Sports and video games have a closely related history, for good reason. In the early days of video games, a game like golf must have seemed particularly appealing to developers. Only one person plays at a time, there is only one major moving element (the ball), the physics are relatively straightforward, and the courses are mostly just different shades of green.
Combined with the golf craze that hit Japan in the late ’80s and early’ 90s, it’s no surprise that this era was hit by an overabundance of golf games. Most of these games are not very good – a fact parodied in a classic The Simpsons episode where Bart wants a fighting game but is stuck with it Lee Carvallo’s putting challenge, which was based on a real game.
But not all games were temperamental, bland, and aimed at punishing players. One of them was Kirby’s Dream Class, a charming combination of character and play.
If you are a paid Nintendo Switch online subscriber, you can play Kirby’s Dream Class now by downloading the Super Nintendo Entertainment System app.
Kirby is both simplistic and transitive as a character. Little more than a pink ball, Kirby becomes truly special when he devours enemies and gains their power. To play as Kirby is to be in a constant state of flux to begin with, which lends itself well to Nintendo’s desire to see its stars branch out from the platforms that made them famous.
Initially, Kirby’s Dream Class was not a Kirby game at all. It was a game called Special tee shot, which was ambitious in itself. The game’s developers, the closely related HAL Lab and Nintendo, wanted to end the traditional approach to golf on clean green tees and start embracing the “video game” part of the “sports video game”. In a video game, golf can take place anywhere and involve anything.
Special tee shot wasn’t the first game to come off the putting green, but he wanted to push the limits. The game has completely removed golf from its traditional setting, instead of defining a course on a black and white board. Inspired by isometric games like Marble madness, Special tee shot took a shortened version of golf and loaded it with enemies, moving challenges, and weird angles that Phil Mickelson could never expect.
Around the same time as Special tee shotdevelopment of, Kirby’s first non-platform game was released: Kirby’s Pinball Land, who naturally saw the little ball turn into a little ball. A huge hit, he reported to the financially struggling HAL Labs that if they were to make a weird golf game, it should be a theme with one of their biggest hits.
As recently documented by SNESCentral, which found a prototype of Special tee shot at a canadian pawnshop, of all locations, the game received a new kirby theme. When it comes to corporate decision making, the Kirby theme makes a lot of sense in Dream course. The game manual provides a backstory where King Dedede has stolen all the stars from the sky in Dream Land and quickly jumps into the game.
Although players can choose their angle of rotation and shooting power, there are no golf clubs in Dream course. Rather, the game offers a variety of Kirby’s powers. If there’s Whispy Woods blocking a path, Kirby can shoot an electric bolt at exactly the right time to destroy it. If there is a big gap between the player and the goal, a parasol can help Kirby slide to the destination.
Holes do not automatically make themselves visible in Dream course. They only show up after taking out a number of enemies from the course, allowing for a bit more strategy.
It is worth reviewing the controls of Kirby’s Dream Class before playing, the game can be a bit confusing in itself. But once you’ve analyzed its shooting guides, mastered the high ball stroke, and maybe lost a few rounds, the game opens up the possibilities of the often overwhelming game of golf.