Retro Scope: Kirby’s Dream Land

A look back at Kirby’s debut on Game Boy!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 01/23/2014 09:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

Kirby’s Dream Land came to be because Nintendo thought video games were becoming too tough. The company wanted to craft a game that would cater to new players, with an easier level of difficulty and a focus on fun. Enter HAL Laboratory and designer Masahiro Sakurai, the fine people responsible for the Kirby we know and love today. As a kid, though, I didn’t know any of that. All I knew was that Kirby was fun, simple, and looked great on my little Game Boy screen. 22 years later, Dream Land is as awesome today as it was then.

I’m not sure what possessed my aunt Brenda to buy Dream Land for me. It came out of the blue and I didn’t even know who Kirby was, but something about his happy, ghostly white face and cheery blue packaging must have caught her eye. Dream Land is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s a rare character debut on a Nintendo handheld and not home console. The other is that Dream Land is devoid of an integral series play mechanic; no copy abilities!  Still, Dream Land more than makes up for the omission with its detailed graphics, great music, and excellent gameplay.

Sakurai, mastermind behind the Smash Bros. series, is no stranger to packing his games with content, and while Dream Land isn’t especially long, it does have a lot happening on-screen. The game is filled with enemies, blocks, and gorgeous background details for the duration of the adventure. I used to pore over every pixel as a kid, and it’s no different today. It’s a joy just looking at the scenery of Dream Land. The soundtrack, though, is one of my absolute favorites in any Nintendo game. It is just so catchy and perfect, but outside of this game, no Kirby titles have ever been able to replicate its sound. Such a shame.

Other than the aforementioned copy abilities, just about everything else the Kirby series is known for bowed here. Floating, inhaling, running, and shooting enemies and blocks all appeared in Dream Land. Waddle Dees wander the screen, content with meandering as opposed to actively seeking to harm Kirby, while familiar bosses like Wispy Woods and King Dedede also started making life tough for Kirby. If you pay close attention, you’ll also see a cameo from Adventures of Lolo (another HAL creation) characters Lolo and Lala as bosses in the Castle Lololo stage. Their names are just a little different; Lololo and Lalala!

There’s another difference here that’s harder to pick up on because of Game Boy’s monochrome color palette; Kirby is white! There are conflicting reports as to why Kirby was colored this way. One version of the story is that when the game was being localized for the US, marketers at Nintendo of America didn’t know what color Kirby was supposed to be. They’d apparently only seen black and white game footage and determined that white must be the character’s color; thus, the white Kirby on the game’s box! The other version of the story is that white was a compromise because Shigeru Miyamoto and Sakurai couldn’t agree on what color the character should be. Miyomoto wanted Kirby yellow, while Sakurai wanted pink. Perhaps the yellow Kirby in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror was Sakurai’s way of smoothing things over with Miyamoto when pink won out?

Kirby games are known for being easy, and Dream Land is no exception. Still, there’s no denying just how entertaining the game is. Everything about it is so meticulously crafted and rendered, and it really shows during a playthrough. The controls are precise, and the satisfaction of barreling through hordes of enemies is wonderful. There’s been a much greater emphasis on food as the series has matured, but in Dream Land, there’s a different sort of energy permeating the game that I think changed in later years. It’s foreign and familiar all at once, and definitely deserves your time. Dream Land is readily available on 3DS’s Virtual Console and as part of Kirby’s Dream Collection for Wii. Go give it a play!

2 Responses to “Retro Scope: Kirby’s Dream Land

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!