Kirby and the Forgotten Land Review: Don’t You Forget About Me
I’ve been playing the Kirby games for a long while now, but I still have no idea what exactly Kirby is. Is he a cute little fairy? A powerful demon? Strange alien invader? Or an all-consuming god? It’s still totally unclear. What is clear is that Kirby is a trouble-magnet and constantly finds himself drawn into dangerous situations, which brings us to his latest adventure, Kirby and the Forgotten Land. He gets sucked through a mysterious portal, along with hundreds of Waddle Dees and other assorted Pop Star residents, only to awaken on the shores of a strange new world, one ruled by the Beast Pack and Beast Council. Along the way, you’ll discover what drew Kirby there and what forces are arrayed against him. The long and short of it is this – Kirby and the Forgotten Land is fantastic, and the best game in the long-running series since Planet Robobot.
Strange New World
One of my biggest concerns with Kirby and the Forgotten Land was that this marked the first truly 3D entry for the series. And that can be a hard transition to make. Sure, the 3DS games tinkered with 3D effects. But the general structure was 2D platforming. Here, you’re in a 3D world, but with a catch. It’s not like when Mario made the transition to three dimensions in Super Mario 64. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a lot more like Super Mario Galaxy 2, with smaller diorama worlds. And while it’s true you can’t much manipulate the camera, other than shifting it incrementally left or right, there’s a lot they managed to hide in each level. Otherwise, linear areas will have well-hidden secret rooms, side corridors, and plenty more to discover. So although this isn’t as much of an open-world adventure as I could have expected, it still makes the transition to 3D quite successfully.
Early on, Kirby meets a new ally, an adorable floating green creature named Elfilin. I admit, Magolor has made me suspicious of every new face that Kirby encounters, but Elfilin was as genuine as he appeared. For some unknown reason, the Beast Pack are after him, and have already captured all the Waddle Dees that got transported with you. Well, other than Banana Waddle Dee, but at this point, we just have to accept he’s the Rambo of their species, so the rules are a bit different for him. While BWD doesn’t serve much point in single-player mode, he does allow you to play Kirby and the Forgotten Land with a friend.
Waddle On Over
The main game is split into two main sections – the world map and Waddle Dee Town. All the refugee Dees you rescue wind up there, and they’re not content to just sit around. No, they get right to work and start rebuilding their derelict shelter into a thriving town. The more Waddle Dees you rescue, the more the town grows, and it adds a bunch of new functionality bit by bit. You’ll have key areas like the blacksmith, where Kirby can use Blueprints, Star Coins, and Rare Gems to upgrade his copy abilities; you can grab a bite at the cafe or buy food for later; check out special deliveries at the post office; and even battle for recognition and cash at the Colosseum. But that’s not all. You’ll also unlock optional mini-games in Waddle Dee Town, such as helping take orders at the cafe, fishing, or even maneuvering a marble across a grid. All of these will reward you with cash and items, and sometimes you’ll even get one-of-a-kind items to boot.
You’ll Never Get Me Treasure!
As for the world map, it’s split into several large themed worlds, each broken down into a handful of stages and a boss fight. You’ll also find something called Treasure Road levels. These are challenging mini-game stages that require Kirby to use a specific copy ability to beat them under a par time. Doing so will not only give Kirby a helpful Rare Gem, but beating it fast enough earns him some extra Star Coins. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also find hidden Treasure Road levels on the world map. These generally involve Kirby’s Mouthful Mode transformations (more on those later), and they’re a lot of insane fun.
Room To Explore
I have to say, I was impressed by the extensive nature of the main experience. Granted, there are only a few levels per world, but each one is utterly unique and full of hidden passageways. Better yet, you have a reason to replay each stage in the form of optional missions. While you’ll always save 3 Waddle Dees the first time you complete a stage, there are a bunch more well-hidden ones. Some you’ll find in the stage itself; others you’ll have to suss out special requirements to unlock. This can include everything from helping tulips bloom to breaking down doors and much more besides. You can only view the basic missions the first time you play a level, and more get revealed as you discover others. There’s a ton of variety, and it’s perfect for keeping longtime fans of the series happy, as well as accommodating completionist impulses. And I will say, though I tried to be thorough in my playthrough, I only managed to find all the hidden Waddle Dees in the very first level.
The real question is, how does Kirby play in the new game? The answer is effortlessly. Though many of his abilities were initially envisioned for a 2D world, they work totally fine in these larger areas. And though Kirby can still float with A, he’s not able to endlessly ascend wherever he wishes. That would have been a bit overpowered in a 3D platformer. Instead, Kirby here plays a lot like nerfed Kirby in Smash Bros. Ultimate. Meaning he can float a little bit, but not enough, so he never touches solid ground. Instead, he can float up to a certain height before he can’t go any farther. If you land on something solid, though, then you can float up a bit higher, like a staircase of sorts. Honestly, I’m fine with this decision, especially since it’s still a lot of fun using Kirby’s copy abilities. He has a great variety here, from classics like Sword, Fire, and Bomb to new abilities like Drill and Ranger. All it takes is a press of the B button.
His Eyes Are Bigger Than His Mouth
Perhaps the strangest new tool in Kirby’s arsenal is the Mouthful Mode transformations. These take otherwise ordinary objects like traffic cones and staircases and turns them into weapons of war. They’re also incredibly vital in puzzle solving. As an example, Kirby can slurp up water from a water spout to turn into a living water balloon, and use it to spray off harmful goo. You can also swallow a locker and slam it off the wall, revealing hidden clues. You can still take damage when using these transformations, but generally, they’re so powerful you can plow through most everything in your way. And it’s incongruously entertaining to use such derpy powers to accomplish so much.
Cage Match Against the Beast Council
Each area of the game has a big boss battle, and you’ll have to unlock it by finding enough Waddle Dees in that area. The majority of the bosses are larger-than-life members of the Beast Council, but a few are a bit surprising. Regardless, they all pose a reasonable challenge, and some can even wipe the floor with you if you’re not careful or come equipped with the wrong copy ability. And just like the regular stages, each boss stage has optional missions that reward you with more Waddle Dees! Though these missions are more unusual challenges, such as beating one boss without copy abilities or sliding through the feet of another. They can get pretty wild, and I still have yet to reveal the majority of them. Thankfully even without that, I can attest that the bosses in Kirby and the Forgotten Land are some of the best the series has seen.
Gotcha Catch Them All
Like any good Kirby game, there’s a ton to keep you busy once you roll the credits. While a lot of that involves rescuing all the captured Waddle Dees and upgrading Kirby’s powers, there’s some other fun stuff. An example are the Gotcha machines. They give you little capsules that reveal either an iconic character, item, or area. I thought there would just be a few, but there are four different volumes of these machines to find, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. You can find some in stages, but the majority you’ll need to get randomly from the machines in Waddle Dee Town, for the low price of a few star coins.
Additionally, all the mini-games have multiple tiers you can unlock, starting easy and getting progressively harder. So if you really want to do everything, you’ll be spending a bunch of time after you beat the game. And that’s without even getting into the optional postgame content.
A Glorious Three Dimensional World
Visually, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is stunning and incredibly diverse. You’ll explore lush green forests, swim in sparkling waters, run through derelict carnivals, and plenty more besides. Likewise, the various creatures you encounter are all full of personality and have that trademark Kirby charm. Also, without going into spoilers, this game goes the route most in the series does, and has some truly horrifying monstrosities to battle. I honestly loved the art design, though there were a couple times where things got a little grainy around the edges. Musically, it might not be my favorite Kirby game, but it’s no slouch either. Most of the tracks are high-energy, there’s lots of cutesy and just a smidge of drama. Overall, the design of the game is another high point.
Room For Improvement
Now, I have almost no complaints in the game. But there are a few areas that held it back from me, giving it a perfect score. One is that sometimes the HUD on the world map wasn’t as clear as I hoped, or was just too small for me to notice. As an example, I didn’t realize until the 4th world that you could get a rundown of stage stats. Another oddity is that you can’t pause the game and view the movesets for each copy ability, which was the case in most of the games. Instead, the best you can do is check out the details from the capsules, or pay attention in the Treasure Road stages.
But perhaps the biggest offender was that the game never told me I could dodge. Now, admittedly the game also doesn’t tell you that you can do a slide move, but at least one early stage clarified that. I only randomly discovered Kirby could dodge like a pro, and it’s a good thing I did. I honestly don’t think I could have beaten the final boss without the technique. You can hold R to block, and if you tilt the stick in any direction while blocking an attack, Kirby will flip acrobatically away. If you time it just right, it’s just like Kirby has Witch Time, meaning things slow momentarily, and you can even counterattack, which is completely awesome. I just wish the game told me about the technique, or even had it listed on the pause screen.
An Unforgettable Journey
Overall, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is still a tremendous adventure. It makes the transition from 2D to 3D effortlessly, and offers an expansive adventure full of replay value. While I was frustrated by some curious omissions, this is still one of the best Kirby games in quite a while and easily the best one yet on Nintendo Switch. A must-own for fans of the pink puffball.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: HAL Laboratory; Players: 1-2; Released: March 25, 2022; ESRB: Everyone 10+ – Cartoon Violence; MSRP: $59.99
Editor’s note: The author purchased the review copy.