Thoughts on Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Now what kind of Nintendo-centric blog writer would I be if I didn’t comment on the good ol’ pink ball of innocence? Kirby got his first fully dedicated 3D adventure in the form of Forgotten Land—yes, that is not a lie. After thirty years of life, this game, which released last month, is his first fully-fledged 3D adventure. All others were either 2D sidescrollers or 3D spin-offs.

A momentous occasion, indeed! Does this little cutie have what it takes to join his Nintendo costars in revolutionizing the 3D platforming space? In hindsight, I would certainly hope so given all that Nintendo has worked on prior. But you never know!

Personal History

I can’t recall if I’ve ever made this known on the blog (it’s been nearly a decade of content), but the Kirby series is one that I’m not actually totally fond of. To this day, I’ve put in a considerable amount of time in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, Squeak Squad, Air Ride, and Star Allies. Of these four, I would say one (Amazing Mirror) is “pretty good,” another (Air Ride) is good for one mode, and the other two are “fine.” I’ve also put some time into Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby 64, and Rainbow Curse.

None of the games mentioned are ones I’m all that passionate about for one reason or another. I believe the main issue is that I find the Kirby formula too simple. A very basic action-adventure platformer at its core, the only real shtick that saves it is the copy ability. Kirby can suck up certain enemies and collect their innate ability. Awesome (and terrifying) in theory and execution. However, the flavor this provides wears off fairly soon, as you’re still going through similar platformer motions.

This is what platformers look like.

This is why the idea of an “Open World” Kirby game is all the more appealing. Finally, something that can set apart the Kirby adventure while also taking advantage of what makes Kirby Kirby. While 2D sidescrollers are generally dandy to me (you should see how often I gravitate towards them), with Kirby, it was getting rather stale.

As a note of clarification before I get to the actual review, I put “Open World” in quotes above because Forgotten World is not an open-world game. I thought it was an open-world game when they premiered the first trailer. Turns out it is not—while that is mildly disappointing, I’m satisfied with the structure of the game, nonetheless.

Actual Review

Immediately upon starting the game, I was intrigued by how quickly everything settled. A cutscene showed off the premise of the game, and then the player is transported straight into gameplay. Almost nothing is elaborated on—in hindsight, there isn’t all that much text within the game. Stranded on a foreign planet (to Kirby), I really liked the dedication to placing the player into a new world with as little context as possible.

As little as possible!

With that in mind, there’s something that needs to be said:

It’s Kirby

It’s Kirby! More specifically, it’s (a) Kirby (game). When it comes to the controls, mechanics, and level design, it’s just a Kirby game. If you like that particular thing, this game will be the greatest game ever to you. Others, however, will need to strap in for a pretty long game.

Not to say this is a “long” game (took me about 20 hours to do most things), though the consistency of what you’re expected to do may make it feel long. A large majority of the game is, admittedly, pretty same-y.

Each major world consists of a set amount of stages and one boss, all of which have specific challenges to save waddle dees. This is accompanied by some time trial challenges one can do to collect rare stones, used as currency for power upgrades. While the criteria changes with each stage on what to do to find these waddle dees, it’s still the player running around in a stage, looking for hidden areas or experimenting.

On the bright side, you can greet waddle dees with glee!

This makes up a majority of the game. Go through a stage doing little fun things—fighting enemies, solving puzzles, and exploring. At the end of each world, you fight a boss. Rinse and repeat some five or six times. It can be somewhat exhausting if the material of mechanics available aren’t to one’s liking, or if, like me, you find Kirby titles to be a tad too simple.

Luckily for me, I have that inner penchant for completion. These in-level objectives were never too much of a hassle for me. Although, admittedly, with the way certain things are revealed, it means revisiting every level at least once, unless you’re very careful. This only adds to potential game exhaustion.

And again, when it comes to Kirby games, it’s pretty straightforward. Nothing about The Forgotten Land is particularly complex or revolutionary. The only thing that really sets it apart are the new “Mouthful mode” transformations, which are mostly reserved for situational circumstances. While neat, to say it’s a great addition to the franchise is like saying the catsuit power-up from Super Mario 3D World is to that franchise. I can’t agree with that.

Speaking of additions to the franchise…

But It’s a Good Kirby

All that I said above is my biggest sour point for the game. From here on out? Praise.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is my favorite game from the franchise thus far. As impressive as that may sound, again note my relative lack of history with Kirby games and my unenthusiastic perception of them. Still, there is a lot here to commend as a more-than-solid adventure of neat creativity.

Remember how I mentioned Super Mario 3D World? It had a secret double meaning: it’s the game I would most heavily compare today’s topic to. Structurally, they’re pretty similar, though Forgotten Land has a designated safe area that one can build up. Aside from that, it’s a bunch of worlds with stages, secrets, and bosses aplenty. As one goes along, the environments get more varied and dangerous, and what the player is expected to do within each area becomes more of a hassle.

Spike trap!

Like a hodgepodge of different Kirby-related challenges, contained within specific environments that change when needed. Showcasing various advantages to powers, each stage does a great job of allowing experimentation and nudging towards a particular direction. Each power has their pros and cons; it’s up to you to see which one works best for your playstyle.

Aesthetically, my favorite part of Forgotten Land is in the very title. The idea that Kirby is now roaming through a post-apocalyptic Earth is pretty intriguing! Seeing the ruins of malls, carnivals, wastelands, etc., adds interesting subtext to the stages. Purely from a graphical standpoint, I’m most fond of the third area, the carnival world, with its bright lights and cartoonish set pieces. This, more than any area, seems to be where the developers had the most opportunity to throw in visual variety and fun.

Probably my favorite-looking stage in the game.

As for the overall, it’s adequate enough. Not the best-looking game for the Switch nor is it going to blow people away. Yet the simplistic, colorful nature of the game is sure to be pleasant to most. Some of the bosses later on and the Mouthful transformations are also so disturbing/bizarre that it triggers a great sense of clashing moods. Like a Teletubbies mod for Left 4 Dead 2. People love that stuff.

It’s something of a running theme that games from this franchise always have fantastic soundtrack. I don’t really agree, though Forgotten Land has some “oomph” to its soundtrack. Not necessarily energetic or awe-inspiring, it instead goes with serene, orchestral bounciness for most places, then progressively more somber as the journey progresses.

These tracks didn’t initially stick with me, however. It was the manner of repetition that allowed these audio tracks to flourish and have themselves stick within my mind. Running through the abandoned mall, skating across icy terrain, and fighting boss after boss after boss really allows the soundtrack to make a nest in the player’s mind. And good for it—many tracks end up pleasantly hum-worthy even after the game is off. Nothing spectacular, but certainly plenty of finesse.

She isn’t going for a love bite, is she?

A large collection of side modes are also on offer as one collects waddle dees from stages and builds up the central town hub. These can range from fishing, a place to store and upgrade copy abilities, a colosseum, and a few shops. While helpful in some facets, I didn’t go to these places all that often—only the ability building frequently saw me visitor. The colosseum is also a great place to farm for any rare stones you may need, though going through the entire thing just for that can get monotonous.

And then there’s a gacha angle. Indeed, Kirby can collect hundreds of little figurines that can be displayed in Kirby’s “home.” What else can you do with them? Well, you can look at them. That’s cool, right? (I know; it’s entirely pointless.) To their credit, they provide some info on some adversaries and abilities, though it rarely goes farther than what’s already obvious through the adventure. Just another thing to do.

We’re eatin’ good tonight!

Conclusion

Kirby and the Forgotten Land provides some much-needed spice to the already packed Kirby library of games. (Seriously, I was flabbergasted at the amount of games he has!) Fans and non-fans alike will find some fun to be had as they go along—just be wary of pacing yourself, as the nature of the game can cause some manner of repetitiveness in large spurts.

Personally, I think it’s the best game the franchise has to offer. To others, it might be yet another entry to a well-tread formula that Kirby has perfected through sheer force. I’ve visited a lot of Twitch streams of players saying it’s “their first Kirby game.” Considering the incredible popularity of the Switch console and Kirby’s simplistic adorable aesthetic, that doesn’t totally surprise me. At the very least, their first game was a good one.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch. A demo is available to download if you wish to try it out first.

For more reviews on this topic, be sure to check out the associated archive.

Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.

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