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Kirby’s Dream Land – Game Boy

Kirby’s Dream Land – Game Boy

Kirby's Dream LandPlatform:  Game Boy

Release Date (NA):  August 1st, 1992

Developer:  HAL Laboratory

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Platformer

Nerd Rating:  6.5 out of 10



Kirby’s Dream Land stands out firmly as my second most prominent memory of the green and gray Game Boy.  When Tetris would inevitably get too tiring, it was time for something a little more Mario-like.  (I never had any of the Mario Game Boy titles as a kid; Kirby was as close as it got.)  Although I regularly used a Game Genie, I rarely remember making it past the first boss and certainly not the second.  Then again, I had very little patience with video games prior to about the age of 15 and even less with the Game Boy.  It wasn’t the lack of color so much as it was the weird blur when moving sideways and lack of a backlight.

Kirby's Dream LandFast-forward to about a week ago when I picked up Kirby Triple Deluxe (which is really outstanding so far).  As I brushed up on the history of Kirby games, I was surprised to learn that Triple Deluxe is the thirteenth game in the main series, not to mention a healthy number of spin-offs.  I began digging through my existing Kirby games – not that I’ve ever embarked on a specific crusade to complete my collection of the franchise – but I have picked up a few of the older games from time to time.  Despite digging up a few, I decided to start at the beginning and whipped out the Game Boy proper, sans Game Genie, and booted up Kirby’s Dream Land for the first time in over 10, maybe 15 years.

The premise is pretty simple.  King Dedede has stolen a bunch of food from the residents of Dream Land and the naive yet tough Kirby has taken it upon himself to get it back.  He has a few interesting mechanics that were relatively novel at the time, such as the ability to hover around, largely eliminating the jumping aspect.  Kirby can also shoot out little air puffs, suck up enemies, and spit them back out.

Kirby's Dream Land

Kirby sucks!
Get it?

And this is how the game goes.  As Kirby, the player makes his or her way through each level, sucking, spitting, floating, jumping.  Gameplay is pretty simple, but it’s unique enough to stay interesting and not feel like a lesser version of Mario or any other great platformer.  It’s actually quite easy.  If Kirby gets in a jam, he can either inhale or float, minimizing truly inescapable situations.  A good deal of health is scattered about, and there are even a few hidden areas with 1ups.

Kirby's Dream Land


The bosses are where things get interesting.  It can take a few minutes to figure out their patterns, but it’s always possible to move through unscathed even without lightning-fast reflexes.  The catch is that most bosses can’t be hurt by Kirby’s typical “air puff,” and instead generate some object that Kirby must inhale and then spit back out.  This gives each of the 5 battles their own flavor, not to mention the various physical setups of each.  At the end of the third level, the boss battle takes on standard SHMUP mechanics.

Kirby's Dream Land

Castle Lololo injects a little horror into Dream Land and provides some mild labyrinthine entertainment.

The levels themselves are visually and conceptually varied, but it only matters to an extent due to Kirby’s ability to float. Kirby’s Dream Land does make use of both horizontal and vertical scrolling, swimming, and even a rudimentary maze-like level.  The final level takes a cue from the Mega Man series and has Kirby face off against all 4 bosses before King Dedede himself, with nothing to recharge Kirby’s 5 hit points in between.  The good news is that if a life is lost, one’s progress defeating the bosses is saved.

King Dedede poses the most serious threat, and only generates brief stars for Kirby to suck up.  These stars appear only when Dedede hits the floor with the hammer or jumps and slams down.  They disappear quickly, meaning that it’s mandatory for Kirby to get right in the path of danger to collect the ammo needed to dispatch the King.

Kirby's Dream Land

King Dedede…if that isn’t intimidating, i don’t know what is.

The battle with King Dedede is really the only thing that approaches difficult in Dream Land.  That’s the one serious complaint that can be lodged against Kirby’s debut except for perhaps its short length.  (However, after finishing, the game gives the player instructions on how to access an “extra game” which is more or less the same game with the difficultly turned up a little.)  It may be simple and short, but it sets up a great foundation for future games.  Kirby would become known for his ability to “absorb” the qualities/powers of certain enemies, but in this first installment any changes are limited to 2 powerups.  One allows Kirby to spit out unlimited amounts of fire for a limited time and the other lets Kirby float while continually shooting…some sort of projectile.

Kirby's Dream Land

Everyone’s seen this, right?

The visuals aren’t anything special, yet they are forgivable considering Dream Land’s age and platform. Dream Land (the place) has a nice, playful look to it; a little more whimsical than Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom with a little less variety.  The enemies are a little on the bland side, as is Kirby himself, but too much detail on the Game Boy can be a hindrance.  It’s difficult to get a grasp on just what Kirby’s up against.  Round-ish blobs with legs are most prevalent, with other things like innocuous looking baby birds and laser-spitting clams dotted around.  Even the bosses are a bit abstract in concept; the mean old tree at the conclusion of the first level is probably the most memorable.

The music from Kirby’s Dream Land establishes catchy tunes that would go on to become iconic and reinforce the upbeat nature of the game.  Between the 5 levels and boss battles, there’s sufficient variety unlike the majority of “Game Boy music” that tends to be rather repetitive and dull and at times, outright annoying. Sound effects are generic and mediocre at best, except for Kirby’s inhaling noise which has a strange, almost unsettling timbre.

Kirby's Dream LandThere’s a distinct “good but not great” quality about Kirby’s Dream Land, but it’s easy to see something great in the making.  A familiar-feeling platformer with novel mechanics, Dream Land would act as the blueprint for future games that continued to embrace the lighthearted nature of the character and develop one of Nintendo’s most recognizable icons.  It’s interesting to see where it all started, but it lacks a certain degree of depth.  It does, however, work as a simple game to pick up and put down along with the Game Boy and functions as a straightforward introduction to Kirby and his childlike world.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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