Kirby's Dream Land
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 04/27/1992
    • US 08/01/1992
    • UK 08/03/1992
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/27/2013.

Kirby's Dream Land is a side-scrolling platform game released for the original Game Boy in 1992. It was developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo. This is the first game in the Kirby series, a series built around a strange puffball creature that goes by the name of Kirby. Kirby is referred to as a "he" in the games, though I don't think he has a gender. I'll be referring to him as such from here on out. It's said that a great debate arose between Nintendo guru Shigeru Miyamoto and HAL Laboratory's Masahiro Sakurai on what Kirby's color should be. Miyamoto wanted Kirby to be yellow and Sakurai wanted him to be pink. In the end, it was decided that pink would be the color of choice, although it was hard for players to determine that due to the Game Boy's lack of color. Anyway, Kirby's Dream Land is a decent game, but it in no way represents the outstanding quality of Kirby's future games.

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The story of Kirby's Dream Land takes place in the dreamy land of dreams, Dream Land. King Dedede, the tediously named king of whatever, has stolen all of Dream Land's food for his own personal needs. I understand that everyone has to eat, but couldn't this guy spare a few bread crumbs for the folk of Dream Land? That's pretty greedy, if you ask me. Being that Kirby is one of Dream Land's hungrier denizens, he sets out to stop the mad monarch. Kirby is as hungry as he is daring, so is willing to put it all on the line in order to do the good deed of restoring Dream Land's food supply. On his quest, Kirby will encounter many cute foes, some are downright adorable. Kirby isn't the only cute thing in Dream Land; practically every living creature in this world is as cute as can be. It's a little disheartening that Kirby must vanquish such cute things. Who's the real villain here? Perception is everything. You'll have to get used to the cuteness if you're to enjoy Kirby's Dream Land. It isn't a big deal for some people, but some manly men may have a problem stomaching this level of adorableness.

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Kirby's main ability is to inhale his foes and spit them back out at other enemies, or he can simply swallow them whole. He's a lot like Yoshi in that respect, except he isn't a green dinosaur with a large tongue. Kirby's other ability is that he can suck in some air to inflate himself like a balloon, which allows him to fly. There is no limit to Kirby's flight ability, so players can choose to never set foot on the ground. It's a bit game breaking for a platform game to allow for unlimited flight at any time, but the Kirby games aren't known for their difficulty. Kirby can also blow out a gust of air as a projectile upon deflating himself from balloon status, which can come in handy. There are a few power-ups Kirby can acquire to compliment his core abilities, but for the most part, that's pretty much all he can do. There is versatility in Kirby's sucking and blowing, though. It's the only real way he can harm enemies or bosses, and there is a lot of harming to do in Dream Land. While there is some depth to Kirby's inhale ability, it still feels like the game is missing something. That "something" is provided in future installments, but not in Kirby's Dream Land. Due to that, this game comes off as feeling overly basic, even for a Nintendo platform game. There's still fun to be had here, though one can't help but feel that there should be more to it.

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Dream Land is home to many varied locations. Enemies and traps are the primary focus of the levels in Kirby's Dream Land, because the actual platform elements of the game are easily circumvented by Kirby's flight ability. That flight ability can't always circumvent danger, however; there are plenty of flying enemies that will get in Kirby's way in the air. Players will have to choose between taking to the air and traversing the ground, depending on the situation. Some levels have an army of airborne enemies, so as tempting as it is to simply fly through every level in the game; it's not always a viable option. Besides, it would be a shame to skip the levels in this game, because they're fun. The game starts off with a whimsical forest and proceeds to delve into other cool locales like a castle, a watery area with ships, and even a cloudy sky world. As entertaining as the levels are to play through, the biggest issue with Kirby's Dream Land is that there aren't enough of them. This game can be completed in half an hour with relative ease, which made it a tough sell, even back in 1992. There's also no save feature, but that isn't a big deal for such a short game. On top of that, this game is stupidly easy, even for a Nintendo game. Kirby's low challenge level can be slightly alleviated if you opt to play on the secret "extra" mode, which is a much harder game that can be accessed via a code input at the title screen. The level design in Kirby's Dream Land is one of the game's finer points, but the lack of levels is a bummer.

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Boss battles in Kirby's Dream Land are all about properly utilizing Kirby's innate abilities. Almost all of the bosses are fought by Kirby inhaling nearby enemies or objects and spitting them back out at the bosses. These objects are usually thrown at Kirby by the boss, so the boss fights are primarily a test of patience. Sometimes bosses won't throw anything out at Kirby, and those cases can be tricky. In such situations, Kirby can literally inhale the sparks given off by a boss' attack, but these stars are only on the screen for a short period of time. King Dedede is one of the only bosses to do this, which makes him the most challenging fight in the game. The bosses are large and very imaginative; Whispy Woods is a giant tree that shakes itself to drop apples on you, Kracko is a big cloud with a single eye at its center, and King Dedede, the final boss, is an absolute blast to battle. One boss fight that stands out in particular is the assault against the blimp. The game switches gears during the blimp battle to become a side-scrolling shooter, allowing Kirby to fly and shoot projectiles at his opposition. It's a very fun fight. There are a couple of problems, though. For one, due to how short the game is, there aren't many bosses to fight. The other problem is that there's a Mega Man boss rush area where players are forced to re-fight the same four bosses for a second time. Considering how short this game is, that section comes off as being blatant filler. The bosses are fun to fight once, but not twice.

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Despite being one of the Game Boy's better games, Kirby's Dream Land isn't one of the better Kirby games. The incredibly short length, low difficulty level, and overly simplistic nature prevent the game from approaching the quality of future entries in the series. Kirby also lacks his signature ability that practically defines the entire rest of the series. Everyone has to start somewhere, though, and this was Kirby's humble beginnings. Kirby's Dream Land does show a lot of promise with precise controls, clean visuals, and fun game play, even if the potential is short lived.

Word Count: 1,300

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