Far from carrying as much weight as Nintendo's big name mascots, Kirby has kind of always just been around. Created by HAL Laboratories in the early 1990s, by the now-renowned designer Mashahiro Sakurai, Nintendo’s most rotund character was originally called Popopo and used as a dummy character for testing other games. Going all the way back to his first release on the Game Boy in 1992, the pink puffball is like the overlooked little brother at Nintendo – he shows up everywhere, usually tries something unique and experimental while searching to find his own identity, and never has as much money as the big kids, like Link and Mario, to spend on making people think he’s cool.
While he may not have the same household name recognition as his peers, Kirby does have 20 games with a headlining role, spanning just about every console Nintendo has ever released, so someone at Nintendo has to like him (hint: it's likely Nintendo of Japan President Satoru Iwata who worked at HAL Laboratory in Kirby's heyday). This year, Kirby turns twenty years-old, and Nintendo is celebrating his birthday in style with his own special game compilation, Kirby's Dream Collection, which brings together six of his early works on one Wii disc.
Clearly Kirby has an extensive gaming collection, so which titles made the cut? Think early Kirby - Dream Land, Adventure, Dream Land 2, Super Star, Dream Land 3, and The Crystal Shards are all included. The collection highlights some of his best work on the Game Boy, NES, SNES, and N64 through exceptional emulation and allows you to replay the debuts of series staples like Pop Star, Meta Knight, and King Dedede. The games play just as you remember them, with the exception of the two Game Boy titles, since they are now playable on a big screen - it’s all very Super Game Boy-esque. Pick whichever game you want to play and have at it with just about any Wii controller that you have, or dabble in some of the extensive bonus content.
Instead of releasing just a disc of old games, Nintendo included a host of additional content, both on the disc and off of it. Within the game, you have a series of challenge worlds, in the vein of last year’s Return to Dream Land, and are a great way to test your Kirby skills. There’s also a comprehensive interactive history of the last 20 years of Kirby, mixed in with a bit of Nintendo factoids, and general knowledge. Included in this section are even three episodes of Kirby’s animated cartoon, Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, which some fans may have never seen, and be surprised to know even exists. As if that’s not enough, there’s also a soundtrack CD that spans Kirby’s career, and a history book that offers some unique insights into the development of each of Kirby’s games. It’s well worth noting that this collection actually includes more games and overall content than the Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition that was released in 2010 honoring Mario’s 25th birthday, so it makes you wonder a little bit who’s more important to Nintendo.
While there is a really solid amount of content included in the Dream Collection, it always would have been great to see some more of Kirby - mainly his side games. Devoted fans will note that there are some great titles missing, like Dream Course and Block Ball that show off some of the other ways that Nintendo has toyed with Kirby over the years. Fortunately, most of these games aren’t completely lost, and they can be downloaded on their respective Virtual Consoles. Really, that’s this collection’s only shortcoming - that it doesn’t collect enough, but that could just be another case of gamers getting greedy.
Whether you think Kirby deserves it, or not, Kirby’s Dream Collection is a pretty sweet little package - Mario and Link didn’t even get this kind of treatment on their birthdays (the Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition just isn’t on the same level as the Dream Collection). While every Kirby fan can argue which games should have been included in this packed, the six that made it do a great job of showcasing Kirby’s roots, as well as his evolution during the Golden Age of gaming. As if the games weren’t enough, the bonus material that’s included, everything from the cartoons to the history book, make this package well worth the $40 price tag, for both Kirby fans, and Nintendo fans in general. One way or another, if you spend a little bit of time with this release you’ll walk away with a better appreciation for the little brother of Nintendo gaming, Kirby.