Review: Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition for Wii

In a way, Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition feels like an apology from Nintendo, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Not that they necessarily have anything to apologize for, but the fact remains that when it came time to celebrate 25 years of the company mascot’s premiere title, Super Mario Bros., many felt that it fell a little flat. The game was simply the original version of Super Mario All-Stars (rather than the one which included a special version of Super Mario World with exclusive pixel art and animations for Luigi) stamped on a Wii disc with a few control options for that platform; even the control map in the game itself still depicted the Super NES version.

It came with a modest history booklet and a soundtrack spanning much of the series, but overall, it felt like a rather humble way to celebrate one of video gaming’s most celebrated and revolutionary figures. But even so, it sold out quickly upon its release, because hey, it’s Super Mario All-Stars for Wii. This led to a second printing which also did pretty well.

Deep down, fans of Mario and the company knew that Nintendo could do better than that. And with Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition for the Wii, it’s as though they said “you’re right; let us make it up to you with this.”

And make up for it they did.

At its core, Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition follows the same basic idea as Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition, containing a disc with several of the star’s top games, a historical booklet, and a soundtrack CD. But that is by and large where the similarities end; whereas Mario fans’ offering was rather sparse, Kirby fans are basically showered in riches and content from the top of the package to the bottom.

Starting at the foundation, the game disc contains the following releases: Kirby’s Dream Land (Game Boy, 1992), Kirby’s Adventure (NES, 1993), Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Game Boy, 1995), Kirby’s Super Star (Super NES, 1996), Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (Super NES, 1997), and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, 2000).

These are the first six Kirby games released in the “main” series, and all are significant and quality inclusions. This even includes the very first Kirby title, Kirby’s Dream Land, which is present in its original form despite being rather short, simple, and even remade to include Kirby’s signature copy ability in Kirby Super Star, which is included as well. That’s certainly more than Capcom is giving poor Street Fighter in its otherwise ultimate package.

Rather than go into detail about the games, which each undoubtedly have countless reviews online already, I’m going to focus more on the collection itself. Each game is presented in its original screen format without any stretching to fit the TV as in Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition, and they use special borders to help fill in that excess space.

With the games themselves, there are only a few small problems. One is that resetting the individual games is a bit unintuitive, requiring the 1, 2, A, and B buttons to be held down on the Wii Remote. The only sub-menu is the standard Wii Home menu, which at least temporarily saves the games right where they are, just like Virtual Console games. Finding this out actually required a look at the instructions, and in this day and age, that means it’s likely to be missed by many and will probably cause frustration when someone wishes to switch save files or reaches the end screen of some games.

Another issue is Nintendo’s seeming refusal to acknowledge the Super Game Boy. While it didn’t do anything special for Kirby’s Dream Land, its sequel is another story as it was granted a special border, custom color scheme, and even some extra sound effects. It’s disappointing to see games such as this and Donkey Kong for the Game Boy released in a lessened state, even though they remain great games either way.

Finally– and this is nitpicking, really– but Kirby has starred in all sorts of games, from racing to golf and pinball (where he plays the part of the ball, no less!). However, only a sampling of his side-scrolling platformers are featured here. Again, it’s a nitpick, but it does come up a little short in showing Kirby’s versatility and variety over the years.

With the exception of Kirby’s Dream Land 2, these have all been released for the Wii and Nintendo 3DS Virtual Consoles. If you’ve never played Kirby before or, like myself, only dabbled in a few releases, this is a great way to jump into the franchise. Even then, besides having them all in place, it’s the rest of the package’s contents which make this package a must for diehard Kirby fans.

So we have six classic Kirby games, and that’s a fine start. This time out, Nintendo and HAL Labs went the extra mile and added some new gameplay into the mix as well. Admittedly, it’s nothing quite as grand as a whole-new game, but what they’ve done here is still pretty admirable.

If you’ve played last year’s release of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, then you should remember that the alien Magolor kindly presented Kirby with a series of challenge rooms each based on using a different copy ability to its utmost potential. Well, Magolor has returned to celebrate Kirby’s 20th anniversary, and he’s brought with him a theme park full of new challenges which blend perfectly with the Return to Dream Land stages, graphics and all.

Then we have the third section of the disc: The interactive timeline. Spanning from 1992 (and a brief blurb regarding the time preceding it) to the present day, you move Kirby down a hallway which covers numerous happenings in each year. And it’s not just Kirby trivia, either; some of it regards Nintendo, while others touch on world events.

Better still is what happens when you try to suck up one of the markers; while the statues simply leave Kirby winded, sampling the various other Kirby boxes and images will allow you to read about the many different games the tough cream-puff has been a part of, including those aforementioned spin-offs such as Kirby’s Dream Course and Super Smash Bros., as well as viewing trailers for each. Even the Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition history booklet skipped over several key chapters from Mario’s storied legacy, and that was just in print!

It even covers Kirby’s 100-episode anime, Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, and features three entire episodes from the series’ run! And an added feature is that after reading about a game featured on the disc itself, you can jump right into the game! A very nice touch.

Overall, the game disc presents a very thorough and content-filled package. But we’re not through yet!

Also included in the package is a second disc, the special 20th anniversary soundtrack CD. It contains over an hour’s worth of music from 16 different Kirby titles, spread out across a whopping 45 different tracks. There are even alternate versions of three different Kirby themes. Compare this to the 20 tracks of Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition, many of which were sound effects!

Finally, we have the booklet. Though Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition‘s feels thicker, it tops out at 32 pages, while Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition‘s goes up to 45, and has a greater diameter as well. Simply put, it matches the height and width of a DVD case, whereas Mario’s was made to fit inside one.

The book should have been one of the main draws for Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition, but unfortunately, much of what was included were things we had seen before. Even the rough sketches for Super Mario Bros. 3 were simply less-polished versions of promotional art seen over the years. There were quite a few design notes and things, but those were in Japanese. There were a few neat things, but much of it didn’t shed any light on things in the way the company president’s famed “Iwata Asks” sessions have.

For Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition, I cannot speak as a Kirby expert on what had been seen prior to this and what had not, but there just seems to be so much more to see here. Character models, design sketches, trivia, and more. What’s more, unlike Mario’s, it seems that no Kirby game goes untouched, even if only briefly.

In addition to behind-the-scenes goodies from the games themselves, there are some fun additional pages including “manual memories,” a couple of quizzes, and a gallery of print ads including Kirby’s numerous appearances on the cover of Nintendo Power magazine! Mario’s only showed one of the latter, that being the very first issue of the magazine, and he’s appeared on so many more!

The best part of Kirby’s book, in my opinion, is that there is simply so much more to read. Mario’s was sparse for text, unless you could read the Japanese notes featured throughout, and could probably be finished in the time it takes for a coffee break. Meanwhile, Kirby’s just says so much more and feels so much richer in content.

I realize it seems like I’ve been dumping on Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition throughout this whole review, and maybe I have, just a little. The fact is that it was a good product in itself, but felt very bare-minimum; that is to say, “adequate.”

Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition, on the other hand, makes the Mario fan in me jealous, and seems to truly live up to its name as a “dream collection.” At least, insofar as what can be reasonably expected at a sensible retail price instead of going into Capcom’s $150 near-ultimate territory (not knocking that one, either; it’s not even fair to compare the two).

Whether you’re new to Kirby, only having seen him in his cartoon or Super Smash Bros. appearances and are looking to learn more, are only lightly familiar with some of his offerings, or are a diehard Kirby fan, this package is a must-have. Old or new, this is a great deal for people to get to know or re-experience Kirby, and if you have any interest in his adventures at all, then this package has something for you.

However, you should bear in mind that this is a limited-run item, so if see it and want it (or know someone who would like it– the holiday season is nearly upon us, after all), then be sure to grab it. You really can’t go wrong, unless the only games you like are the 3D kind with guns, space marines, and the like.

And the next time Nintendo celebrates one of its franchises, we can only hope they look to Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition as the template to draw from.

Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition was released for the Wii on September 16th, 2012 and is priced at $39.99. A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.