Following a long run of gimmick-heavy titles, 2011's Kirby's Return to Dream Land signaled the franchise's return to the traditional platforming style. With four-player co-op, a massive suite of fun copy abilities, and cleverly designed stages, Kirby's Return to Dream Land stands out as one of the high-water marks for the franchise. Thanks to an HD visual upgrade and meaningful content additions, this new Switch version establishes itself as the definitive way to enjoy this standout adventure.
An interdimensional being named Magolor has crash-landed on Kirby's Planet Popstar, and it's up to Kirby and his friends to gather the missing pieces to repair Magolor's ship. Players must run, jump, and float through a wealth of exciting platforming stages stretched across several distinct biomes alongside up to three friends in drop-in/drop-out cooperative play. I'm glad co-op is still in this version, but I'm disappointed this remaster didn't add online functionality.
While additional players can take on the form of Meta Knight, King Dedede, and Bandana Waddle Dee (each possessing distinct moves), Kirby is the best character to play, thanks to his ability to absorb powers from enemies. Thankfully, every player can assume a variant of Kirby instead of those specific characters, giving each player full access to the impressive list of copy abilities to inhale in Return to Dream Land Deluxe.
Every copy ability is carried forward from the original release, giving you domain over water, electricity, fire, snow, and more. While the elemental skills are fun and helpful in solving environmental puzzles, I still prefer the more offensive move sets granted by the magical Beam, the classic Sword, and the swift Ninja. This version also adds two all-new copy abilities in the form of Mecha and Sand. While it's fun to surf around and blast enemies with Sand, I often went out of my way to experience the powerful Mecha ability's lasers, blasters, and rockets. I love the diversity of gameplay offered by the broad spectrum of copy abilities.
The stages in Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe use these copy abilities to encourage exploration. Though it's sometimes frustrating to not have the correct power to grab a tucked-away collectible, the game typically gives you heavy-handed hints that you should acquire a particular new ability before moving to the next area. I loved replaying these stages to go through different doors to see how the branching paths rewarded me.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe isn't a difficult game, but the challenge certainly ramps up near the end of the main story. In those moments, I was glad to have mastered some of my favorite abilities. However, if you need extra assistance to push through the adventure, Deluxe adds a new Magolor Helper mode, where he'll throw you some health if you're low or fish you out of pits if you fall. Most seasoned players won't need Magolor's help in this optional feature, but for less experienced players, this option will inevitably boost their enjoyment. Thankfully, the Extra Mode, where bosses are stronger, players are weaker, and bonus stages are more demanding, returns to add more challenge to your second playthrough.
Speaking of Magolor, he's at the center of the two most significant additions to this Deluxe package. In addition to unlocking Extra Mode when you beat the main story, you can play Magolor Epilogue. This all-new story-based mode follows Magolor on a journey to regain his powers after the events of the original adventure. Though Magolor's projectile-based move set is underwhelming initially, you upgrade his skills by defeating enemies and maintaining combo streaks to earn magic orbs while you play. This increased emphasis on combat satisfied me more the deeper I got into this shorter story. By the end of it, I was pulling off massive combos involving bombs, spiraling projectiles, and black holes, tearing through any enemies that dared get in my way. However, the suped-up boss battles in this mode are no joke, giving me some of the most challenging sequences of my time with Return to Dream Land Deluxe.
Magolor isn't all about blasting away his foes, though. A second new mode to bear his name, Merry Magoland, is all about kicking back and having fun with friends. Here, various subgames from the past and a couple of all-new ones allow you to experience a wide array of gameplay challenges. Whether it's the frantic Bomb Rally game from Nightmare in Dream Land, the combative Smash Ride from Squeak Squad, or the reaction-based Samurai Kirby from Super Star, I loved experiencing the divergent gameplay styles on offer from this fun collection. A mission system serves as an exciting in-game checklist and rewards you with cosmetic masks featuring characters from the series based on your accomplishments in the mode.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe is still an enhanced remaster of a 12-year-old Wii game, but it effectively brings forward one of the pink puffball's best outings, complete with meaningful additions. The result is a game worthy of sitting in the Switch catalog next to last year's superb Kirby and the Forgotten Land.