Back in the 90’s, I remember seeing a commercial on TV for Kirby’s Dream Land – it immediately made me want to get a Gameboy. Little did I know at the time, but Kirby would go on to become one of Nintendo’s big franchises!
The story is a simple one but sets up the series nicely. King Dedede has stolen all the food in Dream Land, in addition to the Sparking Stars which is used to create more food! Kirby’s goal is to track down King Dedede and take but the food for all of dreamland and save the day!
In terms of gameplay, this is a 2D platformer – players must guide Kirby though 5 levels and then defeat King Dedede. Each level is fairly different and get consistently harder throughout. While controls are fairly good, there are a couple new gameplay mechanics that really make Kirby stand out from the rest of the 2D platformers on Gameboy.
Firstly, Kirby can inhale his enemies – its actually his main source of attack in addition to spitting them back out at other enemies! While future Kirby games have Kirby taking on different powers when he eats his them – the original did not have this feature yet! The last power Kirby has is the ability to puff himself up and float! I thought this would have made the game too easy (and the game is easy), but not because the floating. The developers did a great job creating levels that fit with Kirby’s flying ability so that it brought new gameplay challenges not seen in games up to that time (e.g., flying through tunnels with spikes on roof and ceiling). The gameplay is simple, but engaging and fun!
At the end of each stage there is a boss – ranging from a tree, to a flying lighting cloud, and even a cannon-loaded blimp. On the last level, Kirby must refight all the bosses (a la Mega Man) before finally battling King Dedede – and the last battle is actually a bit challenging. Growing up I could barely defeat him, but now that I am older I managed to beat him withy dying.
The whole game can actually be beaten in about 20-30 minutes depending on how quick you are. This might seen short, but for Gameboy players – its really a nice length – but as a kid it was perfect; a trip into town, a 30 min game break in the car. What I had forgotten though is that there is actually a hard mode! After you defeat the game the first time, a secret code is provided (see the last box of images). This hard mode is REALLY hard – I couldn’t even get past the first level. So for those who love Kirby, this game has a surprising amount to give given its size.
In terms of graphics, this game looks beautiful still. I played it on Super Gameboy and it looks great compared to many other Gameboy games of the time. Kirby is large on scree, there isn’t a ton of slowdown, and each of the levels and bosses all look quite unique and varied. In terms of the music, this game is what started it all – I could pick out the happy go lucky Kirby theme anywhere. The sound effects also sound great and add the atmosphere of Kirby being an inhaling charming puffball.
In summary, this is the Gameboy game that started Kirby’s journey – its a charming and accessible 2D platformer with great graphics, a fun soundtrack, and a decent level of difficulty that gets extended quite a bit with the hidden hard mode. There are other Kirby games that are much better – including its sequel – but for this one I give it a final score of 8/10.
Final Score: 8/10