After little more than a 45-minute hands-off preview of the upcoming Nintendo Switch release Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, I am more than prepared to say that this unassuming little remake is shaping up to be one of the finest family gaming experiences of the year. In fact, even before Nintendo’s Treehouse team walked me through the ins and outs of Kirby and friends’ journey across Planet Popstar (and beyond) to collect the missing pieces of the stranded Magolor’s spaceship, I already had this title pegged as another standout Switch release.
The reason is simple; the original Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on the Nintendo Wii was the very first video game my son and I beat in co-op mode.
For a six-year-old just getting his hand-eye coordination down and his doting father, it was quite the accomplishment—especially considering the game’s third-act plot twist and its multi-phase final boss battle. Obviously, this helped cement the pink puffball as a staple of our family gaming diet, not to mention making Return to Dream Land an enduring household favorite.
But don’t think that this new Deluxe version simply trades in cheap nostalgia.
Just like the original, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a one-to-four-player side-scrolling adventure that puts gamers in control of Kirby and his cohorts Meta Knight, King Dedede, and Bandana Waddle Dee. Players can pick from one of the esteemed frenemies or all choose to play a different color Kirby character.
Who you’ll want to play as depends a bit on your play-style preference, as Meta Knight and the others have a single static weapon while Kirby employs his traditional inhale attack to employ a myriad of helpful Copy Abilities, including all the Kirby classics, new additions like the robot-powered Mecha ability, and over-the-top Super Abilities like Snow Bowl.
In a nod to its family-friendly roots, Return to Dream Land Deluxe allows for drop-in multiplayer, meaning parents can pop in to assist during the more difficult battles with ease. And since the in-game camera follows player one, this makes it equally easy for younger, less experienced gamers to back Kirby up without fear of being left behind.
While the basic mission and play structure remain the same—you’ll still be recovering energy spheres and spaceship parts to help get Magolor home—Magolor can also offer some much-needed assistance. The Helper Magolor Ability grants a double health bar to all players, and Magolor will occasionally come through with a helpful Copy Ability when Kirby finds himself in dire straits.
Of course, there’s also plenty in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe to please the more hardcore among us. Interspersed throughout its levels are hidden sub-areas, wormholes that lead to a dimension of devilish difficulty that can really eat away at your shared pool of lives. Returning players will also relish the inclusion of a brand-new Magolor Epilogue. This addition puts one or more gamers in the role of a depowered Magolor with a shorter health bar and a leaner move set. Building combo attacks allows this altered protagonist to earn additional magic points that can be used to upgrade his skills at a level’s end.
And since it wouldn’t be a Kirby title without mini-games, Merry Magoland compiles a collection of new and classic Kirby sub-games into a multiplayer bonanza hosted by none other than Magolor himself. (That dude certainly gets around!)
Relive your Wii glory days with Joy-Con-based motion control or take to the touchscreen in single-player mode. The 100 sub-game missions further incentivize play by earning stamps to fill out your stamp card. A completed stamp card unlocks a wearable mask for your player character, which, as a diehard dress-up gamer, definitely makes it easier for me to step away from the main story mode.
Last weekend my son turned 18. That little boy I helped lead across Planet Popstar is now a man with a life and a job and an ability to outpace me at everything from Smash Bros. to The Binding of Isaac. But at the core, he’s still my kid.
And it seems like Kirby’s Return to Dream Land has grown up too. There’s a fresh new coat of HD paint, many added twists and features, and a continuation of the story that promises even more from this Deluxe iteration. But at the core, it’s still the same too—another wonderfully paced, skillfully designed Kirby romp for players of all stripes.
If you’d like to get a feel for the game yourself, keep your eye on the Nintendo eShop where a story mode demo (complete with multiplayer support) will be arriving soon. How do I know? A little Waddle Dee told me!
Nintendo of America provided access to a digital preview event for this game. This post contains affiliate links. It seems like Magolor has a lot of jobs, and I’m beginning to worry that he’s overexerting himself.