Originally released in 2011 for the Nintendo Wii, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land was a return to form after the series had begun to change shape as often as its titular hero. Up to four players could frolic and fight through classically designed levels as Kirby or one of his foes turned friends – like King Dedede or Meta Knight. Though it was a throwback, it was simultaneously a breath of fresh air after the many experimental titles that preceded it.
Now, almost 12 years later, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe has come to Nintendo Switch, remastering and revamping the already enjoyable Wii platformer. There’s much more at play here than improved visuals, however. If the original game was comfort food, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a five-course meal (cooked by your mom).
On top of an adjusted art style, remade cutscenes, a new easy mode, increased detail, and redesigns for King Dedede and Meta Knight, Deluxe offers a more robust gameplay experience. Returning are the original 2.5D classic Kirby platforming campaign, the unlockable Extra Mode (the same campaign with new challenges and increased difficulty), and The Arena (a series staple boss-rush mode). Three Copy Abilities have been added to these modes: Festival (from Kirby Star Allies), Mecha, and Sand.
There are also two new substantial modes. “Merry Magoland” is a jampacked hub of minigames that 1-4 players can compete in. Progress in the main campaign adds characters to the amusement park, and strong performances in mini-games and challenges add golden statues to the plaza. Some of these are takes on classic series sub-games while others are brand new. My favorites were the two returning from Kirby Super Star: Crackity Hack (Megaton Punch) and Samurai Kirby.
The last mode is the “Magolor Epilogue”. This adventure serves as a second ending to the game’s story and offers a unique twist on traditional Kirby gameplay. We’ll be exploring this mode in depth later in the review, but in short, this epilogue is the cherry on top of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe.
Whether you’re here to platform, battle, see a story, master mini-games, play alone, play with friends, struggle, or relax, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe offers you the chance to do all of the above. It also makes selecting your choice seamless and doesn’t skimp on fleshing out any of your options.
The Star of The Show
Though there’s much to do in Deluxe, the Story Mode is the main attraction. Alone or with friends through convenient drop-in/drop-out co-op, players will progress through over 30 stages, inhaling enemies, stealing their powers, and using them to pulverize foes and platform effectively. The story begins when Kirby and his pals notice an airship fall from the sky, crashing into Dream Land.
The fall is disastrous. Many of the ship’s vital parts and a ton of its Energy Spheres get scattered across the land. Kirby and company meet the ship’s owner inside its wreckage, a mysterious but cute little dude named Magolor. Being the kind crew they are, Kirby and friends offer to help put the vessel back together. They venture out to the corners of Dream Land to gather the missing ship parts to get Magolor home. One of Magolor’s ship parts can be found at the end of each level. These pieces come with cute cutscenes where the party reconvenes and the ship becomes more whole as parts get reattached.
Points For Presentation
Each level is composed of five or so stages, and these stages have optional challenges in the form of collecting obscured Energy Spheres. These levels all feature new environments to contend with and marvel at, like gorgeous grasslands, sandy ruins, and a bubbling volcano.
The detail and beauty of these locales impressed me throughout the game, and no one aesthetic overstays its welcome. Whether you’re underground, in a winter wonderland, or in an industrial nightmare, there’s more to see in each stage than you would think. These levels aren’t as densely textured as something like say, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but this feels like an intentional choice. Each area is as packed with eye candy and color as can be without betraying Kirby‘s signature, simple style. This keeps the world easy to navigate but pleasant to look at.
Hop, Skip, and a Jump
Kirby’s basic moveset (when he has no copy abilities) is great here. Many refinements and tweaks are carried over from various series entries. Kirby can block with the shoulder buttons, and do a Super Smash Bros style dodge while guarding whether on the ground or in mid-air. Kirby’s inhale gets stronger the longer you hold down the button, pulling even larger and more distant objects into his capacious mouth. This means there’s no need to stop, readjust, and try again; just inhale harder. I hold Kirby Super Star in very high regard, but this is possibly the best Kirby has ever felt to control.
Living up to its name, Deluxe has 26 Copy Abilities for Kirby to inherit from the game’s many enemies. Each ability sees Kirby change headgear and attack in tons of adorably animated ways. These hats and skillsets are spaced well throughout the story, giving you many options for taking on the challenges of each screen. Relevant enemies are often found just before or near platforming puzzles or obstacles, encouraging players to swap abilities frequently and get to know each set of powers.
Wearing Many Hats
Sleep, Mike, Festival, and Crash are one-use abilities, but the rest have many more moves than I expected. While they all still have relative strengths and weaknesses, the expanded options of each of Kirby’s hats make sticking with your favorites viable. There are even some moments where you can get creative with elements in regard to puzzles.
In one area I needed to destroy ice blocks to get one of the stage’s optional Energy Sphere collectibles. Instead of going to find a fire-based enemy to steal skills from, I remembered one of the moves my current copy ability, Fighter, could use. By charging up an energy blast to its third power level, I could turn it from a blue ki blast into Kirby’s own take on a flaming Shakunetsu Hadoken. Sure enough, it cleared the obstacle even though I was using a non-elemental Kirby.
Whether using Fire Kirby to dash through hazards, Water Kirby to safely traverse through magma, or Whip Kirby (who I like to call Castlevania Kirby) to grab distant items, utilizing Copy Ability powers to solve problems is just as satisfying as wailing on enemies with them.
Also in Kirby’s arsenal are Super Abilities. Enemies good for these appear rarely throughout the game and give players a magnificently overpowered version of familiar Copy Abilities. Your attacks will fill the screen with over-the-top effects, wiping out any creatures in your path. Like common abilities, these also have puzzle-solving utility and are the key to unlocking small stages within stages. Kirby enters these areas through star-shaped tears in the world; boss fights, timed platforming challenges, and Energy Spheres wait within.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe‘s story and levels are quite simple at the start. So simple, that at first, I wasn’t very engaged. Magolor seemed nice enough, but I wasn’t invested in his plight. As altruistic and admirable as it is, with Magolor being a stranger there’s no motivation for Kirby’s team to be helping out other than their kind hearts; no apparent connection to any story or lore threads to be interested in. The early abilities I was using were fun, but I’d seen them many times before throughout the series. The music was nice enough, but I wasn’t impressed. Having played a bit of the Wii original, the first Super Ability wasn’t stunning or shocking either. Fortunately, things didn’t stay that way for long.
I feared tedium would set in if I wasn’t engaged from the start, but what I experienced was the opposite. Each level’s last stage was an engaging boss fight, followed by Magolor’s vessel becoming visibly more shipshape. Talking to Magolor in the ship’s interior after these repairs revealed more about his character. The Copy Abilities just kept coming, and though the Ultra Sword didn’t blow my mind in the beginning, Snow Bowl and Grand Hammer certainly did. The music in later levels began to stick out to me as great, and it complimented each area’s biome.
While my review playthrough of Return to Dream Land never felt difficult, the challenge began to increase, and the optional Energy Spheres became more elaborately locked away in each stage. The purple-tinted Energy Sphere challenge mini-levels that had me test my skill with Kirby’s base abilities with the threat of the screen crushing me were genuinely thrilling.
As Story Mode continued, things went in a direction I hadn’t even begun to predict. Don’t worry: I won’t be spoiling anything here. These developments had me more motivated than ever to continue, and the increasingly enjoyable levels made it a pleasure to do so. The plot culminates in a series of final boss fights that are some of the most spectacular in the genre. They’re not only fun but awesome to behold.
After the thrilling climax, as stated at the end of the credits, “there’s more!” Extra Mode, a harder take on Story Mode with new challenges and more lore, is unlocked, as well as the Magolor Epilogue chapter.
What’s For Dessert?
Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler is a new addition in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe. This adventure has players take the role of Magolor who starts off in rough shape. He’s stranded in an unfamiliar realm and with little power to aid him in escaping. This directly translates to gameplay. Unlike Kirby, Magolor can’t inhale enemies, copy their abilities, or fly. He attacks with magic projectiles, but his skills have been severely weakened by previous events.
On top of making it through Magolor’s levels, you’ll be challenged with restoring his sorcery to its true might. This is done by collecting Magic Points generously scattered throughout the stages of the campaign. Another way to rack up MP is to quickly chain together your attacks against enemies. As someone who plays fast and aggressively, it was a ton of fun to be rewarded for my regular playstyle.
You build your combo by attacking enemies or blocks with little pausing between your assault. Don’t land an attack within a brief window, and your combo is over. Landing combos isn’t mandatory. Instead, it’s an optional challenge that rewards players with more MP than they would gain otherwise.
I Need More Power
MP is spent outside of stages to expand Magolor’s arsenal. You’re given the choice of which powers to purchase, with Magolor’s cute and mischievous internal dialogue helping you make your decisions. Eventually, you’ll be flying again, shooting additional projectiles, summoning damaging spikes out of the ground, and covering the screen in enemy-blending black holes. The challenge of playing with such reduced options followed by the joy of bending the game to your will as an overpowered magician is a ton of fun.
Magolor’s Epilogue also makes gathering the items scattered throughout its levels desirable as compared to Story Mode. In Deluxe‘s main story, collectible stars don’t count towards points or completion, and instead, let players rack up extra lives. With the risk of death being so low (I finished the game with 60+ lives remaining), there’s little motivation to go after these. In the Epilogue though, every droplet you snatch gets you one step closer to fully realizing Magolor’s potential.
And you’ll want that power. The final boss – or bosses, rather – at the true end of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe are just as, if not more so, intimidating and grand than those from the main campaign. The last fight is fittingly the toughest in the game, and it felt great to best the eldritch abomination.
The mini-game stuffed Merry Magoland features a hub world that becomes more and more filled with content through your progress in the game’s other modes. Unlike Extra Mode, Magolor Epilogue, and The Arena, you don’t need to unlock this amusement park and can visit it freely during the main story. A four-player mini-game suite attached to an already enticing game? I was immediately given Pokemon Stadium vibes, and those are good vibes.
Ten sub-games are found here and can be taken on alone or with 1-3 friends. Challenges tied to these games unlock masks that Kirby can don (in this mode and the main game), helpful items to use in story mode, and gold statues that are placed around the Magoland hub. Each game has multiple difficulties and some of the challenges are very demanding. Retrying the games is quick and painless, which made for easy practicing so that I could eventually master (most of) them.
Many of these mini-games are also available in Magolor’s ship in the story mode (where they were in the original release), but there they’re unlocked by gathering Energy Spheres. While I’m glad to have easy, immediate access to these fun diversions, Merry Magoland makes their original inclusion there redundant and decreases the value of Energy Spheres, disincentivizing collecting them. Also worth noting is the Merry Magoland hub’s performance. The mini-games, like the rest of the game, run at a smooth 60fps, but the large NPC, statue, and structure-filled entrance to Magoland runs at 30 with characters in the distance animating at even fewer frames. Since this area is more of a menu than a gameplay arena, it doesn’t pose much of an issue, though.
Fun & Full
While series fans like myself might find the game a bit too familiar (early levels are a bit milquetoast, most of the mini-games return from past games, just two new abilities), there’s no denying that this is a high-quality, classic Kirby experience. And though there are only two new powers, seeing Kirby go Gundam or Gaara is pretty darn sweet.
A demo for Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is available on the Nintendo eShop, letting players taste test two stages, two mini-games, the new Sand copy ability, and the first boss fight. The stages in the demo are from the very beginning of the game; as I noted earlier in the review, the game gets more and more engaging as it goes on. So if you dig these stages, keep in mind that you haven’t seen anything yet.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a remaster that refines a game that was already a joy to play. Whether it be the merry collection of mini-games, the comfy and familiar platforming of the story mode, or the new lore and challenges in the Magolor Epilogue, there’s plenty here for casual and hardcore gamers alike. It may not blow your mind, but it’s sure to make you smile.
Disclaimer: Nintendo provided Final Weapon with a review copy of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe.