Kirby's Dream Collection review
It’s no secret that Super Mario All-Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition was quite the lackluster anthology. Was it competent? Yes. Did it include some of Mario’s most memorable platforming romps? Of course. But was it the well-rounded package that it should have been for such a momentous occasion? Absolutely not. Here we are over a year later, and now the Big N is celebrating another anniversary. It’s been 20 years since Kirby first hit the scene, and he’s now at the center of his own compilation. Unlike Mario All-Stars, Kirby’s Dream Collection is a more robust set, and it actually feels like a big deal.
The collection kicks things off with the 1992 Game Boy debut of the rotund protagonist, Kirby’s Dream Land. The game is entirely in black-and-white, and a large border surrounds the screen due to the resolution, which certainly warrants some level of complaint. But while it may be a bit aesthetically unappealing these days, Dream Land is still plenty of fun. This title didn’t feature Kirby’s signature copy ability, and it was also fairly short, making for a much simpler experience compared to its successors. Ideally, however, Dream Land is primarily a great history lesson for gamers interested in seeing how Kirby got his start.
The next title in the compilation is Kirby’s Adventure, which had somewhat of a late NES launch in 1993. This game introduced the copy ability that the series is now known for, as well as the hub world elements, bonus mini-games, and brightly colored charm that’s so inherent in the franchise these days. There’s also a lot to do, with a large number of levels to play through and secrets to discover. Kirby’s Adventure is an overall better game than Dream Land, and it can very easily be considered one of the best games in the series, as well as an incredible NES era platformer in its own right.
Kirby’s Adventure is followed up by Kirby’s Dream Land 2, which appeared on the Game Boy in 1995 and featured a new mechanic: animal buddies. While this game suffers from black-and-white visuals and that nasty border like the first game, it’s notches above the original Dream Land in terms of gameplay. While that debut was entertaining, the addition of critters that you can ride through levels makes Dream Land 2 a ton of fun. And because your hamster, owl, and fish pals can grant you some unique attacks when combined with the standard copy abilities that you pick up along the way, the game makes for some entertaining experimentation.
The fourth game in Kirby’s Dream Collection is Kirby Super Star, which is technically the weakest title in the entire set. That’s not to say that Super Star isn’t fun, because it certainly is. The problem is that it’s more of a mini-game collection than an actual adventure. There are a few platforming stages, as well as some genuinely enjoyable competitive two-player modes, but if you don’t have another Kirby fanatic to play with, the novelty may wear thin pretty fast. Even with its hindrances, Super Star has some truly novel elements. The visual style drips with charm, the music is cool, and the mini-games provide some worthwhile entertainment.
A true gem follows up Super Star in Kirby's Dream Collection. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kirby’s Dream Land 3 was the favorite among a lot of individuals who purchased this lovely compilation. This is, for all intents and purposes, the most beautiful-looking game out of the bunch. The whole thing looks like it was drawn and colored using crayons, and it’s very easy to tell how this game pushed the SNES hardware back in 1997 with its lush visuals and fluid animations. The actual platforming is also positively golden, and the addition of animal buddies new and old creates some of the most compelling Kirby gameplay in the series’ history.
Last is Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, which originally appeared on the Nintendo 64 in 2000. What makes this game stand out from the rest is that Kirby can combine copy abilities. By inhaling two baddies, you can obtain a super-powered copy ability that’s devastating to your foes. We've never seen this feature revisited in subsequent games, but it makes for some outstanding experimentation. While not incredibly long, Kirby 64 is a fairly lengthy affair for the series, with huge levels to run through and crazy bosses to defeat. Kirby 64 may be one of the most underrated entries in the franchise, but this adventure still stands tall as a great example of unadulterated platforming bliss.
While all the aforementioned games are definitely awesome, it’s the oodles of incredible extras that really make Kirby’s Dream Collection shine. You can check out a timeline that dates back to the series’ humble beginnings. This bonus is especially novel because it gives you a year-by-year look at the games and a lot of the historical events that happened in between such as the Olympics and Bill Clinton’s election. Yup, all that stuff is in there! You can even watch a few episodes of the highly entertaining anime Kirby: Right Back At Ya! There’s also video and blurbs of every Kirby game, and some exclusive challenge levels based on last year’s Kirby’s Return to Dream Land. Throw in the collectible book and soundtrack CD, and you’ve got a truly special Kirby collection.
Overall, Kirby’s Dream Collection is everything a die-hard fan of the spherical hero's adventures could want. Alternatively, newer fans could also find a ton of enjoyment here. The Wii disc compiles six classic Kirby titles and throws in a slew of wonderful extras to boot, making for hours of sweet content. It should also be noted that you can exit and continue where you left off in any of the games at any given time thanks to the added suspend feature, which works like the Virtual Console and is extremely useful. No, not every game is perfect, but even the titles that do have some glaring quirks are a sheer joy to play.
It’s good to know that Nintendo learned from its mistakes with Mario All-Stars. This time around, Kirby fans are getting something worth owning — a magnificent compilation of some of the pink puffball’s greatest hits, as well as tangible and digital bonuses that are nothing short of amazing. This is how you celebrate 20 years of one of the most underrated mascots in all of gaming. This is how you look back on a fantastic and cheery franchise. Here’s to 20 more years of memorable Kirby awesomeness.
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