When it comes to video game mascots, there is no other company that has as many recognizable names as Nintendo: Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Link from the Legend of Zelda series, Samus Aran from the Metroid series, and many others. However, the common link that all these characters have is that they’ve been around since the early days of the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). One of Nintendo’s most prominent mascots today, Kirby, got his humble start on an early Game Boy game known as Kirby’s Dream Land. Kirby has gone on to become a featured player in numerous titles across Nintendo’s different systems, also featuring as a crossover character in party and fighting games -even having his own cartoon series, Kirby: Right Back At Ya! This year, Kirby turned 20 years old, and Nintendo is celebrating his birthday with the release of Kirby’s Dream Collection, which is not only a compilation of six of Kirby’s earlier games, but also included is a nice mini-game collection, a virtual history hall of fame just for Kirby, a CD soundtrack compilation of classic and modern Kirby tunes, and a nice book of concept art. To put it simply, you’re getting a lot of Kirby for your buck.
This collection features six full games: Kirby’s Dream Land (Game Boy, 1992); Kirby’s Adventure (NES, 1993); Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Game Boy, 1995); Kirby Superstar (Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), 1996); Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (SNES, 1997); and finally, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, 2000). Kirby’s Dream Land is the game that started it all. While it was received very well upon its initial release, the game hasn’t really held up well. Kirby doesn’t have his trademark "copy" ability yet (in later games Kirby gains special abilities and attacks from swallowing certain enemies), the levels feel repetitive, and it’s easily beatable in less than thirty minutes. This game was designed to pick up and play on the go, and it holds a lot of historical significance, but current gamers may find this title bland and boring. Kirby’s Adventure, on the other hand, is a game that holds up very well, even though it’s been available in various downloadable forms over the years (including a 3D version that can be purchased on the Nintendo 3DS). This game had many more features than its predecessor, including more levels, a map select screen, bonus games, colorful graphics, an in-game save feature, and the introduction of both the standard "pink" Kirby (Kirby was originally colored white for the box art of Kirby’s Dream Land, which led many gamers to believe that he was a ghost) and the "copy" ability mentioned earlier. Kirby’s Adventure is both challenging and fun, making this game a worthy addition to Kirby’s anthology.
Kirby’s Dream Land 2, the sequel to the first Game Boy game, is not only a vast improvement over its predecessor, but it was also very innovative with its addition of "animal companions," such as a hamster, bird, and fish. Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is also one of the more difficult Kirby games, but the challenge is well-balanced, as it doesn’t become an exercise in frustration. Speaking of frustration, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is perhaps the worst game in this compilation. Kirby moves at an extremely slow pace, the controls are awkward, and the game is way too easy, even for beginners.
The first four games mentioned certainly had both pros and cons, the last two games are the crown jewels of this anthology: Kirby Superstar and Kirby’s Dream Land 3. Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is a direct follow-up to Kirby’s Dream Land 2, but with more animals, powers, levels, and challenges. The graphics are similar to a coloring book, which gives it a nice visual appeal that holds up well today. The controls are nice and fluid, and there is a lot to do in this overlooked gem. Kirby Superstar is often considered the best Kirby game, and I can honestly agree with that sentiment. Kirby Superstar has so much content that it takes hours to complete everything. If any of these games warrant a purchase for the compilation, it’s this one, hands down.
As mentioned earlier, there are other included goodies beside the six classic Kirby games. The mini-games are just timed challenges that heavily borrow elements from Kirby: Return to Dreamland, a game released for the Wii last year (2011). It’s a nice addition to a bargain package, especially for those who want a further challenge. Also, in terms of sheer content, there is the Kirby Museum, which is a twenty year showcase of every single Kirby game, complete with gameplay trailers and historical facts for each respective year. There are even 3 episodes of Kirby: Right Back At Ya! included within the Kirby Museum. It also comes with the aforementioned bonus CD soundtrack, and a nice graphical booklet that goes into further details of Kirby’s storied history.
When it comes down to it, is this game worth $40? The answer, in my opinion, is yea - but it really comes down to who the potential consumer is...For Nintendo and Kirby fans, they probably already bought this game upon its release. For the average gamer, try to consider this: you are paying $40 for six games, which if they were purchased separately on Nintendo’s Virtual Console, they would be almost equal in price, but minus all the extra bells-and-whistles included in the compilation. However, some of these games are pretty average, and if you’re simply curious about Kirby I would recommend simply downloading Kirby Superstar from the Wii Virtual Console for 800 points ($8). Personal preferences aside, this isn’t the greatest compilation that Nintendo has ever put out, but it’s definitely a worthy title to add to your Wii library, even for those preparing for November’s release of the Wii U console.
While some of the titles haven’t aged gracefully, Kirby Superstar and Kirby’s Dream Land 3 are still gorgeous and colorful, even among today’s graphics.
The Kirby franchise boasts some of the most beautiful and memorable soundtracks in video game history, and Nintendo provides a CD to prove it.
The controls are all modified to use the Wii-mote as the standardized controller, but the inconsistency with the mapping of the Wii Classic Controller adds to some of the controller’s imperfections. SCORE: 7.0
The strengths of both Kirby Superstar and Kirby’s Dream Land 3 make up for the lack of difficulty and replay factors among the other titles.
Replay & Value
Only Nintendo fanboys, Kirby enthusiasts, and hardcore completionists will truly appreciate the many subtle challenges hidden behind the cuteness layers that may turn many gamers off. SCORE: 9.0
Nintendo’s released better compilations in the past, but this is a worthy title that comes at a great value. This will be Nintendo’s last great Wii title, since the Wii U is less than two months away from release.
FINAL SCORE: 8.2