After a long run of gimmick-heavy titles, 2011’s return to Kirby’s Dream Land signaled a return to the franchise’s traditional platforming style. With four-player co-op, a massive suite of fun copy abilities, and cleverly designed stages, Kirby’s return to Dream Land stands out as one of the high-water marks for the franchise. Thanks to an HD visual upgrade and the addition of immersive content, this new Switch version establishes itself as the definitive way to enjoy this extraordinary adventure.
An inter-dimensional being named Magalor has crashed on Kirby’s Planet Popstar, and it is up to Kirby and his friends to collect the missing pieces to repair Magalor’s ship. Players must run, jump and swim through exciting platforming stages spread across several different biomes alongside up to three friends in drop-in/drop-out co-operative play. I’m glad co-op is still there in this version, but I’m disappointed this remaster didn’t add online functionality.
While additional players can take the form of Meta Knight, King Dedede, and Bandana Waddle Dee (each has different movesets), Kirby is the best character to play, thanks to his ability to absorb powers from enemies. Thankfully, each player can assume a version of Kirby instead of those specific characters, giving each player full access to the impressive list of breath-taking copy abilities in Return to Dream Land Deluxe.
Each copy ability is carried forward from the original release, giving you domain over water, electricity, fire, ice and more. While elemental skills are fun and helpful for solving environmental puzzles, I still prefer the more aggressive move set provided by Magical Beam, Classic Sword, and Swift Ninja. This version also adds two brand new copy abilities in the form of Mecha and Sand. While it’s fun to surf around with sand and blast enemies, I often went out of my way to experience the lasers, blasters, and rockets of powerful mecha potential. I like the variety of gameplay offered by the wide spectrum of copy abilities.
The stages in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe use these copy abilities to encourage exploration. While it’s sometimes frustrating not to have the right power-up to grab a tuck-away collectible, the game usually heavily hints that you must acquire a special new ability before moving on to the next area. I loved replaying these stages going through different doors to see how the branching paths rewarded me.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe isn’t a difficult game, but the challenge definitely increases at the end of the main story. In those moments, I’m glad to have mastered some of my favorite abilities. However, if you need extra help to progress the adventure, Deluxe adds a new Magolor Helper mode, where he’ll give you some health if you’re low or pull you out of pits if you fall. Most experienced players will not need Magolor’s assistance in this optional feature, but for less experienced players, this option will inevitably increase their enjoyment. Thankfully, Extra Mode, where bosses are stronger, players are weaker, and bonus stages are more demanding, adds more challenge to your second playthrough.
Speaking of Magolor, he is at the center of two of the most important additions in this deluxe package. In addition to unlocking additional modes when you beat the main story, you can play the Magler Epilogue. This entirely new story-driven mode follows Magolor on his journey to regain his powers after the events of the original adventure. Although Magolor’s projectile-based move set is initially overwhelming, you upgrade your skills by defeating enemies and maintaining combo streaks to earn magic orbs as you play. This increased emphasis on war satisfied me more deeply in this short story. By the end of it, I was pulling off a massive array of bombs, spiraling projectiles, and black holes, ripping apart any enemies that got in my way. However, the super-up boss battles in this mode are no joke, giving me some of the most challenging scenes of my time with Return to Dream Land Deluxe.
However, Magolor isn’t just about destroying its enemies. Another new take on her namesake, Merry Magoland, is all about kicking back and having fun with friends. Here, various subgames from the past and some new games allow you to experience a wide range of gameplay challenges. Whether it was the frantic bomb rally game from Nightmare in Dreamland, the combative smash ride from Squeak Squad, or the reaction-based samurai Kirby from Super Star, I loved experiencing the different gameplay styles on offer from this fun collection. A mission system serves as an exciting in-game checklist and rewards you with cosmetic masks featuring characters from the series based on your achievements in the mode.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is still an enhanced remaster of a 12-year-old Wii game, but it effectively brings forward one of the pink puffball’s best outings, complete with meaningful additions. The result is a game worthy of sitting in the Switch catalog next to last year’s great Kirby and the Forgotten Land.