Friday, July 22, 2011

Kirby's Dream Land (GB) Review

1992 HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

Review: July 21st-22nd, 2011 (My One-Year Bloggiversary)
I have a lot of favorite video game series, and the Kirby series of games is one of them. These games have fun and intuitive play control, plus their easy-going nature is one of those things that I find appealing from these games. But I'm getting ahead of myself; I remember long ago when I was little when I experienced my first Kirby game ever: Kirby's Dream Land 2. Looking back, I have to wonder why I only experienced the second main game back then and not the first game as well. Even back then I was aware of the first game's existence through an ad booklet. But regardless, I find it a good sequel and a great game. It wasn't until 2005 during Hurricane Rita that I would get a chance to play the first game at my mom's friend's house. I only played a bit of the first Kirby's Dream Land and from what I had played of it I thought it was decent, and nearly a year later I would purchase my own copy of the game at the now deceased GameCrazy (I still miss it). Still, Kirby's Dream Land is a little different than the rest of the games that eventually followed, and admittedly it's a bit unique.
Note: All these screenshots were taken with my video camera while playing Kirby's Dream Land on the Super Game Boy peripheral cartridge on the SNES console.

One late night, while all the inhabitants of Dream Land were asleep, a terrible crime was being committed. An evil, greedy king named Dedede and his soldiers stole all the food in Dream Land, and to make things worse, he's also pilfered the magic Twinkle Stars which help provide the food as well. If they're not recovered in time, the inhabitants will starve. That fiend! Who will be there to save the day? Why, none other than the titular puffball character Kirby, that's who. He offers to help and stop King Dedede at his residence Mt. Dedede. He will be traversing through the Green Greens, Castle Lololo, Float Islands, and the Bubbly Clouds. However, his adventure will not be without obstacles, enemies, and guardians who will attempt to stop Kirby by any means. It's a lighthearted adventure with equally lighthearted cute characters.

Kirby's Dream Land is a simple 2D platformer, and one with good play control. You take control of Kirby, a round puffball that has a few moves in his arsenal. Kirby can move, jump, duck, swim, and ride on Warp Stars. The thing I feel made this game unique back when it was released in its heyday was that Kirby had the ability to inhale enemies and stars, and you had the choice to either swallow them or exhale them. Kirby can also float in the sky, which is highly recommended when it comes to reaching high places (if you don't feel like jumping on platforms on the way up). This is the only game where Kirby cannot copy abilities, a feature which would later be added in Kirby's Adventure and a feature which would be implemented in later games, but there are a few items here you can use which compensate for this. They only pop up a few times: if you suck up a bomb and then spit it out, the bomb will begin exploding on anything it comes across; there's also a microphone item, and when Kirby starts using it the enemies' eardrums will begin to shatter; and there's also the famous hot curry, in which if you consume it you start breathing fireballs for a limited time (and the item would not be used again until Super Smash Bros. Brawl). A few times you'll also come across a leaf power up which grants you the ability to fire while floating without leaving your float form. What's pretty neat about Kirby's Dream Land is how easily absorbing the controls can be (no pun intended), and how fun it can be to control as Kirby. The jumping controls are even floaty, which is understandable for a game of this type. There are two healing items here which will come in handy should you find them: the bottle, which restores a couple of hit points, and the Maxim Tomato, which completely replenishes your health.

The soundtrack, considering the Game Boy's limited hardware capabilities, is really memorable and often catchy. Composed by Jun Ishikawa, who did the music for Arcana and the one who would compose the music for the majority of the games in the series as well, the music is some of the best I've heard from the Game Boy original. Some great tunes that come to mind are the Green Greens theme (Kirby's theme), the tropical Float Islands theme, and the always soft-sounding Bubbly Clouds theme. The normal boss theme is decent, but King Dedede's boss theme is absolutely fantastic. The ending theme is so excellently-composed, that it can be a real big reward to listen to after beating the game. What's cool is that many of these themes would be remixed in later games. Nice! The sound effects, themselves, are memorable, too. I like the sound Kirby makes when he tries to absorb something, and the sound for when Kirby rides the Warp Star. Another favorite sound effect of mine is the electric sound effect for when Waddle Doo uses a beam or when Kracko uses his swirling spark effect.

The visuals, though simple they may be, are very decent. Each area of Dream Land is good to look at and each area looks different. I like the foliage in Green Greens, the internal design of Castle Lololo is detailed, the Float Islands give off a tropical feel, and the Bubbly Clouds (my favorite area in the game) take place in the heavens, and when you see the stars at night it's quite a sight. The characters and enemies are also decently designed and animate well. Kirby's a cute character, and the enemies and bosses are no different. Whenever you eat a hot curry, Kirby will be flashing colors in and out. There are few moments when Kirby will swim, but he only uses his walking animation underwater (which I find a bit odd). Enemies such as the cyclopic beam-wielding Waddle Doo, the boomerang-tossing Sir Kibble, the spiky Gordo, and the Shotzo cannons made their debut here. The bosses are well-detailed; there's the famous Whispy Woods, the shooting blimp Kaboola, and a cloud with an eyeball that follows Kirby's movements called Kracko (my personal favorite boss here). There are even a couple of familiar faces from HAL's Lolo games, Lolo and Lala (named Lololo and Lalala here), who act as your antagonists. King Dedede is a menacing final boss here. I love its cute design and feel, plus its adorable quality is part of what makes the game charming and appealing.

The first Kirby's Dream Land's difficulty is quite easy. The areas aren't hard to peruse, and the enemies and bosses have easily recognizable patterns. But its easy-going nature is part of what makes it appealing and fun. I like navigating through the expositions in Dream Land, and I enjoy playing as Kirby a lot. Even if he didn't have his trademark ability absorbing prowess in his first game, Kirby sure is fun to play as. Part of what makes the game easy is Kirby's ability to float in the air as much as he wants, which admittedly I feel is a huge advantage. In order to defeat the bosses and mid-bosses, save for Kaboola, you have to swallow either an item or a star and then spit it out back at the boss. The final stage is a boss rehash, where you must battle the bosses you've fought once again, all leading up to the final showdown with the gluttonous king. Before fighting King Dedede, there are short paths which lead up to the bosses, and you must make contact with a certain character in order to get through the door. Another thing about this game is that it's very short. Kirby's Dream Land is a game that can easily be beaten in under half an hour, and the reason for that is because there are only five stages. The stages are split up into short portions, and usually you'd fight a mid-boss in the middle of the stage, and then you'll keep moving forward to meet the boss in the end of the stage. While the game has such short brevity, it does have an extra game mode that makes up for it should you beat the game the first time.

Overall, Kirby's first game is quite a blast to play, even if it didn't provide much in terms of length. It's a very easy title, but I don't mind that so much. The gameplay is solid and the atmosphere is great. I love Jun Ishikawa's music here, and it's a nice game to look at. The characters and enemies are as well-designed as they are adorable. The hot curry, microphone, and bomb items were cool to use because they each had a different impact on the enemies. The boss fights were easy, but they were fun. I like watching the intros before each stage commences, and I like how decently-designed the stages were. Yeah, the game was short, but as I mentioned before, there is a secondary quest which you can attempt after defeating King Dedede. However, you'll need the code it gives you in the end in order to access it (Up, A, and Select simulatenously). The second quest, called Extra Game, is the same as the first game except for one detail: it's more difficult. What also adds more excitement is that some enemies will be replaced by different and more potent ones. The bosses in this game mode are more challenging as they move fast and execute swift attacks. If you get hit by the second quest enemies, you take two hits, but if Gordo or spikes damage you, you'll lose three hit points, which is quite dangerous as Kirby only has a health capacity of six. The normal game is so easy, that I managed to beat it in one life several times; but the extra game will take a long time to master. This game is very fun, and it's become so legendary that it's been recreated in Kirby's Adventure and Kirby Super Star; the final world's penultimate stage in the former is a complete homage to Kirby's Dream Land (as evidenced by the black and white backgrounds), and the latter has one mini game called Spring Breeze which is a watered down version of the original. So basically this game was made three times; five if you count the remakes Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby Super Star Ultra to the aforementioned titles. That's pretty sweet! Beating the game in Extra Mode will take a bit to accomplish, but it in the end it pays off. This is a solid platformer experience on the original Game Boy, and one I enjoy coming back to sometimes. If you're interested in how the very first game Kirby starred in was like, give it a try. It may be short and easy, but boy is it fun while it lasts!


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