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Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition - Wii Review

Game Info
Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition

Wii | Nintendo / HAL Laboratory | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller; GameCube Controller
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5th October 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

When one reflects on what they've accomplished, both context and attitude are deciding factors as to whether or not such an initiative is for good. As mental imagery springs forth, reminding an individual of past encounters and mistakes, there is a danger that a person who digs too deeply might come away feeling more dejected than empowered. A lack of filtration will tend to produce such an effect. Accordingly, it's a different story when you're browsing through a scrapbook that features material you yourself have arranged. What's been selected would no doubt emphasize what is uplifting or would otherwise enable you to recount a learned lesson with gratitude, not with sorrow. In this way, a focused approach towards reflection 
would beget a much more positive outlook.

    Tied to a similar process is the thought of examining a videogame series in a retrospective fashion. For a franchise that has only seen to three iterations, there's not much leeway for arguing against a decline in quality or a botched one-off. But in looking at a franchise that has been around for years and has been extended across a whole line of efforts, things can go any number of ways. This is especially relevant food for thought, as 2012 marks Kirby's 20-year anniversary. Commemorating a special achievement such as this in the world of gaming can be an emotional thing for some, largely due to past disappointments. But if anything, Kirby's universe offers a nice break from all that nonsense, in that its legacy is something to be rivaled for its dedication and loyalty to its fanbase. Paying tribute to these positive traits, Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition closely connects players to Kirby's life as a gaming mascot and hero. Just by its presence as a compilation, this would be enough. But there have been attempts to highlight accomplished features in a fashion worthy of imitation.

In appealing to more than just the demographic of longtime fans, Kirby's Dream Collection covers the bases behind its central figure's successes by means of what it considers to be the finest set of games. Pulled from a selection that predates the GameCube era, Kirby's Dream Land 1 through 3, Kirby's Adventure, Kirby Super Star, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards are what make up the well-rounded group of inclusions. All games have been preserved in their exact likeness from the systems they originally were available for, which means they are presented without full widescreen support and instead have side-banners or backgrounds (in the case of the Game Boy titles) to fill additional space. This also means that the content itself has remain untouched, so when you see edges of the screen flickering while playing Kirby's Dream Land, such is a reflection of the faithful emulation. The only real difference you have is in the way of control options. With Kirby 64, for example, you may recall that the VC version doesn't allow players to use the Wii Remote on its own. Here, you can. You can also use a GameCube or Classic Controller, and in all cases, the controls for pretty much all games are still tight in execution and are not susceptible to awkward mishaps.

    Chances are pretty high that you've experienced most, if not all of these games already, whether via the Virtual Console services offered on both Wii and 3DS, or through the original formats these games appeared in. Interestingly, spin-offs such as Avalanche, Tilt 'n' Tumble, and Dream Course are absent, which probably stems from a desire to not deviate from the side-scrolling action, simply for the sake of establishing Kirby's core to newcomers. That being said, in the interest of this being a respected acknowledgement of Kirby's past accomplishments, I find it odd that they've reserved inclusions exclusively to the main series. Either way, because of the Classic Games area only touching on the earlier parts of Kirby's library, it would be up to other areas of the package to highlight modern developments. Before we get into that, though, it's worth addressing that some may be immediately put off by the idea of investing in a collection with content they already have access to in some form. To be completely fair, such a stance is not unreasonable, but the question is whether or not this serves as a barrier that cannot be overlooked.

    Bearing in mind the significance of this compilation as it relates to Kirby's history, it is likely with a different mood that players already well-acquainted with each game will be exploring these retro offerings. Although the game doesn't isolate this point as a means of establishing a defense, there is something to be said about having these games in one, central location. It is not with the goal of unearthing some underlying discrepancy that fans will engage with these titles, but rather to call attention to what may have been overlooked at a young age, or to recall links pertaining to specific design elements. These back-to-back inclusions effectively demonstrate a continued growth on the part of this franchise, and to witness these tangible improvements is quite something, whether done for the first time or not. Take the following few examples.

    It's enjoyable to first observe, not only the differences stemming from the series-defining Copy Abilities and the individual level designs, but also the subtle ones that took place between Kirby's Dream Land and Adventure, like the manner in which Kirby traverses bodies of water. Then, moving into Dream Land 2, it's observed how the overworld from Adventure played a role in how these levels were organized, and then the actual gameplay being expanded upon with the introduction of the piggyback mechanic tied to the presence of animal friends. Super Star, then, took these support characters in a more thrilling direction to bring about co-operative experiences -- and what a memorable debut that was for the series -- led by a helper system. Some of these early combination principles were later fleshed out in Kirby's Dream Land 3 and Kirby 64 in completely different ways, yet both achieve similar levels of charm in their design. With respect to the latter title, Kirby 64 might seem like the least creative next to Dream Land, due to its naturally linear design, but it explores its own brand of creativity and does so in a different way from the rest.

None of these mentions even touch the changing interface, which is often well-placed with just the right amount of detail so as not to overwhelm or detract from the visual design. Also to be noted is the wonderful music, which is some parts soothing and frolicsome, other parts jumpy and inciting, with variation that makes it impossible not to find yourself humming along to something. This is still only scratching the surface, however. Taking notice of this progression in such a natural fashion and with such wide capacity shows that there was a degree of wisdom in restricting the game selection to only these six endeavours. And in the spirit of observation, even longtime fans might pick up on things stemming from inspiration that served as a basis for future designs or musical renditions. I know that was the case with me.

    There's really nothing minimalistic about any one of these games, and furthermore, in not one of them do you ever detect that the team at HAL Laboratory was ever content with a bunt-like effort. Even in their simplicity, these are games that hold up incredibly well. Of them all, Kirby Super Star is the most effective in terms of longevity and time-tested appeal, but really, in all cases, new players will be welcomed to gameplay that carries a certain correctness in its design, where purity is but a propensity, vignettes occasionally feel like mini-vacation spots, and the extent of pleasure is uncontaminated by needless, questionable, or even dated components. Punctuating the enjoyment of the classic iterations is a mode entitled New Challenge Stages. In it, you'll take Kirby through a number of timed, score-focused missions, defeating enemies with the use of specified Copy Abilities. If they seem familiar, it is because they've been more or less lifted from Kirby's Return to Dream Land but with different conditions. This revised set provides a decent diversion from the core of the release, even though it doesn't feel like it's been doled out as a fan-focused bonus.

Kirby's library has seen to great development over the years, but at the end of the day, what's been represented in Kirby's Dream Collection only showcases portions of this growth. With Kirby 64 marking the first time the franchise explored 3D, it's almost as if its presence is an encouragement for players to explore Kirby's other 3D endeavours. Adding to this is the principal means by which this encouragement is manifested: the History section. Not only does this area's coverage touch upon every release and provide relevant gameplay videos, but they've also connected these assorted ventures with that of key events pertaining to Nintendo's hardware portfolio and other world-firsts. (Interestingly enough, the unveiling of Miiverse is listed in the same company as these achievements, which shows how strongly Nintendo believes in it as being more than just an added feature to the Wii U.) Mixed in with these is another nice treat -- the inclusion of three episodes taken straight from Kirby Right Back at Ya!, the animated series. In many ways, this area of the game feels like a response to the criticisms against Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii, which was also intended to mark the anniversary of a beloved Nintendo franchise but failed to do anything worthy whatsoever. Truth be told, it was lazy, pure and simple, but, as shown by the rounded-out content, that's not a remark that can be made about Kirby's Dream Collection.

    Where the "Special Edition" part of Kirby's Dream Collection comes in is through bonus content featured alongside the actual game disc -- namely, a celebration booklet and a 45-track audio CD. The former is filled with trivia, sketches, and illustrations as a means of fan service. My favourite touch is the "Our Favorite Moments" boxes, which make mention of fun spots in each of the playable games featured in the compilation. And of course they had to throw in that Kirby Air Ride had a "very warm reception," though this is qualified by fan support and not what the critical response was in actual fact. It's too bad these treats weren't implemented as unlockable content pieces within the compilation, but the booklet is still a nice part of the whole.

The CD is even better, with memorable tracks pulled from the soundtracks of 16 different Kirby games, and three new compositions created exclusively for the anniversary celebration. It's reasonable to go in with an expectation of not having full agreement with the selection, especially seeing as there's so much to choose from and no possible way to appeal to every fan's tastes. That being said, I was honestly thrilled over some of the choices they did make: the bass-flavoured rendition of the iconic Butter Building tune, as featured in Kirby's Epic Yarn; Dream Land 3's cheery, feel-good theme of Ripple Field: Ocean Waves; the beautiful, moving arrangement of Cookie Country from Return to Dream Land; as well as the perfect combination of having Vegetable Valley and Grape Garden to represent Kirby's Adventure. Each of these greatly bolstered my enthusiasm for the compilation and all it stands for, not to mention they're all great nods to the best their respective soundtracks have to offer.

    I was surprised by my not having to question the amount of times Green Greens made an appearance in some form on the CD, and really, to see that the selection didn't limit itself to what most would have already been frequently exposed to over the years was similarly pleasing. Ignoring the fact that Mass Attack received a bit of favouritism (four tracks instead of the usual two or three), it goes without saying that the soundtrack has a really satisfying song selection that will put you in the same uplifted mood I was in. So while you may long for one or two songs that missed the cut (e.g., I happen to think Ripple Star would've been a much better choice to represent Kirby 64 than the one for Shiver Star's factory stage), the CD is truly one of the best things to come out of this whole anniversary celebration.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: the effort put forth into Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition is far, far greater than the pathetic "gift" Nintendo put out a few years back in Mario's honour. Admittedly, to trounce something like that wouldn't have been super hard to do, as I don't think future commemorations on the part of Nintendo will ever be as embarrassing as that one was. But where Kirby's Dream Collection earns praise is in its detectable commitment to the same wide-ranged appeal that characterizes the very games it showcases, done in such a way that shows proper respect to the fans and a desire to function as a more-than-capable entry point for newcomers. It doesn't feel complete complete as a commemorative anthology should, and I do feel they could've sweetened the deal even further. However, the moderate-to-high degree of effectiveness seen here is indicative of accomplished objectives -- that of reaffirming the strength of Kirby's past performance, and positive reinforcement that leaves little doubt on his future potential. As a collector's item, it most certainly carries its worth; for families with young, up-and-coming gamers, there's no question that Kirby's Dream Collection is an essential purchase; and those who have long supported Kirby through thick and thin should know that while the premise may not elicit a jovial response, the extended effects of the honorary treatments will.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Included games hold up incredibly well with exemplary design, franchise growth is especially easy to observe here
Presentation 9/10 - Wonderful music with many songs making a lasting impression, really charming aesthetics, compilation features are arranged nicely
Enjoyment 5/5 - Wholesome fun across memorable games, different atmosphere under which to revisit past experiences, a must for multiple groups
Extra Content 4/5 - Package includes booklet and a CD with a great song selection, challenges, could've included more titles and integrated bonus pieces

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition
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