Review: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe – Dream a Little Dreamland of me

I’ve played most all of the Kirby canon in my time, starting with the original Dream Land back in 1992 up through to Forgotten Land last year. There was, however, one notable entry in the main series I missed the first time around, that being the original release of Return to Dreamland. I don’t remember why I missed it, though time and budget were very likely factors at the time. Regardless of the reason, I never got around to going back and playing Return to Dreamland, though I was aware of the main beats of the story: In short, a magician from a faraway land crashes his starship and Kirby, Meta Knight, Waddle Dee and King Dedede band together to help him get home. Just a happy helpful wholesome tale until it isn’t because of course there’s something deeper going on behind the scenes because it’s a Kirby game; there almost always is. While I had the plot spoiled for me fairly soon after the original game came out and I need to talk about extra modes in Return to Dreamland Deluxe, I am going to try and avoid spoiling the game as much as I can.

So, just to cover our bases, Kirby games star the titular pink puffball, who has the power to inhale enemies whole then absorb their powers. While Return to Dreamland is not exception in this regard, it does change up the formula by allowing for seamless drop in drop out couch co-op where you can have up to three extra people join you on your adventures playing as Meta Knight (who has powers similar to Kirby’s sword abilities), King Dedede (with hammer abilities), a Bandana wearing Waddle Dee (who has spear powers) or a Kirby of a different color. Each of these extra players can pop in and out without a break in the action, making for effortless and effectively consequence free co-op. That was the first major gimmick of Return to Dreamland. The second is super enemies who give Kirby super powerups, essentially super charged versions of several regular abilities: Sword, Beam, Fire, Ice, and Hammer. Using these correctly allows Kirby access to special timed sub-levels called Dimensional Rifts where Kirby must race against an encroaching wall of nothingness until he finds a bird egg enemy called a Doomer and collects some energy spheres from them. These spheres with gears inside of them are the precursor to the Sun Stones and Code Cubes and Waddle Dees of later games in that they are a collectable that can be found in a stage but are not yet tied to progression or unlocking extra stages, but instead unlock special ability rooms, mini games, and challenge rooms inside the Lor Starcutter, as well as the Extra mode after completing the story mode.

Super moves are extremely powerful, but they're used more for puzzle solving than combat, with some small exceptions
Super moves are extremely powerful, but they’re used more for puzzle solving than combat, with some small exceptions

Speaking of the story mode, it has seven areas, each with multiple levels, and another seven available in Extra Mode, which is one of the most elaborately changed in the entire series. Bosses are all powered up, with additional added bosses, Kirby has less health, the moving wall in the Dimensional Rifts moves faster, and there’s even changes to the story.

And all of that alone is reason enough to buy Return to Dreamland Deluxe if you’ve never played Return to Dreamland before. But what if you had already tore through all of the original Return to Dreamland? What does Deluxe have to offer? Well, the addition of Merry Magoland, a world where instead of travelling in the starcutter, Magolor craved fun and laughter and built a theme park. Here you can play each of the minigames from Return to Dreamland and two new ones, compare your scores against others, and win prizes, like cosmetic masks for Kirby and his friends to wear in story mode, healing items and powerups to take into levels. You can also compete in a stamp rally by turning in stamps gained in levels and in Magoland to win more prizes. There are over 100 missions related to Magoland to complete, ranging from several easy ones to the extremely difficult, so there’s tons of content for hardcore completionists to engage with.

Magolor begins his story almost entirely bereft of power
Magolor begins his story almost entirely bereft of power

The other major addition to Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe, and the one that caught my attention the most was the Magolor epilogue chapter, unlocking (and set after) defeating the final boss of the story mode. In this mode Magolor finds himself once again estranged and adrift, incredibly weak, but with the potential to grow his abilities through magical power, which he can gain by defeating enemies in combos, or by picking up in levels. Let me tell you this game mode is fun. As you complete each level, in addition to gaining magic points to spend to restore Magolor’s power and unlocking the next level, you also are given a score that is the total amount of magical energy you collect in a level, which then gives you your score, from a bronze to a platinum medal, giving you reason to replay levels, both for the satisfaction of doing so, but also for another reason I’ll go over shortly.

Magolor starts this mode with just a single projectile and a weak jump, but as he progresses, he unlocks additional abilities such as the ability to charge his shots, fire upwards, drop bombs, jump additional times, shield, evade, dash, create spikes, and even unleash a super attack or two. And each of these can be upgraded several times. For example, eventually Magolor can just start floating, practically forever. The leveling screen also provides a bit of a view into Magolor’s character, and how it changes as you progress through the mode. Levelling up skills also gives Magolor access to essentially bonus levels that exist to give him a small challenge of the relevant skill and to give him a huge amount of magic power at once.

Unlocking and powering up abilities not only gives you more options, but also insight into Magolor's thoughts and character growth
not only gives you more options, but also insight into Magolor’s thoughts and character growth

The mode itself is fairly light on story but as befits any good Kirby bonus mode. It’s very dense with lore, especially with the implications of the mode’s final boss and the events of the credits and how both lead into other Kirby games. Speaking of ‘upon defeating the boss’, remember those medals I mentioned? Well, if you have all gold medals and have defeated the boss, not only do you get a few more scenes added to the ending, you also unlock a secret extra level where Magolor must race through every single one of the dimensional rifts that Kirby traversed in the main story mode, one after the other. Magolor’s epilogue also has a hidden HAL Level, so keep your eyes peeled (hint, lower right).

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe is an excellent remaster of an excellent game with some quite fun additions above and beyond what the original had to offer. Whether or not that justifies a $60 price tag is ultimately up to you, but as for me, I found the whole thing quite… dreamy.

Tim played Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe on Nintendo Switch with a review code.

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