Review: Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)
Kirby is adorable; there’s no mistaking that. The pink puffball has been gracing our screens since 1992, making this his 31st anniversary in the industry. Now, the cutest platforming hero of them all is ready for his first Switch outing of 2023. Following last year’s 3D success of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, it’s time to head back to Kirby’s roots with Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe. This upgraded version of the 2011 Wii title has a lot on offer, making it a worthwhile rehash of an already great title.
In Return to Dream Land Deluxe, Kirby helps a visiting alien named Magolor retrieve the missing pieces of his flying ship. This sends our pink hero on a journey around his home planet of Popstar, collecting stars and energy spheres along the way.
The platforming is as colorful and fluid as expected. Everything about Kirby is simply adorable, from his rotund pinkness to the enemies dotted around the place. Waddle Dees, for example, are almost too cute to destroy. Yet destroy them you must!
There are many elements that help Kirby’s adventures stand apart from others in the genre. Firstly, he can’t jump on enemies, a typical approach to combat favored by the likes of Mario. Well, you can jump on them, but it causes you damage even though the enemy is defeated, so it’s best avoided. Instead, you can either whack or inhale your enemies. While the former is effective, the latter is much more fun. It seems like a move borrowed from Yoshi at first, but while Yoshi turns foes into handy eggs, Kirby swallows them whole. Sometimes, he can even use their powers to upgrade his own status. These are Kirby’s famous copy abilities.
Whether you become a sword-wielding hero akin to Link or a leaf-blowing, tree-hugging hippie, there are many abilities to try throughout your journey. In fact, this is one of the most fun elements of the game. Whenever a new enemy appears, you can’t help but wonder whether it will impart a new ability to you once swallowed. And with well over 20 abilities to find and try, there’s plenty of room for experimentation. You’ll soon know which ones you prefer.
There are two new copy abilities in Return to Dream Land Deluxe: Sand and Mecha. The sand ability provides Kirby with an array of sand-related attacks, like making dust devils, creating a sand fist, and even using a sand castle to attack from below. Meanwhile, the Mecha ability shields Kirby within mechanical robotic armor, which he can use to perform fiery and electric punches, fly with a jetpack, and drop mines.
Each level has a number of energy spheres to collect, a little like Mario’s Star Coins. Also like Mario, these spheres are often hidden or hard to reach, adding a nice challenge for completionists. Sometimes, you’ll need a particular copy ability to uncover a hiding spot, demanding a replay with the right outfit. It keeps you on your toes and creates something that can be accessed by all skill levels.
If you’re looking for an even greater challenge, then you’ll want to try the extra unlockable stages. Visiting Magolor in his ship reveals these special bonuses, which open as you collect more stars in the main game. It’s all about chasing the highest score as you speedrun your way through, collecting as many stars and defeating as many enemies as possible in the time provided. Your efforts result in gold, silver, or bronze ratings, depending on your final score. It’s tricky to get the gold, and there’s a strong incentive to play “just once more” to conquer these quick outings. The main game itself isn’t super difficult, so these extra challenges are a worthy inclusion.
One of the best additions to this deluxe version is an all-new mode full of minigames. These are hosted in a completely separate section called Merry Magoland. This theme park features ten sub-games, two of which are new to the Kirby series, but all of which are superbly entertaining. These addictive activities include concepts like Ninja Dojo, in which you throw a shuriken at moving targets, aiming for a bullseye. It’s indescribably fun to compete for the best score.
Each sub-game also presents various difficulties to attempt and multiple missions to complete, adding even more to your to-do list. Not to mention the many prizes you’ll collect along the way, including statues and masks (another adorable addition – you try resisting a Kirby wearing a hamster mask!). Mostly, these minigames are simply super enjoyable with a group of friends. And yes, you can also compete online.
While Switch owners are used to deluxe remakes of classic titles, these are mostly reserved for Wii U titles that weren’t as well received as they deserved. This time, Nintendo has taken a prominent Wii title and given it the deluxe treatment. The original is 12 years old now, meaning a whole new generation has come into the world and is ready to play. And that’s a very good thing.
Overall, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe takes our pink puff out for another platforming romp. While it’s not a completely new game, there’s plenty of content on offer to make it a worthwhile purchase. And hopefully this can teach a whole new generation how amazing Kirby still is after 31 years.