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Virtual Spotlight: Kirby's Dreamland 2

Give this charming but largely forgotten Kirby tale a second chance.

Review by Jeremy Parish, .

Kirby flew -- or rather, drifted lazily -- beneath the radar for years. His early games did well enough, but they never seemed to foster much discussion. It was really Kirby's Adventure for NES that gave him his break into widespread public awareness... and even then, that didn't happen at the time the NES game debuted, but rather several years later once NES emulation became a widespread phenomenon and Internet nerds started picking through the system's catalog to find all the cool stuff they had overlooked.

Buried amidst janky early Famicom games like B-Wings and Nuts & Milk, a handful of largely overlooked gems found a newly appreciative audience. Kirby's Adventure was one of those games: Colorful, fun, creative. As emulation fans poked around into even more esoteric territory, however, they quickly discovered the even more surprising truth that Kirby had been around for years, having made his debut on Game Boy. You know, that system no one bothered taking seriously between Link's Awakening and Pokémon Red & Blue.

You will believe... that a tubby blob riding a chubby hamster can be badass.

Since Kirby's Adventure (or other, even better games, like Kirby Super Star) offered many gamers their entry vector into the franchise, those old Game Boy titles tend to go tragically overlooked. Not only are they smaller, simpler-looking games, the very first one -- Kirby's Dreamland -- barely even plays like Kirby as most people think of it. There are no powers to absorb; swallowing enemies is simply a means to get them out of the way or acquire a projectile to spew at other foes. Kirby's Dreamland 2 helped properly codify what it means to be Kirby... but no one ever really talks about that one. [Note: I had originally cited this as preceding Kirby's Adventure, but that was incorrect.]

A short, sweet little platformer, Dreamland 2 adds two new facets to its predecessor's framework. First, Kirby can sometimes team up with animal pals to ride around for his adventuring; secondly, he can also steal an enemy's power by eating that foe. The former feature shows up from time to time within the franchise (most significantly in Kirby's Dreamland 3, a wonderful and also severely overlooked game from the waning days of the Super NES), usually with small differences from one to the other.

Naw, just kidding. Actually it's super adorable.

Here, each animal controls differently -- you can ride the hamster, for example, but the pigeon will carry you through the air -- and each one "processes" the various powers Kirby acquires in its own unique way. Getting used to the individual control quirks of the animal companions becomes a big part of the fun and the strategy of Dreamland 2; for instance, flying freely with your bird friend without sacrificing your offensive capabilities beats Kirby's normal mode of flight, but it also means you can't absorb powers without first landing.

And really, power absorption is what Dreamland 2 is all about. Historically, the ability to gain and surrender new skills on the fly changed the series from an incidental little bit of platformer fluff to a unique and lasting franchise. In the present, it makes for a game that remains entertaining even now. Sure, it's been outclassed by its sequels (specifically on 3DS by that keen 3D Classics remake of Kirby's Adventure, but the simplicity of the Kirby games helps them weather the ravages of time in a way that most black-and-white Game Boy releases don't. Kirby's power selection is more limited and allows fewer combinations than in later games, but that's OK. It adds just enough to Kirby's Adventure to make it interesting. And sometimes, uncomplicated design can be nice to fall back on.

Run, jump, eat monsters, ride cute animals. It's a pretty simple formula for success, and this pivotal-yet-forgotten chapter of the Kirby franchise merits further investigation by fans of good ol' action games.

3.5 /5

Virtual Spotlight: Kirby's Dreamland 2 Jeremy Parish Give this charming but largely forgotten Kirby tale a second chance. 2013-08-02T20:30:00-04:00 3.5 5

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Comments 10

  • Avatar for MattG #1 MattG 3 years ago
    I absolutely loved this game back in the old days and bought it again for the 3DS last night. Maybe this time I'll collect all of the Rainbow Drops or whatever the secret items were called.
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  • Avatar for aett #2 aett 3 years ago
    This was the only Kirby game that I actually played when it was new (as opposed to much later via emulation, as you mentioned) and so it's the only one that I am particularly fond of.

    I bought it for my wife's 3DS last night since she's a much bigger Kirby fan, and this game was one of the first games she ever played, early in our relationship, so it holds a special meaning for her.
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  • Avatar for waynestainrook29 #3 waynestainrook29 3 years ago
    I've never played 2, but I played the original Kirby's Dreamland to death back in the day. It was fairly easy, which I very much appreciated as a kid (you could fly anywhere!), and it started the legacy of the whimsical soundtrack the series is noted for :)
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  • Avatar for Hubertron #4 Hubertron 3 years ago
    Looks interesting, and I remember the first one fondly, I may just have to pick this one up. Thanks for doing these virtual spotlights Jeremy!Edited August 2013 by Hubertron
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #5 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    Kirby's Adventure started my love for Kirby, and this entry was one of the first games I got for my Game Boy (I was late to that party). Good stuff, and the Super Game Boy enhancements were cool, too.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #6 Funny_Colour_Blue 3 years ago
    ...I really need to get a 3DS and a Wii U.
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  • Avatar for Fanfare #7 Fanfare 3 years ago
    This is one of those games that despite having little challenge it is still so much fun to play.
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  • Avatar for .jan #8 .jan 3 years ago
    This game was a Christmas gift back in the day. I have fond memories of playing it incessantly. Who doesn't want to ride around on the back of a hamster?
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  • Avatar for Ghopper101 #9 Ghopper101 3 years ago
    I am so glad Nintendo is re releasing some of these old classics. We all rag on the virtual console service, but you have to admit they do give us great content now and then.
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  • Avatar for Super-Boy-Alan #10 Super-Boy-Alan 3 years ago
    It's always struck me as curious, Jeremy, that when you bring up the early Kirby games, you bring up the matter of their relative lack of discussion in the pre-emulation days. Then again, I suppose it's a generational thing - I was in elementary school when Kirby made his debut, so stuff like Kirby's Adventure was very much on my radar.

    I never owned Kirby's Dream Land 2 back in the day, but I do remember enjoying what I played of it. Based on my experiences with Game Boy collecting, it holds up way better than the deluge of licensed crap and compromised NES ports that flooded the system. Although there were some decent puzzlers, like Catrap (also available on 3DS VC, buy it today!)...
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