Kirby's Return To Dream Land Deluxe

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, Wii
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Feb. 24, 2023


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Switch Review - 'Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe'

by Cody Medellin on March 10, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Kirby's Return To Dream Land Deluxe is a side-scrolling adventure game where you can play on your own or with up to three of your friends.

Buy Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe

Kirby's Return to Dream Land was released on the Wii almost 12 years ago. It might not be the most remembered Kirby title on the platform, as that honor goes to the stunning Kirby's Epic Yarn, but it was still a solid title for fans of more traditional gameplay. The success of the Switch has seen Nintendo releasing remastered versions of its classics, and while there's still stuff on the Wii U that could get remastered to reach a wider audience, the company decided that the pink puffball's last Wii adventure could use a deluxe edition with Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe.

On Planet Popstar, Kirby was up to his usual antics of being chased around by Waddle Dee and King Dedede when a large spaceship came crashing down. As the trio and Meta Knight investigate the crash site, they find someone named Magolor waking up and discovering that their ship, the Lor Starcutter, is badly in need of repair. The quartet volunteers to scour the planet for the five missing parts so the visitor can return home.

For those unfamiliar with the game or the series, this entry aims for the classic 2D platformer approach. Kirby can swallow enemies and either digest them or spit them out to defeat enemies, break blocks, or trigger switches. When digested, some enemies produce abilities that Kirby can copy and use for his own devices. Most of the series mainstays are back, so players can still create sparks, use beam swords, use a parasol, and breathe fire. There are also whips that let players grab small items from afar, leaves that cut at a very close range, and water that can produce waves to break anything in the path. Food can be collected to increase energy, stars can be collected as a means of earning extra lives, and at the completion of each level, you can catapult Kirby into the clouds, where landing on certain cloud heights yields stars as a reward.

There are also some new techniques that were introduced when this originally came to the Wii. When you hold down the attack button, Kirby swallows multiple enemies or large heavy blocks and spits them out as a projectile that breaks everything in its path. Enemies that glow let Kirby unleash special weapon abilities that perform devastating attacks to enemies and the environment. A fully powered sword cleaves everything in range with one hit, while the flame ability calls forth a dragon-shaped fire stream across the screen. Each regular ability now comes with different moves that can be activated through button holds or button/direction combinations. The water ability lets Kirby send out a small ground-hugging wave, but he can also ride around on that same wave while the cutter boomerang cuts ropes and spider threads. The result is that it takes quite a bit of time and experimentation to see what you can do with every ability.

All of the new and old techniques come in handy when discovering the secrets in each level. Doors and paths remain hidden in the background, and those with keen eyes will be able to spot most of them the first time. Reaching those doors remains a challenge, as the roadblocks are blocks that can only be destroyed with one ability or items that can only be reached if you boost with a different ability or guess the correct path.

The reward for finding all of the secrets are orbs that unlock different room types in the Lor Starcutter. Transformation rooms let you play with the different abilities that Kirby can acquire along the journey and outfit them before entering a level. Challenge rooms give you a chance to use one ability in a custom-designed level where you need to reach the goal as quickly as possible while still acquiring the highest score, and stars are again your reward. Then there are the minigames, which we'll talk about later. The good news is that finding orbs is completely optional, as they aren't essential for getting the good ending this time. Despite this, the game maintains the difficulty balance where those looking to beat the game will be able to do so very easily, while completionists will find that the game is already difficult enough.

While the campaign is great fun solo, it was really meant for multiplayer action. Up to four players can play the game in a drop-in/drop out style, similar to that of the LEGO titles. The process is seamless, and while it decreases the total life count by one every time a player enters, it replaces it if the player leaves. While you can choose to play as a differently colored Kirby, you can also go as King Dedede, Meta Knight, or Waddle Dee, with player one always filling the role of Kirby. Each character has different abilities that work similarly to what Kirby obtains, so all of King Dedede's moves emulate Kirby when he gets the hammer ability. You can initiate team maneuvers or attacks at any time, like being able to stack everyone on top of one another or having the bottom player take a leap so everyone else jumps from a more elevated height. Unlike other four-player platformers, this isn't so chaotic, and there's less chance of griefing one another, so the game remains a real co-op experience instead of devolving into a competitive one. The only complaint is that multiplayer is limited to local only, so don't expect to jump into online sessions with friends.

The lack of online multiplayer is a shame, since the 2D platformer is a good deal of fun with others in tow. Also, it is a bit disappointing to see that the roster of minibosses tends to repeat often. Aside from that, the game is just as solid as before, with the main adventure's playtime coming in at a pretty average length compared to past titles in the series.

The main adventure contains quite a few changes that benefit players of all skill levels. All of the characters are now more agile, as they can perform quick dashes and dodges, and quick falls that make the gameplay feel faster. There are two new copy abilities for Kirby. Sand allows him to attack with waves of sand, throw up sand columns, hide in it for some protection, and unleash a powerful sand fist attack. Mecha is probably the more impressive ability as you do everything expected from a mech, like lobbing grenades, doling out rapid-fire shots, and flying faster. For much younger players who are still having trouble with the game, there's a multiplayer mode that allows another player to come in with a Helper Magolor to give more health when they need it or get them out of pits when they fall. Even though Kirby games are known for being easier than the rest of Nintendo's lineup, it is nice to see that the developers haven't taken this for granted.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe still contains both the boss rush mode and a more difficult version of the main adventure, but there are two new modes that help the game live up to its moniker. The first is Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler, where you play as Magolor stripped of his powers. Stuck in an interdimensional rift, he needs to defeat bosses and collect energy orbs to get back to his previous self. He plays differently from Kirby, as he initially only has energy orbs that can be fired a short distance either upward or in front of him. There's no chance to get new abilities via swallowing enemies. He can float but has limited hangtime and as he progresses, he can get new abilities, like a more effective block, bombs, spikes, an energy blast, and a black hole that can be unleashed if he builds up a full magic meter.

The epilogue takes under two hours to complete and is a much more combat- and combo-heavy affair compared to the main adventure, but its overall difficulty places it more in line with the back half of the main adventure. The levels are short but packed with enemies, and several levels feature the creeping energy wall that makes you move forward. The challenge rooms are very short and not as challenging as one may think, but the boss fights ratchet up the difficulty quite significantly. If you find yourself unable to die in the main campaign's boss fights, prepare for the opposite, as these boss fights are much tougher. This is especially true of the final boss fight, which takes some real skill and a bit of luck to conquer; the attacks only escalate in terms of how many damage-dealing attacks appear at one time. The game offers infinite lives, and you'll be thankful for that during these battles.

The epilogue adopts a semi-RPG mechanic when it comes to powering up moves. Every orb you pick up acts as currency for unlocking the next stage of your abilities, whether that's health or the ability to charge and release a more powerful attack. It falls on you to determine what gets upgraded next. While the levels give out a healthy number of orbs, you'll never be able to max out every ability in one go, unless you farm orbs by replaying easier levels. That makes the upgrade process feel smarter, since you have to be careful about planning the upgrade path if you don't want the grind.

The second mode is Merry Magoland, which houses 11 minigames set amidst a theme park backdrop. Most of these come from older Kirby titles and are already set for four players in case you're not fond of battling the CPU. They also come with a good deal of difficulty levels to play around with, but it would have been nice if online play were included for those who can't get people together to play locally. Of the 11 titles, three are new. Booming Blasters is a top-down shooter where everyone is trying to blow each other up with bazookas. Magolor's Tome Trackers has you trying to be the first to locate the book that Magolor is asking for via pictograms. Finally, Samurai Kirby 100 is an online take on Samurai Kirby, where you're up against 100 other people to get a better time ranking. The online play isn't in real time, but it is an aggregate of 100 randomly chosen people. Your chosen leaderboard is reset per day, but you only have one shot per day in this mode. You can practice as many times as you want before taking your real shot.

The minigames in past Kirby games have always been fun diversions that you'd look at a few times before moving on, but they're given a much more significant role here with Stamp Cards. Simply playing the games gives you one stamp, and you'll get more depending on your performance. Completing the cards gets you masks of other characters and items that can be used on demand in the main adventure. This helps make the game easier, since you can rely on health bonuses or a random power exactly when you want it. There are also different missions that you can complete based on the game you're playing, and they're akin to Achievements, since you'll do things like beat a minigame in all difficulty levels. Completing them opens up more masks and statues that appear in the theme park. Add that to hidden Magolor stamps in the park and tickets hidden in the main adventure, and you've got a compelling reason to spend more time playing these minigames than you would have in the past. The only real knock is that it makes the unlocking of minigames in the Lor Starcutter redundant, as everything is already available to you in Merry Magoland before you defeat the first boss.

The original game had a fine presentation, but it wasn't the showcase title that Kirby's other Wii offering was. This version amplifies it just enough that it is a stunning title all around. The models got a slight upgrade and now sport some thick outlines to be slightly more cel-shaded without necessarily changing the bright color scheme. The big upgrade to 1080p makes a huge difference, as everything pops more to give the game the classic Nintendo vibrant look. Frame rate is locked to 60fps in every area except for Merry Magoland, where the park drops to 30fps but returns to 60fps in the minigames.

The sound is well done, and that's thanks to the musical score, which has more adventurous overtones than before. Mostly orchestrated, it is a perfect fit for the game, especially after hearing some remixed classic Kirby tunes here and there. As a result, the few rock tracks stand out even more. Meanwhile, the sound effects are much punchier than the original Wii version, while the minimal voices maintain the series' established level of cuteness.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe proves that it's still a solid 2D platformer after all these years, and now it's been elevated. The inclusion of new powers makes the adventure feel new, even for those who have played the Wii original, while Helper Magolor's presence ensures that players will see the game's ending. The inclusion of Merry Magoland in a nice touch, as it provides several reasons to return to the oft-ignored minigames. Magolor's Epilogue continues Nintendo's current trend of giving remasters significant mini-campaigns to encourage a revisit from longtime fans. Unless you don't care at all for Kirby or platformers, Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe should be in your Switch library.

Score: 9.0/10

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