Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe accessibility review

Jeremy Peeples6 minute read

Kirby’s original Game Boy adventure is among the most remade and reimagined titles in history – and it’s not one that is often thought about in such a way. It was remade on the SNES as part of Kirby Super Star, which itself got a re-release on the DS. Return to Dreamland first hit the Wii in 2011 and acted as a bit of a follow-up to that game – with King Dedede in a friendly role, but maintaining some of the original’s enemies in a bit of a reimagining of the concept. 

The Wii version is the core of this new Deluxe incarnation, but with a massive uptick in visual fidelity and more options for controls. The newest remake aims to create the definitive experience, with a slew of upgrades and new content to ensure that anyone can enjoy the adventure. Deluxe enables for more control options, including a more natural-feeling B to jump and Y to inhale control setup. The control customization goes beyond just that as players can also choose different control setups for the many mini-games featured in the Magoland amusement park area.

Control Variety is the Spice of Life

The core Kirby side-scrolling gameplay is intact and feels snappier now than it did in the Wii version thanks to a few key improvements. The controls have been made more responsive and being able to use the analog stick to move Kirby around does make for a slightly easier experience than purely using the d-pad given how precise his movements can be in mid-flight. Having that increase in movement is very helpful in boss battles and in forced scrolling sections as the ability to be more precise can be the difference between beating that section or retrying it.

Kirby in a forest stage. His Ultra Sword attack causing an enemy to fly against the screen.

Magolor can be enlisted to help the player do things like avoid bottomless pits, as he’ll come in to save the player if needed. He can also drop off health and that can come in handy during a boss battle at the end of a grueling section. The core stages aren’t too tough by traditional platforming standards, but exploration is encouraged to do things like find hidden gears. These not only increase your completion percentage, but also unlock new challenge stages using the power-ups in Magolor’s ship to either brush up on skills or gain new skills with the weaponry available.

Player Aids Enable Successful Gaming for All

The game’s hardest areas beyond boss battles are definitely the forced-scrolling stages where you have to go through an obstacle course with a bit of a time limit to work with because the off-screen part of the environment is coming right for you – so efficiency is key as the stakes are raised a bit. These sections have enemies, stage hazards and can drain your health pretty quickly if you aren’t careful.

In these areas, having Magolor turned on can help a lot since you can avoid doom from pits and get more health pickups before the mini-boss battle. There, you will have one health pickup to work with alongside a choice of two different weapons to use during the battle. Generous checkpoints mean you can fail in the boss battle and still basically come back to pick your weapon if you need to try something different to take out a boss.

Kirby in an industrial setting with his Mecha ability enabled. Stars emit from Kirby as he jumps facing the player.

Gameplay-wise, Kirby gains a sand ability to create sand castles and fists to take out foes. It’s fantastic for trying something new, while the mecha ability is more akin to what he had in his 3DS adventures. He can launch rockets and use laser beams to fight enemies. He has a broader skill set here than he has had in any other side-scrolling game on Switch and it makes for a more robust and diverse gameplay experience. 

Bold is Better

The ability to customize the controls helps immensely when it comes to fine-motor accessibility, and having both an analog stick and a d-pad to choose from is a blessing. On the visual side of things, everything in the world is so bright and has a stark contrast – so while Kirby’s bright pink body is always the first thing you see, every other element in the foreground and background stands out so he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle visually. One great thing that has remained in Deluxe from other Kirby entries on Switch is the inclusion of large, boldly-colored text for everything.

The standard text used can’t be changed, but even when playing it in portable mode, I never felt like the text needed to be larger. It’s never a bad idea to have the option to adjust text size alongside color for greatest contrast – especially for colorblind players, but for anyone who has issues with smaller text, the text size is usually just fine across the board. It helps that the game sticks to the same typeface and size across the board and includes some high-contrast text by default.

HAL Labs Keeps its Kirby’s Accessibility Legacy Alive

Like other Kirby games across all platforms, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe winds up being very accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing players when it comes to story. There isn’t a ton of it to work with, but everything uses large text bubbles – so there is no voiceover work to miss out on. There is improvement needed when it comes to on-screen descriptions of music though, as it does change tempo depending on if you get to a boss area or not – with a bump up in intensity audible, but not described at all on-screen. There’s also nothing that describes the kind of music being played.

Kirby with an angry expression, holding a large sword pointed forwards

Thanks to its wide customization options when it comes to controls, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe winds up being an incredible game for the main adventure and an impressive one with its diverse mix of mini-games as well. Things like the quick draw and shooting mini-games allow players with fine-motor issues to work on either improving hand-eye coordination or reaction time too based on having either regular controller support or Joycon support for gyroscope usage on some shooting games. 

Visually, HAL always does a great job making their titles easy to see and that trend continues here with bright colors and large, boldly-colored text. The game does have room for improvement when it comes to offering options for deaf and hard-of-hearing players though, as there is no description in place for music – let alone music changes. Thankfully, dialogue is all put in text boxes by default, so there’s nothing lost there by not being able to hear spoken text.

The addition of in-game help in the form of being lifted up from drops and health drops makes the adventure something that pretty much anyone should be able to complete as long as they can move a controller’s d-pad and face buttons. For a genre that can often be inaccessible due to precise controls and hard to see text, HAL Laboratories has done a remarkable job crafting Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe and ensuring it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Enjoy our work? Please consider supporting us!

Donating through DAGERSystem / AbilityPoints with PayPal may be tax deductible

Follow CIPT

Latest from CIPT

(Opens in new tab) starting with