FGC #037 Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

Dance you little maniacI’ve been playing through the Mega Man Legacy Collection, and I’ve reached the point where I’m poking around its “museum mode” to see if there’s anything in there that I haven’t already absorbed over the decades of memorizing Mega Trivia in lieu of learning a new language or solving world hunger or whatever. One item that I hadn’t seen in any previous collection was a bit of advertising to video game distributors hawking the initial Mega Man Trilogy. Staring back at me from the ad was one particular bullet point regarding the Mega Man series:

• Non-Violent fun for one player aged 12-18

This simple statement shook me to the bone. Among my immediate thoughts:

  1. Non-Violent? Had these people even seen Quick Man?
  2. I think I started playing Mega Man 2 when I was… eight? Am I some kind of prodigy?
  3. Why would eighteen be the cut off for Mega Man? Whoops, I can vote, who needs Rush anymore.
  4. Can you imagine living in a universe where you could only play Mega Man games for six years? There would just be a void in your heart, forever. To never again hear the sound of the majestic metal blade across the plains…

After I was finished mentally noting yet another valid idea for Hell (“Not allowed to play Mega Man anymore”), I was left wondering more about how this age restriction applied to modern gaming. I, now an adult, know video game distributors personally, and I can say that publishers, after decades of video games basically being understood by people who actually sell video games, have given up on trying to “explain” their products to the people selling them. So the best Mom & Pop Video Game Store Owner has available is the ESRB ratings (and common sense) to determine the appropriate audience for a game. This is probably just as well, as I’d rather be caught perusing the WiiU section than the “For Ages 12-18” area just because I want the latest game starring a dinosaur made entirely of string. Come to think of it, I can only imagine how embarrassing an “Adults Only” department would be in a video game store…

Bounce Bounce RevolutionSo publishers and distributors have given up on determining appropriate ages for video games, leaving the poor consumer to decide what would be best for Little Billy. Again, we have the ESRB, but that is just about as useful as our movie ratings (would you like to see a PG-13 movie or R? If you’re interested in the one G movie, please seek more information in a Happy Meal), so we know what to absolutely not purchase for Billy, but now there’s simply seventy racks of games as opposed to ninety. Is it any wonder Mario and Nintendo have never had a problem finding an audience? A Little Billy is often followed by a Gramma Betty, and she just wants to buy the kid a Christmas present and get out of this alien store. Yes, that plumber fellow looks wholesome, let’s buy that and go… I think Metroid Robot Man is looking at me funny.

That’s how we find ourselves at the door of today’s subject, because, when you get right down to it, Kirby feeds on confused grandmas.

Wait, whoa, that might have come out wrong.

Kirby devours the hearts and minds of confused grandmas. Metaphorically. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

YUMKirby, despite what some adults may tell you, was not properly designed to appeal to children. Children like Transformers, Frozen, Sonic the Hedgehog, John Cena, and dinosaurs. What’s the connection here? These are all franchises with headliners that can absolutely destroy authority. Yes, they teach valuable morals about tolerance, acceptance, and electrical safety, but, end of the day, Optimus Prime, Princess Elsa, Sonic, John Cena, or any given raptor is just going to do what they want, bed time be damned. The ideal child’s hero is Transformers’ Grimlock, a shiny, metal t-rex that can transform into a robot wielding a flaming sword. Grimlock not put away toys, Grimlock smash. Children are always teenagers in training, it’s just not until the hormones kick in that they decide to acknowledge, hey, not listening to mom is what I’ve always wanted. Teenager smash!

So, no, a walking ball of silly putty is not going to appeal to children, but that’s okay, because children rarely make enough dough to purchase video games. Kirby is there for the adults, for grandma, to say, “Hiiiii, I’m Kirby. I’m small and cute and adorable just like your grandchild. Want to know my goals in life? One time a mean ol’ mouse stole a piece of pie from me, and I had an entire adventure just to get it back. Now, some silly willy crashed his ship into my planet, and I’m going to help him with my pals: roly-poly penguin, waddles, and silver ball. Look at my adorable green night cap! It has two stars on it!” And before anyone brings it up, angry eyes don’t do a thing. You could stick angry eyes on a puppy, and your brain is still going to say, “awww.”

PUPPY!

See?

Of course, this would all be for naught if Kirby wasn’t any fun, but luckily, Kirby games are the most fun. Run, jump, suck, spit, occasionally turn into an UFO: it’s all good with the tough creampuff. I’d prefer to save it for one of Kirby’s more… distinct adventures, but I could spend days writing about how Kirby is perhaps one of the most ideal games for “learning” video games and, dare I say it, life. Yes, you enjoy that Beam ability, but it’s not going to work for you in every level and situation, so try something new, and maybe you’ll solve the problem with something different. You’re never going to collect that secret item without the right ability, so sit down, think, realize what you need, go get it, and then return to conquer the puzzle with aplomb. Okay, most kids don’t know how to do anything with aplomb, but you get the point, Kirby is here to promote reckless destruction of star blocks and problem solving in equal measure.

I'M BEING STEALTHY!So Kirby, like the most adorable spy you can name, sneaks into a child’s heart on grandma’s dime, and sticks around because, though he may just look like a pink ball of nothing, is actually just as fun, engaging, and aggressive as a robot dinosaur. But all age ranges end sometime, right? Kirby is a game for babies practically staring a baby, so what’s the ceiling on his age range?

Well, aside from the obvious answer of noting how all of our recent blockbuster movie franchises have been based on what were originally considered children’s franchises, I have personal experience on this one. I distinctly recall purchasing Kirby’s Return to Dreamland before meeting some friends for a party, and, as this was the age when there was a Wii in every living room, we decided to take the game for a test drive, four controllers, and various party people grabbing a wiimote at various times. The end result? We (and “we” was probably twelve people all told) nearly completed the game over the course of the night, and only stopped because the night had somehow dragged onto around 4 am. All adults, generally hovering around thirty, generally soberish, playing a child’s game starring a pink blob for hours. So you know what? I’m going to go ahead and say that grown-ups can enjoy a Kirby game just as well as kids.

• Kirby’s Return to Dreamland: Kinda-Violent fun for four players aged 4-104
• If you’re 105, you need a new hobby.

FGC #37 Kirby’s Return to Dreamland

  • System: Nintendo Wii, or WiiU if you’re in the mood
  • Number of Players: Four, either as four different creatures or a quartet of Kirbys.
  • Best Multiplayer Kirby Game? Sorry, but that honor goes to Kirby Super Star. This game would be ideal for babysitting if it was one “lead” player and three “invincible” helpers. How did we master Tails-style 2-Player games in the 16-bit era and then ignore that idea forever?
  • POUNDFavorite Power: The new Water ability is pretty fun for just (literally) surfing through stages and seeing just how fast you can move along. It’s kinda lousy for bosses, but it’s nice to see a Kirby ability that is focused on movement, like the returning and usually missed Hi-Jump.
  • Going to even mention the Super abilities? For a game with an emphasis on multiplayer, it’s kind of weird to slow the game down to have entire sections based on using big, crazy super moves that function as puzzle keys. Stop hanging around and swinging your super sword trying to hit that one spot, Kirby, Bandana Dee just fell asleep. More actual powerups like invincible lollipops, and less “special” sequences, please.
  • Did you know? This was the first “real” console Kirby game released in over a decade after the N64 snoozefest. Apparently, it had been in production all that time, but kept getting waylaid due to other projects and the multiplayer functions not coalescing properly. Or maybe everyone involved kept trying to top Kirby Super Star and fell short every single time, as one would expect when shooting for the moon.
  • Would I play again? Depends on how long it takes to see another multiplayer console Kirby. I’ll take 4-player Kirby over 4-player Mario, but it does depend on the four players involved. Assuming everyone isn’t going crazy for Smash or Wii Sports that week, maybe the puffball can be squeezed into the schedule.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… you know what? I’ve written about Mega Man Legacy Collection in 66% of the last three FGC posts, how about I ignore one robot in favor of another? Next on the list, it’s not random at all, it’s Mega Man Legacy Collection, and it’s going to be a little different than usual. But, as ever, please look forward to it!

Seriously!

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