Review: Kirby and the Forgotten Land

This year has marked Kirby being in our heart and home for thirty years. The lovable pink bundle of joy has always been one of those Nintendo series that likes to cozy up to people of all ages and create gorgeous and memorable adventures. Kirby’s personal dive into 3D gaming is not exclusive to the newest Forgotten Land, but hearkens back to the 3DS release of Blowout Bash. While simplistic in nature it set the playing field for what was to come, and after thirty years we’ve finally gotten our first mainline 3D Kirby title with Kirby and the Forgotten Land.

While Kirby is enjoying a regular pleasant day on his home of Planet Popstar, he and the other inhabitants find their lives interrupted by a massive portal that begins sucking all manner of life into it. Kirby tries his best to avoid getting taken away, but like many others is sucked in and knocked out in the process. When he finally wakes up, he finds himself washed up on a beach in a mysterious new land. After getting his bearings, Kirby heads out to discovers strange, destroyed cities with beasts and familiar foes roaming the area standing in his way. He also quickly finds that these beasts have captured his Waddle Dee friends. He sets out to rescue them, along with a strange new companion by the name of Elfilin who was also captured by the beasts before Kirby came to his aid. Together the two must travel across this strange world rescuing their friends while trying to put a stop to the chaos and find a way home.

In Kirby’s latest adventure he’s no longer restricted to simple 2D movement and can instead travel around in fully 3D levels. The stages themselves are still linear in structure, but offer a lot of flexibility and movement Kirby has never had before. While running around Kirby can still suck up enemies to steal certain abilities, and will do his light assortment of platforming here and there. The movement feels good and natural, although it takes time to get used to the restricted floating height while traversing. Kirby’s abilities work fantastic in a 3D space and it honestly doesn’t feel like the first real dip into the more open setting for the series. The biggest new change comes in the form of Mouthful Mode, a new way that Kirby is able to suck things up and use them to his advantage. This time around, however, they’re inanimate objects that Kirby can take control of such as a car to drive quickly or a round-shaped object to shoot air out of. This makes levels more wildly creative and interesting as they’re frequently used for unique puzzles or fun ways to fight enemies. There’s something bizarrely charming about Kirby taking over a vending machine and shooting out soda to destroy anything in his path. As is Kirby style, there are slews of secrets to find in addition to various gacha figure collectibles to upgrades and of course, the captured Waddle Dees. The lovable Waddle Dees are the key to progress as the way forward is blocked and requires aid from the rescued Waddle Dees in order to keep moving forward. Some are rescued just by completing the stage while others require hidden objectives such as eating certain food in a stage, using certain abilities or even finding hidden rooms. Fortunately the amount needed to progress is small for those wanting to hurry on forward, but it always helps to have more as they’ll aid Kirby on his adventure back in Waddle Dee Town.

Waddle Dee Town is Kirby’s hub where he can relax and settle down between each perilous level and dangerous fight. It’s also where all the rescued Waddle Dees go to work on building a bigger and better home away from home. Once enough have been rescued, they’ll begin opening shops and games for Kirby to take part in. This includes fishing, a store to pick up abilities and much later access to a Colosseum in addition to ways for Kirby to get temporary stat boosts if the journey is proving a challenge. The biggest help to Kirby is of course the ability shop. At any point between levels Kirby can come here to pick up the ability he think will help him on his way assuming it’s been used at least once. Of course these aren’t average Kirby abilities, as one of the big aspects of Forgotten Land is these abilities can be upgraded, but to do so might take some time.

There are a total of twelve different abilities in Forgotten Land. Two of these are special one-time use abilities, but the other ten are fully-fledged weapons of terror and destruction that Kirby can wield. They each start off familiar in their base forms, but as Kirby goes along his journey he will stumble across blueprints that allow him to upgrade his abilities. These upgrades change the type of attacks he can use in addition to making them much stronger and faster most of the time. In order to upgrade them Kirby will need the blueprint, money and rare stones. Blueprints and money can be found in various levels, but rare stones require some other methods to nab them. After beating a level for the first time a special portal may appear that leads into a treasure area. These require Kirby to use certain abilities to complete within a set time limit, with the reward being a rare stone. These can then be exchanged to upgrade abilities or alternatively after the story has been beaten they can be used to increase the power of individual weapons and make them even more powerful.

The biggest draw of Kirby is, of course, the very levels themselves. Fans of previous Kirby titles will be pleased to know that this is very much just an addition of a third dimension. It’s impressive how the new style of stages feel so similar to their side-scrolling counterparts, just with more detail and areas to explore. The puzzles have always been a fan-favorite part of levels in the past, and they’re here in full force with brand new ways to problem solve. Most levels are straightforward and linear, but a few mix it up by opening the area to explore a bit and allow more freedom to roam around before continuing on. Boss fights appear throughout various levels in addition to large bosses at the end of ever world. The large boss fights in particular are quite possibly the best the series has ever had. Making large arenas for Kirby to fight in allows for enemies to have amazingly creative attacks and take full advantage of their surroundings, while Kirby can do the same to his advantage. It’s much more enjoyable than any previous 2D Kirby title by a large margin as it feels like it adds to everything that’s been built up before it.

If there’s any one thing Kirby has never failed at, it’s charming and wonderful visuals. Forgotten Land is no exception and knocks it out of the park with its set pieces and backdrops. Each level feels unique from one another and there’s amazing attention to detail in backgrounds leading into next levels. There’s a lot of love and care put into this title that can’t be overstated. The soundtrack is a fantastic time as well. The main theme is just alright and gets repeated too much, but outside of that the soundtrack takes off with all its original compositions and callbacks to well-known Kirby songs. For anyone who has previously felt Kirby titles are too short, Forgotten Land won’t do much to fix that particular problem. It’s not a long title, even for those who seek out to collect everything they can. That said, the adventure is still fun and well worth playing. Anyone who can grab another person to play co-op will likely enjoy playing with someone else too, as the screen never gets too busy or cluttered to lose oneself.

Closing Comments: 

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a huge step in a new direction for the series. Many fans will say that despite enjoying recent titles, the formula had been growing stale and repetitive especially after Star Allies. Forgotten Land at its core is still Kirby, and feels like the traditional adventure, but adding this extra layer to levels, exploration and combat opens up a whole new way to experience the journey like never before. It’s not only utterly charming in that lovable Kirby way, it’s also a fantastic look at the kind of new creative ideas we’ll hopefully get to see from here on out. While the 2D-styled Kirby titles will still be around, it’d be wonderful if focusing on larger 3D adventures was the new plan moving forward as Kirby and the Forgotten Land hits the ground running with one of the franchise’s best titles to date.