay. As a bonus, if said game is in Kirby’s Dream Collection, you can press a button to play it! The years without Kirby games offer fun tidbits of trivia about that year, which is pretty cool. On the 2002 spot, you can access the three episodes of Kirby: Right Back At Ya I reviewed a week ago. The last option, which itself is Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition, contains a video clip of the musicians playing “Gourmet Race To Green Greens: Chamber Music”.

Magolor, ready to race!
On to the “New Challenge Stages”! Meet Magolor, a villain who pretended to be an ally but then turned out to be a villain but then became a good guy after he was defeated. Make up your mind, pal. To apologize for the mess he made in Kirby’s Return To Dream Land, he has built an amusement park where Kirby can test out various copy abilities. The first world, Happiness Hall, features Kirby with the Sword, Parasol and Spark abilities, and he must learn to master each ability in its respective level to reach the exit in record time while collecting as many points as possible. On each level, you can earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal depending on how well you perform. Completing those three levels unlocks a race against Magolor, who will be using his little magic to summon common enemies in Kirby’s way. A “world” here adds up your score and you may receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold Trophy by scoring well enough on all four levels of that world.

Killing golden Waddle Dees for fun!
World 2, Apricot Atrium, follows the same rules, but teaches you to use three other abilities to their full extent: Whip, Fighter and Wing. World 3, Last Land (hey, the initials of these three worlds form HAL!), is a little different: You have only two Kirby forms, and those are peculiar: One is Kirby with his moves from the Super Smash Bros. series, and the other is plain Kirby, unable to gain abilities but still powerful even if he’s reduced to being only able to inhale enemies and spit them back to defend himself. Which means he’s not exactly powerless, either. Beating these two levels unlocks the race against Magolor, once more, and it works just like before, it’s almost a bore. Want an encore?

Magolor, stop cheating!
After you beat that third race, you’re not really done yet, as you unlock a second Smash level, titled EX, followed by another Magolor race, also EX. And while this isn’t the hardest challenge in the whole game, it sure measures up with some of the harder stuff to complete on this collection. Magolor’s a fast bugger, and the only reason you’re able to catch up to him is that he stops sometimes to throw spells to make your race harder. And even then, it’s almost impossible to beat him on this one. It’s crazy.

This mode is based on the Challenge Mode that started in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, which I haven’t played yet. And while you can reasonably beat these 13 levels in a short enough timespan, the last ones are pretty tight on timing – oh yeah, did I mention that the Challenge Stages are timed, thus you need to hurry? Chances are, in the final levels, if the waves of enemies don’t kill you, the timer will. It’s even worse in the Smash stages, which work like the towers of midbosses in the Kirby games.

And of course, if you think about it, you haven’t beaten Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition until you’ve attained 100% in each of the six games, and gained all Gold medals and trophies from the Challenge Stages. Good luck with all of that.

Honestly, what else can I add to this? It’s an excellent collector’s edition to celebrate what were then the 20 years of the Kirby series, and if I had a Wii U, I would already be looking forward to the 25th Anniversary game! The music CD has plenty of tracks, and even though most are very short, they’re a pretty great look back through music at those 20 years. The booklet is also pretty great, most Kirby fans are bound to learn a few new things by reading through it.

As for the game itself, I really like the “Kirby’s History” section, if only because of all the gameplay videos and the three episodes of Kirby: Right Back At Ya that are available on it. I also love being able to play through these six games. They’re not a walk in the park; reaching the end of every game is simpler than actually beating them. The Kirby games really master the idea of gradual difficulty that you’d expect from most platforming games, and the copy abilities don’t technically affect the game all that much – that is, if you don’t play for completion. Were you to play for completion, you would encounter puzzles that get harder and harder as you progress, and you would probably see your frustration increase to unbearable levels due to some of those. Whether it’s a certain mini-game located near the end of a tough level – looking at you, Kawasaki – or the ever-popular “get to the end of a difficult level with a near-useless ability”, we can tell the folks at HAL Laboratory know what they’re doing. Their goal is for you to enjoy the regular game, and swear like a sailor when the time comes to achieve 100% completion. Nowhere is this made more obvious than in the Boss Battle modes, most of which give you a single life to beat all the bosses of a game, with no abilities nor healing items on the way. Hell, the Boss Arena from Kirby Super Star is hard as Hell, and it allows you to use abilities and get a Maxim Tomato if you need; it still took me upwards of 20 tries before I could beat it!

The difficulty of the Kirby games pretty accurately represents the universe of the series: Cutesy, nice, bright and easy on the surface, but dig just a little deeper and you’ll find a world of Hellish monsters with an insane difficulty. Same goes for the New Challenge Stages playable here: Most of them are actually pretty simple if you know what to do, but to get that prized Gold Trophy you need superhuman reflexes. Once again, pretty much like the regular Kirby games.

Is this a good collector’s item? To be honest, I don’t know. I personally think that for 40$ (its original release price), these six titles + the New Challenge Stages + the music CD + the booklet is a more than welcome gift. It's a very reasonable price, considering most regular Wii titles are actually more expensive than that. Maybe a figurine would have raised the price too much… but hey, that doesn’t really matter. I got my Kirby plushie anyway. And then there’s the Kirby Amiibo to fill that gap. So yeah, I’m perfectly satisfied with what we got here. I do wonder what they’re going to do for the 25th anniversary, which happens to be next year…

Okay, now that I’m done talking about Kirby, as you may guess, the review schedule will get turned around some more. I will no longer preface my review arc with a Kirby game. This means we’re coming back to the regular order, with slight differences however:
-A VGFlicks about a film related to video games, or an Episode In Gaming about a TV show related to a game franchise;
-A Nintendo DS game;
-Two Wii games;
-A WiiWare or Virtual Console title;
-As a new addition to the order, some reviews of Steam games, sometimes done like Demo Reviews, sometimes full reviews, all depending on the size of a game and what I can say about it. I have yet to figure out how to arrange that;
-And once again, a Top 12 to close the arc.

Due to the Olympics and the closure of my extended look at the Kirby series, we’ve already covered two Wii games, done the Episode In Gaming part, and we’ve also done the Kirby title, which leaves us with a Nintendo DS game, a WiiWare or Virtual Console game, some Steam Stuff, and then a Top 12. Alright, goodbye!