Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA) Review

Written: October 13th-14th, 2014
(As played on Game Boy Player)
Year: 2002 | Developed by: HAL Laboratory | Published by: Nintendo
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit... plus I'm a huge Kirby fan!  =D
It's short, but in the end
a lot of fun
In 1992 a young Masahiro Sakurai created a round puffball character by the name of Kirby, and the first game he would star in would be Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy.  While it was very easy and short to a fault, it was very fun while it lasted and more than made up for those shortcomings with its enjoyable gameplay, charming characters and environment, as well as the harder second quest which can be enabled with a code.  While Kirby had most of the essentials that would resurface in the rest of his games, there was one element he had yet to receive, the main move that would become his trademark: the ability to copy abilities.  But when the game became a huge success, it was just what Kirby needed to start his series.  =)
Expanding upon the gameplay and structure
of Kirby's Dream Land, this game was a winner
That's where the next game comes in.  In 1993 HAL Laboratory expanded upon Kirby's structure and Dream Land universe and made a more thorough game with him in the process, Kirby's Adventure for the NES.  When the game got released it had been a few years since Nintendo's Super Famicom/Super Nintendo consoles debuted (they could've easily made it for the Nintendo 16-bit machine, but I guess they didn't want to totally abandon the 8-bit train just yet), and yet against all odds it too was a success, moreso than the first Kirby.  Despite having gotten made very late in the NES lifespan, there was a reason many people played it: in 1993, Kirby's Adventure was the only Kirby platformer available to be played on TV (not only that, but it was also one of the biggest NES carts ever at 6-MegaBits), so obviously people took the opportunity to try it out, and rightfully so: It's very good.  =)
And as good as Kirby's Adventure is, that wasn't the version of the game I grew up with; but since I got the opportunity to play both, I'll bring up some differences and factoids from time to time.
For the majority of the '90s Kirby had a very good run, it seemed like nothing could stop him.  The 2000's, on the other hand, had a very bumpy start.  <=|  When the lone 64-bit endeavor of the series was released it failed to meet a lot of praise, heavily splitting gamers and fans as a whole, in due part due to many gameplay aspects that deviated from Kirby's regular norm.  And since the Nintendo 64 iteration didn't do so well in public, logically the way that HAL Laboratory would make it up to everyone would be to create a new game.
Image from Wikipedia
Heh heh heh... let me rephrase that: so to make it up to the disappointed gamers and fans HAL Laboratory proceeded to create a new platformer in the series.  And what better game to tackle next than a remake of the NES classic that propelled Kirby forward?
Boooooo!!!  Boooooooo!!!!!!
Nonononono, this is actually a good remake!  =)
To the Fountain of Dreams!
While most remakes either tend to miss the point of the original, are unnecessary, or add in stuff that wasn't needed to begin with, the 2002 Game Boy Advance remake Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land not only maintained the integrity and charm of the 1993 hit (and then some) but it also improved upon the original so much that it makes for a much more enjoyable game.  It also helps that the people involved in the remake were also involved in the NES original, so the game was in very good and capable hands.  My eleventh Game Boy Advance game, I was eleven when I first played it back in late 2002 and it was a game I fell in love with when I got to experience it the first time.  <=)  But seeing as it's a remake, how does it compare to the originator?  More on that when I get there.
Outta my way!
In the planet Pop Star there was a magical fountain that ushered in many good dreams to any sleeping inhabitant of Dream Land.  The Fountain of Dreams was a wondrous thing, and it seemed that nothing could go wrong.  However one day everyone starts to become restless and they start experiencing nightmares instead; it was then discovered that King Dedede broke the Star Rod, the key piece of the fountain, into several pieces and scattered them throughout Pop Star.  Kirby, Dream Land's hero, sets off to collect the pieces and sets off to teach a lesson to the tyrannical ruler once and for all.  Of course, considering in the last game he tried to steal everyone's food, you have to wonder why and how Dedede is still a king?  Also, is it any wonder that Kirby thinks King Dedede is responsible for the nightmares considering the thing I just mentioned?  But is there more to it than it seems?
Aren't you gonna draw somethin' for me?
Kirby's Adventure was the first ever game to have Kirby copy enemies' abilities after he swallowed them whole.  Kirby's copy ability is one of the most intuitive gameplay controls ever, and there's a reason it lasted all this time: it's very fun and useful.  Kirby, a puffball, can still move, inhale enemies, duck, jump, and float indefinitely like he could last time.  But this time around Kirby can now run fast and slide, as well as climbing stairs, all of which are very useful throughout the course of the game.  You still have a health of six, but depending on the powerful enemy you swallow you may get a different power-up.  One hit is enough to knock it out of Kirby, and you can still recuperate your power-up (unless it disappears in several seconds) or you can spit the star out towards enemies.  If you don't feel that you need the ability anymore you can always press the Select button.  Gameplay-wise, the NES game is good.
Are you going to draw something for
me now?  =|
For Nightmare in Dream Land, on the other hand, gameplay-wise it's even greater.  Don't get me wrong, the controls were fast-paced in the NES original, but when it came to the Game Boy Advance remake the controls' fast pace was updated and made even more polished than the original, in my opinion.  =)  Though that may be because I'm more used to the Game Boy Advance version, but never mind.  The game is separated into worlds, and in each world is a door that will either lead to a stage, a bonus game, a free ability room, an arena door, a door to and from subsequent or previous worlds, a boss door, and even a transporting door where you can summon a Warp Star to send you to a world you've been in if you don't feel like taking the long route.  The hub world system is neat, and the game (both versions) automatically saves progress thanks to its built-in battery.
Uhhhh....... (={  It's not what it looks
like, folks!  Just keep moving on!
When you start each hub world the majority of it is blocked off, but the more areas that you beat the more of the world that you're in you'll be able to unfold.  Among the power-ups that Kirby can prowess after swallowing powerful enemies are Fire, Backdrop, Hi-Jump, Freeze, Parasol, Wheel, Spike, et al.  Looking back, it may seem odd that Fire and Burning (both requiring the same element), for example, are different power-ups, but considering that Kirby's Adventure was the first game where Kirby used his newfound abilities I can totally accept the seeming limitations within moves; even for the 2002 remake.  Less excusable was that said limitations were retained in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror two years later (in 2004); thank God Kirby Super Star and Kirby Squeak Squad collectively fused certain power-ups together to form one (Fire and Burning were now combined, so was Ice and Freeze, to name a couple) and would stay that way for future installments.
The soundtrack was composed by veteran HAL composers Jun Ishikawa and Hirokazu Ando, and if you've listened to their sound styles in the past you know exactly what to expect.  =)  The two have often had a fascinating style when it came to music, which always worked for the games that they composed for.  Kirby's Adventure had very great music despite the sound limitations the NES had, and many of the tunes were upbeat, catchy, and fun.  The title theme (which then segues to an intro section) is nice, the very first theme that you hear when you start gives you the exact tone that the game is off to a great adventure, and some areas are either lighthearted or mysterious.  Throw in a few laidback, relaxing themes later on and the soundtrack is good.  The boss theme is decent, but the final ones nail it; the ending is also rewarding.  I was a little disappointed to find that King Dedede's theme was not played in-game; no Kirby should have a King Dedede-less theme, it's like breaking tradition.  =(  The Game Boy Advance remake fixed that, and the remixes are very good.
I know, I know, I often rant about the Game Boy Advance having weak sound samples.  Well,... they still do, at least when it comes to SFC/SNES to GBA transitions (despite the fact that the handheld has twice the power of the Nintendo 16-bit console), but since this was a remake of an NES game (and not a downsized port of a 16-bit classic), I didn't mind that so much... for the most part anyway.
What time is it?  It's HAMMER TIME!!!
The Game Boy Advance doesn't exactly have the greatest sound samples in the world (the volume is still low and comes across as tinny), but when push comes to shove they can have decent audio.  And because the GBA was also capable of further instrumentation (including ones that the NES original could not be able to do), why not?  The handheld instrumentation could now handle stringed and instrumental orchestration, and despite that the lighthearted catchiness was remained intact.  I'm not lying when I say that the GBA remake's version of King Dedede's theme is very epic and beautiful what with the horns and the pounding drums.  =)  Sound effects are slightly better quality and volume-wise, and Kirby now has a soundbyte whenever he gets hit (at least that's how I hear it anyway).
The scrolling towers are some of the best
visuals of the game  =)
One of the many opportunities of making a game incredibly late into the console's lifespan for a developer is to test out and tweak through all the technical limitations to see how much it can be capable of, and HAL Laboratory succeeded... if you can the ignore the common border on the left side of the screen (like most games available on the Nintendo 8-bit console had), for NES standards Kirby's Adventure looks exceptionally great.  The colors are well-chosen, the character and enemy animations are very decent, and each area has got a neat surprise for you, visual-wise.  In the third world, for example, there are few areas where the tower scrolls as you move, and for 8-bit standards it's incredible (it's a shame the GBA remake could not have those moments of brilliance and instead be a stationary screen with or without fog preceding it).  Another gorgeous aspect of the visuals are the Northern Lights in one single area (simple though they may be), and I am a sucker for the Aurora Borealis at night in video games.  =D
And so Ball Kirby was born... a bit of an
afterthought considering Kirby was already
ball-shaped, ain't it?  =\
Some areas look simple while others have got a very interesting décor going for them.  While there isn't much line scrolling (except during the final boss encounter) the backgrounds impress in the way that they're presented.  Some outdoor areas will either have clear skies, cloudy skies, or even starry skies.  There is a power-up that will enable you to light up a room, but prior to that it's pitch black with the enemies darkened; now that's going the extra mile for the NES.  Kirby, no longer white like in Kirby's Dream Land, is now pink (appropriately so) and this time his character sprites were polished, he now has a swimming and water blowing animation, and he's been given rosy cheeks.  He changes color depending on what power-up you have, and some of the enemy roster is different than in the remake (the big round turtle has been replaced by a round elephant-like creature for instance).  Even Meta Knight makes his debut here, though he looks very different compared to how he is now.
Dude, I told Waddle Dee to leave me
alone!  That's okay, he'll get the point
soon enough
Speaking of the Game Boy Advance remake, the visuals were revamped and Kirby and gang were given more polished and smoother animations this time around.  The backdrops were given a smooth watercolor look, and because the GBA could handle more colors it's much more colorful than the NES classic as a result.  For the first time since Kirby Super Star Kirby has been wearing hats anytime he swallowed and stole a powerful enemy's prowess (though he still changes color sometimes).  One thing that's very apparent when playing both games is the size of the bosses; in the NES version they were at least a tiny bit or more taller than Kirby while in the GBA version they were huge and took up more space than before (especially Kracko and King Dedede).  It's a bit jarring at first, but nothing too distracting.  =)  The remake also had zero slowdown and a smoother frame-rate while the NES classic had a bit of slowdown sometimes and had for the most part a solid frame-rate.
If you wanted to take a break from the game there are optional bonus games you can play when you enter specific doors.  Both versions had three, but I'll go over the GBA remake's first.
In this mini-game you face three differently-colored Kirbies as you race against them on spiraling rails.  You must hold down the button up until you reach a spiked section, but should you resume holding the button at just the right moment, you'll notice a "Good!" or a "Great!" granting you acceleration.
In this mini-game you must pass an ignited bomb around with a paddle to the other Kirbies.  They will try to pass either on one side or another, and if any of the other Kirbies get hit a Ball enemy will replace them.  The lowest difficulty takes things slow while the highest difficulty rapidly accelerates the flow, meaning you must time your passes right in order to survive.
In Samurai Kirby there is a sparring competition to see who gets the first hit.  There are five different opponents, and it's one of those instinct games.  The moment the timer starts and you see the exclamation points in the middle you must strike before your opponent gets the opportunity, in particular when battling King Dedede and Meta Knight later on.  If it looks familiar to you, it should.
It's lifted directly from Kirby Super Star (albeit with different angles and different amounts of visual flair).  Still, it's a welcome mini-game regardless.  =)  Although, out of the three mini-games that were altered from Kirby's Adventure, this is the one that comes close to being similar.
In the NES game there is a shoot-out game that shares the same twitch mechanic, only instead of taking place in an oriental landscape this transpires in the middle of the desert in a clearly Western setting, and as opposed to using traditional oriental weaponry you use punch guns here.
The next mini-game grants you two chances to get a life, provided you get the pink Kirby with the claw inside a claw machine and successfully drop him into the chute.
And lastly there is an egg-related mini-game where King Dedede will swiftly throw at you a series of eggs, but beware for he'll also chuck out some bombs at you as well.  It's all over when Kirby either swallows most or all eggs or if he accidentally swallows a bomb.  The more eggs you get the bigger the reward.
Meta Knight: "Attack!"
While Kirby's Adventure and Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land are much longer than Kirby's Dream Land, there is one aspect that's very bothersome to me: area length.  Considering the fast and responsive gameplay and intuitiveness of the control scheme, it really disappoints me how incredibly short the areas are.  =(  It's a bit sad when you can get into the area that you're in only for it to end before you know it.  The first batch of areas are seriously short, but it's not without its set of obstacles: the enemies.  In some hub worlds there are some areas which can only be accessed by finding a secret door that leads to a switch, and a lot of the time it requires that you hold onto a certain power-up in order to access it (like Fire to light a cannon, or Hammer to pound large stumps).  If you combat a powerful enemy in the arena and defeat it, you'll not only be granted its prowess (should you accept it) but will also receive a Maxim tomato to refill your whole health.
One of the greatest homages ever  =)
From time to time you'll come across health power-ups, like the bottle and the Maxim tomato to replenish your health (should you be low on it).  On rare occasions you'll get an Invincibility Candy which will render you invincible for a small period of time.  Each boss fight has their own pattern, but admittedly it's easier to take them out with a specific power-up.  If you manage to not only beat every accessible room but unlock and beat secret rooms as well you'll get a 100%, and if you succeed on that you'll be given the opportunity to check out Extra mode, which about makes up for the brevity issue.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Extra mode is the exact same as Normal,... only your health has been cut in half.  That's right; instead of going around with a health of six you must survive with a health of three.  Adds a bit of challenge to the proceedings if you ask me.  Even so it's still manageable, but that's not to say there aren't fun moments in the areas, there definitely are.  For example when you're a wheel you can zig zag up and down diagonal paths and even ride over certain gaps if the moment calls for it.  Trying to get to the cannon as fast as you can before the fire fully reaches it can get exciting, and from time to time you find yourself in certain situations where Meta Knight summons his backup to take you down.  It's still an incredibly fun game, but it could've done better with a bit more length to it.  Getting 100% on Normal will you grant you a boss endurance on both versions, but on Extra it's different.
Meta Knight, always the badass!  X)
By 100%ing Extra on Kirby's Adventure you'll gain access to the sound test, but should you do it on Nightmare in Dream Land you'll unlock a mini-game where you play through the majority of the game as Meta Knight.  It won't save your progress, but it will save how long it took you to get to the end (even if you get game overs).  Meta Knight has a health of three, but that's okay since he's got more versatility in his sword than Kirby does here.  He can slice and dice, he can stab upward and he can lunge downward.  It's a bit of a tricky venture since his only means of attacking is with a sword (especially since he runs hyper fast), but he can also glide indefinitely whenever you flap his wings.  Should take about ninety minutes or far less if you're really good or depending on how you pull it off.
I simply adore these cutscenes
I first found out about Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land in a small ad for a small Disney pamphlet (which I sadly no longer own), and at the time I was mindblown over the screenshots that I saw.  I thought "Oh my God, I must play this game!"  And sure enough, in November of 2002 I got to experience it, and it quickly became one of my favorites.  =)  For the longest time the only Kirby platformer I played right up until then was Kirby's Dream Land 2, but with this game I was instantly sold thanks to the responsive and fast-paced gameplay, as well as a chance to witness one of the most colorful GBA games of 2002.  Simply put, if you've ever wondered what game made me fall in love with and want to try all the rest of the games of the series, this game is what made me into the Kirby fan that I am today, and it's always a blast whenever I play it.  =)
Seeing the differences between versions was
really something
In January 2014 I got to download the NES original Kirby's Adventure on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console, as I wanted to experience the way the game was like back in 8-bit form.  For the most part the area designs are the same, and while there are a few differences (like the Level 1 title card with the sword fight), it's still nice regardless.  I've often heard of the rotating towers segment prior to playing it, and when I saw it in motion it was just incredible.  It was interesting to see which of the few bosses got replaced in the handheld remake as well as the exclusive mini-games.  Seeing Meta Knight in his 1993 self was intriguing, and I find it cool how far he's come since then.  In fact, Meta Knight found relevance again in the series (after not having been seen since Kirby Super Star) not only in the remake but when it came to the anime as well, and since then he would stay a regular in the games.
Awww, he thinks he's an ice climber  <=)
In said ad that I brought up there were the characters from the show Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, like Escargoon, Fumu (Tiff), and Bun (Tuff), but none of them were in the game and were just a way to advertise the show which would've come out at the same time as the game in America.  I was only interested in the game, but in the few moments that I saw episodes of the show on the Fox channel on Saturday mornings (out of mere curiosity) I thought, "Ehhh".  Eventually I found out that 4Kids gyped American audiences by dumbing down the show from the original anime Hoshi no Kābī with their usual tropes such as changing the music, altering the pitch of specific characters' voices, turning genuinely emotional moments into jokes, and removing all English wording when it came to signs or books.  That Americanization seriously makes me upset, so when I saw the original Japanese version's episodes on YouTube years back I was much more pleased than I was when I saw the American dub.  It is a bit silly at times, but when moments call for it, the anime works.  =)
Burning through
There is a funny story when it came to Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land.  For the longest time, I think since I was much younger I was a bit of a completionist when it came to games (which meant I tried my hardest to get everything or at least 100% it, if not slightly more).  So I was very close to completing the game when I was younger, but there was only one door that had yet to turn yellow; it's red if you didn't find the switch.  It was very late in the game, the area that paid homage to Kirby's Dream Land, and I seriously wanted to know no matter how hard I tried what kept me from that 100%.  So after years of trying I looked up a guide, and when I found the answer I was like: "Ohhhh!"  The crescent moon was a door, how could I have not seen that?  XD  So now anytime a Kirby game had an area with a crescent moon I know it's more than just a moon.  It's really clever; though I feel a bit sheepish for not having realized that on my own.
Reach for the stars
Kirby's Adventure is a really good game which helped Kirby propel to new heights, but if I must be honest I actually prefer the Game Boy Advance remake.  Largely because I grew up with it and have the most fondness for it, but it's not to say that the NES classic wasn't worth playing, it definitely was; it's just compared to the GBA version the NES original doesn't feel quite as smooth.  But regardless of the version, my only real problem was that even with a longer world-span its areas were very short; which makes the game at least an hour or two long (depending on whether you 100% or don't lose many lives).  At the very least the Extra mode gives it all the replay value, and while it lasts it's very enjoyable.
One of the most beautiful set-ups for
the battle against King Dedede ever!
If for some reason you have not gotten a chance to play the game, whether it be the NES version or the GBA remake, what are you waiting for?!?  If you're a Kirby aficionado like myself then you owe it to yourself to play this game.  If you can overlook the brief length and focus more on the fun value you'll have a very great time.  =)  If you want to see the impressive rotating towers you'll have to get the NES version; if you want to see a neat watercolor look to the whole package, then the GBA remake will provide.  It's very cute, but that's okay, that's part of Kirby's charm.  Kirby's Adventure was the game that forever cemented Kirby's role as a platforming hero, which I'm glad about.  But the Game Boy Advance remake Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land will always hold a place in my heart as the game that made me a fan.  =)
Kirby's Adventure:
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land:
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. As much as I don't like 4Kids' dub of Hoshi no Kābī, Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, I must admit that I do like the font used for "Kirby".
P.S. 2 I should probably review Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but I figured I'd hold that off until after I review Yoshi's New Island... which I fear is going to happen before the year is done.
P.S. 3 So I did see Annabelle, and as a prequel to The Conjuring I thought it was okay.  Definitely a step up from Insidious: Chapter 2, I can say that much.  Speaking of which, the sequel to The Conjuring is coming next October, yay!  =D  The sequel to both Insidious movies, Chapter 3, is coming out in May.  Um,... yay?  =|  Not really?  Also coming out in the Summer of 2015 is the remake to The Poltergeist, which I'm not looking forward to for obvious reasons.
P.S. 4 Just to throw it out there, I also saw Dracula Untold, which I did not hate like a lot of people did; I actually quite liked it.  But just because I liked it doesn't mean that I'm not blind to its flaws, like the PG-13 rating and much of what happens during the third act.  Any time movies like these come out I hope the eventual Blu-Ray/DVD release will provide an Unrated cut, like it did for World War Z last year.  As the title character I thought Luke Evans (Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit movie trilogy) was a great choice.  Again, I understand why people are hard toward it, to each their own.
Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!  I hope you have a great day, take care!  =D

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