Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is an enhanced port of Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, a Nintendo Wii game from 2011. Even though it was billed as a big new Kirby game for Wii, it was originally developed as a Nintendo Gamecube title. After a surprisingly long and troubled development, HAL Laboratory’s efforts paid off with one of the better Kirby games ever.
Return to Dreamland came out at a time when Nintendo was focused on getting nongamers to buy their products. Their efforts lead to casuals ignoring their core games like Donkey Kong Country Returns and of course, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. Nintendo following up with the ill-fated Wii U did not help.
Nintendo Switch proved to be the hit they needed and with Kirby and the Forgotten Land becoming the series’ best-selling game, it was time to remind gamers what they missed. Remasters and enhanced ports are never created equal. Does this “deluxe”, edition satisfy? Or is it a paltry happy meal? Find out in this Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe review!
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Platforms: Nintendo Wii (as Kirby’s Return to Dreamland), Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: February 24, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
Kirby is a simple man. He enjoys eating and going to mini-game festivals. He doesn’t get involved in any drama and the biggest threat to him is a bullish penguin who sometimes likes to steal his snacks. Or at least that is how Kirby would prefer it, because every time he goes outside for a stroll, he gets caught up in some kind of cosmic armageddon.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe does not begin so grandiose. Like always; Kirby’s adventure has humble beginnings and towards the end, things get out of hand. Magolor is a space wizard and he happens to crash his spaceship on planet Popstar, Kirby’s home. Utterly distraught, Magolor beseeches Kirby for help getting all the parts back to rebuild his ship, the Lor Starcutter.
It is a simple story aimed at kids and has big, bouncy, and illustrative visuals, bursting with color. Despite the cute veneer, it is hard to not notice a cold bleakness to some of the late-game visuals that depict cosmic existentialism. Kids won’t notice this detail, but any adult with a working brain cell might pick up on it.
Don’t worry about any of that; this is a Kirby game after all and the only thing that truly matters in these games is the breezy, feel-good action. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is the best example of what a perfected traditional Kirby experience can be. This is 2.5D sucking at its finest and deep-throating massive blocks and spewing them all over Waddle Dees, crushing them under the massive weight is as enthralling as you’d expect.
Kirby can do it all; inflate himself into an engorged balloon, do martial arts, fencing, magic, ninjitsu- he can even blow wads of hot, flaming goo! The copy abilities are back and there are over 20 of them. A few new ones have been added in this Deluxe edition, like the Mecha armor which has power bombs, lasers, and flaming exhaust vents.
The copy abilities always keep the gameplay fresh while on Kirby’s jaunt through Dreamland. As if having more than 20 of these weren’t enough- there will be moments when Kirby can get a supercharged version of an ability. These are very temporary and situational, but they have an undeniable spectacle that looks like a final smash from a Smash Bros. game.
The main story mode in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe won’t take long to complete, but when it is over, that is when the game truly becomes interesting. Completing the Lor Starcutter is almost like the tutorial mode; it’s short and easy. When Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler and the post-game challenge modes unlock, the experience becomes much more challenging.
In Magolor Epilogue, players find out what happened to everyone’s favorite space wizard and he becomes playable. Magolor is different from playing Kirby and he can’t do everything at the beginning. Gradually, he will gain powers like throwing fireballs, performing combos, and doing Kamehamehas, and will be able to open up black holes too.
Magolor Epilogue is a short addition- roughly lasting under two hours, but it is a very lean and engaging experience without a wasted a moment. It is no Bowser’s Fury, but it is a welcomed addition to the package that helps keep the experience varied with things to see and do.
It wouldn’t be Kirby without subgames and this is where the “deluxe” is earned in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe. There are eight subgames in total and they support four players locally along with the story modes. These diversions give an idea of what a hypothetical Kirby Party game might look like and delivers the fun too.
If swallowing eggs or shooting targets at the gun range isn’t for you, then there are a tong of ability challenges to participate in and boss rush modes too. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe‘s story mode may be short and easy, but the long-term completion is more challenging than one would think for a cute, pink mascot character platformer.
The aspects of Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe that disappoint are that the main antagonist is an imitation of the big bad from Milky Way Wishes from Kirby Super Star and that it is a hefty full-priced game. For $59.99, the core experience is still the same as it was when it was released in 2011. The epilogue mode needed to be more substantial to justify the price tag.
As for Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe aping off Kirby Super Star, it seems uncharacteristically lazy of HAL Labs to cheapen the concept. This may seem like a minor issue but stood out that the developers would try to recreate a successful twist that made Milky Way Wishes so memorable. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe ends up having nothing in its scenario that makes it unique.
An area where Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe won’t disappoint is its visuals. The graphics have gotten a substantial overhaul and have a subtle cel shader effect applied to help make some of the elements pop out from the lush backgrounds. A cheeky outline goes a long way in ensuring that players will be able to easily pick out their character in the chaos when there are tons of foes and everyone is using their abilities at the same time.
The visual style is distinctly Kirby and it captures a sense of childlike wonder. Part dream world, part cosmic fantasy; the French carnival motif throughout always has given the Kirby games a very specific flavor and in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe. It’s been beautifully realized and at 60 fps at all times.
Every character is perfectly round and there are no harsh or pointy edges anywhere to be seen. The ambiance is unbearably cuddly and suffocatingly sugary sweet- at least it is until much later. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is the kind of game to play before you go to bed with a mug of hot cocoa to relax your nerves before drifting off into your subconscious nightmares.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is another feel-good hit that has a lot of variety in a very lean package. It looks and sounds excellent, and offers many amusing side modes to partake in with young gamers who are learning how to play. You may not get all the bang for your buck, but if you are still hungry for some more breezy action after The Forgotten Land, then this will give you what you need.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Nintendo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is now available for Nintendo Switch.