RetroSpective – Kirby’s Dream Land

Kirby's Dream Land InfoCreated by Masahiro Sakurai, Kirby is one of the most recognisable characters in all of gaming, as are the loveable Pink Puffball’s adventures through Dream Land. Kirby’s games are some of the most simple and accessible out there, offering enjoyment to fans new and old alike. They also offer one of the happiest and most charming experiences a gamer can have, and this is certainly true of the game where it all began, Kirby’s Dream Land.

In fact, this charm is obvious right from the moment you pop the cartridge into the Game Boy and witness the game’s glorious title screen. One in which various Kirbys dances along to one of the most upbeat and uplifting opening themes you’ll ever hear. In fact, happiness is something that quite literally courses throughout the game, whether it’s the simple yet accessible gameplay, or the fairytale-esque story.

Just like many of the greatest Nintendo platformers, Kirby’s Dream Land also keeps the story light and simple. Dream Land was once a happy place, that is until the often misunderstood King Dedede takes all of the food and Twinkle Stars. Now it’s up to the gluttonous Kirby to save the day by getting it all back. That’s really all there is too it. In many ways it’s just like all those loveable fairy tales that grandparents tell.

In terms of the gameplay, Hal Laboratory’s game offers up an experience that’s not only comforting and accessible, but also new and unique at the same time. This is done by offering a variety of brand new gameplay mechanics, whilst wrapping them all up within the comforting platforming genre. Essentially, whilst the aim of the game’s five levels is still the same as ever, getting to the goal is quite different from the likes of Super Mario Bros.

Kirby Power
Despite introducing the sucking mechanic, in this game Kirby can’t yet steal his enemies powers. This would be later added in the game’s sequel Kirby’s Adventure.

The first major difference that players will think of when they think of Kirby, is the Puffball’s unique sucking powers. This is the core way of defeating enemies and sees Kirby suck up his enemies, and then fire them back at each other. In comparison to other 8-Bit titles, this is quite a unique gameplay mechanic, requiring players to utilise and exploit Kirby’s enemies, rather than simply being able to jump on them.

In fact, this isn’t the only difference that you’ll find in the platforming nature of Kirby’s Dream Land. You see, unlike most other 8 and 16-Bit platformers, Kirby can fly. This allows you a greater level of dexterity in dodging your enemies, but at the same time does mean that you’ll have to adapt to the floaty nature of Kirby’s controls. It also means that you can expect to find vertically scrolling stages, again mixing up the gameplay without confusing players.

Kirby Secrets
Despite being simple to play, there are many secrets to find.

Stages are broken up into two halves, each with both a mini boss, and a boss battle. Just like the best platformers, these boss battles require you to work out a strategy for victory by exploring each boss’ weakness. All in all the boss stages can be seen as something of a highlight within a game full of polish and finesse. They may not be the most difficult to defeat, helped in part by Kirby’s generous lifebar, but they are certainly filled with character.

On the topic of character, the presentation found not only within the bosses and enemies, but within the entire experience, really does bring the game to life right in front of your eyes. Overall, the art style and presentation is something that still holds up today, with the simplistic and large designs of both the characters and the backgrounds really helping to make everything stand out. It may be an original Game Boy game and as such rendered in black and white, but this certainly didn’t hold back Hal Laboratory.

Kirby Maxim Tomatoes
Many features that both this series and Smash Bros are now famous for were introduced in this title, such as the Maxim Tomatoes you can see pictured.

Here you’ll find that not only Kirby, but each and every creature has been given unique little movements that fill Dream Land’s inhabitants with personality and character. This is especially seen when it comes to bosses such as Whispy Woods the Giant Tree, Kracko the cloud, and King Dedede himself. However, this is best seen when watching Kirby either pull of his trademark dance at the end of each stage, or fly from one area to another via a shooting star. What’s more, despite only having five simple stages, your trip through Dream Land is a very diverse one, and you can expect to travel far and wide, from the forests and plains of Green Greens to Mt. Dedede.

Just like the graphics, the soundtrack is also something that is just as good today as it ever was. Not only does the light and happy soundtrack carry on from where it left off at the title screen, but the sound effects pop and sparkle from the Game Boy’s speakers. In fact it wouldn’t be too much to say that the Green Greens theme is now justifiably a staple of Nintendo’s musical Hall of Fame.

Kirby Dedede
The final fight against the loveable and not so villainous King Dedede.

Kirby’s Dream Land may not be a long experience. Actually it can easily be defeated in a single sitting, and this is something you’ll have to do to defeat Dedede given the lack of passwords or saves. Yet neither of these hold the game back at all. In fact if there’s any Game Boy game that you’ll want to keep coming back to it’s Kirby’s Dream Land.

To put it simply, it’s hard not to play Kirby’s Dream Land without having a smile on your face from corner to corner. It’s also hard to put the game down once you’ve started, thanks to the simple but highly enjoyable gameplay. Kirby’s Dream Land was essential back in 1992, and is still essential today. It’s the perfect handheld experience, one that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the mighty Tetris. In fact, Kirby’s Dream Land epitomises gaming enjoyment in it’s most pure form. If you love gaming, then look no further.

Kirby's Dream Land Verdict

Simon Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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