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PAX Prime 2011: Kirby's Return to Dreamland Hands On

| 31 Aug 2011 18:40
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No Right Answer's Chris Pranger shares some of his experiences from PAX Prime 2011.

Was anyone else a bit surprised when a new Wii Kirby game quietly got announced at E3? I had no clue about it until a friend sent me a YouTube trailer telling me that he was considering purchasing a Wii just to play Kirby's Return to Dreamland. Why? Because it's an actual Kirby game where Kirby does, you know, his signature thing of eating enemies and copying their powers. Thankfully there was a demo set up at PAX, and even better, there was virtually no line. How in the heck does that happen? Here are my impressions of the game.

Kirby's Return to Dreamland is like taking Kirby's Epic Yarn and smashing it into New Super Mario Bros Wii. You can play with four players simultaneously with the first player always controlling Kirby, complete with the inhale/copy abilities that have been missing for no good reason at all. Joining him are King Dedede, Meta Knight, and Waddle Dee, thus making Kirby's Return to Dreamland surpass New Super Mario Bros Wii in terms of "well duh people want better choices than Mario, Luigi, and two Toads."

Immediately with four players you discover that the game is ... oh how can I put this lightly? Overwhelmingly easy. At the end of the relatively long level there was a boss fight with Whispy Woods, as is the case for most Kirby games, and while he's usually pretty simple, the strategy here revolved entirely around "everybody hammer the attack button as fast as possible." No need to dodge attacks and wait for specific openings; nope, just keep pressing the attack button until the boss' health bar is entirely depleted.

This doesn't mean that it isn't fun to ROFL-rape all the enemies on the screen though. The level was all about showing how Kirby can copy abilities again, and even get a hold of super copy abilities such as a giant sword or a flaming dragon summon that burns trees down. Kirby games have always been "easy" in terms of straightforward difficulty, but the point of Kirby has always been firmly planted in fun and variety of attacks, which his new Wii game has plenty of.

Some aspects seem a bit odd though during gameplay. For instance, all four characters are capable of infinite flight, but they have the option of hopping on each-other's backs and riding around, even being capable of stacking all three other players on to one as they just skip through the level. I'm all in favor of the option to work cooperatively, but this just seemed like a needless addition since the demo didn't give an obvious use for the action other than to cause confusion when you accidentally jump onto another player and find yourself just hitching a ride.

Regardless, I found myself having fun, as did my team of three other players. My wife, who had previously never played a Kirby game, was enjoying smashing the landscape with a "Giga Sword" and mentioned that we could buy the title if we wanted. This is the sort of gameplay Kirby is great at, and I'm happy that it's back here once more.

The demo was still very simple. There wasn't a big variety to the enemies or the platforming, and it felt like all you needed to do to progress was to just keep walking forward and swinging you hammer or sword or whatever you happened to be carrying. Granted, this was also a demo of, like, the first level, so take that for what it's worth.

Instead of doing another game in the graphic style of Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby's Return to Dreamland looks about as plain as a Kirby game can look, by which I mean it looks pretty, bright, and colorful, but it doesn't have any special artistic style thrown in for sake of personality. I'm perfectly fine with it though as it looks essentially like a graphical update to Kirby 64, a severely underrated game from my childhood.

Those looking for another hardcore Wii title, well, wait for Skyward Sword in November. However, for anyone looking for an enjoyable game to play with friends, Kirby's Return to Dreamland has an expected October 24th release date. If you're a Kirby fan, you're already pre-ordering, aren't you?

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