Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) Review

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kirbys return to dreamland deluxe nintendo switch review 23022102
Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe
Editors Choice

Since Kirby & the Forgotten Land released last March, my household has had low-grade Kirby fever. We’ve since scoured every inch of the pink puffball’s “open-world” debut, and Kirby: Star Allies and Kirby’s Dream Buffet has become a ritual. So, the chance to experience Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe, a reimagining of a Wii classic I originally missed out on, with my kids was greatly appreciated. 

When the Wii original arrived in 2011, it had been the first new console game in the main series since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards 11 years prior. It both appealed to the classic spirit of Kirby’s Adventure and innovated by adding 4-player cooperative play—and so it’s fitting to “return to Dreamland” now after Forgotten Land reinvigorated the IP. 

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Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is a remastered port of the Wii original and much more. The core is that traditional Kirby campaign: explore hub worlds with about a half-dozen stages each, using copy abilities to defeat enemies in your path and find hidden collectibles, and save the idyllic little world of Planet Popstar from extradimensional peril. 

In this instance, Kirby and his friends Bandana Waddle Dee, King DeDeDe, and Meta Knight are aiding Magolor, a traveller from another dimension, by finding the pieces of his crashed vessel, the Lor Starcutter. This entails finding up to 120 energy spheres hidden across the levels, as well as the parts of the ship hoarded by each world’s hub boss. If you’ve played a traditional Kirby game before, you pretty well know the drill: Kirby inhales enemies to copy powers while the others have their dedicated melee weapons. 

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is a remastered port of the Wii original, and much more.”

What this instalment offers, beyond the aforementioned co-op play, are a few little twists to the format. Kirby’s inhale ability can be held to consume larger objects or even allies (but not to the extent of Forgotten Land’s Mouthful Mode). Also, in some levels, Kirby can devour certain glowing enemies to temporarily utilize an uber-powerful version of that ability. This allows him to destroy otherwise unbreakable obstacles and find special chase segments, leading to a mini-boss and energy spheres. 

Players can also ride on each other’s backs or fly others across gaps. This Piggyback mode can be used for special Team Attacks if you’re all coordinated enough. This time around, other players can play as Kirby as well—sure to be a welcome change for the younger players who are often relegated to playing as the supporting characters. And if anyone’s struggling, there’s a new option to have Magolor swoop in and help out in dire moments, bailing players out of pits or dropping items. 

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With little features like this, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland retains the series’ crown for outstanding multiplayer. Many first-party Switch platformers like Yoshi’s Crafted World and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe offer comparable experiences, but they feel chaotic—if not competitive—by comparison to Kirby’s approach. Better still, it’s an enjoyable ride whether you’re playing alone or with 2–3 teammates. 

Of course, the game benefits from a shiny new coat of paint. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe upgrades the classic to HD, updates character models and voices, and adds little touches to the screen, like having beads of water on the display or sending enemies flying into the screen itself, Smash-style, when Kirby uses ultra powers. After the more realistic locales of last year’s outing, this is the simple, classic charm of the franchise at full power. 

That being said, after Forgotten Land’s pinnacle of game design, I couldn’t help feeling that Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is ever-so-slightly dated still. The former did so much to expand the series’ horizons, so going back to simpler times seems like resting on one’s laurels. I will not turn down more full-fledged Kirby content on the Switch—please, Nintendo, give Planet Robobot this same treatment, stat—but I was left that much hungrier for a true follow-up. 

Not to imply that Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is lacking in content, of course; the “Deluxe” tag is genuinely earned. Extra Mode from the Wii version returns after clearing the game, raising the stakes by disabling Helper Magolor mode, reducing player health, and buffing bosses. In true Kirby fashion, Arena modes off boss rush challenges. 

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Without giving anything away, a new epilogue featuring Magolor also extends the post-game experience, putting players in the mage’s robes and allowing them to customize his abilities to their liking for a unique gauntlet. That alone might make this remaster worth veterans’ time. 

Magolor features prominently elsewhere in the new “Merry Magoland” mode, a theme park focused on Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe’s ten mini-games. In addition to playing them from the main menu without needing to unlock them by progressing through the story, eachmini-gamee offers a handful of challenges and a charming hub world to unite them all. Competing earns stamps for Stamp Rally cards, which reward consumable items and souvenir masks that players can toggle on or off. 

“If you (or your kids) discovered Kirby games for the first time last year, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is a perfect example of what you’ve been missing out on.”

The mini-games themselves offer a respectable variety of experiences pulled from previous games. “Crackity Hack” is a classic contest to fill a series of gauges accurately, while “Checkerboard Chase” and “Star Dash” are more intense elimination/battle royale challenges. The only brand-new offering, “Magolor’s Tome Trackers,” is a match-two race and a worthy addition to Kirby’s mini-game canon. 

Series nostalgia has been used to great effect in Merry Magoland, from the repurposed mini-games to the vast collection of masks and other Easter eggs, though this is an area where Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe becomes a little less co-op friendly. Younger players will likely struggle against CPU players (and relatives who aren’t pulling punches) in the competitive games. Luckily the experiences are short and charming enough that losses shouldn’t be totally discouraging. 

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I’ll also give Nintendo credit for incorporating Amiibo functionality again, but this is their weakest inclusion in a Kirby game to date. Scanning any Amiibo grants items and Kirby-series Amiibos grant even more—that’s all. Making certain abilities (like the awesome new Mecha ability) appear when you scan a corresponding Kirby figure would’ve been a nice touch, similar to Planet Robobot’s unique abilities. 

If you (or your kids) discovered Kirby games for the first time last year, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is a perfect example of what you’ve been missing out on. With a polished, classic story mode and a wealth of enrichment opportunities via higher challenges and fun mini-games, HAL has provided another solid experience that audiences of all ages can enjoy.  

Final Thoughts

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