Review by MTLH

Reviewed: 09/22/11

The best in the series!

In 1997, during the SNES’ heyday, Kirby’s Dream Land made the transition from the original Game Boy to the 16-bit console. There was Kirby’s Adventure on the NES of course and Superstar on the SNES but in the beginning of his career, the Dream Land series was Kirby’s main outing. Unfortunately, this third edition was never released in Europe for some reason or another. On the other hand the game can be enjoyed by Europeans by using the Wii’s Virtual Console or a SNES and a converter so the situation isn’t entirely hopeless. It would have been a shame if they where denied the chance to play this great platformer.

As expected, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 looks particularly twee and happy. The colours are bold, character design is predominantly soft edged and fluffy and everything just bounces along merrily. It furthermore helps that the animation is very good and that there is also a lot of variation. This holds especially true for the way Kirby uses his powers and interacts with his animal friends. There are quite a few of each and combining these abilities with the animals leads to a lot of different visual variations, like for example a cat sweeping the floor with Kirby or the latter using an owl as a feather broom. These combinations are just a joy to behold.

One aspect of the visuals that could have been executed a bit better is it’s crayon look which is rather reminiscent of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. This style does wonders for the game, especially in motion, and lends Kirby’s Dream Land 3 a distinct personality of it’s own. Unfortunately this style hasn’t been implemented as thoroughly and sophisticatedly as in the aforementioned Mario game. It’s luckily a minor complaint.

The score consists out of the usual happy, bouncy tunes without which a Kirby game simply wouldn’t be one. They sound very good though. Sound effects also work very well.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is a typical platformer in which Kirby must run, jump and duck across platforms and chasms while avoiding and defeating his enemies. He is also in possession of all his trademark powers. Kirby can inhale air to fly and blow it out as a projectile. Enemies can be swallowed up so that Kirby can either absorb their powers or fire them at their comrades.

Those powers are familiar Kirby fare. He can, for example, turn into a rock, shoot ice or emit electricity. Kirby is also once again aided by his animal friends, six this time round. He can use these allies in combination with his powers which can lead to quite a lot of variations. Combining electricity with Coo the Owl for example allows Kirby to fire a beam vertically downwards while using it with Kine the fish produces a light bulb which can light the darkness and be fired. Kirby is also aided by Gooey, a blue blob, who follows him around and swallows up enemies with his tongue. Summoning him does costs Kirby a few life points however which can be reclaimed by swallowing him up again.

Kirby must travel across a map containing five worlds, each consisting of around eight levels each and a boss fight. To properly complete the game it isn’t enough to simply finish all the worlds. Every level has a special objective which earns Kirby a star. Get all the stars to unlock the fight against the game’s real villain.

These objectives vary quite a lot. There are several that require that a level is finished with a certain animal for example, while others have Kirby collect one or more specific items. There are also some more vague objectives that, for example, involve Kirby sweeping a few dirty floors or assembling a robot. Each level is accompanied by a small picture which gives a hint as to what is required although some would already be obvious without them. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that out of place items should be collected for example. This doesn’t mean that getting all stars is in any way straightforward. Quite a few require that a level is replayed several times either due to the mentioned occasional vagueness or simply because something went wrong. Still, this slight puzzle element adds some depth to the game and also some extra longevity.

Kirby platformers always had a rather busy and fragmented level design, with an average level consisting out of many little pieces instead of being one continues area. Kirby’s Dream Land 3 takes this yet one step further when compared with it’s predecessors. In general, the levels in this game tend to be quite long or at least longer than in the previous games. In combination with the constantly changing nature of the levels, this can make playing the game somewhat tiring at times. Variety is in itself commendable but it causes Kirby’s Dream Land 3 to occasionally drag a bit.

Due to all his abilities, Kirby tends to be overpowered most of the time, steamrolling over his foes. Some of the powers at his disposal, especially in combination with an animal friend, can make him practically invulnerable. The way Kirby’s Dream Land 3 tries to deal with this is by overwhelming him with obstacles and enemies. Whereas in earlier games Kirby could simply fly over his foes, this game makes sure that he is never really save, whether he is in the air, on land or under water. This overkill doesn’t make the game truly harder though but does prevent Kirby from just thundering to the finish. This approach maybe isn’t the most refined way to increase the game’s length though. However that may be, together with Kirby’s Dream Land 3’s forty rather lengthy levels and the expanded puzzle element, this does ensure that the game lasts longer than you’d expect it to do.

It is rather surprising how much of a direct sequel Kirby’s Dream Land 3 actually is. It takes the basics of the Game Boy’s Kirby’s Dream Land 2 and expands greatly upon it. That means more animals, more powers, more levels which are also bigger and an expanded puzzle element. This 16-bit instalment adds all this yet does so based on the template of an 8-bit monochrome handheld game. That isn’t meant as a criticism, far from it, but it genuinely surprised me.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3 does a lot of things right. The expanded puzzle element adds a bit of depth, the various animals and abilities offer a great deal of variation as does the presentation. On the other hand, the level design can be a bit tiring at times and it’s a shame that the crayon look hasn’t been implemented more thoroughly. In the grand scheme of things these are just minor squabbles.

OVERALL: a 9,6.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Kirby's Dream Land 3 (US, 11/27/97)

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