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I never had an original Game Boy growing up but I did acquire a Game Boy Pocket. I remember this kid at school had Kirby’s Dream Land and one day he let me play it. And because of him I got to experience the first Kirby game. I think I actually beat it back then, too, which really isn’t hard considering how short the game is. Developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo, Kirby’s Dream Land was released for the Game Boy in August, 1992. This is the first Kirby game ever released. Kirby wasn’t even colorized yet.
The story in Kirby’s Dream Land is a simple tale; one night King DeDeDe and his minions steal all the food and Sparkling Stars in Dream Land. The next morning, Kirby, a resident of Dream Land, volunteers to retrieve the food, stars, and stop King DeDeDe. Kirby traverses through five stages killing enemies and defeating bosses before ending up in a final showdown with King DeDeDe, himself.
As you may or may not know, Kirby is a pink puff with arms and legs but because of the Game Boy’s lack of color, he’s just a white puff in the original game. Kirby can run, jump, fly, and inhale objects and enemies that can be swallowed or spit back out as projectiles. Actually, swallowing in this game is pretty useless. To fly, Kirby puffs up by inhaling air and can deflate by spitting the air back out which also doubles as a projectile that can kill most enemies but not bosses. If you’re familiar with future titles, you may not be used to the fact there’s no copy abilities, Kirby can’t slide, and he can’t dash. Most of his iconic abilities were established in Kirby’s Adventure.
Kirby’s Dream Land is a platformer and an easy one a that unless you decide to play the Extra Game. After beating the base game, you’re provided the button combination to play through the Extra Game, which is a harder version of the base game that includes new enemies and the enemies will move and attack faster than those in the base game. The base game can be completed in about fifteen minutes or less so needless to say, it’s extremely short. It’s also extremely easy but the Extra Game will truly throw you for a loop. If you manage to beat the Extra Game, you’re provided the button combination to enter the Configuration Menu where you can set Kirby’s health or vitality, how many lives, and listen to music and sound effects through the sound test menu.
There’s five stages total, each with their own theme which does keep the visual presentation interesting considering there’s no color. Throughout the stages are various hazards like spikes, gaps, and enemies to avoid or kill, and you progress through the stages by walking through doors. There’s only two secret areas you can find and they are both found in the same stage. At the end of every stage is a boss, each with simple attack patterns in the base game but in the Extra Game, they actually prove to be challenging. The final stage is more like a boss rush. You need to traverse through four very small areas and collect a Kirby copy thing, that eliminates the enemies in the area and the ones blocking the doors to the bosses. After defeating the four bosses, you can finally battle King DeDeDe. Kirby’s Dream Land includes a scoring system so I guess outside of the Extra Game, the replay value comes from trying to go for a high score if you’re into that. The game doesn’t save nor does it really need to considering how short it is.
If Kirby takes damage, he loses health. You can acquire Pep Brew throughout the stages which is a bottle of soda that restores a third of Kirby’s health. Acquiring Maxim Tomatoes will fully restore his health. You can also acquire 1-Ups which grant you extra lives and there’s even a few power-ups. Once acquired, power-ups will only last for a limited time but they can be extremely helpful. If you acquire the Superspicy Curry, Kirby can spit fireballs. The Mint Leaf allows Kirby to spit an unlimited amount of air puffs while flying. Invincible Candy makes him invincible. If Kirby inhales and spits out the mike, he’ll screech into it, killing all enemies on the screen. And finally, if Kirby inhales the bomb, he can spit it out to kill multiple enemies in a row.
Visually, the game definitely looks dated but it’s 2D pixel art style still holds up. There’s obviously no color so everything is in black and white. If you play this on the Super Game Boy or Game Boy color, Kirby is actually pink but that’s due to the systems’ color palettes and not an actual design choice. Despite the lack of color, most of the time it’s easy to make things out. There a few neat details here and there like stars falling from the sky in the fourth stage, Kracko’s eye will spin when he’s attacked, and if you keep the game paused for too long, Kirby will start dancing. On the audio side, the sound effects are simple and what you would expect. The music is catchy, memorable, and the songs have been remixed and revised in future titles. Performance-wise, the game runs fine overall. The frame rate will dip here and there and more often in the Extra Game where there’s a ton of stuff going on.
Kirby’s Dream Land is fun but also way too short. It’s also way too easy but the Extra Game proves to be rather brutal, almost reaching unfair levels. If you’ve played other Kirby games, than Dream Land will feel very simplistic and basic. Kirby’s Adventure pretty much established the Kirby series as we know it today but playing through Kirby’s Dream Land again was a nice trip down memory lane. And it is neat to see how the series truly got its start. I can’t see Dream Land holding many people’s interest for too long and I would say the only real replay value comes from the scoring system and Extra Game.
Ultimately, we would recommend Kirby’s Dream Land but there are far better Kirby games out there. And I should mention that Dream Land was partially remade in Kirby Super Star for Super Nintendo. If you want to feel nostalgic, if you’re a collector, or are just interested in the history of the series, definitely check out Kirby’s Dream Land.