Those who remember our coverage of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo may recall that Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, then known simply as Kirby Wii, did little to impress us. Beyond that, however, we felt there was more to the game than we were able to witness on the showfloor, and were eager to give the game a second chance to ensure it received a fair shake.
More recently, Nintendo gave us that chance to try the game again. And, as we had hoped, we came away thoroughly impressed. In fact, our opinion of the game has changed almost completely.
As we had noted before, it seemed that the problem with Kirby’s Return to Dreamland was that the player who gets to use Kirby (Player 1) gets to have all the fun, while the rest of his ensemble merely tag along and use their standard abilities to make sure Player 1 stays safe. They cannot move off-screen from where Kirby is, they cannot copy abilities or use the Super Abilities necessary to proceed in some stages, and they cannot even go through doors by themselves.
In the time since the game was shown, Nintendo has added the option for second, third, and fourth players to forgo the opportunity to play as Meta Knight, King Dedede, or Waddle Dee and instead play as different colors of Kirby. This takes care of the Copy and Super Ability issues, though whether they have any more freedom to explore or progress remains unknown, as the additional Kirbys were not in the build we played.
But moving past all of that, we got to play the game in single-player mode during our time with it, and found it to be a highly enjoyable platforming adventure. The feel of the game seems to borrow a little bit from the Super Smash Bros. titles, yet retains an identity all its own.
If you have played Kirby before, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. It is a solid platformer, and one which did not present a lot of difficulty in what we played of the demo (others, such as Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS, were more challenging in their own demonstrations).
The Super Abilities definitely add a new twist to the proceedings, as these powers– which include wielding a giant blade or summoning a massive, screen-filling dragon made of flame– made for pleasant engagement of the enemies who attempted to thwart our mission, as well as making changes to the landscape in one fell swoop.
In addition, there are new abilities of the more typical variety which Kirby can copy from more standard, garden-variety enemies. Our personal favorite came from absorbing “Tamer Jr.”, who bestowed upon us the power of the Whip.
Donning a red cowboy hat to symbolize the change, Kirby wields the eponymous item like a pro, and lashes out at enemies with a series of quick strikes not unlike Meta Knight’s lightning-fast sword strikes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. What’s more, he can use the whip to lasso otherwise-unreachable items, such as life-replenishing food.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland also works in some light elements of the Wii Remote, which is held sideways to play the game (as in Kirby’s Epic Yarn, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Donkey Kong Country Returns). Specifically, while holding the 1 button allows Kirby to perform his signature Inhale move, shaking it while doing so activates the Super Inhale, which is necessary to deal with larger enemies and obstacles. Unlike the over-inclusion of Wii Remote shaking in Donkey Kong Country Returns, however, it feels more natural and less intrusive here.
While many Wii owners are upset over Nintendo of America’s refusal to bring the Operation: Rainfall trinity of Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower to our side of the ocean, those looking for a solid traditional gaming experience should not overlook Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, which will be released on the 24th of October for the same console. This looks as though it will finally be the Kirby console game fans of the series have waited so long for.