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Before this review, I never played Kirby’s Dream Land 3. Nobody talks about it and I never hear about it. Developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 was released for the Super Nintendo in November, 1997. This is the fifth mainline game in the Kirby series and expands upon the Dream Land formula established in the first two games. This time around, planet Popstar is covered in darkness so Kirby and his buddy Gooey set out to save the planet and their friends. Jeremy and I teamed up for co-op play thanks to the game’s easy drop-in-drop-out style.
The story goes that Kirby and Gooey are fishing. Dark Matter appears, destroys the rings surrounding planet Popstar and possesses all their friends. The story can end in two ways and to see the good ending you need to acquire all of the Heart Stars. Collecting the Heart Star in every stage allows you to battle the true final boss. The game contains five levels, each consisting of six stages and a boss. The sixth level is unlocked after acquiring all of the Heart Stars. There’s no voice acting, the story isn’t hard to follow, and it’s the gameplay that defines the experience.
At any time during gameplay, the second player can press a button so Gooey appears at the cost of one of Kirby’s health bars. Although, if Kirby is at his last hit, no health is drained when Gooey spawns. Kirby can inhale and swallow Gooey at any time which basically kills him but the second player can come back at any time. Kirby is the only character with lives so if Gooey dies, there’s no real punishment. Both character’s have their own set of health bars and to restore health, you need to eat the health potions or maxim tomatoes. If either character eats a maxim tomato, all health bars are restored for both characters. Both characters can run, sprint, duck, slide, jump, fly, Kirby inhales things, and Gooey uses his tongue. You can inhale an enemy and spit them out as a projectile or simply swallow them. Just like previous games, swallowing specific enemies grants you copy abilities like burning, cleaning, cutter, ice, needle, parasol, spark, and stone. You can drop an ability at any time, like if you want to acquire another, but they can also get knocked out of you if you take enough damage. While they’re may not be as many abilities as seen in Kirby Super Star, there’s several animal friends you can team up with and each one has their own variation of each ability.
Throughout the stages are doors that lead to rooms containing animal friends, each with their own move sets. Only one character can ride, or team up, with an animal friend but doing so will usually grant you access to specific areas. Rick the Hamster can’t fly, will not slide on ice, can jump only once, and can climb walls. Coo the Owl can fly quickly, even against strong winds, and allows Kirby to easily inhale in mid-air. Kine the Fish can swim fast underwater and allows Kirby to inhale underwater, something he cannot normally do. Nago the Cat can stomp on enemies and triple jump. Pitch the Bird is probably the most useless. He flies and that’s basically it. Chuchu the Octopus can float in mid-air and cling onto ceilings. Teaming up with animal friends is usually always a requirement as is having specific abilities in combination with the friends. Just like when Kirby or Gooey acquire abilities, the abilities expand the animal friends’ move sets. For example, if you have the burning ability, Rick can breathe fire. If you have the ice ability, Coo can shoot icicles. If you have the needle ability, Nago can shoot spikes. Some abilities are more offensive, others help you navigate more efficiently.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is a platformer at heart. Each level has it’s own theme going on which does keep the game interesting as you progress. You navigate through the stages, killing enemies, copying abilities, and walking through doors. Some stages auto-scroll, you may have to fight a miniboss here and there, and scattered throughout the stages are little stars you can collect. Collect enough of them and you earn an extra life. Sometimes you’ll come across items like the 1-up which grants you an extra life and invincibility candy which makes you temporarily invincible. At the end of every stage is a minigame where you need to jump and try to land on one top of one of the items to acquire them like stars, 1-ups, and health items. The game starts out easy enough but becomes increasingly more challenging as you progress, sometimes to the point of frustration, mainly due to the puzzles. Every stage contains a Heart Star and to acquire it, you need to meet specific requirements. Some are easy to get, others are just tedious. The game consists of a set of specific puzzles and as you progress, you’ll encounter different variations of each puzzle. For example, one stage requires you not to step on flowers. But later you’ll have to clean them and even step on all of them. Some stages have a guessing minigame where you have to choose the correct answer three times in a row like the correct the color, how many of each color, and one stage has you listening to sounds and choosing the correct one. These just become frustrating cases of trial and error and failing once means no Heart Star. Some puzzles require you to team up with an animal friend or even navigate through a stage in a very specific way which can be long and tedious, especially if it’s your first run through the game. Some stages contain direct references to other Nintendo titles. For instance, one puzzle has you collecting parts of Rob the Robot so you can put him together. Another has you killing Metroids with the ice ability to help out Samus Aran.
Throughout the stages are various types of enemies and even minibosses. Classic Kirby enemies like Bouncy, Waddle Dee, and Waddle Doo make return, among others. Some enemies fly, others may fire projectiles. New enemies introduced here include Gabon who throws bones, Mopoo who jumps out of clouds, and Mony who just swims around and gets in your way. You can actually hit enemies from underneath with your character’s head which does light damage. There’s seven bosses total and some can be quite challenging. Classic bosses like Whispy Woods and King DeDeDe make a return. Most of the bosses have multiple phases and the battles can take a while if you don’t have abilities. In that case, you’ll need to inhale one of the boss’ projectiles and spit them at the boss to do damage. In other Kirby games, spitting out the boss projectiles normally does more damage but in Dream Land 3, you’re better off having an ability since you’ll do damage faster. It’s also worth mentioning that Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is a much slower-paced Kirby game than say Kirby Super Star. Trying to speed through stages will often result in you taking damage so taking your time and watching out for environmental hazards is usually the best approach unless you have the stages memorized, of course.
In addition to the main story, there’s three sub games that can be unlocked. These sub games are access through the Options menu which is not exactly obvious nor does the game even inform you that you’ve unlocked anything. Beating each of the sub games counts towards one hundred percent completion of the game as a whole. After beating the story, you unlock the Boss Butch sub game. This is just a boss rush mode and it can be extremely challenging. You fight all of the bosses in a set order but you’re not given any health items or extra lives. It’s also single player only. Beating Boss butch unlocks a variation of the story’s good ending. After achieving ninety percent completion, you unlock the Super NES MG5 sub game which consists of all the guessing games seen in the story mode. You move from game to game and the goal is to guess correctly three times in a row in each game. If you fail once, you automatically move onto the next game. After achieving ninety nine percent completion, you unlock the Jumping sub game which is similar to the jumping minigame seen at the end of stages in the story mode. This time you can pick Kirby or any of the animal friends and the goal is to jump on the a smiley face and avoid Tick to advance to the next round. Each round gets more difficult by increasing the amount of Ticks and reducing the amount of smiley faces. This sub game just keeps going until you die and you need to clear a set amount of rounds to actually beat it. If you jump on Tick, you get stabbed and die, and must start all over. If you beat all of these sub games and achieve one hundred percent completion, you unlock the ability to view every cut scene, including all three endings.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is a beautiful game. It has a crayon art style and this shaky line thing going on. The game is vibrant, colorful, and just visually striking, especially for its time. In addition to the incredible art style is excellent parallax scrolling, solid animations, and detailed environments. The sound effects are pretty good and what you would expect from a Kirby game. The music is as well which means it’s fantastic with plenty of memorable and catchy tunes. On the performance side, the frame rate would dip occasionally but it never hindered the gameplay.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is a great game, we had a lot of fun, but if you’re trying to achieve one hundred percent completion, or at least see the true ending, it’s a bit of a tedious grind. Solving some of the puzzles can be either a chore or a test in frustration and the solutions aren’t always obvious. It may be wise to use a guide to get through some of the later stages. The sub games being hidden away in the options menu is a questionable decision and completing these can also be a frustrating or tedious task. The Boss Butch mode is very difficult just due to the lack health items but it’s arguably the most enjoyable out of the three.
Ultimately, we would recommend Kirby’s Dream Land 3 to fans of platformers or the Kirby series in general. It’s definitely one of the more challenging Kirby games and sometimes crosses over into aggravation but overall, it’s enjoyable. Teaming up with a buddy will make the experience a tad easier but the later stages will seriously test your platforming and dodging skills. The slow-paced nature of the game and puzzle elements kind of bring down the experience in some ways but if you’re a fan of platformers, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is still a must-play.