Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
Growing up in the heyday of the NES was both a cause of great pleasure and great pain for me. I was able to see all of the great games, like Mario 3 and Contra, but at the same time I was never able to really play them because of my sisters’ control over her NES. Years later she still has that NES and I still don’t, but fortunately I’ve got a Gameboy Advance, and thankfully I’m dealing with one of the laziest companies in the world, Nintendo. I recently picked up Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland, a game that is surprisingly similar to the NES Kirby that came before it.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Kirby is the platformer that Mario could never be. Kirby is cute and cuddly, nothing like the Italian plumber at all. Kirby’s day consists of him sucking up enemies and swallowing them, hoping to gain such magical powers as a laser attack and an attack that freezes his enemies. He then wanders about his magical land hoping to find enemies that are blocking platforms that he needs to use to get to the next area. Kirby can suck in his enemies and blow them out as well, turning our pink hero into a cannon of massive power. Kirby can also float about the level, while enemies from the ground only hope to be able to attack him.
Kirby romps through spacious levels destroying all who stand in his way to inevitably come to climatic boss battles with any assortment of enemies ranging from giant trees to big fat penguin guy with massive hammers. What is the point of all of this? It seems that the evil King Dedede has decided to steal the Star Rod, which is the power of the Fountain of Dreams. Kirby gets irritated at this vile act of malice when he and all of his friends can no longer dream when they go to sleep.
Kirby’s plot is nothing but sheer brilliance. It never needs to resort to drastic plot twists or anything to make it remotely interesting and involving. The game relies strictly on the sheer addictive nature of platforming with Kirby to keep you playing. While you eventually will get the Star Rod back into the hands of the just and the good, you don’t take over the world with it or anything, just return it to its rightful owner. Nope, Kirby is your modern day knight in shining armor, fighting through over 7 worlds for the rights of him and his friends.
Fortunately the plot is never really mentioned in the actual gameplay, and you are left with platforming that is actually quite good, but sadly just a little too easy. Most levels can be accomplished without a single bubble of Kirby’s health actually draining from his body. The boss battles, while actually somewhat challenging, are accomplished in less than a minute once you figure out the linear strategy that the boss will use in an effort to topple you.
Thankfully Kirby’s platforming is satisfying to play through. Though I was basically able to finish the game in just one sitting, I never grew bored with it. The level design is very fun; as was trying to find all the different powerups I could gain from my enemies. I really also enjoyed the ”Sub-Games” that were added in, after playing through a couple of levels in the real game I could go and race other Kirby’s down a rail or play an odd version of Tennis.
Kirby’s graphics aren’t going to win any awards, but they are more than adequate for the games design. Enemies are colorful and the levels are vibrant, and on the cuteness scale Kirby definitely gets a perfect score. Kirby’s different powerups are expressed through the Wizards hat that he is wearing, and the hat is actually animated with Kirby’s movements. This slight attention to aesthetics is sure to please all who play. The bosses are full of life as well and are nothing if not exciting to look at.
Kirby’s sound is a cheery little mix filled with light-hearted songs that seemed to have been composed with just a single flute. The music furthers the relaxing feel of playing through Kirby. The sound effects are slightly above average, but most are simply unnoticeable. Kirby makes all sorts of little bloops here and there, but the sound effects really aren’t important at all.
Overall, Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland could be up to par with great platformers like Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island. As it stands it’s a very good title indeed, just good though. If a few more Sub-Games were added on and the game was longer, this would definitely be one of the best, but sadly it missed the mark.