Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Whole Lotta Iwata: Kirby's Dream Land

As you may recall from my last post, I had a lot of conflicting emotions about Satoru Iwata's death. Sure I felt terrible, but just who was it that I was feeling terrible for, exactly? Since I didn't really know the man personally, it felt like mourning his passing (and by association, what it meant for me as a Nintendo fan) was selfish. However, when I took those concerns elsewhere, someone pointed out that all mourning is by its nature selfish, and that instead of dwelling on that fact, I should celebrate what gave Iwata's life meaning. "He liked making fun things. So why not appreciate those fun things, and regret that he's not around to make more fun things?"

(Image from NintendoLife, as you could
probably tell from the watermark)
So that's exactly what I'll do, and I know just where to start! On a trip to Tucson a couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to find a bowl full of clearance priced cartridges for the Game Boy Advance. Many of these titles were licensed garbage... a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen game here, a Nicktoons game there. However, mixed into the bowl were a handful of early releases for the original black and white Game Boy. Now, I don't make it a habit to collect for that system... it was never a personal favorite of mine, and I like the Game Boy Advance a whole lot more. However, I found a copy of Kirby's Dream Land buried in the bowl, and for two dollars and some change I figured, "Why not?"

That was a smart move... not only because Kirby's Dream Land is a great game, but because it's a fascinating history lesson. Everything you love about the Kirby series had its roots right here, from the jaunty "didn't I hear this tune on a game show...?" soundtrack to the familiar cast of enemies to those silly little animations that introduce each stage. However, Kirby's debut was an extremely basic game, leaving lots of room for expansion. Swallowing foes gives Kirby... nothing, and what look like the entrances to hidden rooms lead only to disappointment. At twenty minutes from start to finish, it's just the right size for an original Game Boy game, but I'm glad the series evolved along with the industry over the last two decades.

Kirby... brought to you in COLOR!
(Thanks to Game Boy Crammer for the image)
Oh yeah, there's one other thing! Playing Kirby's Dream Land on a Game Boy Advance adds rudimentary color, with all the characters taking on a shade of pink and the backgrounds adopting different hues depending on the stage. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't- Whispy Woods looks like he's wearing lipstick!- but the injection of color does add welcome contrast. Beyond that, it just feels right for Kirby to be pink, you know?

Wait wait, there's something else! Why's Kirby always fighting with former HAL Laboratory mascot Lolo? In the first game it was just an amusing cameo, but now I'm just wondering why they hate each other so much.

Okay, one MORE thing. According to USGamer's Nadia Oxford, Kirby's original name was "Tinkle Popo." I know I should be showing Mr. Iwata the proper respect here, but...


  1. This was a great idea, Jess. Playing through the first Kirby game to remember Iwata, I mean. Would you believe I've yet to put any real time into this sucker? I own a copy of it, but ... no. Maybe I'll blast through it this weekend, just to see where it all started--and to offer up another homage of sorts to the man who brought the world Balloon Fight and a number of other gems, too :)

    1. Oh geez, Balloon Fight! I'm gonna have to play that one too, aren't I? (I've always been a Joust man myself, but oh well...)

      But yeah, I think you're gonna have a ball with Kirby's Dream Land. For the twenty minutes it takes to beat it, anyway. Was the game included in Kirby Super Star for the Super NES? Because I think it was...

    2. Actually, Jess, I pretty much ignore the main mode of Balloon Fight in favor of the far superior (IMO, of course) "Balloon Trip" mode.

      As for Kirby's Dream Land being included in Kirby Super Star: I have no idea. Sadly, I've never played that Kirby game either :(

    3. You spend any time with Balloon Kid on the Game Boy? I thought that was pretty decent. Takes the side scrolling action of Balloon Trip and gives the stages more definition. Rather than a starry night you're sailing past houses and through forests and such.

    4. I've played Balloon Kid. It's okay, but the game has one of the worst framerates I've seen in a Game Boy title and really feels like it should be on a platform with more screen retail.

      As for Balloon Fight, I've always found the contrast between it and Joust interesting. Like Mario Bros.* before it, Nintendo wasn't content in just making a Joust clone. For better or worse, the game has actual levels instead of one arena with variables, and Balloon Trip offers a completely different way to play the game.

      Also I've always liked that your enemies are guys with Tengu masks and overalls. Love that ridiculous mishmash of Japanese culture with very western clothing.

      * It's played differently (knock enemies down from underneath and kick they face), but Mario Bros. does do the "one arena with variables" thing.

    5. Jess: oh, yes, I've played Balloon Kid. A lot. In fact, I owned the game as a kid, played and loved it, sold it, and then bought it again a few years ago so I could rekindle the flame, so to speak.

      Like you, I love that it turns the Balloon Trip mode of the original Balloon Fight into more of a side-scrolling platformer affair. Like MetManMas, though, I also think that the game has an absolutely terrible framerate.

      As such, I really, REALLY wish Nintendo would remake it for one or more of its more modern systems. I mean, it would be a great downloadable game for the 3DS, don't you think? Or the Wii U, of course. Sigh.

    6. Oh, and BTW: today I spent about 30 or so minutes playing and beating Kirby's Dream Land. It was lovely! Horribly short, but lovely. I'll have to write up a post about it later this coming week...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.