Kirby's Return to Dream Land - First Impressions

posted 23 Nov 2011, 20:36 by Knuckles Sonic8   [ updated 27 Nov 2011, 10:01 ]
It's a mighty return indeed for Kirby as his latest game, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, takes a top spot on Nintendo's list of holiday releases. We here at Wiiloveit are thrilled to see Kirby back in action this year. As you await Patrick's upcoming review, here are some impressions if you haven't had the chance to check out the game yet.

While I didn't take a full tour of Dream Land when I tried the game a couple weeks back, playing a few levels from the entire adventure left me feeling really satisfied. My entire session consisted of stages from the game's second world, Raisin Ruins. (Gotta love those food-themed world names!) Not even 30 seconds into the game and I already had a great understanding of the controls. Holding the Wii Remote sideways, the D-Pad is used to control your selected character, while the 2 Button is used to jump -- or hover when pressed repeatedly. Holding Up or Down on the D-Pad along with a press of the 2 Button will execute different variations of your basic attack. Unless you're playing as King Dedede, Waddle Dee or Meta Knight, you can also press and hold the 1 Button to inhale nearby objects and enemies.

Besides making it to the end, your primary focus in each level is to gather missing parts of the large ship situated at the central hub. These parts (called Energy Spheres) are usually easy to spot, but there were some that were only seen after doing a quick sweep of the area or taking a path that differed from the normal route. Kirby's Return to Dream Land's strengths stem from its co-operative focus, where teams of 2-4 can go through levels with relative ease if they can get a working system going. In addition to the return of the health sharing ability seen in previous Kirby titles, you can also jump on top of your partner and have them literally carry you the rest of the way -- if you want them to. Playing in a co-operative setting, the mini-bosses at the end of levels are hardly threatening, which naturally means that the enemies are generally easy to defeat -- as has been the case in the past. The world bosses are slightly more challenging in nature, but once again, a well-rounded team can get the job done without having the leader lose all their health.

Now as for some of the more interesting elements I was exposed to, it was interesting to see how the game attempted to incorporate a puzzle element mostly for returning visitors. Some areas of a level are closed off on your first go for the sake of encouraging you to come back a second time, while others simply require a bit of forethought to gain access to the initial visit. In one level, there was a crystal item that could make Kirby invisible so he could walk through walls made of the same material. If you raced to the end of the section where you found the item, the next segment featured a wall just below the entrance where one of those key items was being held. I thought that was pretty neat.

Much more thrilling, though, are the action-oriented ability upgrades. Also known as Super Abilities, these power-ups -- dropped by special enemies -- can result in devastating on-screen effects where parts of the destructible environments will get destroyed, as well as any enemies that are caught in the path of the attack. It's really sweet! Then you also have these secret star warps, portals that lead to a grayscale world where time and space appear to be unraveling. I wasn't quite sure what needs to be done for these to appear in the first place, but in their mysteriousness, it actually encourages you to destroy parts of the environment, take the time to outsmart enemies instead of just zipping past them, and so on. 

As I played the game, I was reminded of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, which is a good thing considering that's one of my favourite Kirby games to date. Not because the structure or even the presentation is similar, but the overall positive vibes that pulled me into that great platformer is what tried to grab me here, and more. I have to say, pulling myself away from this game wasn't easy. The levels I tried were exciting, which isn't a word one I would usually associate with Kirby games. Based on everything I saw, it seems to me that Kirby's Return to Dream Land will become more and more of an experience that you can really savor and not just rush through. Stay tuned for Patrick's full review of the game, coming soon!