For the last ten years, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and I have kept passing each other by, with no more than mere glances in the other’s direction before ultimately going our separate ways. Whether in the form of a physical SNES cartridge or a quick download vie the Wii U Virtual Console, I have had multiple opportunities to play the game, but have always chosen to spend my money on the highly praised Kirby Super Star instead. Finally, with the release of the SNES collection provided by the Switch Online service, I hadn’t any reason to ignore this game any longer. And now, in this post, I answer the question: do I regret taking so long to play this game? Well…yes and no.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3, much to my surprise, was clearly the inspiration for Kirby 64, my very first Kirby game. Both games share a familiar storyline involving Dark Matter, with familiar music, and even very similar King Dedede battles. Heck, each game even includes a level featuring some sort of bizarre structure in a desert. (Kirby’s rock ability in Kirby 64 can even transform into Kirby’s various animal friends in Dream Land 3.) While Kirby 64 is a fun enough game, it was not until I played the older Kirby Super Star, and the newer Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, that I realized just how great a Kirby game can be.
I have…kind of the same feeling when I play Dream Land 3. Now, if you’re a fan of this game, please understand that I didn’t dislike it. It’s a fun, cute, and positively charming game. It’s just not the best Kirby has to offer. Like Kirby 64, I feel like this game is a fairly basic entry into the series, with one sole “gimmick” that makes it stand out. Whereas Kirby 64 granted you the option to combine Kirby’s copy abilities for unique, well, combos, Kirby’s Dream Land 3, on the other hand, allows you to team up with Kirby’s various friends, whose abilities change depending on which copy ability Kirby currently has.
And since I’m comparing Kirby 64 to Dream Land 3, I would say that the latter is better because combining your powers with animal friends is a lot more interesting than simply combining your abilities with other abilities.
And that’s where my positives for Dream Land 3 can largely be summed up. I really like Kirby’s friends, which range from Coo the owl to Kine the sunfish to Chuchu the…pink blog. (You can team up with Gooey at any time, as well, but he’s often more trouble than he’s worth.) While I admit that some of Kirby’s friends are not very useful if paired with an unhelpful ability, I largely enjoyed figuring out how each of Kirby’s abilities behaved with different friends. Each friend has their own skills, too, such as Kine’s ability to swim against currents and Rick’s ability to jump up walls. (The downside with some of these, however, is the fact that you lose Kirby’s innate ability to fly.)
Other than that, I have…mixed feelings about Kirby’s Dream Land 3. Part of that starts with the recent realization that this game was released after, not before, the much loved classic Kirby Super Star. Honestly, I would have assumed otherwise because Dream Land 3 lacks a lot of the fun abilities that Kirby Super Star had. Beam, Sword, Hammer, Mirror, Wing, Ninja, Fighter, just to name a few.
Part of what made Kirby Super Star fun were the sheer number of abilities that Kirby could use. Not only was there a large variety of abilities, they were usually very good abilities, as well. Dream Land 3 just doesn’t have a super fun collection of abilities. So as I’m traversing a particular stage, I’m often getting hit by enemies constantly because my powers have such little range that I can’t always fight back. Navigating a level with the unwieldy Rock Kirby or rocketing forward in short bursts with Fire Kirby is just not that much fun compared to whacking enemies with Hammer Kirby or shooting charged bursts at them with Beam Kirby.
My favorite combo in Dream Land 3 was Spark Kirby and Coo, which can wipe out every enemy below you with a downward bolt of lightning. Even then, it can be really difficult to hit certain enemies, and I would still find myself taking damage repeatedly because I couldn’t hit anything directly in front of me.
My final point involves something that is actually good and bad, and that is the secret mission in every level. Each stage has an optional secret mission that you can complete in order to collect the heart at the end of the level. Collect all of them, and you unlock a cool secret boss fight (a tradition that continues on in future Kirby games, examples being when you collect the shards in Kirby 64 and the gears in Return to Dream Land). Each world has six stages, and each of the six stages always has kind of a theme to give you an idea of what you’re supposed to do. (For example, stage 1 of any given world has to do with flowers, while stage 3 always contains a mini game.)
While it can be a lot of fun trying to figure out how to complete any particular level’s secret mission, I feel like the picture hinting at what you need to do is often much too vague. Most of the time, I would have to do a stage twice, once to see what the secret mission was, and twice to actually do it. Rarely were you given enough indication of what to do that you could properly prepare ahead of time. And let me tell you, having to complete almost every level of the game at least twice is really not that fun. (For example, in stage 2 of Cloudy Park, there is a picture of a chicken. Once you reach the end of the level, you find that you needed Needle Kirby in order to pop a chick’s balloon. Now how was I supposed to know this ahead of time?!)
In summary, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is cute and charming, as all Kirby games are. Kirby’s animal friends are a nice addition, as well. It’s just not as fun as other entries in the series because it is lacking many of the best copy abilities that were present even in Kirby Super Star, despite that game being released over a year prior. Is it a fun blast from the past? Sure. There are just better options out there that make better use of Kirby’s iconic copy ability. In the end, while I’m glad that I finally got a chance to experience Dream Land 3 for myself, I’m also glad that I never spent money on this particular game, either.
It’s now your turn to share, dear readers. If you’ve played Dream Land 3, what did you think about it? And what was your favorite animal companion (mine is Chuchu, by the way)? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on August 11, 2020.