Game: Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition
Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/HAL Laboratories
Describe This Game in Three Words: 20 adorable years!
Plot Synopsis: Well, between six games there's not a whole lot of difference in the plot. Kirby takes on King Dedede in an effort to save his friends. Along the way he beats up a tree that can barely fight back like four times, and I still think that's like the saddest thing ever.
Up Up: The collection contains the two Game Boy adventures, Kirby's Adventure on NES, the two SNES games, and Kirby 64: the Crystal Shards for N64. The titles are direct ports, so the experience is just like it was the day you may have first tried them out. Some of them have not aged well, especially Dream Land 3 which looks and feels more like a codeine buzz than a dream, but Crystal Shards still looks amazing, and you notice things about the first two Dream Lands you never noticed on the original tiny screen.
It's good to see game companies start to think of their franchises in terms of art, and trying to collect them in these sort of Criterion anthologies, and the Dream Collection makes a good argument for the medium finally getting that level of recognition. In addition to the games, with new challenge stages, you get a cute virtual museum that will show you when each of the games was released and what was going on in the world at the time, and three episodes of the Kirby: Right Back at Ya! animated series.
The fun doesn't stop at the disc, either. The package also has a soundtrack, and a great scrapbook full of factoids, early sketches, trivia, and the complete history of the series. Granted, Kirby doesn't need the massive lexicon that the Zelda series will be releasing in January, but there's still plenty of meat to keep you occupied.
Down, Down: Unfortunately, I don't think the Dream Collection goes nearly far enough. First off, while all the main entries in the series are included, Kirby has starred in 21 distinct titles, and Nintendo could have easily included near all of them in the disc with no problem. Stylus-based DS adventures like Mass Attack would've required some creative changing around in order to make them playable on the Wii, but there's simply no reason not to drop things like Pinball or Avalanche in there.
For that matter, why not trailers for all the Kirby games, some featurettes, interviews with HAL about the creation and evolution of the character, a gallery of Nintendo Power articles, the works? I'm dead serious when I say that the gamer nostalgia world is ready for a really balls out retrospective of our favorite classic series. If you think that fans wouldn't pay $80 for a four or five disc collection containing the entire Final Fantasy library, plus cinematic works, plus an Empire of Dreams-esque documentary then you are very, very wrong.
Left, Right, Left, Right: Kirby was specifically designed to be one of the easiest characters to control ever. If you can't beat the game it aint't the interface's fault.
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B, A: I have a special place in my heart for Kirby. He's the one that started me on the road to being a professional video game reviewer, and for that I can't thank him enough. I mostly skipped the series after failing to beat the second Dream Land, which is still ridiculously hard for a Kirby game, and it was nice to get familiar with the character again.
It's very easy to forget sometimes just how important the Game Boy was to gaming. Not only did Kirby, now a flagship character for Nintendo get started there, but both Metroid and the Legend of Zelda have important, main series entries on the handheld, and the Mario Land games gave us Wario, who now stars in his own games.
Handhelds have always struggled against the idea that they were third-rate. Arcade ports to consoles were always inferior, and to Game Boy even more so. Slowly, Kirby and other games fought back against that trend until you end up with stuff on the 3DS and PSP that is specifically developed for the capabilities of those systems. It's weird to think that a five stage, cutesy, side-scroller you can beat in 30 minutes was one of the catalyst that changed an entire gaming style.
Start?: For $40, you get a nice slice of Kirby's history, and a good 10 hours of play. It's not all that it could be, but the trend of increasingly better and better nostalgia anthologies is something I think gamers should definitely support as it continues to celebrate and connect us to a medium my generation has managed to evolve from a toy to legitimate art.