Review: ‘Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe’ is a welcome dose of classic 2D platforming


At this point, we’ve all tacitly accepted that Nintendo is more than willing to pad out its release calendar, plugging any gaps with a port or remaster of an oft-beloved game. And honestly, I’m fine with this too; I mean, it’s not like these re-releases are slowing down the development of brand-new games. And yes, by brand-new game, I mostly mean Tears of the Kingdom.

There have even been instances where the big N has gone above and beyond the call of duty — the recent Metroid Prime remaster comes to mind. The latest gem plucked from the ever-expansive back catalog for some polish and a fresh coat of paint is Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, whose decidedly less deluxe version launched on the original Wii all the way back in 2011. I can’t imagine that this particular game would top the list of “Most Wanted Nintendo Re-Releases,” but having skipped out on playing it all those years ago, I can admit that I was an idiot for doing so.

Unlike Kirby and the Forgotten Land‘s more open environments and gameplay, Dream Land Deluxe is squarely rooted in the pantheon of 2D sidescroller Kirby games, with relatively easy platforming and a strong focus on the pink blob’s signature copy ability. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that the first half of the game’s story is almost too easy, allowing veteran Kirby fans (or anyone who’s pretty well-versed with games in general) to steamroll their way through each stage.

Halfway through, Dream Land Deluxe does turn things up a notch. While it’s by no means a gauntlet of punishment — far from it, in fact — there is a welcome, and gradual increase in difficulty. You’ll often have to use specific copy abilities to navigate around environmental hazards, and as is standard for Nintendo games, there are out-of-reach collectibles and hidden areas that provide an extra challenge for those who enjoy marking off every box on the completion checklist.

For relative newcomers who need a bit of a helping hand, co-op play is a great way to let more experienced players join in on the fun, and it’s always fun to see a squad of Kirbys wreak havoc on an unsuspecting group of Waddle Dees and Doos. Those who don’t have the option to enlist a friend can always make use of Helper Magolor, which doubles your stamina and makes you immune from “death by pitfall.”

On the whole, Dream Land Deluxe sticks pretty closely to its aging ancestor, though Nintendo has added in a handful of new abilities and levels to help round out the package. When it comes to Kirby’s copy abilities, there are three new additions: Sand, which lets you swipe at enemies using, well, sand; Mecha, which has Kirby piloting a Gundam-esque power suit; and Festival, which does massive damage to all enemies on-screen, turning them into Point Stars. To be fair, the latter two I mentioned are either borrowed from or heavily inspired by other games in the franchise, but they’re welcome additions nonetheless.

Screenshot via Nintendo

Once you make your way through the main story (yes, there’s an actual plot, but honestly, does anyone really play Kirby games for the narrative?), you’ll unlock Extra mode, which remixes existing levels by ratcheting up the difficulty. I’m a big fan of these sorts of modifiers — a lot of Nintendo first-party games tend to be a bit easy out-of-the-box — but it’s a bit odd that Extra mode is only made available after completing the main story. I can’t imagine that longtime fans will relish having to work their way through the “default” campaign again, just for the chance to play through a harder version of it.

And then there’s a brand new batch of levels, dubbed “Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler.” These stages have you playing Magalor, an alien who makes his first appearance in the main campaign. Unlike Kirby, Magalor doesn’t have the ability to copy other abilities, though he does have access to a wide range of spells that you unlock over time. Coupled with his ability to float, Magalor feels very unique to play, though I’m curious if some will find his playstyle to be too much of a departure from what they’re familiar with.

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but it does do an admirable job of livening up an oft-forgotten Wii-era platformer. Anyone who missed out on the original will find a lot to like here. The same goes for Kirby diehards, even if they’ll have to play through the core game yet again to get to the content they’re really after.

This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided for review by Nintendo.

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe showcases the best of Kirby's unique brand of 2D platforming. Unfortunately, veteran players will have to slog through the main campaign one more time to see everything on offer.