It is hard to believe that Kirby entered the video game world 20 years ago. My cousin owned Kirby’s Dreamland for the Gameboy and I used to play it every time I saw him. The memory of playing Dreamland for the first time is still vivid in my mind. Since that day, Kirby has had a special place in my gaming heart. Despite the fact that many of the games in the series are really easy, the gameplay always remained consistently entertaining. In a similar concept as re-releasing Super Mario All Stars for Mario’s 25th, Nintendo celebrates Kirby’s 20th anniversary with a collection of some of Kirby’s past games in Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition. Thankfully, Kirby’s celebration game takes Mario All Star’s idea and expands on the basic presentation. Re-releasing All Stars nearly as it was on the SNES left something to be desired, but Dream Collection raises the bar for Nintendo’s retro collections.
Kirby’s Dream Land (1992, Gameboy):
Kirby’s Dream Land is where it all began. As fond as my memories are with this game, it certainly leaves much to be desired. Dream Land’s main game can be ripped through in a matter of moments. It shouldn’t take more than a half hour for most gamers to see the credits start rolling. Plus, Kirby’s copy ability, one of the greatest elements of the series, was not applied to the formula yet. Sure Kirby could still float around and suck up, spit out, and swallow his enemies, but that doesn’t fell like quite enough. At least the music and sound effects are spot on creating some of the most iconic sounds of series. The life of the game can be extended with a few button combinations on the title screen increasing the difficulty. Still, Dream Land serves as a nice history lesson, but Kirby has seen better days…
Kirby’s Adventure (1993, Nintendo Entertainment System):
Now we are getting somewhere. Kirby’s Adventure was the game that would bring the traditional copy ability to the series. It is also the first time Kirby was pink on screen. Kirby’s Adventure is also much longer than its predecessor. Instead of just a handful of stages, Adventure takes place across seven worlds with around 5 stages and a boss each. Kirby’s Adventure brought the most iconic features to the series and enforced the foundation that Dream Land created.
Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (1995, Gameboy):
Kirby returns to his Gameboy roots with Dream Land 2. The power copy ability finally makes its way into the palm of gamers’ hands. Dream Land 2’s biggest addition to the series is Kirby’s animal friends. Rick, Coo, and Kine join Kirby in this adventure. Rick is ideal for land, Coo allows great mobility in the air, and Kine can lead Kirby underwater. Depending on the copy ability Kirby currently possesses, the ability will be given a new form based on the animal partner in use. Otherwise, Dream Land 2 plays very similar to Kirby’s Adventure. Worlds are separated into a few stages with a boss at the end.
Kirby Super Star (1996, Super Nintendo):
Kirby’s Super Nintendo debut is arguably the best game in the series (and yes, it is my personal favorite). Kirby Super Star took the Kirby formula and expanded it into multiple miniature titles, most of which could stand on their own. Together, those games make one incredible package. Spring Breeze is a remake of Dream Land with updated graphics and the copy ability in tact and with a few boss battle differences, Gourmet Race is a race to the finish (and full stomach) with King DeDeDe, Dyna Blade is a more traditional Kirby adventure, The Great Cave Offensive is a treasure hunt filled with other Nintendo references, Revenge of Meta Knight has Kirby chasing down the masked warrior, and Milky Way Wishes allows players to unlock and save copy abilities and access them at any time.
The fantastic games aside, Kirby Super Star introduced some other new elements to the series that would make the package even sweeter. Before this, copy abilities would only have one attack, now they would have at least three each. Different attacks will activate depending on if Kirby is standing, running, in the air, or even with different directional inputs. This gives great versatility and variance to the abilities. Super Star is also the first game to support a second player. Once Kirby gains an ability, he can pass that ability onto a partner. Player 2 takes the form of the character that ability originates from with all standard abilities in tact. Kirby Super Star is truly the total package.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (1997, Super Nintendo):
The Dream Land name returns, but now on a console instead of a portable. Even though it was released after Super Star, this SNES Kirby title opts to not borrow much from its brother a year prior. It ends up taking some steps back as a result. Copy abilities go back to one basic attack (unless Kirby is being aided by an animal friend), and the second player is a generic blob that has very little value. It seems like such an odd choice to no use the great mechanics that Super Start used. Otherwise, it plays like all other Kirby games. A few more animal allies are introduced, though Coo seems to be the best choice for the majority of the game. Coo can fly Kirby around with ease and many stages can be cleared without any obstacles by just flying Coo along the top edge of the screen. This can turn the game into a total joke in the difficulty department. Don’t do it though as you will be robbing yourself of some good Kirby fun.
Like Dream Land 2 and Adventure, the game is comprised of a few worlds with multiple stages in each. Each stage has an optional mission that can be completed in order to gain a Heart Star. Missions range from not stepping on flowers to memory mini-games. Players get a treat if all Heart Stars are collected. The graphical style is the biggest change to the Kirby formula. Characters and backgrounds look as if they have been drawn by crayon. It’s a cool effect, especially for the Super Nintendo. Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is standard Kirby fare, but it is odd that it didn’t borrow some of the greater strengths of Super Star and it suffers a bit for it.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (2000, Nintendo 64):
The final game in the Dream Collection is Kirby’s only outing on the Nintendo 64, The Crystal Shards. It still retains the traditional 2D Kirby roots, but presented in 2.5D instead. Overall, gameplay is very much traditional Kirby with one major addition. In Kirby 64, players can combine two powers together to form a powerful hybrid. There are plenty of combinations to experience and experiment with. Similar to the Heart Stars in Kirby’s Dream Land 3, players can collect Crystal Shards scattered throughout the levels and unlock a secret once all are obtained. The main game is single player only however. For multiplayer fun, players will have to turn to a few mini-games. They won’t keep most players attention for very long though. This seemed like a great opportunity to have four players going crazy with powers, but Nintendo opted to save that for another day it seems.
The Dream Collection Extras:
Unlike Super Mario All Stars for the Wii, Kirby’s Dream Collection boasts a good amount of additional content on the disk. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland introduced Challenge Rooms to the franchise. In these rooms, Kirby takes a power to its limit by running through an obstacle course collecting medals and killing enemies in pursuit of a high score. These Challenge Rooms have made their way over to the Dream Collection with some new challenges.
There is also a well presented timeline chronicling all of Kirby’s games throughout the years. It also details important world events in those years as well as Nintendo’s major releases. Each game is complimented with interactive box art and trailers. There are even three episodes of the Kirby TV show, Kirby: Right Back at Ya! to watch.
While not on the disk, an art book and soundtrack CD are also included in the box.
The Whole Package:
Kirby’s Dream Collection sets the new standard for Anniversary Collections on Nintendo consoles. Kirby’s collection makes it seem like Nintendo didn’t even really try with Mario All Stars port. Kirby’s collection boasts great packaging artwork, a good soundtrack and art book, an interactive timeline, and 6 good to great games all in one place. Its clear that the folks at HAL Laboratory took great care in giving Kirby a great Anniversary title.