Game 3 – Kirby’s Dream Land (GB)

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In 2003, Masahiro Sakurai left HAL Laboratory. For more than a decade he worked at the developer making a name for himself as the main creative designer of the Kirby series, as well as the Super Smash Bros. games. He sighted the main reason for leaving being pressure to make sequels to his games. He left the company with whom he made his entire reputation as a way of saying he was tired of the sequelization of the video game industry. Following true to his promise to make unique games, he founded his own development company, Sora Ltd. His first project saw him working with fellow game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi on Meteos, a new title for the DS in 2005.

ImageMizuguchi (creator of Rez, Space Channel 5, Lumines, etc), seen here looking smug as fuck

Sakurai with Sora Ltd. continued to release games, albeit at his own pace, that were generally received well. Recently, a few weeks ago, he announced the end of Sora Ltd. as a development company. Today, he is working on the 4th iteration of the Super Smash Bros. series, working with Namco Bandai. He is still known for his drive to create games in a unique way, although he hasn’t seem able to escape creating the sequels which caused him to leave HAL in the first place(though you could argue that he still tries to make them as far from the originals as he can). I’ve always loved him as a developer, and can honestly say I haven’t played a game backed by him that I didn’t like. So I knew that someday I would have to face the fact that I had never seriously played a true Kirby game, the namesake by which he got his start into the industry. It’s not of my own accord, it just wasn’t a series I ever followed, and it can also didn’t help that Kirby as a franchise has been overshadowed by Mario since it’s release. And no where seems a better place to start than the very beginning of the franchise.

At the ripe-old age of 19 years old, Sakurai headed his first project. He created something completed new. A new character in a new world, he created 1992’s Kirby’s Dream Land for the Game Boy. It’s kind of amazing to me that at such a young age, Sakurai was trusted to be the director of a completely new game. It almost gives hope to aspiring young game developers, myself definitely not included in that. I play games, and I have no want to make them.

And play it I did. It’s no secret that platformers ruled the game industry at this point in time, although one could argue that this was around the turning point where RPG’s started to gain a lot of steam. Still, among the thousands of platformers that existed at this time, this feels very smooth. I know I don’t have a lot of experience with Kirby games, but what little I’ve played of more recent ones, the controls are just as tight here as they are later in the series. I look forward to seeing the differences more in depth as I continue through the series, but I feel like this was a huge first step for the franchise.

Something I didn’t realize, is that the iconic ability of Kirby to copy abilities of enemies is missing from this game. Looking into it, that didn’t come about until the NES release of Kirby’s Adventure. Overall, the game takes a very simplistic approach. The bosses are fun, although they all follow a very similar pattern of tossing out some item or enemy for Kirby to suck up and spit back at them.

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The game is made to be approachable and easy, so it doesn’t take more than an hour to beat. Which fits into the standard of the time, which is just fine. At the end you go through a quick boss-run of all the bosses you’ve encountered before you fight King Dedede. I will say that Dedede doesn’t follow the same kind of pattern as the other bosses, and was a bit more of a challenge, which was nice to see.

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Overall, it’s obviously simplistic on purpose. Sakurai created the Kirby character, as well as the world, to be cute and cuddly. It’s definitely a Game Boy game, but at 22 years old I still enjoyed the simple platforming and listening to the upbeat music. So that counts for something, right? I mean, there’s more to this than just nostalgia, although I’d be lying if that didn’t play a big part of it. But really, isn’t that why I’m going through all these games in the first place? I would also like to take this time to show my appreciation for games that thank the player at the end of it. There’s just some sort of joy I find in it; it never fails to put a smile on my face.

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Also, appreciation for New Game+ in games. That’s cool too.

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