Review by Archmonk Iga

"Great for veterans and newcomers alike, Kirby's return to his roots is an absolute blast."

More than anything else, Kirby's Return to Dreamland evoked an enormous sense of nostalgia from me throughout its entirety. Slicing up Scarfies with sword combos, throwing a cutter and jumping to let it hit a distant Poppy Bros. Jr., and frantically running every which way when I had an invincibility lollipop reminded me of some of the best times I had as a kid playing videogames. Kirby possibly took up the most of my playtime as a young gamer, leeching away hours as I tried to uncover all the secrets in Dreamland 3, Adventure, Superstar, Pinball Land, Block Ball, Tilt ‘n' Tumble… the list goes on and on. So as I played his return to roots in Return to Dreamland, the best part about it was that it made me feel like a kid again. As a Kirby expert, KRtD was far from difficult to master, especially compared to the likes of Superstar. But the bottom line is that I had a hell of a good time throughout all ten or so hours I spent with it. Great for kids AND adults, KRtD may be one of the few reasons that it is still cool to own a Wii.

A strange alien crash lands on planet Pop Star, and he requests that Kirby and his friends travel across the land in search of his ship's lost parts. Instead of Kirby doing it solo, he can invite King Dedede, Meta Knight, and a Waddle Dee along for the ride to help him. The adorableness of Kirby is clearly still going strong in KRtD, and its lighthearted story only emphasizes that. It's also cute to see Kirby and his two biggest arch nemeses teaming up for the greater good. There may not be anything new and original in KRtD, but if you expected that from a Kirby game then you're probably playing the wrong series.

Planet Pop Star is bright and colorful, though the scenery does not exactly push the Wii hardware to its limits. Thinking about Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby Epic Yarn, or the more recent Rayman Origins, you can immediately tell that KRtD did not make too much effort to visually impress. There is not much to admire in the background, and the foreground is simply Kirby Superstar made for current-gen. Some of the bosses look great, and there are many cool effects with the copy abilities that Kirby gets--especially the new “super abilities.” Still, by comparison, KRtD's visuals are good, not great.
GRAPHICS: 5.5/10

The adorable outcries that Kirby makes are here in full force, often accompanied by “awws” from you, the player. Kirby and his pals are just too cute to handle sometimes. It's great to hear certain sounds we are familiar with from Kirby too, such as the air puff that Kirby shoots out after floating or when he spits out a star. Musically, KRtD revises many of Kirby's classic tunes to moderately entertaining success. It's great to hear the classics, but I think a little more innovation could have been done with them. The new tracks don't stick nearly as well either. That's not to say the tracks won't get stuck in your head for hours on end… because they WILL. It's another great reason KRtD brought out that nostalgia in me. I remember humming Kirby music constantly as a kid.
SOUNDS: 7/10

Returning to Kirby's classic gameplay proves to be an absolute blast on the Wii. Kirby will discover many familiar copy abilities, such as Fire, Bomb, Hammer, and Wing, with plenty of new ways to use them. There is also a plethora of brand new abilities, all of which are creative and fun to experiment with. Body surfing through a bunch of enemies with water, spinning around nonstop during boss fights with Leaf, and donning an adorable Indiana Jones hat with Whip are only a few of the great additions to Kirby's abilities. There are some omissions that sadden me, however. I loved the Wheel levels in Superstar, and while the ability itself is pretty weak, a couple segments to use it would have been another great breath of nostalgia. I also loved the Yo-Yo ability from Superstar, so why did they leave that one out? Suplex, Mirror, Cook, and Jet are also nowhere to be seen. Would we have minded more levels with more abilities? Of course not. And lord knows the disc size had plenty of room for more content. So while I love all the abilities we get, it would have only helped if they added in some of the ones from before.

This pain is numbed a little bit with the new super abilities and items, which are limited-use but extremely powerful. Swinging a giant sword and slicing a volcano in half is awesome, and the fact that this little pink puffball is doing it makes it that much better. The best one in my opinion is Flare Beam, where Kirby takes an enormous ball of power and moves it across the screen to light up dimmed boxes. Another great thing about these abilities is that they are necessary to fight hidden bosses in their stages. If you can hold onto the super ability for long enough, then by the end of it you will likely uncover a portal that will take Kirby to another dimension. These moving screen levels can be quite challenging, and they are concluded with a Sphere Doomer mini-boss. The bosses are pretty easy on their own, but getting to them is what really makes you push it into the next gear—it's especially challenging because you lose any ability you have upon entering this other dimension, so you're stuck with normal Kirby. Along with the super abilities, Kirby will sometimes pick up items to get him further. These are interesting in that your movement is severely limited, but more often than not they are quite fun. My favorite was the French horn that acted as a giant rainbow-umbrella.

Aside from the Sphere Doomers, other bosses appear at the end of each stage. And while it's great to own Whispy Woods in Stage 1 again, he is the only familiar boss we get to fight. Kracko, one of my favorites, is nowhere to be seen in KRtD, and since two of Kirby's other big baddies are actually helping him this time around, expect some unfamiliar boss fights. These boss fights can prove to be quite challenging, but admittedly they are more about brawn than brain. There is pretty much zero strategy to beating them other than nailing them every chance you get and avoiding them when they come after you. Epic Yarn taught us a lot, and one of the things it taught us is that Kirby's boss fights can require some real thinking. KRtD's boss fights require little thinking but a lot of damage.

This brings me to the difficulty of KRtD, which is just about spot on. First and foremost, Kirby games are for the kids, and KRtD is no exception. Sure, I had my fair share of deaths in the later stages of the game, but all in all KRtD is extremely easy for us veterans. For kids, it's another story. Not only will getting all the Energy Spheres prove a real test of commitment to the young'uns, the levels themselves and the optional challenge stages will surely result in some serious frustration, but also some serious obsession. Don't you remember how angry you got when you fought Marx twenty-seven times in Milky Way Wishes? And then that beautiful feeling of victory when you finally crushed him… Ahh, yes. Kirby is still making wonderful memories for the kids in 2011. How I envy them.

One of the best parts of KRtD is that it can be played with three friends. Similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, multiplayer in this game results in many hilarities and accidental deaths. At the same time, a lot can be accomplished much more easily than if you were to play alone. Friends can play as Dedede, Meta Knight or Waddle Dee if they want (each of whom has a single specified ability), but most likely your partners will choose to play as a colored Kirby clone. KRtD is great when you play it alone, but get one, two or three people to join you and it's all-out Kirby mayhem. It's also so darn cute when they give each other hugs to share food.

As you can tell, KRtD adds very little to core gameplay of classic Kirby. He still inhales enemies and copies their abilities, getting from point A to point B in each stage. The new abilities are great, despite some unnecessary omissions. Multiplayer isn't new to the Kirby series, but this is the most fun multiplayer we've had in a Kirby game so far. Even though there isn't a whole lot of fresh new content here, the fact that Kirby games are generally a joy to play through is reason enough to love KRtD.
GAMEPLAY: 7.5/10

I was able to 100% KRtD in less than a week. For the younger generation of Kirby fans, it will take a lot longer. There is also an Extra Mode, which is the exact same game only with half of Kirby's life taken away—a bit of a cop-out, but I guess it's better than nothing. There are five optional challenge stages which will add a couple more hours, as well as the Arena modes and a couple fun little minigames. For someone like me, KRtD's replay value is quite low because of my extensive experience with Kirby. For many others, however, it could take nearly 30 hours to complete everything. It will never last as long as Superstar no matter who's playing, but it's still a good chunk of time. The only iffy thing about it all is whether or not you think the time you put into this game is worth $50.

Hefty pricetag aside, KRtD is a bucket-full of adorable fun. Its content is limited and it is far from pushing the Wii to the next level despite its release in the latter part of the system's life. Nonetheless, Kirby fans young and old will find nothing but enjoyment in the little puffball's Return to Dreamland.
OVERALL: 7.4/10

Thanks for reading =)

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/16/11, Updated 11/18/11

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

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