This post will be relatively short for an article on this site, but it is an important one: coverage of a new game!
In Kirby and the Forgotten Land for Nintendo Switch, Kirby and a lot of characters from his planet of Pop Star have been pulled into a sky portal, to a new world filled with the ruins of a civilization that seems to have destroyed itself. Considering how modern-day the ruins appear, yeah, that checks out. But Kirby and the creatures populating the game don’t care too much about the mystery of why the civilization was destroyed, they have their own adventure to go through in this new world. Namely, Kirby is trying to rescue many Waddle Dees which have been kidnapped by a group of bestial wolf-like badguys called the Beast Pack. It’s as much of a story as a game like this needs.
The game released very recently, and yes, I got this game right after release. And so should everyone else, because the game is great! In Kirby’s first full-scale 3d platform adventure, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a tremendously fun game that is both incredibly cute and impressively well designed. The core game control scheme and screen view is based directly on Kirby’s Blowout Blast for the 3DS, and its Planet Robobot minigame predecessor. If you play Blowout Blast and then Forgotten Land, the connections aren’t just obvious, they are glaring — both games are isometric 3d platform games with a locked camera and linear levels to beat. Kirby basically controls identically in both games as well, with the same movement, running, and flying. In both games you have limited flight and a very limited max jump height. Blowout Blast is very much worth playing for anyone who hasn’t, it’s both fun and is interesting to see the origins of Forgotten Land’s control scheme and its isometric path level style. They figured out what worked in 3d in that small, download-only score-attack game, and took it to a larger adventure here.
However, this gets into my biggest issue with Forgotten Land. While for the most part this game is fantastic, I have to start by mentioning my biggest issue with the controls: You cannot fly higher than you can jump in these games, quite unlike any 2d Kirby game, and you can only keep flying for a little while before you’ll start heading back to earth. This emphasizes moving around on the ground much more than it does flying in the air, which is kind of unfortunate; the ability to fly is one of Kirby’s key abilities, after all! This isn’t a big deal in Blowout Blast, since that title is a battle arena focused game which has only minimal platforming and very small levels, but in the full-on 3d platformer that is Forgotten Land, it is a big deal. Where in a classic 2d Kirby game you would be flying around, here you walk almost all of the time, and actually need to make jumps and such because you can’t just fly up to a platform above you! It’s pretty lame really. As a longtime Kirby game player it’s obnoxiously jarring stuff sometimes. I know this crutch is used to keep you out of areas so you have to go around and follow the path of the level and such, but still. No. This is a Kirby game, it shouldn’t be like that. I’d rather have invisible walls in the sky than this.
However, other than that, this game is so, so much fun! You can’t really tell that this is Hal’s first ever full-scale 3d platformer, because Forgotten Land is a very polished game with well made stages and challenges. As always in the series this game is mostly easy, but there is a good balance of more challenging elements mixed in, including side challenge levels with tight time limits and a lot of hidden secrets in every stage. You’ll find some of the stuff your first time through a level, but after the first level or so you’ll never find everything on your own, some things are too well hidden. I’m still in the middle of the game so far — I have beaten world three — but the added replay value of being able to go back for the rest of the stuff is appealing, and I’m sure I will go back for some of it.
On the subject of those secrets though, they take the form of Waddle-Dees. You see, for some reason, in this game Waddle Dees are now good guys, and not villains. This game is absolutely loaded with Kirby series fanservice and numerous classic Kirby enemies return, but while the game is loaded with Waddle Dees, none are villains like they used to be; now they kind of take the place of Toads and Stars in a Mario game and are NPC villagers and things to rescue in levels. Again just like in Kirby Blowout Blast, the game has multiple sub-objectives in each level. In this game, your reward for completing each one is a Waddle Dee. This time they aren’t the same objectives in every stage, though; ‘complete the level’ is a constant, with a three Waddle Dee group locked up at each stage’s end point, but beyond that each level has several hidden objectives. If you find these hidden objectives on your first play through a level that’s great, but if you don’t, the game will give you a hint about one undiscovered secret after each time you beat a level. Unfortunately you do need to COMPLETE a level to complete an objective if you go back into a stage, though — you can’t just do a side thing early in the level, get the Waddle Dee, and quit; you need to finish the level instead. That’s a little unfortunate, but oh well. Rescued Waddle Dees go back to Waddle Dee Town, and the more you rescue the more buildings you unlock in the town. It works well, good idea. Of course everything is absurdly cute too.
The basic structure of the game is that each world has five levels, the last of which is a boss fight without a full stage beforehand, and a bunch of side challenge stages with your copy abilities. There are twelve basic copy abilities, which is a decent number though not as many as some games in the past since there is no power combining like Kirby 2, 3, and 64 have. However, there is a new twist here: your abilities will change as you progress through the game and upgrade them. If you find hidden scrolls, bring them to the smith Waddle Dee in town, and pay him, you will get a new, stronger version of the power. Once powered up that version of that power replaces the old one and you can’t go back, unfortunately, but the game wants you to upgrade them and each is an evolution of the last. Some of the challenge stages require certain powered up forms of copy abilities in order to enter, so you will want to upgrade them unless you’re intentionally trying to make the game harder by not upgrading your powers. Level and world length is just about right — levels aren’t quick, but don’t drag on too long. It’s all balanced extremely well. Every element of this game feels expertly crafted.
Spicing things up ability-wise are the games’ main feature, the Mouthful abilities. A Mouthful powerup is when Kirby tries to eat an inanimate object and partially becomes it. It’s cute and slightly creepy stuff. Mouthful powerups are temporary powerups that you can only use in certain areas. You can’t take Mouthful abilities with you, you can only use them in the area you get them in. They vary from useful game abilities such as the Car Mouth powerup shown in the games’ early trailers or a water balloon mouth which allows you to spit out water to put out fire blocks and grow plants, to basic stuff like using Mouthful mode to pull the lid off of a metal container with a Waddle Dee hidden inside. Nintendo has many clever ideas in this game for Mouthful abilities and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.
I should mention how the other currency system works as well. As you play levels, you will collect many powerups which give you money. You also get money bonuses for doing things such as completing the challenge levels quickly; this is actually often pretty hard. Each time you beat a challenge level for the first time in any amount of time you get a rare star as well. Rare stars are only used, along with a bunch of currency, to upgrade your powers, but you also can spend the regular money several other ways, including on buying health items in town and on one other thing: gatcha machines. You see, this game has little toys for Kirby to collect, of the various creatures in the game, Kirby’s various forms, and more. Some of the gatcha balls are hidden in stages for you to get, but you also can spend currency in town for random-draw gatcha machine buys. You always get some little statue each time you buy a gatcha, but it may or may not be one you have already. Of course this is only purchasable with in-game currency, not real money, but I can see some people really getting addicted to trying to get all of the little toys. They are pretty nicely modeled.
They lead to maybe the cutest thing in this entire game, too. So, from the figures collection screen, you can hit a button to view that figure closer up. When you do this the figure appears on a table, and you can zoom in on it and rotate it and such. And… there’s a giant Kirby standing there behind the table, happily smiling while he and you look at the figure! It’s the most adorable thing, I love it. It’s so so cute and nice.
That covers most of what I can talk about without getting into spoilers, which I very much want to avoid. This game may not have much of a plot beyond “explore this apocalypse world and find Waddle Dees” until the end, but that’s quite fine with me and I don’t want to spoil any of the story it does have for anyone. I also don’t want to spoil the level themes or bosses, since the many diverse stages and challenges and bosses are the main draw of this game. Seeing all of the wonderful and fun and cute and occasionally challenging things in the levels are major reasons to keep going in this fantastic game and nobody should be spoiled unless they want to be. So I will only say that every single level has great moments I have loved. After the first couple of levels I haven’t found everything in a level on my first try, either, so while the game may be mostly easy the replay value to get everything is strong if you want to do that.
Overall, so far I love Kirby and the Forgotten Land! This is a top tier Kirby game and has quickly shot high on my list of Kirby games, as it seems to be for many people. The last great Kirby game was Planet Robobot and that game is also amazing, but this one might be even better. I know I’m repeating myself here, but this game is just so incredibly fun that I can’t help it. Sure, the game is apparently only 30fps, but while playing I don’t notice or care. The game has fantastic art design and direction and stages are loaded with interesting things to look at. The difficulty is balanced well, with a fairly easy core quest but some nicely more challenging side stuff if you want to do everything. The levels are expertly crafted, with cleverly hidden secrets and a constant barrage of new and interesting ideas and scenarios. Trying to figure out the secret side objectives can be fun as well. I like the stage settings, it’s a good mix of new and classic Kirby reference themes. As someone who has been playing Kirby games since the first one, I particularly like the references to the classic 8-bit Kirby games, of which there are a great many here. Going back into a level to find more stuff is also satisfying. And all the while you’ve got a totally adorable and lovable character and game. This game is a definite must play, no question, and should be on any Game of the Year contenders list. I’ll be finishing the rest of this one for sure.