Monday, November 17, 2014

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA, Wii U eShop) Retro Review

Last night I covered Super Mario Advance, giving the game a review. I figured since Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is releasing this Friday, I'd take a look at some of the games that the fighters are featured in and well-known for. Now, it's Kirby's turn with his entry into the Game Boy Advance library, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. Here's the review!

An Adventure Reborn

Kirby's Adventure debuted on the NES in 1993. It was a late release for the system, as its successor, the Super Nintendo, already had over a year on the market to create a respectable lineup of software. That said, Kirby's Adventure really pushed the NES to its limits, allowing the developers to squeeze pretty much every last ounce of power within the unassuming NES, and it's one of the better games for Nintendo's first home console. Just over nine years later, Nintendo opted to remake Kirby's Adventure, this time putting the pink puffball back on the platform type he was born on, a handheld with the Game Boy Advance's Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. Obvious graphical and sound upgrades aside, is Nightmare in Dream Land the definitive version of Kirby's Adventure?

Kirby unleashes the razzle-dazzle.
Kirby's mainline platforming adventures generally follow a set formula. You enter side-scrolling levels, inhaling enemies, taking their abilities, using said abilities to make it easier to complete said levels. Levels themselves are relatively short experiences, usually lasting 3-4 minutes at most to complete. That said, don't think that just because the levels are brief that Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is a walk in the park.

To be fair, it WAS a spicy meatball.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Nightmare in Dream Land, and obviously the game it is a remake of, Kirby's Adventure, are some of the hardest Kirby games to complete 100%. The main issue here is that just like the early Game Boy Kirby games, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land has it where if you hold a power and you take any kind of damage, you lose that power. Sure, you can try to suck it back up with Kirby's vacuum-like mouth, but there are several problems with this tactic. For one, other enemies and their powers that you suck up in the process take precedence over a lost ability. Secondly, if you're underwater or near spikes, the moment your power-up leaves Kirby, you're out of luck.

It's a Kirby game, so Whispy Woods must be a boss!
(Seriously. You go to jail if you have a Kirby game
without Whispy Woods as a boss.)
Losing your power after one hit is ridiculous and irritating enough, but factor in this-- some levels require you to hold an ability all the way until a certain point in a level. For instance, a level in the sixth world requires you to have the Hammer ability to destroy a block leading to one of Nightmare in Dream Land's many switches, the lone "collectible" of sorts to beat the game with 100% completion. It's far too easy to run into a foe and lose your ability, and it especially stings when the level you lost it in isn't even the one that has the ability you actually need!

As for abilities, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land offers a standard set from a wide array of enemies. You have Sword, Fire, Burning, Ice, Beam, Ball, Stone, UFO, Crash, Mike, and many others. Using the correct ability at the right moment not only allows access to secret rooms and areas, usually housing the aforementioned switches, which open up new areas on the world map, but doing so also makes certain sections of the game easier. For example, using the Wheel ability on a straightaway allows Kirby to plow through enemies with abandon.

Smart use of abilities at the right time
may just save your skin. It'll at least save Kirby's!
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, just like the game it's a remake of, houses seven unique worlds, each starting out with a cute introductory opening skit involving Kirby somehow getting into trouble with an enemy or character. At the beginning of the game, worlds aren't overly long by any stretch of the imagination, usually holding only four levels and a boss stage. Later worlds house a handful more of stages to complete with more challenging obstacles, enemies, and hazards for Kirby to be cautious and careful with handling.

Nightmare in Dream Land is like many of the levels in the game, it's a short experience, taking approximately three or four hours to initially beat. As stated, some levels are home to secret areas holding switches. Unlike Kirby's Adventure, these secret rooms are more clearly defined, and on the level selection screen, each level with a switch that hasn't yet been found will show a different marking on its door than one that has. These slight but smart alterations make for a less tedious game.

Kirby abhors the backstroke.
Besides the obvious graphical and audio changes in this remake, new mini-games have been included, such as a quick-draw mini-game, requiring fast reflexes to draw your weapon out before your opponent does. There is also a Metaknight-exclusive mini-game where you are able to take full control of masked sword fighter. These additions are novel enough and add some more value to the overall package.

Kirby-san, keep calm and slice and dice.
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land offers a wider color pallet than Kirby's Adventure (and obviously so), so the game delivers a larger variety of colorful locales and detailed backgrounds. Character sprites are well defined, and having lots of sprites on the screen at the same time does not induce slowdown, which is nice to see performance-wise. On the audio front, many old Kirby's Adventure themes get a whole new lease on life with the GBA's better sound chip, though some songs get rather tinny despite the better hardware.

For a remake of Kirby's Adventure, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land brings a whole new lease on life for the game. It's an admirable remake, though I feel more could have been done to make the game even better. If you can manage the sometimes aggravating rule of losing your ability upon taking damage (especially in some of the later levels), then Nightmare in Dream Land is a 2D platformer you should not miss out on.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

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