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Review: Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (3DS)

Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is a 2D platformer from Nintendo’s HAL Laboratory. As the name suggests, this is the sequel to Kirby’s Dream Land. Originally released on the Gameboy in 1995, this game is the third entry in the Kirby franchise. While I have played a number of games in the series, my first time experiencing this classic was with the 3DS re-release.

*Game purchased by reviewer.

Kirby's Dream Land 2

Story

Kirby’s Dream Land 2 does not try to tell a story. Silly little skits play when travelling to other worlds, but these short scenes do not seem to convey any sort plot. The game does not have any dialogue. Aside from the ending, the only text that appears is part of the UI. It is only during the ending animation that we get to know the names of the enemies.

Graphics

While not as adorable as later titles, Kirby’s Dream Land 2 still has a rather cutesy appearance. Not only is the eponymous hero round, but many enemies and even allies are as well. The lack of sharp edges in their designs is rather disarming and gives the game a family-friendly look.

Of course, the terrain has plenty of pointy parts. This seems rather fitting as the environment is usually the most deadly aspect of most levels. There are seven worlds in the game and each have their own motiff. Still, certain designs often reappear alongside specific hazards. This helps to give the player an idea of what they are in for when they see something they recognize.

Much like the character sprites, the scenery usually has just enough detail to be identifiable. The abundance of open space works in the game’s favor and helps make everything clearly distinguishable.

Every enemy visually telegraphs their attacks. They may not last long, but these warning animations make their intentions obvious. It does not take long to discern the meaning of each pose which helps make the combat feel fair.

Kirby's Dream Land 2

Sound

Like other games for the hardware, Kirby’s Dream Land 2 has a chiptune soundtrack. While these songs do have melodies, a few have a little too much going on and sound more like noise than music. Still, while none of them were particularly memorable, they were not especially annoying either. At the very least, there is a decent number of tracks in the game. In addition to each world having its own theme, the companion creatures have their own songs as well.

In addition to the main background music, a few jingles play here and there. These catchy tunes have remained with the series for many years, and for good reason. While not the sole reason for the franchise’s success, these enjoyable jingles certainly help to make the game more endearing.

The sound effects are also practically the same as those in modern Kirby games. This is likely since they do a fantastic job of keeping the player aware of every little thing Kirby does. Not only do the unique sounds keep the player informed of the protagonist’s actions, they also provide an idea of how long they will last. If the visual warnings were not enough, noises accompany enemy attacks as well. All this feedback may not be all that interesting, but its presence is almost essential for making an action game that is fun to play.

Gameplay

Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is the second entry in the franchise to feature copy abilities. When Kirby sucks up certain enemies, the little round hero can take on their powers. This allows the adorable protagonist to use a wide range of attacks by eating various foes. While these powers may be making their portable platform debut, there are still quite a few of them.

This game also features three animal allies for Kirby to team up with. Each of these critters change the protagonist’s ability to move around. This can be helpful in some situations but detrimental in others. Combining a copy ability with a mount results in different attacks, vastly increasing Kirby’s combat repertoire. These beastly buddies also have their own health supply and keep Kirby protected from harm.

Kirby's Dream Land 2

In addition to copy abilities and helpful friends, Kirby has access to the usual arsenal of skills. Enemies, blocks, and even certain projectiles can be inhaled and spat right back at opponents. Kirby can also swim underwater and float through the air. While levitation may make a platformer seem trivial, there is still plenty of challenge to be had.

Kirby’s Dream Land 2 starts out easy enough. However, the difficulty starts to ramp up before the halfway point. By the end, levels throw every trick they have at the player, some of which are somewhat cheap. Perhaps the most devious obstacle are stages that scroll automatically. If Kirby gets caught between some terrain and the edge of the screen, it is instant death. A few of these sections have multiple routes and will only reveal the correct one after it is too late to switch. Aside from that sort of dastardly trap, the game’s challenges were fairly fun to overcome.

While the main goal of most levels is to simply get to the end, there is more to the game than that. Every now and then, a level will feature a fight with a mini-boss. Each world also has a proper boss to battle. These opponents have access to several attacks and can be rather tricky to deal with. There is also a small number of hidden collectibles in the game. Getting to these objects usually requires holding onto an ability for quite a few areas. The necessary powers are typically unsuited for the level, so this is much easier said than done.

One way the game avoids being too harsh is by providing plenty of opportunities to gain extra lives. It only takes seven stars to get one and every level has a few laying around. There is also a mini-game that appears at the end of every level with a 1-up as the top reward. During this event, players need to press a button at just the right moment to launch Kirby through the air and into bonus rewards. Some deaths may be unfair and bosses can be tough, but it is easy to bounce back.

Since this is a Virtual Console title, there are a few more nifty features to make the game more convenient. Players can create save points anywhere in the game, preventing loss of lives from becoming too serious of an issue. It can also make fights with multi-stage bosses more manageable. Having extra buttons comes in handy as well. While players in the past needed to reach for the select button to eject powers, an alternative is right next to jump in this edition.

Kirby's Dream Land 2

Verdict

Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is an amazing platformer. Even after over 20 years, it still holds up and puts many modern games to shame. The visuals are both clear and cute while the audio provides decent feedback and classic catchy jingles. Most importantly, the game manages to be difficult without being too punishing. There are a few sections that can be somewhat unfair, but lives are easy to acquire and the vast majority of the challenges are fun to overcome. Kirby has plenty of powers at his disposal and managing these to get through each area makes for an enjoyable experience. Bosses have a good variety of skills of their own which makes for some wonderful fights. This is a title that I would definitely recommend to anyone who owns a 3DS.

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