Kirby and his buddies are in the middle of a renaissance period, bringing bright and colourful joy to a world that can often feel dark and stressful. After the stellar title that was last year’s Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I couldn’t wait to jump into the pink puffball’s new (old) adventure in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, which is so much more than just a remake of the much loved Wii game. On top of a graphical upgrade and more gameplay options to give this version a contemporary update, the deluxe edition includes a few new copy abilities, a new way to experience mini-games, and a whole new story featuring the mysterious wizard Magolor.
To access this new story, first you’ll need to experience the revamped Return to Dream Land in all its glory. When Magolor crashes his ship, the Lor Starcutter, onto Planet Popstar, Kirby and his friends – Bandana Waddle Dee, Meta Knight and King Dedede – can’t help but offer their assistance in fixing the vessel so that Magolor can return to his home world. It’s actually more like Kirby volunteers them all to help and then seems to receive most of the credit, but technically the gang’s all there. The distressed Magolor needs the heroes to collect five pieces of his ship to return to the skies, and in return, offers to take them to visit his home planet of Halcandra. The ship parts are scattered across Dream Land, with Kirby and pals traversing a collection of loosely themed worlds to retrieve them, defeating slews of enemies along the way.
Of course to do so, Kirby needs to make use of copy abilities, usually (but not always) gained by swallowing and then absorbing his enemies into himself so that he becomes a version of them. The premise of Kirby, were it not so bright and colourful, would be dangerously close to a horror concept, but it’s best not to think about it too hard. Many of the copy abilities found in this game will be familiar to those who played the original, with classics like ‘Ice’ that turns Kirby into a beautiful ice-breathing skater, ‘Whip’, which turns him into a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy and ‘Stone’, which turns him into a series of heavy things, making reappearances. My favourite ability, ‘Mecha’, which turns Kirby into a laser-shooting robot, is brand new and is incredibly useful during boss fights.
Kirby can embark on his adventure alongside up to three of his buddies, any of whom can drop in and out at any time. While the first player is always restricted to Kirby, your friends are able to choose from Bandana Waddle Dee, Meta Knight or King Dedede, or different coloured versions of Kirby. A tribe of Kirbys means everyone is able to use copy abilities, but each of the other characters do have their own special abilities that make them useful to keep around. Having more players, while endlessly helpful in destroying enemies, can make the screen a little chaotic, with characters often jumping on top of each other instead of navigating the levels as intended. It’s cute to ride on another character’s back (and you can make a stack of all four characters), but a little annoying. It does help combat the other flaw with multiplayer, which is that the camera will always follow Kirby, so nobody else is able to travel ahead.
While no part of the game is too challenging – Kirby’s puff ability means he mostly avoids falling to his death with relative ease – a ‘Helper Magalor’ mode is available to those who want an extra bit of assistance. Helper Magalor adds an extra bar of health to each character, as well as dragging characters back up from the depths if they do happen to fall to their death. There’s always a steady stream of copy abilities at Kirby’s disposal, and this will mostly get you through, and if any character who isn’t Kirby dies, they’re able to instantly rejoin the game at no real cost. Just keep Kirby alive, and all is well. At several times throughout the game this is particularly easy, as Kirby can take on ‘Super Abilities’, which are super-powered copy abilities that allow him to do things like summon giant fire dragons or wield a huge hammer for a limited period of time. These sections allow you to feel overpowered in the best possible way, and I found them to be perfectly spaced throughout the worlds so that I was always looking forward to the next one, but never feeling like I was waiting too long.
When you’ve completed the main story, the new Magolor Epilogue, titled ‘The Interdimensional Traveler’, becomes available to you. This mode can also be played with four players (but this time all of you are Magolor), and features the mysterious wizard as he attempts to reclaim his lost powers and make his way out of ‘Another Dimension’, where he is stranded. Magalor is weak at first, but collecting Magic Points, he can slowly upgrade his powers and use them to navigate the world, and then eventually to find his way back home. It’s a fun twist on the main gameplay and allows for a little freedom around where you assign your skills, and personally I enjoyed having to start from the bottom and build up. I missed the copy abilities, but there’s plenty of opportunity to use those in other areas of the game.
There’s also plenty to do outside the main story. Magolor, being the great friend he is, created the theme park Merry Magoland to allow Kirby and his friends to play games together. Violent, Mario Party-style games where they’re often in direct combat, or throwing around literal ticking time bombs, but from which they all still seem to emerge as friends. These games can be accessed in Merry Magoland, but were also unlocked through gameplay and connected to the Lor Starcutter and the main quest, which was a little confusing. Accessing them in different places seems to give you different rewards – you’ll get tickets for completing them in Merry Magoand, but not if you complete them on the ship – but either way, they’re the same games. These games are a ton of fun, if a little chaotic and stressful (but the good kind), and it’s easy to lose a bunch of time playing them with a group of friends. Collecting tickets earns you item rewards and masks, which are based on characters from the Kirby franchise and can be worn by all players to change up their look, and every time a new one was unlocked it was a little thrill.
In Merry Magoland, if you’re so inclined, you can also go online and compete in games against players all over the world, but as I played it during the pre-release period, I didn’t test out this feature. I can confirm that playing locally with great friends enhances the experience greatly, and that most of the game can be played in multiplayer, with players 2-4 able to take on almost equal roles to the first player. There are some challenge levels, centred around different copy abilities, which must be completed alone, but they only make up a small portion of the game. They are frustrating but a heap of fun, with each level issuing a slightly different challenge depending on the ability. Some have you rushing through levels and some have you trying to defeat enemies quickly, but all are challenging if you want to get a high rank.
Whether or not you’re a fan of platformers, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with Kirby and his ageless charm. This game is an updated, polished, even more joyful version of the Nintendo Wii original, and offers good times for those who are new to the game and plenty for those who are replaying the adventure. From the way he bounces through the air to the way that Kirby just straight up kisses his friends to transfer bonuses between them, there’s so much here that will bring a smile to the faces of all types of gamers. I don’t see how you could spend time playing this game and not come away smiling – that’s the true power of Kirby.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code kindly provided by Nintendo.