Review: Kirby and the Forgotten Land

The pink puffball’s first, true, 3D platforming adventure is here!

Console: Nintendo Switch

Created by none other than Super Smash Bros creator (and workaholic) Masahiro Sakurai and Hal Laboratory, Kirby has been the Big N’s go-to gaming series for young kids. Colourful and easy, with 38 million units sold across 30+ games, this approach certainly hasn’t harmed anyone.

With these kinds of numbers, it’s surprising that Nintendo and Hal Laboratory didn’t attempt a 3D platformer earlier. Mario, Zelda and even Star Fox all got 3D outings on the Nintendo 64 way back when but Kirby’s 64 outing, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, was a side-scrolling affair. Why it took them this long to get a proper 3D game I will never know but hey; better late than never! 

What I do know is that Kirby and the Forgotten Land is my first Kirby game and, thanks to the Switch effect, the first Kirby game for many. Does it live up to 20 years fans have been waiting for a 3D Kirby game? And is it a good game for those who’ve never played a Kirby game before?

Let’s dive in.


Kirby is loafing around his home, just minding his own business, when a vortex starts sucking everything in, including Kirby. The pink puffball wakes up at a mysterious beach and soon after, meets Elfilin who informs Kirby of what is going on. A group of villains calling themselves ´The Beast Pack´ showed, wrecking Waddle Dee town and kidnapping all of them. Together with his new friend and the returning Bandana Waddle Dee, Kirby sets out to free all captured Waddle Dee’s, take down the Beast Pack and save this new world from whatever these dastardly beasts are cooking up. 

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a title that sets up the game and then just leaves everything up to your imagination and the gameplay to carry you through. These elements are excellent and get you through the campaign, with no problem, but I think the complete absence of dialogue boxes during the bulk of the experience is still a mistake. Just the bare minimum, a few sentences of dialogue for the boss of the 6 worlds you visit, would’ve gone a long way in making things a bit more memorable.

What the game lacks in story, it makes up for in charm and gameplay. The world Kirby finds himself in is a post-apocalyptic one and yet, it’s one that’s full of wonder, colour and delight. It keeps the tone of the game light and fun, a game that brings a smile to your face that wants you to keep playing.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a mostly linear 3D platformer. You thus run, jump and beat enemies by inhaling and spitting them back out again on your way to the goal; a cage of captured Waddle Dees in this case. Kirby will travel across 6 different worlds. Their themes might not be anything special but each level is well crafted. It has a good variety in visuals, platforming, combat, linearity and some more open world sections. The game could go with some more variety in mini-bosses, but that’s not that big of a deal.

What makes Kirby different from the likes of Mario are his floating and copy abilities. To make the original game easier, Sakurai gave Kirby the ability to fly/float by continuously pressing the B button. This allowed players to recover from falls and even fly over the entire level, should they wish. His flight now has a limited amount of times you gain height and how high you can go. It’s a happy medium between keeping this iconic aspect while making it more balanced.

New to the game is the heavily marketed ‘mouthful mode’. Some objects are too large for Kirby to swallow and instead, he will stretch into the shape of said object. From cars to traffic cones, each mouthful mode changes up the gameplay. These abilities are used to open up new pathways, solve some light puzzles and participate in mini-games. They’re a neat addition if a bit situational.

Kirby goes: vroom vroom!

Kirby’s copy ability, his ability to inhale enemies and take on their powers, has gotten some nice improvements. Each copy ability can now be equipped and upgraded in the shop back at the game’s hub world, Waddle Dee Town, for a new appearance, more power and extra abilities. Upgrading your fire ability, for example, will give Kirby a mid-air dash. These changes make the copy abilities easy to access and more useful.

True to form, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is an easy game. You get 2 difficulty options from the start, ‘Wild’ and ‘Spring Breeze’, but even the more difficult Wild mode is far from challenging. An approach that has its own merits; makes it easy to pick, play and just relax with. And, if you do want a challenge, the post-game content has some more difficult content for you to tackle.

On that note: the game is packed with content. Each level contains hidden pathways and small challenges for you to tackle, resulting in more freed Waddle Dee’s. And the more Waddle Dee’s you free, the nicer the town becomes and the more side activities become available. From fishing to an arena. There are also special challenges that put your skills with copy abilities and the mouthful mode to test under a strict time limit, and much more. You can even play this game completely in 2 player co-op, with the 2nd player taking control of Bandana Dee. Kirby and the Forgotten Land sure has some bang for its buck!

Visually, the game is a treat. High definition 3D models and backgrounds with a lot of different animations and some nice texture variety here and there. Varied levels with tons of different set pieces and designs.

The only complaint here, and really the most obvious issue the game has, is the stuttering of faraway models. It doesn’t matter where you are or how many assets are on screen, if something moves a certain amount of distance away from you it stutters like crazy.

The map in the game is partially explorable, with some secrets and extra challenge levels hidden throughout.

The music is great too. I never played a Kirby game before but when I hear the soundtrack of this game I could immediately tell I was playing a Kirby game. I especially like the soothing, almost Christmas like songs of Winter Horns and the seamless transition of the map song to its different compositions based on the world your currently hoovering over is worthy of a chef’s kiss.

Conclusion

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a great game. It’s a fun, easy to pick up and play 3D platformer with lots of charm. It succeeds as both the first 3D Kirby game as well as someone’s first Kirby game in general. As far as I can tell, it brings pure Kirby goodness to the table and has quite a bit of content to keep you busy with even far after the campaign has ended.

Thus, it’s a game that I can recommend wholeheartedly!

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