Review by Lord_Frood

"Possibly one of the best Kirby games ever."

Having been delayed since the Gamecube era, does Kirby's Return to Dream Land live up to the expectations that come from such a long wait? It promised everything a veteran Kirby player could want from the series and at the same time, pulls in new players with its bright, cheery, and welcoming look. However, as most Kirby players (and Nintendo players in general) know, that looks can be deceiving when it comes to games. While on the surface KRtDL may look easy and labeled as "casual," this Kirby game may be the most challenging and fun one yet. Does it exceed previous benchmarks made by previous games though? It comes very close.

STORY:
For being a Kirby game, the story is actually quite entertaining. At the start, an alien life-form by the name of Magolor crash lands his ship dubbed the "Lor Starcutter" on Kirby's homeland Pop Star. Magolor ends up introducing himself to Kirby who then offers his assistance along with his allies, and the quest to find the broken pieces of the Lor is set in place. In addition to losing five major pieces of his ship, Magolor has also lost 120 Energy Spheres that are scattered out throughout the game (more on those later). Magolor often talks to you when you visit, and there's some character development in him, something of a first for a Kirby game.

STORY: 7/10
While it won't win any awards, it is nice enough to keep the player engaged, if they so choose and the cut scenes are a nice touch, especially at the end of the game.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND:
As expected from a Kirby game, the environments are full of bright colors and smooth looking textures. If you could sum up the graphics in one word, it would be "smooth." The graphics don't necessarily go past any amazing standards, but they are nice to look at. Everything animates well and you can tell that the developers put a good amount of thought into character design and the overall feel of the game. From the cheerful look of the first level in the game to the last few stages that are reminiscent of the apocalypse, the graphics and designs are nice to look at. Occasionally they come across as bland, but they aren't too bad overall. There has been better on the Wii, but KRtDL takes no shortcuts in this department. Still, they come off as looking like something from last generation, although something very nice from last gen.

As for the music and sound in the game, the folks over at HAL produced a fairly decent soundtrack. It has a good mixture of both old tunes, re-mastered and remixed, and new songs that aren't quite as catchy. The new tracks are still good by all means, but they just don't seem to surpass previous songs from the Kirby series. There are a few new tracks that do stick out from the others, but only a few come to mind. Classic tracks like the Dedede Fight Theme, the Invincibility Theme, and the end of level Fanfare are an obvious inclusion, and there are more tracks from games earlier in the series that show up too, all of which sound great.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: 6/10
With standard Kirby music and graphics, nothing is really changed, just more of the same standard issue material. As the old idiom goes, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” The music is the real highlight out of this category though.

GAMEPLAY:
As with most Kirby games, it follows the same formula that made a name for the series; eat enemies, snag their abilities, and find some secrets strewn out in the stage. With 23 regular abilities and 5 super abilities, the game has quite a few ways to play through. Out of the regular abilities, 4 are new and the rest are returning from previous adventures. While only 4 new abilities may seem like a small amount, the rest of them have been re-worked and have added move sets in this game. For example, the old ability “Throw” has been integrated into several others, such as the new Whip and older ones like Ninja and Beam. Alongside the Whip ability are Leaf, Water, and Spear shaping up the new additions. All are excellent accompaniments to the older ones and really bring something new to the table. Whip can be used to grab far off items for example, and Spear allows Kirby to charge up an attack and whirl the spear to fly around like a helicopter to damage enemies. It's quite comical and effective in combat.

The new super abilities are essentially buffed up, time limited, versions of a few select regular abilities. Often used for puzzles and reaching auto-scrolling black and white zones, these abilities have a time limit, but can be used as many times as possible before they run out. Some examples being the Ultra Sword which dons Kirby with a sword of colossal size that even Cloud Strife would be jealous of, or the Monster Flame which summons a fiery dragon to swoop across the stage, burning everything it its path. Unfortunately, they seem to break up the fast paced action of the game and really don't add much to the overall experience.

A new feature of KRtDL is to not only play as Kirby (or multiple Kirbies), but one of his allies. They are only available in multiplayer or in The Arena (Boss Rush) but are still a blast to use. Self-proclaimed King of Dream Land, Dedede uses the Hammer ability, Meta Knight uses his sword and also takes a few skills from the Wing ability to apply as his own. He's definitely one of the more broken characters in the game for combining two abilities. Waddle Dee rounds out the roster to an even four and always totes the Spear ability with him which is arguably as broken as Meta Knight. However, most people will never use these characters as they can't take enemy's abilities, which is the main hook of the game, but they're always there as an alternative, or for those who enjoy using one specific ability over others.

As for the main gameplay, it comes out as one of the best Kirby games to date. With fine tuned physics, excellent level design, and a few challenges here and there, there's something for every player in this game. Newcomers that aren't as well versed in platformers may find some difficulty with the game, but the learning curve is nothing too terribly intimidating. However, pro players will want to discover all the perks of the abilities to be used to the fullest. Even for veteran players, some of the later stages test their skill and if that's not enough, there is an EX Mode which halves Kirby's HP, throws in new enemy position and sizes, and also gives bosses new move sets.


MULTIPLAYER ASPECTS:
KRtDL is definitely a game best played with other people. This game finds the perfect balance of interaction between players. KRtDL doesn't feature the annoyances of being able to bump into each other like New Super Mario Bros. Wii did, but it also doesn't go down the path that Donkey Kong Country Returns did, where player interaction was practically non-existent (save for Diddy riding on Donkey Kong's back). Stacking up players in this game is present too and is quite fun, especially if you can get 4 people playing. In addition, the enemy and boss HPs are scaled so that you'll never completely overpower everything in the level, which is a good thing, otherwise the challenge would be close to zero. Players can also share HP after eating food by “hugging,” but it suspiciously looks like a kiss to me. The HP sharing does make the game a bit easier though, but it's entirely up to the player to decide how to play.

GAMEPLAY: Single player – 8.5/10, Multiplayer – 9/10
This game is still tons of fun by yourself, but multiplayer is highly suggested if you can find the means to.

REPLAY VALUE:
The previously mentioned Energy Spheres are cleverly hidden in the stages and add some replay value for trying to find them all. By collecting these Spheres, you can unlock rooms in the Lor which include Ability Rooms to copy abilities at will, mini-games, and Challenge Rooms. The Challenge Rooms are definitely the highlight of the Lor. Being time and point based challenges that revolve around one ability only, they are highly addicting to run through and will make most people want to try again and again for a high score.

Without delving too much into spoilers, I can say this game takes about 6-7 hours to 100% it. While it seems like a short romp, there are a few unlockables that will force you to play through the game again on EX Mode and are well worth getting. The Arena is always fun to go back to and try to conquer old records as well. All of the different abilities are the real replay value factor here though. It's always interesting to try and see which abilities work best on certain stages and bosses and with about 30 stages to go through, it may sound short, but some of them last up to 10 minutes if you try to find all the Spheres hidden in it and play around with the abilities.

REPLAY VALUE: 8/10
Kirby games are always the most fun to go through again as each time it seems like a little different experience than the last. Going through the game with a friend or alone is also a completely different style of gameplay as well.

CONCLUSION AND FINAL SCORE:
Definitely rent this game if you're on the fence about it. You should be able to beat it in that time period, but if you're a fan of the series, just go out and buy it now. It's a great addition to any gamer's library and is probably one of the top 3 Kirby games of all time.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the review!


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/01/11

Game Release: Kirby's Return to Dream Land (US, 10/24/11)


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