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Monday, October 22, 2012

Wii Review: Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition

System: Wii
Genre: Compilation/Platformer
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: Sept. 16, 2012 USA / EUR TBA / Jul. 19, 2012 JPN
Players: 1-4
Controllers Supported: Wii Remote, Classic Controller, GameCube Controller
Rated: E for Everyone 10+

20th anniversaries are certainly cause for celebration. After all, not every character is fortunate enough to last for 20 years. Thankfully, Kirby's massive popularity has allowed him to endure for so long. Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition is Nintendo's second compilation anniversary release on the Wii. 2010's Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition was simply a re-release of 1993's SNES Super Mario All-Stars, and as fun as those games were, Nintendo easily could have included a few more Mario platformers. Heck, even the extras were sorely lacking with a booklet that had tidbit info at best and a 20 track soundtrack CD, which consisted of 10 actual songs, while the remaining 10 tracks were sound effects. With that in mind, it's not hard to see why some fans would approach Kirby's 20th's anniversary collection with skepticism. Well, put your mind at ease because Kirby's Dream Collection more than makes up for the quick cash in that was Super Mario Bros. 25th anniversary anthology. Kirby's 20th birthday bash packs six Kirby adventures and a copious amount of bonus content. This really is a dream collection.

As with any compilation release, the most important features are the games. Kirby has stared in various game genres throughout his lengthy career, but the primary focus on Kirby's Dream Collection are his platforming exploits and they do not disappoint.

Kirby's Dream Land was Kirby's debut game for the Game Boy. If you got into Kirby games after this one, you may be a bit put off on how Dream Land works. In this title, all Kirby can do to defend himself is suck up his enemies and shoot them back out as stars. At only five levels, this is the shortest game on this set. It's also the easiest. But if you fancy a challenge, you can try the Extra Game. Good luck. You're gonna need it.

The six games of Kirby's Dream Collection.
Where it all began. *Starts humming
Green Greens*

The second game, Kirby's Adventure on the NES is a much bigger in scope. In this game there are seven worlds to explore and Kirby's trademark Copy Ability was birthed here, giving Kirby a plethora of powers to experiment with. Kirby's Adventure is also notable for being the game to show players that even in a kid's game, things aren't always what they seem as evidenced by Dedede's actions this time around. Despite being one of the earliest Kirby title's it's still adored by fans and for good reason.

Kirby's Dream Land 2 introduced Kirby's animal pals, Rick, Coo and Kine who have different abilities based on what Copy Ability Kirby is carrying when he uses them. Dream Land 2 is also the first game in what fans have called the Dark Matter Trilogy. There aren't nearly as many Copy Abilities in this game as there were in Kirby's Adventure. This is also one of the more difficult Kirby games to complete 100% because it requires more than just finishing the game with all the Rainbow Drops.

Ironically, Kirby Super Star is a collection of various Kirby games, seven main games and two sub games. Among them being Spring Breeze, an abridged remake of Kirby's Dream Land but giving Kirby is Copy Ability. Gourmet Race pits Kirby in a race against Dedede to eat as much food as possible while staying ahead. Gourmet Race is also responsible for spawning one of the most catchy and most remixed songs in the history of video games. The Great Cave Offensive has Kirby searching for Treasure in a huge underground cave. Great Cave Offensive has something of a Metroid feel to it and some of the treasures you unearth pay tribute to other Nintendo franchises. Dyna Blade takes Kirby through five levels to stop the rampaging bird that's destroying Pop Star's crops. Revenge of Meta Knight sees Kirby assault the masked knight's warship, taking it apart section by section all on a time limit. Milky Way Wishes has you hopping across different planets and does away with the standard Copy Ability in favor of the Deluxe Copy Ability where you get to keep Copy powers forever. The Arena, unlocked by completing all of the main adventure games is one of the toughest challenges in a Kirby game essentially being one big boss rush mode. Kirby Super Star is one of the biggest contributors in the Kirby series, giving Kirby hats with his Copy Abilities, adding additional moves to every Copy power and allowing for Helpers to be created that can be controlled by AI or another player. It's also the first Kirby game to introduce blocking. To this day, a lot of fans tout Kirby Super Star as the greatest Kirby game.

Being beaten up by Kirby? Just another
day for Whispy Woods.
Kirby's animal pals were almost called
"minions." True story.

Kirby's Dream Land 3 is the second game in the Dark Matter Trilogy and introduces more animal friends like Chuchu, Pitch and Nago. Gooey, seen in Kirby's Dream Land 2 becomes a playable character and can be controlled by the AI or a second player. Being released after Kirby Super Star, this game plays a lot slower and doesn't come anywhere close to featuring that game's many innovations. It plays similarly to Kirby's Dream Land 2 and your Copy Abilities are quite stripped down. Still, it's a fun entry in the Kirby series and has impressive crayon-like drawn visuals. Getting all the Heart Stars required to fight the true final boss will more than likely have you seeking out a guide.

The sixth and final game on this disc is Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. This is the final game in the Dark Matter Trilogy and a fitting conclusion to the saga. Kirby 64 features 3D graphics but plays in 2D making for a 2.5D game. Kirby 64 is much more slow paced than any other game in this collection. Kirby moves slower and even his dashing isn't as fast as it was in Kirby's Adventure. Kirby's flight time is limited, which will probably be off putting at first. Your main objective is to collect the Crystal Shards to save Ribbon's home planet Ripple Star from Dark Matter. These shards are scattered all over numerous worlds and many require the use of a combined Copy Ability to access them. You can combine different powers to make some pretty sweet combos. Cutter mixed with Bomb gives you exploding ninja stars. Double Rock turns Kirby into a walking statue that can kill almost anything in sight. There are also some pretty useless combos as well like Fire and Ice. Half the fun of Kirby 64 comes from experiment with all the different combinations. It's a really fun mechanic, one that needs to be brought back.

Even without all the extra content from
the DS version, Kirby Super Star is still
a fantastic game.
Picking one animal friend over another
causes the ones that get left out to frown.

All the games function like Virtual Console titles. So if you're playing Kirby Super Star and need to stop playing, you can exit out and when you come back, you'll pick up right where you left off. Since N64 Virtual Console games work differently, you can't continue this way from Kirby 64, but since that game saves your progress of every stage and shard you've collected, it's not that big of a loss. The downside of this game's functionality is that the only way to get back to the main menu is to reset with the Wii Remote.

So Kirby's Dream Collection has a great selection of games with not a single dud in the lot. Fortunately for us, HAL didn't decided to call it a day from there. Under the Kirby History section lies the interactive timeline. This lets you move Kirby through different years showing the years that each Kirby game came out. And by "each Kirby game," I mean every single Kirby game to released from 1992 to 2012. There's even a video containing gameplay footage of each game. Heard of Kirby Tilt 'n Tumble but never played it? Look under 2001 and view the video. You can even flip and tilt the box art for each game. It's the little touches like that that make this compilation so great. There's also trivia of real world events that happened over the last 20 years. I only expected to find Kirby info here. But finding out when the DVD format was announced and what year the Human Genome Project was completed are some pleasant bonuses. Another nice touch is being able to play any of the six playable games from the interactive timeline. If you're under the year 2000, you can select Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and play the game from there.

Kirby makes everyone look adorable.
Even murder.
Get educated on your Kirby history as
well as real world trivia.

A colorful 45 page Kirby's 20th Anniversary Celebration Book comes packed with this collection for you to flip through in between Kirby games. Inside you can find info on every single Kirby game, including the ones that weren't part of this collection and the numerous spin-off titles. Prior to looking through this book, I had no clue it was possible to get a hole in one on each and every hole in Kirby's Dream Course. You'll also spot some sketches that prior to this collection's release, weren't available anywhere else. It's far more detailed and informative than Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition booklet ever was.

There's more. Kirby games have some of the cutest, catchiest, most hummable tunes known to man. You can listen to a large variety of these songs on the 45 track Compilation Soundtrack. Music from the six Kirby games on Kirby's Dream Collection is present, but this soundtrack goes far beyond those games. Music from Kirby Air Ride, Kirby's Dream Course, Kirby Canvas Curse, Kirby's Epic Yarn and numerous other games. The last three tracks on the disc are arrangements of Kirby themes, exclusive to this disc. Even better, you can watch the HAL musicians perform track 44, Crash! Gourmet Race ~ Green Greens in the Kirby's History section under 2012. The music selection on this disc is essentially a silver bullet aimed at Mario's shoddy 25th anniversary soundtrack offering.

Take a break from the Kirby games and
watch a few episodes of Kirby: Right
Back at ya!
If you couldn't get enough of the challenges
in Return to Dream Land, 10 new ones
await you.

Stuffed yet? Well, make room for desert. Inside the Kirby's History section under 2002 are three episodes of the anime series, Kirby: Right Back at Ya! These are from the 4Kids dub so the option to watch in Japanese in English subtitles isn't available. But even so, I quite enjoyed these episodes and it was a bonus I was not expecting, especially when this collection is already packed with so much Kirby goodness.

Wishing to atone for his past transgressions, Magolor has built Kirby a new set of challenge stages, ten to be exact. These are each set up like separate worlds from a Kirby platformer and each one concludes with  race against Magolor. Like the challenges in Return to Dream Land, mastery of each power is required to earn the best medal. One challenge even makes use of Kirby's move set from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. And just when you think you've finished this mode, two more challenges unlock on the final world in the form of EX challenges. You gotta love HAL for always including such cool extras in their games.

Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition feels like an apology for botching Super Mario Bros. 25th anniversary. But even if that isn't the intent, Kirby certainly deserves all the attention that's been showered upon him for his 20th birthday. Could more games have been added? Sure, but the six we got make for a solid lineup and this collection is packed with so much extra content that's its almost too much to take in. Developers and publishers looking to put out milestone anniversary game collections, I hope you were taking notes. Kirby just showed you all how it's done.

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