(SNES / Super Nintendo)

Kirby's Dream Course (SNES / Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Kirby's Dream Course Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Augusta this 'ain't

Kirby, being a lovable if slightly non-descript pink ball, can lend his hands — or flappy arms, whatever — to lots of things. Being shaped like a ball and all, he's indulged in pinball, for example, and when participating in his named spin-offs generally performs as the ball, rather than going all Mario and playing the sports himself. Best known for his iconic platformers, Kirby's Dream Course is an occasionally overlooked Super NES title, but certainly has something to offer for crazy golf enthusiasts — and those that can't get enough of Kirby's cheery ditties.

Adopting a top-down sort-of-3D isometric view, this takes the golf concept and applies a liberal dose of fantasy and Kirby goodness to the fray. Each hole is really a small area filled with traps and enemies, and rather than manoeuvring to a fixed point to the cup, you have to take out the various enemies in the area; the last enemy standing transforms into the hole. It's a clever approach in that it forces you to strategise to try and give yourself a good line for the last shot, or, if you're the next Rory McIlroy, you may even show off with a hole in one.

That dynamic of hitting all enemies on route to the end shakes up the format nicely, helping this to avoid a fate as a tame golf game with Kirby shoe-horned in. On the contrary, it's a rather clever design, and as you progress the levels become all the more fiendish. You have to learn and master your full play book of shot types; the main variations are to go along the ground or to loft your shot, but you also have to determine spin and swerve to manipulate the ball. A handy guideline pops up to help you, and there's the old-fashioned timed button tap to set the power of your shot, and even to gain a bit of extra bounce or speed once Kirby is on his way. Then, of course, Kirby absorbs special abilities that can be activated mid-shot, such as an umbrella to slow a descent or the option to become a rock to avoid sliding down a ramp of doom — all are vital to progress.

While his platformers can be considered low in difficulty, this certainly isn't, so you'll need to spend some time reading the in-game guide and, most likely, practising and failing. After an initial course that settles you in — there are eight in total — those that follow can be quite a challenge. You start off with three lives, each with four fruit to maintain in each, which is done by consistently hitting enemies or beating the hole. Naturally a fruit is lost for every shot when you don't hit an enemy, while going out of bounds deprives you of a life; the only way to boost your life count is with a hole-in-one. While that may sound generous, stretching these resources over eight tricky holes on a course is easier said than done, especially those where it's all too easy to get trapped in a tricky spot or mess up and fall out of bounds.

And that's a delightful and conversely frustrating aspect of this game. While many holes are designed with trickery and fairness — with conveyor belts, water traps and more out to get you — some can feel a little cheap. By strategically placing enemies up in the air and in awkward areas you're forced to really master your move-set and get the execution just right, nailing the correct level of power. It's slow-going and strategic fun, but by the middle stages less persistent players drawn in by the Kirby character or cute aesthetic will be handing in their score cards incomplete. From the other perspective, after mastering seven holes and becoming unstuck on the eighth, we couldn't help but compulsively try again — especially when provoked by gold medal show-offs on Miiverse.

And that's where the replay value is in this title — taking your mediocre efforts on a particular course and improving them in pursuit of gold medals, which become almost impossible to attain, or so it seemed to us. There's also a two player mode, in which each player takes turns trying to pick up stars, bash each other and finish off the hole for the greatest pay-off. This is a surprisingly strategic affair, as you can opt to go for enemies and stars ignored by your opponent or basically ruin their day by stealing their goods.

It's worth bearing in mind that setting up two players for the multiplayer is an awkward process. We were originally unable to get the game to function with two players despite multiple attempts, and the game's digital manual led us to believe that a clunky process of manually switching players on the GamePad was required. As it transpires, ensuring an alternative controller is synced with the game as it loads, and then setting the GamePad as player two in the Virtual Console settings, allows two separate controllers. Once setup, this is a fun mode that's worth trying out with a friend.


Kirby's Dream Course, perhaps unlike some of his platformers, provides a good old-school challenge that encourages you to take your time and engage your brain. The control mechanics are surprisingly deep, and battling through some of the courses can be a real test in skill. As a result it should appeal to those with the right mind-set, but should be avoided by anyone who thinks this is some kind of retro Wii Sports. It does deliver an engaging Kirby twist on crazy golf, and is fun for two players as well once the unintuitive Wii U Virtual Console setup is negotiated. Regardless of whether you opt for a solo challenge or multiplayer duels, it's well worth consideration.

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User Comments (20)



KongFu said:

Great review Thomas. I bought it on Wii U virtual console day one, because it was allready on sale.... : D



SilentHunter382 said:

I had this game when I was younger on the snes but found it very difficult. I may pick it up sometime down the line.



Einherjar said:

I still find this game to be really really hard, and never made it very far into the game but i still love it



jestermx6 said:

My sister and I played this game all the time as kids. We had Hole in One competitions, most creative jump competitions etc. My memories of this game are absolutely amazing. I picked it up on VC day one and have already spent hours upon hours trying to re-learn some of the tricks i had mastered as a child.



Magnalon said:

Possibly the hardest Kirby game in the franchise. I played it a ton as a kid and I still love it — highly underrated.



emeyece said:

Had this one on my SNES back in the days. Loved it, but seriously, it is hard as f...



ThreadShadow said:

Wonderful game. Would have loved to see Kirby's Dream Course 64 (in 3D graphics but looks the same, and same camera style. 4-players of course and lots of courses!)
And then Kirby's Dream Course Cubed (3D graphics/3D camera style but with really crazy courses like small planets, twisted pathways and gravity, and lots of great M.C. Escher type courses.)



HunteROB said:

That's really the only option for multiplayer? Man, Nintendo needs to fix that.



Lobster said:

I spent a summer playing this and Super Mario RPG with a friend. I can't believe they messed up the two player controls. I don't even know how to play this game single player, though I was really very good back in the day when competing with my friend (when I wasn't goofing around). I have such fond memories that this was an insta-buy. Yet I don't think I have the skills anymore... And to find out they messed up two-player makes me very mad. I hope they release a fix, as @ShadowSniper7 said. In the meantime I guess I start from complete scratch instead of sharpening some very rusty skills. What a pain.



Adamario said:

The two-player controls are exactly same as every other Wii U VC game! If you want to use the GamePad, go to the VC menu, set it to Player 2 and keep it there; then use a remote or Pro Controller as Player 1. Or use two remotes and/or Pro Controllers and put the GamePad aside.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Adamario So they are, I tried quite a few times, but trying to utilise the GamePad as controller one, while the manual led me (I mis-read, though the wording is poor) to think the method I outlined was the only way.

In any case, I've tried this and I was wrong. Because I was in the wrong and I had decided to deduct a point due to this perceived poor implementation (I had generally agreed with the score in the Wii VC review). I've now updated the section and the score.



Mahe said:

@ThomasBW84 This is just a problem with the Gamepad. Use two Wiimotes or any other two supported controllers other than the Gamepad, and it works right away without any Gamepad hassle required.

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