Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES) Review

Written: May 11th-12th, 2013
Year: 1997 | Developed by: HAL Laboratory | Published by: Nintendo

Disclaimer: Spoilers
1997; it was a rather ... interestingly memorable year, if you ask me.  That year we were given some really good movies,
...and some not so good movies.  =|
Among others.  1997 was also a big year for video games where there were great games (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back), underrated games (Chameleon Twist, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos), overrated games (in my opinion it's Mischief Makers), bad games, the like (all opinion-based).  Clearly a lopsided time period, but fortunately we were given more good than we were given bad, and no truer is that said than with HAL Laboratory's big sidescrolling platformer Kirby's Dream Land 3.

What a serene-looking night setting
Hard to believe that Kirby's been around for more than twenty years since his debut on the Game Boy Kirby's Dream Land back in 1992.  Kirby, in my opinion, is one of the greatest video characters of all time, and one of my personal favorites.  =)  The Game Boy classic was such a hit that it garnered various follow-ups--canon (Kirby's Dream Land 2 for the Game Boy) and spiritual (Kirby's Adventure on the NES, Kirby Super Star on the SNES)--as well as fun spin-offs such as Kirby's Dream Course for the SNES and the two for the Game Boy Kirby's Pinball Land and Kirby's Block Ball.  The first title was even remade several times, albeit as shorter versions of it, which is pretty cool.  =)  After Kirby's Dream Land 2 did really well HAL Laboratory decided to craft another entry in the Dream Land moniker, only this one came out for the SNES... in 1997.  <=|  A little late to the party, aren't you guys?
June 25th, 1999 [ O ]
Such beautiful foliage all around
Okay, not that late, but seriously though!  By the time Kirby's Dream Land 3 was released in America, unless you were still into the SNES, more people were buying games for Nintendo's first true 3D console the Nintendo 64 than they were SNES titles at the time.  To be honest, I'm surprised they didn't make it for the Nintendo 64 instead, since chances are if that happened then the game would've done better sales-wise.  Since more people were getting into the Nintendo 64 at the time, not many got to experience this game during its heyday, sadly.  =(  But for those that did, its reception was heavily polarized by critics and fans alike for various reasons, therefore becoming one of the first divisive entries in the overall Kirby franchise.  And actually that's still the case today.

"Which spiked ball would you like?"
I was introduced to the Kirby games with Kirby's Dream Land 2 for the Game Boy during one of my visits with some of my cousins back when I was very little.  I thought it was a very charming and enjoyable game with great play control, and I became a big fan of the series after having played the Game Boy Advance remake of Kirby's Adventure, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land back in late 2002.  Good times! =)  I eventually caught up with the first Kirby's Dream Land in 2005 after having escaped from Hurricane Katrina over at one of our family members' friend's house, and since then I thought it was good.  I remember having first looked up this game several years ago online (I can't remember which website it was), and I was surprised since before that I didn't realize there was a Kirby's Dream Land 3, but there is!  Shortly before the year 2009 came one of my cousins loaned me his SNES console as well as some of his games, and I was grateful for that.  In January 5th, 2009 Kirby's Dream Land 3 was re-released for the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, and I was so excited since I was going to get a chance to experience this game that I've been curious about for some time (this was four months before I started my adventures on eBay).  That day I downloaded it, and the moment I played it I was incredibly spellbound.  I did not regret it since.  =)

All's been well in Pop Star since it's been saved by the clutches of Dark Matter in Kirby's Dream Land 2, and since his demise it's been very peaceful and quiet.  Kirby and his friends are having a pleasant and relaxing day, with nothing to make things worse.
Little do they suspect that: things will be getting worse!  The planet Pop Star is threatened once again by Dark Matter, who has somehow revived himself.  But that's not all: the planet's rings shatter and the Heart-Stars are scattered throughout the star-shaped planet!  Dark Matter plans to plunge Pop Star into total darkness once more, threatening to end all happy life as we all know it.
But not if our heroes have anything to say about it!  Our ever-hungry hero Kirby will stop Dark Matter once more and put an end to his plans, but he won't be going alone.  Joining him from the second Dream Land are Rick the Hamster, Coo the Owl, Kine the Sunfish, and Gooey the blue Blob (who can be summoned when you press the A button and/or can be controlled by the second player if you don't wish for him to be CPU-controlled); and aiding the pink puffball for the first (and last) time are Nago the Cat, Pitch the Bird, and Chu-Chu the Octopus.  Will Dream Land be salvaged from darkness, and will our brave heroes emerge triumphant??

Rick: (But... but I thought I was your friend!)  ='(
The gameplay is very good, and Kirby controls rather well.  His special ability is to inhale enemies and copy their abilities (should they even have any abilities to begin with).  Once the enemy is in Kirby's mouth you have the option to swallow it (down) or you can spit it out.  If you don't wish to keep the ability you can always discard it with the Select button.  All the abilities from the second game are present (i.e. Boomerang, Fire, Ice, Spike), and there is one additional power-up you never thought you'd see in a Kirby game: the Broom power-up.  How interesting!  Among those actions Kirby can also float in the air, exhale puffs when he decides to stop floating, walk, climb down ultra-thin platforms (down + B), jump, and duck.  The great thing here is that you can now slide on the ground and run fast, something you couldn't do in the previous two Dream Land games.  A lot of the time you'll be finding yourself running (which is something I recommend you do) since Kirby walks at a veeeeery slow pace.

"Let me light up your day!"
Kirby can also join any one of the six animal helpers by pressing the X button while standing near one, and you can press it again to get off.  Each animal helper has their own characteristics, strengths, and weakness, and depending on which one you take it may help you overcome certain obstacles.  Some helpers' weaknesses are compensated by the strong points; to exemplify, Nago can jump up to three times, Coo is a good flier, Rick can wall-kick jump, Kine is an excellent swimmer, Pitch is quick on his feet and is a decent flier, and Chu-Chu can glue her tentacles to the ceiling which allows her to move forward without falling (there's a verb that's suited to that, I know it, but it escapes me).  Depending on which animal helper you choose to ride on and which ability you have, the variety of combinations will be very interesting.  Experiment to your heart's desire!  =)  The game is comprised of six levels, the first five being divided into seven portions, with a boss fight serving as the last one.  In the other six stage portions you'll be given the opportunity to gather Heart-Stars should you do a certain task, but more on that later.

Planting and watering tulips
Kirby's Dream Land 3's soundtrack was composed by Jun Ishikawa, who also did great music for Hyper ZoneArcana, Alcahest, and the majority of the Kirby games.  After being absent for the second game, he decided to make a big soundtrack with rather different instrumentation.  Whether you find the soundtrack good or bad all depends on your personal taste in video game music; personally I find the soundtrack enjoyable and a big improvement over Kirby's Dream Land 2's background music as far as I'm concerned, which I didn't find all that memorable (in and out of comparison). The introductory music is soft and dreamlike, a few of the Ripple Field themes are really catchy, the various map themes are good, and some of the Grass Land themes are lighthearted fun.  A few of the remixes are pretty sweet, like the Gourmet Race theme from Kirby Super Star and the infamous King Dedede theme.  I'll admit there a few songs that I'm not too fond of, like the Level 5-6 theme and the regular boss theme, but the ultimate boss themes is better.  There are two different endings, with the real ending having the more rewarding and wonderful music.  =)  The sound effects are all right, like the water dripping effect and the inhaling sound effect.

Rick has got great climbing prowess
One word that everyone will agree on regarding this iteration's visuals, whether you like it or not, is "unique".  The visuals boast a look that was rarely seen in a Kirby game before, which makes it stand out.  The areas look pastel-toned and have each got their own distinctive detail, many of them even look like they were hand-drawn.  A lot of the Grass Land areas are filled with foliage, Ripple Field looks tropical and beach-like at times, and Sand Canyon has got some good backdrops (like those Stonehenge-like pillars in the distance).  Pop Star looks good in the universe, and I like the little bit of Mode 7 that it uses when it rotates and scales in.  The different map rooms look good, and the cutscenes that play before you start each level are fun to look at.  One of the reasons Kirby's Dream Land 3 has garnered mixed reactions from gamers and critics and drove some away from it is due to the visuals.  And all I've got to say to that is:
"Into my mouth!!"
On one hand, I do understand why some might feel this way; but on the other hand, are you serious?!  For the first time in the series there is actual environmental depth in a Kirby game!  Depth!!!  =D  The first time I played this game I couldn't believe my eyes!  Throughout the areas there are instances of parallax scrolling, moving foregrounds that sometimes animate, color-layering effects (okay, it's more dithering than anything else, but it works because it blends everything well; on my TV it looks better than in the screenshots I've gotten), various weather effects (rain, snow), careful attention to detail, flame particles filling the air in hot places, some rooms that glow, and tiny critters that are rather harmless (and are not actual enemies) and can be crushed (optional).  Kirby Super Star looked great, don't get me wrong, but let's be honest: it was more line scrolling and not much color-layering effects all-around; it's got nothing on this game's visuals in terms of everything I just mentioned.  It is just wonderful to look at!!  I mean how can anyone not like th--  ohhh, right, the visual style.  =/  Your mileage may vary.

Good illustration of the areas you're about to
The character and enemy designs look significantly different, too, and honestly I don't mind that.  Okay, so Kirby's more white than he is pink this time around, but there is proper shading and lighting that I could forgive it.  He animates very fluidly, and so do the animal helpers with their variations in abilities and movement.  The enemies look good and charming as always, plus there are some new enemies that are introduced for the first time.  The bosses are more detailed, and a few of them are well-known familiars, like Whispy Woods.  At the end of each area you'll meet with certain characters who'll either thank you for doing a task for them or be sad that you didn't.  They look and animate well, and some of them are very recognizable cameos.  =)

Hey, it's R.O.B.!!!  =D  And Professor Hector!
One of the reasons it's gotten so polarized is due to it not being very challenging.  Geez, you'd think that after several years of playing Kirby games that they would've gotten used to that by now!  =|  Actually it's not so much that it's easy so much as how easy it is.  There's a high abundance of power-ups scattered around, ranging from stars (collect thirty to earn a life), bottles (restores 2 HP), Maxim tomatoes (replenishes all health), and the candy which renders you invincible for a short period of time.  And Kirby has a high advantage and can float in the air close to indefinitely if you didn't wish to go on foot; the abilities also help make things a little easier.

"Here, let me clean you up!"
But that's should you decide to beat the game head on.  It becomes challenging when you attempt to collect all the Heart-Stars and eventually 100% the game.  There are two conditional endings in-game: the good ending will be seen once all the Heart-Stars have been gathered and the sixth level has been accessed, if you haven't done so you'll be given the bad ending instead.  Obtaining every Heart-Star won't be easy, but it is possible with a little perseverance.  Each level's area has one Heart-Star each, and they can be earned in any number of ways.  Among some of these challenges are freeing the frozen flowers by melting the ice, matching the formations of the blocks to end-of-area character's shape, helping a character out, taking an animal helper to their mate in one go, saving a character and have them rejoin an end-of-area character waiting for them, gathering items for a character in need, et al.  In the third area of each level there are guessing challenges which you must get right three times otherwise you have to start over (at first it will start off slow until it gradually becomes faster); one of them, the one with Chef Kawasaki, requires good hearing as he'll have you pick which Gordo made the lowest, the highest, or in-between sound.  Some of the tasks are easy to accomplish whilst others will require a lot of hard work to earn, and if you don't manage to attain a Heart-Star the first time around that's all right, you'll always have a chance to try again next time.

Whoa, Waddle Dee is a genie!
The boss fights are good and they can be managed so long as you follow their pattern, especially Dark Matter who's got three forms that you have to beat.  One thing to note is while in most areas you can pause (and decide to return to the hub regardless of whether you've beaten it or not) that's not the case with the boss fights.  You won't be able to pause until you've defeated the boss.  If you've gotten everything up to Dark Matter's demise you'll get a 97%, with the other 3% being difficult to accomplish but it's not impossible if you stick with it long enough.  In the menu you can access the game and the options, and in the options you'll eventually unlock some big-time challenges: one of them is the jumping challenge where you must land on a star enough times without landing on the spikes, otherwise you'll have to start over (that's 1%); the next challenge will have you go through the five guessing games consecutively, and if you're able to get all three right five times you'll get another 1%; and the last one is a real doozy.

It is basically a boss gauntlet where you must successfully beat every single boss back-to-back all in one life; to make things really challenging, there are no health power-ups at all to help prolong your survival, so you must do your absolute best to be careful.  If you do manage to complete the game 100%, which is easier said than done, you'll unlock another option where you get to see all the cutscenes in the game whenever you wish, including all three endings (the third playing after emerging triumphant in the boss gauntlet).  I managed to pull it off once, and I got very lucky.  I wish you all the luck in the world if you decide to 100% Kirby's Dream Land 3.

Run away!!!
But just because this game is easy does it make it a bad thing?  I don't think it does, personally.  So long as the game is fun and engaging it doesn't really matter what the difficulty is like, and fortunately Kirby's Dream Land 3 to me is an enjoyable and charming iteration.  It's not perfect, and I don't mind admitting that it's got its flaws; such as Kirby walking slow and the fact that at times the scrolling can get weird and awkward at times.  I mean, what is this, Donkey Kong Country?  But if you can look past these blemishes Kirby's last platformer on the SNES is a very good game.  It display some of the most undeniably unique visuals found on the system, lots of visual depth, and musically it's not so bad.  The gameplay is good, the amount of charm is abundant, and the various ways to get Heart-Stars is quite interesting.  That and the fact that there are three different endings and the challenge from completing the game gives it a lot of replay value.

Pop Star looks pretty from the galaxy view
Kirby's Dream Land 3 is a title I find very underrated for a lot of reasons.  After Kirby Super Star was released it set the standard for great Kirby games for a lot of gamers.  That impact may have been taken a lot to heart for many when this game came out, and because of that a lot of people were disappointed in this one; since they expected it to have as much quality aspects as the previous title.  To be fair, Kirby Super Star is a fun game, and one of the very reasons it's fun is due to its many mini-games, events, and versatile play control; but Kirby's Dream Land 3 doesn't strive to be like Kirby Super Star, and not every game has to be like said aforementioned title.  This game just does what it does best: being itself and a worthy chapter in the Kirby franchise.  Plus, it's chock-full of surprises, secrets, cameo appearances, peculiarities, and weirdness all about.  =)
Kirby piggyback-riding on Pitch as he runs.  I won't lie, that's very interesting.  It's a good thing they're roughly the same size, otherwise Pitch would be struggling to carry Kirby on his back.
Come to think of it, Pitch is pretty strong as he lifts Kirby in the air as he flies while his talons are held onto.  That, or Kirby must be very light, or Pitch would've had a hard time lifting him.
Fascinatingly, upon closer inspection, Kirby's puffs have faces on them.
Uhhhhhm, I have absolutely no idea.  0_O
I don't know about you, but I think Kirby may be enjoying Chu-Chu being on his head a little too much.  Maybe it's just me, but to me there is just something disturbing about that; it evokes a negative message if you ask me.  {=|
Great crossover!  I'd say that this alone is worth the price of admission.  =)
Just for fun
Boy, I didn't realize Tamagon was still pissed off about his game never reaching American shores.  =(

Okay, so it's not Tamagon, but he does resemble him somewhat.  Among some of the interesting details, surprises, and cameos, there are times when the game really gets dark all of a sudden.  So Kirby just finished off Dark Matter's second form and it's time for the third and final form to emerge and...
holy crap, blood in a Kirby game???  <=O
Dude, things just got real intense all of a sudden!  =O  But then, isn't that how all the true final bosses in HAL's games are?  I've got to hand it to this game: it's not afraid to take risks.

(I hope sweeping floors is worth the minimum wage)
All in all, Kirby's Dream Land 3 is not a flawless game by any means, but while it lasts it's a very enjoyable platformer in my book.  Could it have benefited with faster walking speed and less awkward scrolling?  Sure.  But at the end of the day, there is more good here than there is bad, and I can forgive its faults easily because of that.  It's no Kirby Super Star but it doesn't try to be, and that's one of the things that makes it good.  It sounds, looks, and plays good, and it's a charming game.  One thing I didn't mention was that there are cases of "friend envy", where you pick an animal helper at the risk of upsetting the others.  Just look at their reaction once you join one; they instantly become shocked and then either become angry or sad afterwards.  It's almost enough to make you feel bad for not choosing the others in each area.

I personally loved Kirby's Dream Land 3 and many things about it.  Since the first time I played it I fell in love with it, and since then it's become my fourth favorite Kirby game; after Kirby Mass Attack, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and my number one favorite which I'll get to shortly. If you want to try a really good Kirby game, this will do it for you!  If you expect it to be like, say, Kirby Super Star then you may come out disappointed.  It's like ActRaiser 2 in this regard, in that if you don't think of it as an ActRaiser game then there's a chance that you might like it.  If you don't think of Kirby's Dream Land 3 as something else and just think of it as a game on its own, you should be all set.  If you're curious about it, I recommend you give it a go, and if you give it a chance I think you might enjoy it.  =)  But if you wish to experience the ultimate TV console Kirby experience (as far as I'm concerned)
then you need look no further than this masterpiece!  =)  However, that's for another day.
P.S.: To each their own.  =)
P.S. 2: It sure was nice for Kirby and his friends to recoup and reassemble R.O.B. in Level 3-6.  It's ironic, however, that they would combat each other eleven years later in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  <=|
P.S. 3: There would be a Kirby's Dream Land 4 in 2000 for the Nintendo 64 called Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, which was nowhere near as good in my opinion and fared worse than this game critic- and gamer-wise.
P.S. 4: Poor Nago, Pitch, and Chu-Chu would make their second and last appearance in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, albeit as cameos via the Stone + Cutter combo ability.  Rick, Kine, and Coo are cool and all, but why not use these guys again?  =(  They're fun, Nago especially, who I've grown to really like.
P.S. 5:
The difference between the two good endings are the way the characters are drawn and illustrated, and both versions are interestingly drawn in their own right.
P.S. 6: Fun fact: the sixth level, Hyper Zone, was named after HAL Laboratory's first SNES game.
P.S. 7: For those that are wondering: no, I haven't yet played Kirby's Dream Collection on the Wii, and I feel bad about it too!  Even though I have all the games that are on the compilation (albeit two of them as remakes), I'm more interested in the content and leftover challenge stages from Kirby's Return to Dream Land.  I hope I get to play it one of these days.
P.S. 8: Credit where credit is due: all the movie posters in the two collages I crafted are from Wikipedia; all the video game screenshots where taken by me as well as the emoticon; the cover of Kirby's Return to Dream Land is from; and the cover for Kirby no Kirakira Kizzu is from
P.S. 9: Gosh, I hope this review wasn't too long.  =(
P.S. 10: My favorite version of the Kirby anime is the original Japanese version.  I'm not real fond of the 4Kids dub.

I'll admit that the "friend envy" element took me by surprise and it was certainly interesting.  But no other game would do such a thing as that.  =)
=)  =|  ... eeeooooooohh, yeeeeeah!

Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and I hope you have a great day!  Take care!  =)

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