Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | JP Boxart
Title Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land
Developer HAL Labs
Publisher Nintendo
Original Release Date December 2nd, 2002 (GBA)
October 30th, 2014 (Wii U Virtual Console)
Genre Action Adventure, Platforming
Platform GBA, Formerly Nintendo eShop
Age Rating Everyone

I love Kirby’s Adventure. It’s my favorite Kirby title and my favorite NES title, too. I’ve played it countless times and each one has been an absolute pleasure, as I mow down enemies, wreck the bosses, unlock all of the extras, and clear stages in a blur. Kirby’s Adventure is a joy and a gem, and so back when Nightmare in Dream Land was first released, I was excited to play this reimagining of my favorite Kirby title. Strangely enough, nowadays I have very little recollection of my experience with it. Is it because the memories have mixed with those I have of Kirby’s Adventure, or have they just faded with time? Regardless, as I’m finding myself once again wanting to blitz through Adventure, I thought I would instead give Nightmare in Dream Land another go, and see if it has the same charm and magic the original unquestionably possesses.

Nightmare in Dream Land shares the simplistic plot of its predecessor, in which we see Kirby and the residents of Dream Land unable to dream anymore. Dreams have stopped flowing from the Fountain of Dreams and as Kirby sets out to find out why, he spots King DeDeDe. Upon witnessing DeDeDe taking the Star Rod from the Fountain of Dreams and handing pieces of it to his cohorts, Kirby sets out to recover the fragments and return the Star Rod to the Fountain, thus mending the flow of dreams to Dream Land. Unbeknownst to Kirby, however, a more sinister presence looms over the dreams and dreamers of Dream Land.

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land | Story 1

Like the original, Nightmare in Dream Land presents its story with a slideshow if you wait on the start screen, which means we are gifted a cute, colorful introduction to Kirby’s quest. Concise and cute, the slideshow conveys Dream Land’s current dilemma in a way for players of any age to grasp, and is adorably befitting of the Kirby style. The inviting slideshow, depicting an equally delightful story, nicely segues players towards the charm, energy, and fun this game has to offer.

Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | Gameplay 1
Gameplay will be very familiar to Adventure fans, yet is still a blast

As a remake of one of the most spirited titles of the series, Nightmare in Dream Land delivers exactly what one would expect regarding its gameplay. The essence of Kirby’s Adventure has been faithfully reproduced, which means making your way through cleverly designed stages full of enemies to tackle. The imaginative and diverse platforming of the original is mostly preserved here, seeing Kirby run, swim, and fly across stages that are as colorful and charming as they are perilous. Adventure’s copy ability style is also preserved, meaning we don’t see newer powers nor the additions that many abilities have received in later titles. Rather, we get the most traditional form of this iconic gameplay mechanic. The hidden secrets which unlock the mini games also return, though hidden doors and such have been made to be just a touch more visible compared to Adventure. Overall, gameplay regarding the main campaign has been pleasantly and appreciably reproduced, providing the same levels of liveliness and enjoyment.

Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | Aesthetics 1
Ability aesthetics from other games have been brought in, but not their extra attacks

Of course, a remake will have changes and additions, and fortunately these only add to the quality. One new inclusion is the multiplayer, in which up to four players can play the mini games, or play through the main game together. I found this addition to be an incredible idea, especially multiplayer for the main game, as it brings a new way to enjoy a familiar effort. In fact, my hopes are that this multiplayer option is retained if, or when, the game is re-released on the Nintendo eShop. Another set of changes and additions from the original comes by way of the mini games. Rather than Crane Fever and Egg Catcher, Nightmare in Dream Land features Bomb Rally and Air Grind. Certainly different than the two original mini games, both are fun and test similar skills, such as reaction speed and precision timing. Quick Draw is the only returning mini game and with a redesign, yet still tests reaction time, too. Although I found myself missing Adventure’s mini games, again, the two new offerings and the redesigned Quick Draw are each a pleasure to play.

Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | Gameplay 2
One of the two brand new mini-games is a race that demands timing and precision

Although Nightmare in Dream Land offers a close reproduction of Adventure’s excellent gameplay, it also possesses the very few shortcomings of the original, as well. The challenge of gameplay remains on the accessible side, meaning more veteran gamers will blaze through the game. That’s not to say there isn’t any challenge, as there are plenty of segments with clever platforming and shrewdly placed enemies to test your skills. Several of the boss fights, too, offer a pleasant challenge, yet with a bit of practice and patience, all challenges can be overcome rather quickly. The other shortcoming, really more of a wish on my part, is game length. As in, I wish the experience, as wonderful as it is, was longer. Yes, this is me wanting more of the charm and fun the game offers, but longer stages and more of them would have been magical. Other than the one minor issue and my wish for more, Nightmare in Dream Land is every bit the gameplay achievement as its predecessor.

Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | Gameplay 3
Ah yes, those enchanting, giant buttons

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Adventure and Nightmare in Dream Land is the aesthetic presentation, given the GBA’s hardware. As such, the developers had much more artistic freedom, and I believe they made the most of it. Visually, Nightmare is absolutely beautiful, with more coloration and detail across backgrounds, foregrounds, and sprites. Dream Land looks incredible with the added details, making for levels and backgrounds that exude a fantastical, vivid feel. Also, each level has benefited from the new graphics by way of their style and character. For example, Vegetable Valley has become more of the lush natural haven it’s intended to be, with more to emphasize its forested foregrounds and idyllic land and riverscape backgrounds. Or, I like how Butter Building’s first stages have sections depicting clean, regal surroundings, yet also feature portrayals of lost history, past battles, and dilapidation in later ones. As for sprites, Kirby and the enemies definitely look cleaner and only benefit from the larger color palette. The hats and such that depict abilities are easy to recognize, and I appreciate that many of the powers’ attack animations have been altered or touched up for the better. The enemy sprites, especially mid and main bosses, all look as good as ever, emphasizing that creative element in each of their designs. As a whole, Nightmare’s visuals perfectly recapture the same whimsical style and feel of Adventure, with a noteworthy effort full of the same fanciful charm.

Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | Aesthetics 2
From backgrounds to foreground, the worlds look bright and teeming

As for the audio, Nightmare updates the original tracks of Adventure, altering tones and adding to their melodies and harmonies. I felt the end results were appreciable, as most of the tracks gain a bit of pep, fitting nicely with the energy of gameplay. The few slower, calmer tracks see more in the ways of altered harmonizing, which nicely emphasizes their intended mood setting. As for sound effects, they, too, have been updated, with sharper and cleaner effects, yet maintain the styles and intentions of their 8-bit counterparts. As a whole, the audio efforts are impressive, as the altering, sharpening, and modernizing of the audio never diminishes, but rather maintains the styles, moods, and overall allure of the original’s audio.

Kirby - Nightmare in Dream Land | Gameplay 4
Classic Kirby right here. May some things never change…

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is both a wonderful experience on its own, and a nostalgically delightful reminder of the brilliance of Kirby’s Adventure. Nightmare does a fantastic job of honoring the past, with similarly high quality gameplay. And yet, it also manages to deliver its own charm and feel through its aesthetics, as well as touches of uniqueness in its encompassing style, feel, and gameplay, as well. Overall, Nightmare is every bit as fun as its predecessor and deserving of the same degree of praise. As of this writing, unfortunately, Nightmare is not available on the Nintendo eShop, nor are there any plans to make it available. However, I do believe, at some point, we will see it again, given its quality and contributions to the Kirby series. My hopes are that a release is announced sooner rather than later and that HAL Labs is able to make its multiplayer available, perhaps via an online play option. As for me, I’ll be including Nightmare in Dream Land into the rotation when I doubtlessly get the itch to play through this chapter of Kirby in the future.

Review Score
Drew D.
Drew has been an avid gamer most of his life, favoring single-player campaigns. For him, a worthwhile game is one that immerses you; it envelops you and draws out an array of emotions that produce those memorable moments we live for as gamers.