Think Pink! Day 1: Sweet Dream Lands
Posted by Captain K
Think Pink! is a week long tribute to the pink puff we all know as Kirby. In honor of Kirby’s new game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, every day this week we’ll be taking a look at a different set of his adventures. From Dream Land to amazing mirrors, golf to pinball, canvas to knitting, we will celebrating every single one of Kirby’s games. Enjoy!
To kick things off, today we will be taking a look at Kirby’s main line franchise, Kirby’s Dream Land. While not necessarily the franchise’s best games per se, they are all very important in showcasing just how much the series has changed over the years. Let’s begin.
Kirby’s Dream Land
Platform: Game Boy
Released: August 1, 1992
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Kirby’s DreamLand was Kirby’s very first game. It laid the groundwork for what the series would eventually become known for, but there are some key differences. Kirby is white instead of pink, he can’t absorb powers, and there is a more straight forward level progression instead of a world map with secret paths. The main mechanic of the game is Kirby’s ability to inhale and exhale. At the push of a button he opens wide and creates a vacuum that most monsters can’t escape from. He can then use whatever he has just inhaled as a weapon by spitting it back out with remarkable force. He can also take a deep breath, puffing himself up so he can float. While in later games Kirby’s appetite would be used as a means to steal abilities from foes, the only power-ups in this game are collected items that temporarily give our hero powers like fire breath and unlimited flight.
This game is one of the best examples of a simple gameplay design and art direction transcending time. Even on the creamed-spinach-colored screen of the original Game Boy, this game still looks and sounds great. Some of the franchise’s most memorable tunes come from this one and, because of their simplicity, the character designs stand out against the backgrounds while never looking out of place. Most importantly though, it’s fun. The one common criticism the game receives is its length. As it was an original Game Boy release, it comes from a time when making a portable game with a ton of content was something of a risk. Clocking in at a whole 4 levels, the game can be completed in under 15 minutes, but don’t let that dissuade you. If it were to go on longer with the mechanics in place, it would get very tedious. Fortunately, it knows exactly when to end.
Kirby’s Dream Land 2
Platform: Game Boy
Release: May 1, 1995
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Kirby’s Dream Land 2 played host to some of the series’ strangest changes. Starting with this game, Kirby gained the ability to ride various animal friends to “help” him get around. What made this such a strange mechanic was that Kirby never felt like he needed help. Unlike Yoshi in the Super Mario franchise, Rick the Hamster, Coo the Owl, and Kine the Fish all felt more like a hinderance than a help. The game justified their existence with some clever puzzles that you needed them for. Combining one of your powers with one of your animal friends yielded some interesting effects that could be used to open paths that would otherwise remain out of your reach.
While this game is one of the less memorable games in the franchise, it did do some things very right. It had Super Game Boy support, so it could be played in color with a custom border on the Super NES, it introduced the small stars that work as Kirby’s equivalent to Mario’s coins, and expanded on the first game’s 4-level design with several themed worlds containing multiple levels. A save feature kept things easy to pick up and play in short bursts, making it perfect for portable play. Again, the music was pretty great. It was definitely more subdued than the series norm, but still catchy in its own right. I’ve only played through this one once, but when I did, I really enjoyed it. I completed the game 100%, finding every secret, but afterwards I never felt compelled to go back to it. While still a good game overall, it was missing some of the charm the original had and, in a series about a floating pink guy, charm goes a very long way.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3
Platform: Super NES
Release: November 27, 1997
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 was both the last in the Dream Land series and the only one to appear on a home console. This one is probably the least-played game in the franchise, likely due to its unfortunate timing. Coming off the heels of the stunningly gorgeous Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island which was released one year earlier, this game features a hand-drawn watercolor presentation that just looks weak when compared to Yoshi’s Island. Also, it was released a whole year after the Nintendo 64 had launched, making it seem very archaic at the time. The music was again more subdued than the series is usually known for, but even more so than in Dream Land 2, which made the game feel very slow. It still featured animal friends to ride on, but it added to them with some strange looking blob creatures that just made the whole presentation feel lazy. Critics and gamers alike largely ignored the game and it faded quickly into obscurity.
I’ll admit that I too was completely turned off by this game when it was released. At the time I felt like it was a slow, confusing mess of a game and just wrote it off as a strange misstep for the franchise. That was my mistake. I recently downloaded the game on Virtual Console and viewing this one with fresh eyes has shown that there is much more to the game than meets the eye. It plays similarly to the best in the Kirby series, with a large overworld and tons of levels, but instead of having secret paths and switches, there is a “Heart Star” to be discovered in each level. As you’re playing any given stage, at a certain point you will hear a chime. That signifies that there is something for you to do in order to cheer someone up. The tasks range from solving a puzzle to not stepping on certain flowers to sweeping dirty floors. At the end of each stage there’s a screen where someone is waiting and, if you’ve done it right, they will be cheered up and give you a heart star. On top of that, the art style and the music really grew on me after an hour or so, making me wish I had given this one the time of day back then. It wasn’t long before I found the charm that was lost in Dream Land 2. It’s also worth noting that this game features some pretty clever level design, which is typically not the series’ strong suit. If you skipped this game, or just never knew it existed, I recommend giving it a shot. It’s great for a quick level or two.
And that’s it for Day 1. The Dream Land series is quite an interesting study when looked at on its own. One thing to take away from this is that the Kirby franchise is never afraid to try something new. Sometimes it pays off in spades, sometimes you wind up with a bunch of stupid animals. Fortunately for everyone, there are still many other Kirby games out there. Come back tomorrow when we’ll be taking a look at some of my personal favorites in the franchise.