(Game Boy)

Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy)

Game Review

Kirby's Dream Land Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Is Kirby's debut adventure worth getting sucked into?

Kirby's debut adventure has been around the block a couple of times now, having been remade and mechanically enhanced for both Kirby Super Star on SNES as well as the DS version of that release called Kirby Super Star Ultra. Stripped down and monochromatic in comparison, this original Game Boy version is now available on the 3DS Virtual Console and still stands as a wondrously charming little platformer in 2011, albeit very, very sparse.

First released in April of 1992 in Japan, jumping over to North America in August and into Europe in December of the same year, Kirby’s Dream Land stood out in the gaming world by bending contemporary platformer conventions. Instead of jumping on your baddies, HAL Laboratory has you inhale and violently puke them at each other. It’s a simple twist, but a clever and fun one all the same that manages to still captivate today.

The fairy tale story is simple: Dream Land is a happy place until King Dedede comes and steals all the food and Twinkle Stars, and it’s up to Kirby to go grab ‘em back. It’s all very Mushroom Kingdom-type stuff, but that’s to be expected from a light and simple platformer. It’s not a very long dream, nor particularly challenging: the four main stages are each a decent length but a total breeze, and the final stage’s boss revisits are a snap. Dream Land was designed to allow beginners to see the end of the game, which can easily be done in under an hour, and thanks to the Virtual Console's save state feature you no longer have to do it all in one consecutive session. Fortunately for more skilled players, a significantly harder Extra mode can be unlocked by hitting Up, Select and A at the title screen. It’ll take a bit more effort to conquer, but the abundance of health and the straightforward level designs take a bit of the sting out. Still, it’s a fun and welcome addition to infuse new life in the over-too-soon title.

The series’ signature power-absorption mechanic was not to be introduced until Kirby’s Adventure on the NES (also released in 1992). Here, Kirby can inhale victims and items and forcefully hurl them at others, and also fly indefinitely by holding Up, which also gives him a puff of air to blast. That’s about it. Sure, there are two power-ups that allow Kirby to shoot stuff without “loading” and there’s a nifty dive-bomb attack, but later games’ power absorption strategies are entirely absent. It’s a little-frills approach and, considering the turn almost every other Kirby platformer went down, feels much lighter. It’s as if Mario never discovered the wonders of gobbling wild mushrooms.

Despite missing the series’ now-trademark mechanic, there are still plenty of essentials that got their start here. Maxim tomatoes are out in full effect, as are the huge stars and, of course, King Dedede, one of the worst monarchs to grace the tiny screen. There are also some nice nods to other games of the era, like a boss battle against the titular character of Adventures of Lolo, another HAL game, and the wall masks from Super Mario Bros. 2. These nods fit in so well with the rest of the world's art direction that they could easily be mistaken for original enemies.

Speaking of which, the art style of the game is very charming and holds up quite well today; in fact, Kirby’s appearances are exactly the same 19 years later — albeit pink. The puffy character design was originally just placeholder sprites, but the designers grew attached and kept him in this form. A good choice, since Kirby’s large and simplistic design allowed him to be easily seen, unlike earlier tiny sprite work such as Super Mario Land, on the Game Boy’s oft-crap screen. The enemies are large and easy to distinguish, and the worlds stand out nicely from each other. Much like the rest of the game, the music is fittingly cheery and charming, and you can’t help but crack a smile upon clearing a level and watching Kirby’s little dance. Green Greens’ tune is the quintessential Kirby track and should be experienced in its original context at least once by any self-respecting Nintendo fan.

Conclusion

Kirby’s Dream Land was and remains an exceptionally charming platformer, but the pink puff’s debut adventure feels a bit too elementary now. Nineteen years of nostalgia shines bright upon Kirby, but dipping those rosy glasses reveals a walk-in-the-park title that has been outpaced by its descendants in virtually every way. Kirby’s genesis is strong, but he’s done better.

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User Comments (54)

Wolfenstein83

#1

Wolfenstein83 said:

I love Kirby, and wow, we have been facing Whispy Woods for a loooooong time now.
I swear that Whispy Woods guy is almost as much of an icon as Kirby himself, he appears as a boss in pretty much every game.

Link79

#3

Link79 said:

Nostalgia is probably my biggest reason for downloading this.
It was one of my first gameboy games. The music is just superb and it stays with you long after turning off the game. With only 5 stages it can be finished in roughly 20 minutes. There is however a code for hard mode which might add some replay value.
It's still a great game when you just need something quick to play.

StarDust4Ever

#4

StarDust4Ever said:

It's a shame that Kirby can't steal enemies abilities in this version. While five stages might sound puny, I imagine the levels took lots of data, and most Game Boy games were pretty small back then. By comparison, Kirby's Adventure NES was one of the largest and most advanced NES games ever!

Super Mario Land was pretty small too. I just wish there were more Kirby levels in this game...

WaveBoy

#5

WaveBoy said:

I recommend everybody ditching the lame main difficulty and going with Hard Mode by going to the title screen, and pressing UP + SELECT + B to start a more difficult version of the game.

That will wash out the 'elementry' difficulty. It makes all the difference! ;)

tovare

#6

tovare said:

I don't think it's that easy. It took a few tries to get by the two dudes with crates, because you need to suck the crate, run like hell, fire and go up or down a level to escape then repeat. I dare you to take those two down without taking any damage. :-) A fairly nice platformer which has aged quite well due to core playability, simple and usable graphics design so it's not a quick curiosity thing ... I actually ended up playing this for an hour yesterday.

Pod

#8

Pod said:

I really liked plowing through this game time and time again on my old Game Boy back in the day.

It's just that kind of short, enjoyable game that makes you feel good while watching the end credits.

And if you really do want a challenge, hit up the Extra, after adjusting Kirby to only have ONE health point. (Beating Extra mode the first time around will reveal how to enter the life settings and sound test.)

TwilightV

#9

TwilightV said:

Tip for busy gamers: This game is perfect for those of you who like to play in short bursts (i.e. on the bus or during your lunch break). :3

jdkipfer

#10

jdkipfer said:

You never had to do it in one play through, it was a gameboy game with a save feature.

DestinyMan

#12

DestinyMan said:

I knew it was going to be very short, but it's not exactly like Spring Breeze from Kirby Super Star. There was Castle Lololo and the airship boss as well. I just wanted to get this because I love Kirby and this was his first game. I'll be trying to beat Extra Game mode today!

warioswoods

#13

warioswoods said:

"a walk-in-the-park title that has been outpaced by its descendants in virtually every way"

Um... no. The "hard mode" on this game, while not devastatingly difficult, is undeniably more difficult than any subsequent Kirby platforming. I've played his later games — they are so devoid of challenge that they make Dream Land's hard mode look like Mega Man. The bosses will kill you, the levels are full of tricky enemies, and I doubt anyone will go through it their first time without handful of deaths; and dying almost never happens in a Kirby game, honestly.

It's very odd to say that this game is too easy when it's the only time in Kirby's history that they gave us a mode with some real difficulty, as Kirby is widely known for being the easiest platforming series of all time.

"Kirby’s genesis is strong, but he’s done better"

I wholeheartedly disagree; there are only 2 Kirby games that are even in the same league as this one, and those are Adventure and Super Star. All his other platforming games have had embarrassingly bad level design, and I say this as a disappointed fan who has hoped year after year for the series to finally become creative again.

Rensch

#14

Rensch said:

This game was designed to be beatable by tounger audiences as well.

They succeeded, this the first video game I actually beat.

rosebud

#16

rosebud said:

I still have the cartridge version of this and my 7-year-old son loves it. In fact, I would say he likes it more than a lot of DS games. It's worth $4 imo.

WaveBoy

#17

WaveBoy said:

It's official, WarioWoods is the master of all things Kirby's Dreamland, YOU should of done the review. :p ;)

And I agree, Hard Mode makes Dreamland feel like it's been mega man-fied without question and that's a great thing for those who mostly shrug of easy titles like me. Every single Kirby game should have a hard mode from the beginning....I think it's one of the main reasons why i find dreamland one of the best in the franchise, because for the first time in a traditional kirby experience, 'hard mode' gives you sense of reward, satisfaction and some actual intensity.

TKOWL

#18

TKOWL said:

I really must agree, Hard Mode was really difficult. I remember being stuck on HM Dedede for about an hour.

I wholeheartedly agree with this score; it's not the best Kirby, but still damn fun on its own.

Supremeist

#19

Supremeist said:

I was completely expecting a 7 for some reason..

I'm still stuck on purchasing or not...

Moorpheel

#20

Moorpheel said:

wait so (super short and easy) "Spring Breeze" on Kirby Super Star (Ultra) is the same as this game?

(and i must suppose that "The Revenge Of The King" is at least similar to this games Hard mode?)

Bass_X0

#21

Bass_X0 said:

wait so (super short and easy) "Spring Breeze" on Kirby Super Star (Ultra) is the same as this game?

Its loosely based upon this game but its not the exact same game.

Bacon_Gal_Blaze

#22

Bacon_Gal_Blaze said:

I'd give it a 7 just for the little dance Kirby does and music that acccompanies it.

Very good review, myself i would probably give it a 7.5, or possibly an 8, but yeah the review is great. Thanks guys! :-)

Mizore

#23

Mizore said:

"The puffy character design was originally just placeholder sprites, but the designers grew attached and kept him in this form." That explains where Kirby came from. xD

Anyways I'll just wait for the 2nd game, I like it better.

Burn

#24

Burn said:

I still have my copy on GameBoy, I wonder if I can still speed through it in 30ish minutes...

BalrogtheMaster

#25

BalrogtheMaster said:

Hmm, I'll probably get this, SML, Link Awakening, and Donkey Kong next time I get a points card. You guys think that's a good decision?

CanisWolfred

#26

CanisWolfred said:

Do my eyes decieve me?! Is this a fair review of a Nintendo franchise?! I think it is! And yes, I actually agree with every word of it.

ueI

#27

ueI said:

I thought it was Super Star that had the stripped down version of this game.

MeloMan

#28

MeloMan said:

dunna... dun dun dunna... dun dun dunna dun... do de dun de dun de dun da dunna <--- All the music I need right there along with Green Greens theme :)

warioswoods

#31

warioswoods said:

@30

Oh no, Epic Yarn was wonderful, but it's more of a spin-off than a primary Kirby game.

Kirby's best games have been the spinoffs for years now (Canvas Curse, Yarn, etc). It's the traditional platforming games that I see as so dull ever since the early glory days of the franchise.

komicturtle

#33

komicturtle said:

Well, don't forget the level design in Spring Breeze (basically a remake of this game Kirby's Dreamland) were changed up a bit. One Boss (Kaboom?) isn't even in that remake- even that level.

I played through Extra Mode and yeah, it's freaking tough.

Who wants to do a run with 1 HP and 1 life? :P

Now that's even more challenging.

warioswoods

#34

warioswoods said:

@33

Exactly, it is very challenging. As I said it's just about the only instance in the entire Kirby franchise where we've been given a platforming mode that is actually difficult (both the levels and the bosses), and yet the review treats that like a minor feature and seems to have mostly reviewed the game based on the easy mode.

komicturtle

#36

komicturtle said:

Configure mode is down, select and b. That's where you cn change the lives you have and vitality. There's plenty of replay value especially if you want to compete for scores or run through the game with one life, as I mentioned. I hope the upcoming Kirby Wii introduces something similar. The second hardest Kirby game, at least I consider, is Kirby's Adventure. That's pretty challenging.

Henmii

#37

Henmii said:

"Kirby's debut adventure has been around the block a couple of times now, having been remade and mechanically enhanced for both Kirby Super Star on SNES as well as the DS version of that release called Kirby Super Star Ultra"

Is that really true? So that means I already have played the original (I have Kirby Super Star after all)! In that case, there is no need for me to download this when I have a 3DS.

"and the wall masks from Super Mario Bros. 2"

I can't remember them to be in this game!

warioswoods

#39

warioswoods said:

The "remake" in Super Star is not "enhanced" by any means, nor is it a real remake at all. It's just some of the levels (on easy mode) thrown into the Super Star's engine, where they no longer make any sense given the mismatch between original level design and new Kirby abilities, etc. It has even less challenge and content than the original easy mode, by a long shot.

@mickeymac

No one plays past the initial difficulty on a game? Would you base a review of Street Fighter or Mario Kart primarily on the easiest mode?

Anyhow, my point is simply that it's amazing to read a review of this game that ignores how different it was from the rest of the series on this point. Even a mild fan of Kirby needs to play it if only to see what it was like when the games actually contained significant difficulty, something long ago abandoned.

Also, only 3 platforming Kirby games were directly headed up by Sakurai himself: this one, Adventure, and Super Star. Those are, coincidentally, the stand-outs of the series. The remainder have a lack of polish and level design that is made all the more evident when you go back and play a classic like this one.

Kid_A

#40

Kid_A said:

Kirby is just pure joy for me; perhaps the purest franchise in gaming. It has no other goal other than to put a huge smile on your face and this game isn't any different :)

ueI

#41

ueI said:

I thought Amazing Mirror was also a good game in the series and I liked it more than Adventure. I'm looking forward to this one because it's one of the few Kirby games I have yet to play and I enjoyed Revenge of the King's relatively high difficulty.

golephish

#42

golephish said:

yeah! 27 minutes! --- so on Monday is when we find the next week' s eshop release? I know excitebike will stop being free - so hopefully more cool stuff. — Kirby was the first gameboy game I bought, and now i bought it again as my first emulated, official VC content.. haha

3DSbanham

#43

3DSbanham said:

this game its so cool i was going to get it on game boy but know i can get it on my 3ds

K964

#45

K964 said:

I really like the short length. It makes it a an ideal portable game in my opinion.

TeeJay

#46

TeeJay said:

"Green Greens’ tune is the quintessential Kirby track and should be experienced in its original context at least once by any self-respecting Nintendo fan."
Okay now this just got personal.

StephenYap3

#48

StephenYap3 said:

I give this game an 8/10. In my opinion, the only titles in the franchise I enjoyed were this and Dream Land 2, Adventure, Super Star (SNES only since I did not enjoy Ultra), and Epic Yarn (and soon to be Return to Dream Land, I hope). I was beginning to feel chased off starting with Dream Land 3, but luckily Epic Yarn brought me back to the franchise.

Geonjaha

#50

Geonjaha said:

I dont reccomend buying this unless you've played the game before or are a really strong Kirby fan. 3D-Classics: Kirby's Adventure is slightly more expensive, but is much better in terms of value.

SparkOfSpirit

#52

SparkOfSpirit said:

No, this was first.

I love this game. It was the perfect portable title. No powers, but that's okay, the gameplay is simple and straightforward. The 5 levels are all rather meaty in length and variety (the soundtrack is awesome, too) and beating them on hard mode is a real test since it is harder than pretty much any other Kirby game until Return to Dreamland.

I like it much more than Kirby's Adventure, which I never really enjoyed nearly as much as everyone else.

HawkeyeWii

#54

HawkeyeWii said:

So is this full game in Super Star? Because I want to get it but already have super star ultra. Cuold someone help me?

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