Everything you’ll read online about Kirby’s 20th Birthday Video Game will begin with a direct comparison to Nintendo’s own anniversary treatment for their mustached mascot a couple of years ago.
And for good reason: When the announcement was made that a special commemorative box would be released to coincide with the 25th birthday of the original Super Mario Bros., a lot of longtime fans (yours truly included) were understandably excited. But as the end result wound up being essentially an unchanged 20 year old rom (Super Mario All Stars from the SNES to be exact) slapped onto a disc and packed in with a flimsy at best scrapbook along with an anemic 13 track CD…well, pissed isn’t exactly the right word but you get the idea. Now with HAL laboratory celebrating the second decade mark for their little friend Kirby with such style, what once simply felt like a missed opportunity for Mario at this point feels like a legitimate insult.
HAL really knows how to stick it in and break it off.
Now before we begin, let me just get the obvious out of the way: If you’re a huge Kirby nerd, you’re more than likely going to already own these games in some form or another to begin with. But what’s nice about this set aside from the abundance of extras is the fact that you can play the original Game Boy entries on your television. Yes, yes I know that if by some long shot you’ve still got a Game Boy player attached to your Game Cube (which is still lucky enough to own a spot in your entertainment center), that this isn’t much of a selling point to you. But just think for a second about the convenience factor here, which in my opinion is the great thing about compilations in general (and why I hunted the Data East Arcade Collection disc down like a white rhino). Having all of these games just a few menus away from each other is a lot less irritating than dealing with the apocalyptic wasteland of cords and wires behind your big screen. Also, with the GBA player you’re pretty much stuck with the Game Cube controller whereas on this Wii disc, that pad along with standalone Wii-mote and Nunchuk setups are supported. Pretty snazzy, eh?
Ok. Now let’s get on with it and run down the list of goodies that make up this incredibly cool package starting with…
The Games of course, 6 in total:
– Kirby’s Dreamland (Game Boy):
Kirby’s original appearance on the Game Boy is just as well known for marking the little guy’s grand debut as it is for his white instead of pink appearance on the box’s packaging. This of course was the result of whatever stoner art director assuming that he was a cloud-like character due to the fact that the GB had a shit color palette. In any case, the game established his sucking in and shooting enemies ability and floaty yet precise controls. While the game’s visuals are obviously dated and the mechanics clearly have yet to be refined, if you don’t mind staring and a black and greyish screen for a while, you could play a lot worse. Also, let’s face it: There was no way this game wasn’t going to make the roster here.
– Kirby’s Adventure (NES, Wii Virtual Console, 3DS 3D Classics):
This game came late in the lifespan of the NES when most gamers had already moved on to 16-bit platforming so it had a sort “late to the party” vibe when I played it back then. It has charm to spare for sure, what with the bouncy, catchy music and vibrant color scheme and whatever. It’s just that for me personally there wasn’t much all that compelling about it. Certainly not after I’d already taken a tour of Dinosaur Island with a yellow caped Mario riding a frickin’ dinosaur. However, I’ve gone back and played it recently a bit as one of the 3D classics in the eShop and it’s definitely aged better than I expected. In any case, as the first home console appearance for the character, again this game’s inclusion to this comp is crucial.
– Kirby’s Dreamland 2 (Game Boy):
There are several games on the list here that I have to admit to never playing before and this is one of them. What can I say? As a kid, I didn’t really own many GB carts because whenever the opportunity arose to snag a new game, my home console was certainly the priority. Still, I hear very good things about this sequel and can’t wait to check it out if only to see what the deal is with the weirdly adorable hamster (?) thing pictured above.
– Kirby Super Star (SNES, Nintendo DS, Wii Virtual Console):
Now this entry is one that is very highly regarded amongst fans of the Kirby franchise. To the point where it was even eventually given the remake treatment for Nintendo DS, complete with new gameplay touches and slight graphical upgrades. Personally, I find the structure of it a bit confusing: Instead of one main linear game to play through, the whole thing is broken up into six “chapters” that you can choose to play in any order you like. Actually, now that I put it that way I guess it isn’t so complex. Anyway, despite the fact that this exists as an SNES cart, DS card and Virtual Console download, I still have yet to play through it all the way. BUT what I have checked out I’ve totally enjoyed as the controls, graphics, music and overall presentation are all excellent. I’m sure there’s an argument out there somewhere that this is the best game on the disc.
– Kirby’s Dreamland 3 (SNES, Wii Virtual Console):
This is actually the title that I’m most excited to get into as I’ve never had the chance to before. I read somewhere that this was “Kirby’s answer to Yoshi’s Island” which of course tickled my interest like a backdoor masseuse. The graphics certainly seem to support that claim what with the pastel like aesthetic which I am totally into. Hopefully the gameplay can also manage to come within an inch of the sublime platforming experience that is Super Mario World 2. Fingers crossed.
– Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, Wii Virtual Console):
And here, last but certainly not least we have Kirby’s (kind of) leap into 3D gaming with this entry for the Nintendo 64. Crystal Shards is actually more like a 2 and a half D game as it does feature fully polygonal characters and worlds but sticks with the mechanics (more or less) of a traditional side-scroller. It’s a pretty cool game and one that I’ve played a bit on the Virtual Console. Nice to see it included but also extremely awkward to play with the Wii-Mote or nunchuk setup. I hope you still have a GC pad or WaveBird lying around somewhere.
In addition to these titles there are also some all new mini games that borrow assets from Kirby: Return to Dreamland, his most recent platforming outing on the Nintendo Wii. I as of this writing, have yet to check them out but early word on the internet is that they’re not just window dressing but actual pretty thoughtful inclusions.
And with that, let’s move on to…
The Bonus Shit:
– Kirby: Right Back at Ya’:
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Three full episodes of this cartoon series that I’d previously never heard of are included on the disc and while that probably isn’t appealing to anyone male and over the age of 9, it’s still kind of cool that the thought to include shit we didn’t ask for was taken into account.
– Sweet Ass Booklet:
I honestly spent a good solid lunch break thumbing through every inch of this thing and was thoroughly impressed by how much thought and care went into it. Each page is such an incredibly cool collage of images and information that I still find myself picking it up now and then just to see what sketch or fun fact I missed upon my first 5 or 6 passes. Not to harp on the Super Mario box too much, but unlike the book that that came with, this one is loaded. Featuring all kinds of preliminary designs, character bios, original documents detailing the game’s concepts as well as the tracklisting for the unbelievably cool hour plus long soundtrack that’s included with this set featuring selected cuts from nearly every Kirby game ever made as well as 3 bonus pieces. Oh yeah, that brings us to the next awesome extra:
– There’s an unbelievably cool hour plus long soundtrack that’s included featuring selected cuts from nearly every Kirby game ever made as well as 3 bonus pieces:
Interested in owning a copy? Go ahead. Leave a comment along with your email address and perhaps your old buddy Ray will see what he can do.
– Kirby: Hall of History:
This is where the sting of Mario’s box set really begins to burn. In this one outright beautiful inclusion Kirby receives a treatment that quite frankly he doesn’t deserve. Sure, he’s been the star of a lot of fun and well made games. But this very impressive and incredibly executed concept really screams out to be attached to a property with a much more important legacy. Namely one where you constantly find yourself jumping on mushrooms in an attempt save some broad from a scary ass turtle all the time. Walking through Kirby’s history in a museum AS the character and then sucking in each milestone to have a look at the details of every release is such a love letter that it makes you wish that not only Mario, but Link and Samus were this well respected by their current proprietors.
The Final Word:
Wow. Leave it to the boys and girls over at HAL Laboratory to show Nintendo how a proper anniversary collection is done. The studio behind the content packed Smash Bros. series and of course every Kirby game known to man have lovingly crafted a 20th birthday collection that is likely to impress both hardcore Kirby nerds as well as gamers who never really gave much of a shit about the pink puffball in the first place *raises hand*. Very well done and at $29.99, Kirby Dream Collection Special Edition is an absolute must own.
If you still happen to have your Wii plugged in of course.
Mr. Face say this game GOOD.
Mr. Face never wrong!