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Kirby's Return to Dream Land Hands On Preview

While at E3, I found the time to play Kirby's upcoming new title, Kirby Wii.

The newest Kirby console title, Kirby Wii, brings Kirby back to a world less composed of fibers and more of dreams. That's right, Kirby is, without a doubt, back in Dream Land, offering similar stage design and gameplay to that found in modes like DynaBlade and Revenge of the Meta Knight in Kirby's Super Star.

Truth be told, in my time previewing Kirby Wii, I didn't actually get my hands on Kirby. Instead, each time I played, I controlled Meta Knight, King Dedede, and Waddle Dee (aka Bandana Dee, who appears to be a servant aiding Dedede.) I made this decision specifically because of the nature of the title: while there is drop-in, drop-out multiplayer--like several past Kirby titles including Super Star and Dream Land 3--the second, third and fourth player can not take advantage of the many “helperized” enemies (or Gooey's Kirby-like eating power) as used to be the trend before. No, instead, the extra players may only access Kirby's three associates, and surprisingly, my brief experience suggested this worked well. Upon dropping in, each player may choose which of the three he or she would like to control, which is meaningful, as the trio are entirely different in behavior.

Meta Knight, arguably the most famous acquaintance of Kirby mostly due to his infamy at the top of the Super Smash Bros. Brawl tiers, is back. With him is his ability to glide and quickly fly through the air. Fans of Super Star's Yo-Yo and Sword abilities likely will feel at home with Meta Knight. Why? When holding down on the D-pad, then tapping up and the 1 button, Meta Knight can do his up + B special move (shuttle loop) from Brawl. Unlike Brawl, he can only do the move standing on the ground. The input, button names notwithstanding, is precisely the same as the Super Star input for one of Yo-Yo's special attacks. Additionally, Meta Knight has a handful of sword attacks very similar to the Sword power-up. Like in Super Star, at full health, Meta Knight can launch a sword beam, which seemed to be fairly weak. He can perform sword combos similar to Kirby's Sword ability, and he also has a charge attack where he spins around in a tornado fashion, but the move is vastly different from his Brawl attack Mach Tornado. With this attack, Meta Knight either remains on the ground or in the air, and it is purely used for attacking horizontal space. Meta Knight seemed to be the nimblest mover of all the characters, including Kirby.

King Dedede makes his playable return in Kirby Wii, as well. Dedede will almost certainly remind Super Star's fans of Bonkers, the large, hammer-wielding helper from Super Star, though he definitely brings attacks back from his Dream Land boss days. Large, slow hammer swings and smashes mark Dedede's attacks, though his aerial attacks are a little quicker. Upon charging up by holding the 1 button, Dedede performed a three-smash attack, where he slams his hammer against the ground three times, creating damaging stars with fairly good reach in the process. Dedede's flight capabilities left a bit to be desired, as he was clearly the slowest character in the air, moving just like Dedede does in the Dream Land boss fight. On the ground, he wasn't too much faster.

Last up is a character I like to call Bandana Dee, a Waddle Dee wearing a special blue bandana. Every other playable character in the game offers a unique configuration and model. Meta Knight is a masked, round-being, similar to Kirby, but blue and with Wings. Dedede is a penguin wearing a hat. Waddle Dee, though? He's shaped just like Kirby, but is a different color. Naturally, he lacks the ability to inhale and copy enemies. Instead, Bandana Dee carries a spear, or an infinite number of spears, depending on what attacks he uses. His basic attacks involve stabbing forward with his spear, but upon charging with the 1 button, Bandana Dee is able to lob three spears, each of the three reaching farther than the last. Bandana Dee can also throw the three spears in the air. Additionally, if the player holds up on the D-pad after charging, Bandana Dee will rapidly spin his spear above his head, like a propeller, and take to the skies. When Bandana Dee is flying like this, his spear will deal damage to enemies and bosses upon making contact. After a brief amount of time, Bandana Dee will cease spinning the spear and return to the ground. Upon jumping, Bandana Dee can perform downward and upward thrusts with the spear; similar to the sword attacks Meta Knight uses. Bandana Dee flies like Super Star helpers do: With an infinite number of jumps, which allow him to be agile in the sky.

Of course, Kirby Wii wouldn't be Kirby Wii if I didn't talk about the star of the Wii game, Kirby. Expect Kirby to behave like Kirby. While I didn't use the puff personally, I got to see plenty of the people around me play as him. In addition to Kirby's normal abilities, it's possible for Kirby to make a more massive inhalation than ever before with a little bit of Wii Remote waggle. Using this, Kirby can pick up extra-large enemies, heavy blocks, and even his allies. In the latter cases, Kirby can spit out everyone and everything as part of a large, damaging star projectile. In the case of the former, Kirby can actually gain a temporary special ability, with unlimited use in the time frame. I saw Kirby inhale a huge sword enemy for one of these power-ups, and within a brief time limit, Kirby was able to use the ability to summon forth a random type of might, giant blade. Sometimes I'd see a giant sword, others a giant butcher's knife, and even other times I'd see an unsharpened, wooden training weapon.

Nevertheless, the result was the same; a large slash that filled up most of the screen, killed every enemy in its way, and cut through otherwise invincible blocks in each stage. The super-powered fire ability was only slightly less impressive, summoning fire dragons to fly across a horizontal portion of the screen, also destroying blocks. A large portion of Kirby's abilities return, including fire, beam, and sword, and there were a few new abilities, like leaf, in which Kirby... threw leaves. Whip allowed Kirby to catch projectiles with a whip and throw them back at enemies. Many abilities showcased special attacks, just like Super Star, which aren't always apparent at first.

An odd feature remaining in Kirby Wii is the ability to hop on top of one's allies, forming a totem pole. This ability, initially shown to be included in very early images from when Kirby Wii was in development on the GameCube, didn't make too much sense in the context. Why? Any player, aside from the one at the base of the totem, would completely lack any ability to move or attack. When I asked the person at the booth for a hint at any greater totem pole purpose, all he could suggest is that it's useful in a segment requiring flight, since Dedede is so slow compared to Meta Knight. I was able to find another use, though: Like in the Super Star games, when Kirby or a friend eats food, the food can be shared. Players on the totem instantly received their share of the food picked up by the player at the base. Aside from that, the notable feature didn't seem to have any other use. Truth be told, in my limited time, I couldn't even figure out how to hop on someone's back, nor could I get one of the other players to hop on mine at will, but I'm sure it's just a simple button combination of which I was unaware.

Each time a Kirby player was able to capture a special ability, we'd find a secret area hidden in some of the otherwise indestructible blocks (or giant ropes, or dead trees) mentioned above. Venturing inside, we found a monochrome stage with rightward progressing wall of destruction pressing on slowly from the left side of the screen. The wall could be attacked to slow it down, but touching it meant death, if I recall correctly. At the end of each area, a few power-ups are presented for Kirby to use, and then Kirby was forced to face off against a simple bat-like boss, seemingly the stuff of which nightmares are made. His defeat gave Kirby a few gears, but I was unable to discern their purpose. Color also returned to the area once the boss was defeated.

Stages were very much like the ones found in some parts of Kirby Super Star. That might be meaningless to some, so to provide more detail, I'll say they're stages not too focused on exploration, and instead on reaching from point A to point B. The main secrets found were the poorly hidden monochrome rooms, though there were special items and switches available to a Kirby with the right power to find them. Ice blocks, for example, needed to be burned away to provide access to a one-up or a tomato. At the end of the first stage was Whispy Woods, the classic first Kirby boss who happens to also be a tree. Like always, Whispy was very easy to defeat, and Kirby danced with all his friends. The boss of the second stage was a Djinn-like enemy, who used magic to summon bombs and attack everyone. I was controlling Bandana Dee at this point, and managed to attack him repeatedly with the up charge helicopter-like attack. Both bosses seemingly yielded parts of the airship that crashed in the opening video for the game, so it's likely Kirby is trying to piece the ship back together.

Overall, I'd have to say Kirby Wii was a lot of fun, and from my brief hands-on time, a great successor to Kirby Super Star and Kirby's Dream Land, with straight-forward stages, one over-arching plot, Kirby's pals, special and spectacular attacks, as well as varying usage of abilities built in learning and exploring stages expertly. If you couldn't tell from the preview, as a fan of many prior Kirby titles, Kirby Wii was definitely one of my favorite titles I saw this year at E3, so it definitely holds up to the standard Kirby has set in his prior adventures.



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