Anyone who knows me knows that I have an affinity for Nintendo’s pink, puffy, and very loveable character Kirby. Heck, we share the same name and I have a tattoo of him on my leg. Personal bias aside, Kirby has been a staple mascot for Nintendo for many years. Well 2012 is a special year for Kirby as he celebrates his 20th anniversary, and with this special anniversary comes a special anniversary game called Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition. It is a celebration so to speak as the game compiles six games and some bonus material that any fan will love. So, how does this special edition stack up, well I’d have to say pretty well.
Kirby’s Dream Collection takes six earlier titles that the pink puffy mascot starred in and puts them all on one disc. Interestlingly enough, they are not all games that were on home consoles, given that Kirby got his start on the original Game Boy. On the disc you’ll find the game that started it all, Kirby’s Dream Land (Game Boy) along with Kirby’s Adventure (NES), Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Game Boy), Kirby Super Star (SNES), Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (SNES), and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64). Adding to the nostalgia of these games is the fact that Nintendo has altered the games in anyway, as they have been ported to the disc in original form. This is a double edged sword so to speak, given that the games could have used some “modernization” given the state of current game technology; however, keeping the games in their original form shows fans, especially those relatively new to the character, what made Kirby so loveable in the beginning.
One of the biggest questions I had about this collection was how would everything pan out using the Wii Remote. Sure, there is the option to use the Classic Controller or GameCube controller, but the common denominator for everyone is the Wii Remote. It is easy to surmise that the Game Boy and NES games would play well, given the simple set up of those games when they were released on a portable and home console with simple control, but the other games were on home consoles with a more complex controller. Well low and behold; the games that were on the SNES and N64 play very well with the Wii Remote. Controlling Kirby has never been better and was surprisingly quite enjoyable. It always amazes me how Nintendo is able to fine tune controls on the Wii Remote for such a wide variety of games, and all these Kirby games is a continuation of such. People of all ages will be able to pick up their Wii Remote and play all the games with ease.
Gameplay is king, and many games of yesteryear relied on this to bring so many people to play. With this in mind, all the games that are included on the disc are very good, from tight control, classic Kirby platform gameplay, and a charm that has always been evident with this pudgy little character. I for one did not play the Game Boy games in the past, and having a chance to sit down with my kids and play these early games, and the later ones, was a treat. I was fully able to see how Kirby has become so popular. Sure, my kids have a slight bias to Kirby given he and I share the same name, but the charm and simplicity of the games in this collection drew them to play all the games on the disc. Even though they are used to modern Kirby games such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, they enjoyed the gameplay of these earlier titles just as much, and that says something.
If I have one complaint about this collection, it is the INSANE way to save and exit games. Yes, I put that in caps to emphasize this point. For the life of me I can’t understand what Nintendo was thinking here. In order to quit and save, you must press the Home button on the Wii Remote and click Reset in order to save and head back into the main game menu. Why they don’t allow you to just pause, quit, and directly go to the game’s main menu without having to reset is beyond me. That being said, it’s not a deal breaker, and it doesn’t ruin the overall experience, but it is quirky and a little annoying nonetheless.
Given that this collection celebrates 20 years of Kirby, Nintendo has put together a little package of “goodies” for collectors, and fans of Kirby himself, to enjoy. First off there is a nice little booklet that has a history of the games. This full colour booklet is 44 pages of information overload that gives a nice rundown of all the games, from brief tidbits of the game’s development, early design sketches, to marketing items that were used (e.g. Epic Yarn patches, posters, Nintendo Power magazine covers). It is a great read and something worth going through. Along with the booklet is a 45-track CD soundtrack highlighting 20 years of Kirby music. 42 tracks are original Kirby music from the past 20 years while 3 tracks are brand new arrangements produced by the sound staff at HAL Laboratory. I have put this on my iPod to enjoy wherever I go, as I love the music. Finally, on the game disc itself is a Kirby museum gallery which, when you have the time, is another treat to go through. You can also watch 3 complete episodes of Kirby: Right Back at Ya, which was a TV show based on Kirby himself. My kids really enjoyed this and now I have to find all of the episodes somewhere for them to watch at home.
If all this was not enough, there is one more addition worth mentioning. There are new Challenge Stages in Kirby’s Dream Collection that are well worth playing. These stages are the “modern” Kirby we are now used too and are basically reminiscent of those bonus games that are found in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. You’ll find that these stages are mostly platform based. There is a strict time limit for each one and you are graded on your effort once you completed the level you are on. I found that as I played, and my kids did too, we tried to best our previous efforts. It has a strange addictiveness to it and these levels are something I think most Kirby fans will appreciate. It is a nice break from all the other games, and more modern looking too.
As I noted earlier, these games retain the original quality of when they were first released on their respective platforms, and this includes the visuals. Each game looked fairly good on my 42 inch TV that I used to review this collection, and surprisingly even the Game Boy games manage to hold up quite well in this area. I am not going to get into any debate about not updating the games looks, so you can think what you want in this area. Each game has a nice background depending on what display it was originally on, so when you play the Game Boy games, you will find a nice attractive border around the greyscale screen that is displayed on the TV. Overall the game compilation looks good, considering it is putting out exactly what you played so many years ago, but now on a modern, and sometimes larger, screen.
As for the game’s sound, each game is faithfully represented here. From the simple sounds of the Game Boy and NES games, to the more musical and higher quality of the SNES and N64 games. I was somewhat surprised, and happy, to hear how the sounds held up quite well in this modern era of gaming. From Kirby’s well recognized sound when he inhales enemies to that when he gets hits by a foe, everything sounds good and is reminiscent of each of the original games. Of course the music is classic Kirby and you should find each melody very suitable to the gameplay on the screen.
For those looking for a deep and modern experience, you won’t find it with Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition, and heck, why would you expect that in the first place from a game that celebrates 20 years of one character. That being said, what you will find is a great walk down memory lane with games that everyone in the family can enjoy. Sure, the included games could have used a visual makeover, but the charm and attraction of the original games is intact, and many will overlook the simple visuals as the gameplay and nostalgia is what is important here. Add to this the music disc, collectible book, and the interactive museum on the game disc, and you have a pretty good anniversary compilation that is well worth the price of admission.