The Kirby games always constituted that series that I could rely on for a nonthreatening, easy, nice experience. All Kirby games are undoubtedly cheery, and this manages to transcend mere surface looks and sounds. As I mentioned long ago in my Kirby episode of Tuesday Tunes, this is a series that can basically be summed up as concentrated happy. They’re never too hard, never too long, and always manage to ooze the most charm out of every pixel possible.
But alas, I have not played them all. And sitting amongst consoles I never owned is the humble yet eternally beloved NES, a system that saw only one Kirby game in it’s lifespan. That one is, of course, Kirby’s Adventure.
I have no idea where Adventure sits on the legacy ranking. Based on sales alone, it sits at around the #9 spot, placing it under other titles with even less prestige (including Kirby Pinball Land and Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
But in a way, those sales are hardly surprising, considering that for whatever the reason, this was a game that was released three whole years after its console, the NES, had been replaced by something bigger and better, the SNES. No, it was not the most successful Kirby game, and it’s highly likely that its remake, Nightmare in Dreamland, is the better remembered title.
Even still, I find it hard not to give this game some proper acknowledgement. It was, after all, the first time Kirby could acquire powers from his enemies, as offered a far larger scale than the 15-30 minute title that came before on the Game Boy. Kirby’s Adventure was the first Kirby game to have depth without overcomplicating the experience, and in a way, it could be said that Kirby’s Adventure is the purest Kirby game ever created.
And it could also be said that having a remake at all places Kirby’s Adventure on some sort of high pedestal. After all, it is technically the only one to receive this honor (and no, the Kirby’s Dream Collection on Wii doesn’t count). So in the end, Kirby’s Adventure does have some form of fame to its name.
Now to be perfectly fair, this is nottechnically my first time playing this game. Since Nightmare in Dreamland is so nearly a perfect recreation (and THAT was a game a played a whole hell of a lot back in the day), this was not a title that felt entirely fresh and new to play. I have a history with Kirby games, and it goes back quite far.
But, this was the first time to play the game in its original form, both on my trust old Famicom and also on the Wii U’s new virtual console platform. Both experiences were quite similar, but if you can manage, I highly recommend playing it in its original form, as the controls really were intended for that classic gamepad.
Kirby’s Adventure does, at least more than its predecessor, feel like an actual adventure. Kirby actually feels like he’s setting out to save something, and Dreamland feels more like an actual place this time around. Of course there is a similar stage-y feeling that encompassed Super Mario Bros. 3, but this game uses the NES’s capabilities extremely well to give the landscapes and areas a feeling of depth unlike any other NES game I’ve ever seen.
At about that realization, a thought popped into my head. This has to be the best looking NES game out there, bar none. In fact, if it weren’t for the ever present screen tearing and fairly simple sprites, I would easily mistake this for a SNES game. Maybe an early SNES game, but a SNES game nonetheless.
I think what stands out the most has to be the animations, which diversify the visuals in such a superb way. From giving Butter Building a hugely innovative for the time 3D swivel to the constant barrage of sprite movement variety, Kirby’s Adventure clearly pushes the NES to the very limit.
However, this pushing forced the game to pay a price, and Kirby’s Adventure plays, unfortunately, a little horribly. It suffers from near constant lag and strain thanks to its overambitious visuals, and with this lag comes a significant lack of control precision. On both the original and virtual console versions, I often found the game refusing to do exactly as I commanded. Sometimes button presses would register far too late or not at all, causing some incredibly unnecessary damage and death.
But even with that, Kirby’s Adventure is still a joy to play because, like the series at a whole, it’s a game that’s just fun to play and little else. There’s no complex narrative to follow, no nail-bitingly difficult combos or tactics to learn, and no constant threat of impossible challenge like in many games from this era. It’s so, so, SO nice to occasionally play a game that you can just play without any sort of straining involvement. At least once in a while to fill the gaps, of course.
But to be fair, if you are going to play Advenuture, play Nightmare in Dreamland. It’s just better. Much, much better. It often felt like Sakurai wanted to achieve so much more in his original vision than the NES hardware had the capacity for, and in many ways, the remake on the GBA fulfills that vision. It’s cleaner, prettier, and all around smoother. And best of all, you never feel cheated by the faults of the hardware.