I really like Kirby, but for whatever reason, his Super Nintendo games are a bit of a blind spot for me. But, a couple of them are available on the Nintendo Switch’s SNES app and the random number generator decided I should check out Kirby’s Dreamland 3. Dreamland 2 was one of my favorite games on the original Game Boy, but is 3 a worthy successor? Well, it’s kind of hard to say after only playing through the first world, but here’s what I thought.
Dreamland 3 gives a really strong first impression. The story, although basic, is told really well with a charming opening cinematic. Dark Matter, the main villain from the previous game is back and seems to have corrupted Pop Star and it’s bosses. This is all told in little comic panels with cute hand-drawn looking images of all of Kirby’s friends. It’s a good fit for Kirby, and noticeably different from how mainline Kirby games had looked previously.
Unfortunately, I was less enthusiastic after I started to play. The game still looked really good, with that hand-drawn aesthetic carrying over into the actual game, but there’s a weird stiffness to the movement that just didn’t feel natural. Even by the end of my play session, I was just not controlling Kirby as well as I should have been able to.
Things got a little better after I entered a door and discovered some animal friends, a concept introduced in the previous game. By riding an animal like Rick the hamster, Kine the fish, or Coo the owl, Kirby gains other different versions of his signature copy abilities. For example, if Kirby gains his classic spark ability, he can shoot sparks around his body. But, if he rides inside of Kine’s mouth while having that ability, he can create a light bulb.
While all this is cool, the game seems to rely a little too heavily on the animal friends. Every single level had a door that lets you choose between two of them, the three I mentioned before and a few newcomers. I like the animal buddies, but instead of making the moments with them special, it felt like a game that was entirely about them. Also, because the abilities are so different depending on which animal you use, I often found myself second guessing which one I should be taking. The only way to really know what the right choice is is to simply play through the level and then replay it after you realized you messed up.
Early on, the level design seemed pretty basic, but there’s actually one pretty cool new addition to the Kirby formula. Every level has an optional objective you can complete. The first one is to not crush any flowers in the level. If you do that, a flower at the end of the level will give you a heart. The only real hints for what you have to do is a picture on the level selection screen of the character who will reward you should you complete the objective.
They can be pretty unique too. One has you finding three different shapes to give to a clown. One has you completing a simple quiz. The one that got me though was for a fish. Apparently, she just really wants to see Kine, so get in your fish friend’s mouth and complete the level. As you complete each objective, the icons fill up on the level select screen, making me never want to skip one.
After you get through all the levels in a world, you have to fight a boss. Like basically every Kirby game, the first boss is Whispy Woods, a sentient tree. And as usual, you dodge his puffs of air and spit back fruits at him. However, about halfway through the fight, Whispy gets pissed off, his mouth gets all scary, and he starts running towards you on his roots. Apparently this is an effect of Dark Matter’s possession, and after beating him with all the optional objective competed, Whispy is freed. I’m actually kind of curious what happens if you fight him without completing everything.
And that’s where I stopped playing. Kirby’s Dreamland 3 is very much a Kirby game. It does have some neat new ideas, but it also relies on an old gimmick a little too hard. And although controlling Kirby and friends is a little awkward, I did have fun with the game. I don’t know if I’ll get around to finishing it, but it’s a nice addition to the Switch’s online service.