It’s been a few months since Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe launched, and I’m still thinking about the Magolor Epilogue. It’s one of the best sub-games the Kirby series has ever had, full of smart design choices that make the most of Magolor’s unique personality and abilities. Its only real flaw is its limited length, so it’s gotten me thinking about which of its ideas could be taken even further into a full-length game. There’s plenty we could discuss about its ambitious new takes on the Kirby formula, but here are five concepts in particular that I’d want to see return for future adventures.
5. Solo Character Stories
Sure, it’s not uncommon to see sub-games starring characters who aren’t Kirby. Back in 2002, Nightmare in Dream Land let us take Meta Knight for a spin in Meta Knightmare, and he and King Dedede (plus plenty of others in Kirby Star Allies) have continued to receive their own sub-games since. These side stories, however, are often very similar to whatever main story Kirby has had. The individual stages might be new or remixed, but they are still essentially a way to replay the game with a new character rather than something that feels completely new.
This has always been fine, and I’ll gladly take the opportunity to play as more characters even if it means reusing some levels and assets. But given that this is how sub-games tend to be done, it’s impressive just how much the Magolor Epilogue plays like a new, separate short-form game. Combined with an original story and extensive commentary from Magolor himself (in a series where any dialogue is still rare), this story is truly his.
It'd be wonderful to see more distinct stories like this for other characters. It could come in the form of more sub-games, perhaps in a Kirby Super Star-esque collection, or maybe as a full-length game with different stories or branching story paths for each character. (I could even see some characters, like Meta Knight or Magolor, step into a starring role with an entire game to themselves.) Whatever it looks like, let’s see more occasions where Kirby's pals can take the spotlight.
4. Scoring and Medal Systems
Kirby games have sometimes had ways to rank your progress from level to level, but it’s not something we typically see. The Magolor Epilogue, however, takes the medal system from Return to Dream Land’s challenge stages and applies them to each individual stage and boss. Being rated on how well you’ve completed a stage, and not just whether you've finished it or not, just adds a welcome level of complexity and challenge to the usual Kirby formula. In my case, it also extended the length of the game, as I returned to some levels again and again (here’s looking at you, Hydriath) until I had gotten platinums for them all.
People often complain about Kirby games being too easy, so I’d want to see systems like this become a new standard. Sometimes from Kirby, I just want a relaxing, low-conflict experience. But other times I do wish the games were asking a bit more of me. I wouldn’t want to gatekeep major parts of a game behind a scoring, ranking, or medal system, as Kirby should continue to be accessible to players of all skill levels. But evaluating players on their technique, time, the damage they’ve taken, etc. could be a perfect way to add additional challenge and longevity to any Kirby title.
3. Magolor's Combo System
I had not previously thought of a combo system as something that was missing from my Kirby experience, but the Magolor Epilogue proves Kirby and combos are a terrific mix. Having to string attacks together before a combo ran out added a sense of urgency to the gameplay that Kirby's main adventure was sometimes missing. And additional challenge aside, it was simply fun to watch the combo count rise and see how high you could go. You know when you land a huge trick sequence in a Tony Hawk game, then watch your score soar from the paragraph of trick names now listed at the bottom of the screen? Pulling off long Magolor combos offered that same frisson of satisfaction.
A combo system for future Kirby games would probably look very different, as this one was designed specifically around Magolor’s abilities. Enemies also regenerate in a typical Kirby platformer, so something would have to be changed so the combos can't go on forever! But whatever it looks like, it's still a concept I’d like to see experimented with further.
2. Upgradable skills
Skill trees are ubiquitous in modern action and adventure games, but we don’t really see them from Kirby. The series has been dabbling lately in upgradable abilities, like we saw in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, but we’ve never had as freeform a structure as what we got with Magolor. Being able to cash in the Magic Points I earned from each level toward new Magolor moves and improvements, and getting to choose which abilities I wanted to focus on, was a gameplay loop solid as a stone Kirby star block. It made the points I was earning feel valuable, and it meant the game was constantly delivering something new to me.
Now it has me thinking—what would a skill tree look like for other characters? I want the opportunity to level up Bandana Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, Dedede, etc. in the same way. Let me give Marx new spells, or Susie new robot abilities. And what would such a system look like for Kirby? Maybe you could add new moves to his different abilities or enable him to inhale or copy things he couldn’t before? Who knows, but Magolor has proven to us that skill trees (or in this case, more like linear skill sequences) definitely work in Kirby games.
1. Metroidvania Structure
The Magolor Epilogue isn’t the first nonlinear Kirby experience, but the way Magolor’s upgrades affect both his combat and movement, and sometimes had me backtracking to reach areas I couldn’t before, gave us one of the closest things we’ve had to a Kirby Metroidvania. And a true Kirby Metroidvania is something I’d love to see someday.
If we consider multiple ideas from this article together, imagine the Kirby cast exploring a large map, upgrading their skills, finding new characters, solving puzzles, and having to backtrack or swap out for different situations as needed. That feels like a natural evolution of the gameplay systems established in Magolor’s solo adventure, coalescing into an ambitious (and now not unbelievable) full-length story.
I wouldn’t want to see Kirby’s classic gameplay leave for good. By all means, keep giving me linear escapades through Dream Land, where I can nab familiar powers, collect Point Stars, and fight Whispy Woods for the 10,000th time. But I hope someday the developers look at what they’ve done with Magolor’s story, realize how successful it was, and apply those ideas to a mainline title. It might be an epilogue for Magolor’s Return to the Dream Land arc, but it could be just the beginning of a new kind of Kirby platformer.