Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the latest outing for our spherical pink friend, and it’s his first outing in 3D. The game is developed by HAL Laboratory, and they’ve done a wonderful job converting Kirby to the 3D environment, providing some excellent combat, great platforming and overall a very wholesome and fun experience on Nintendo Switch.
I still have an old-school Gameboy in a drawer, and in the back of this relic of gaming history is Kirby’s Dreamland. This was the original outing for Kirby on the Gameboy. This was a sidescrolling platformer, which I remember playing a whole bunch as a kid. Since then I’ve become more accustomed to playing as Kirby in Super Smash Brothers, but I was really looking forward to Kirby and the Forgotten Lands.
I’m happy to say I haven’t been let down by Kirby, as this is a great game worth of your attention if you own a Nintendo Switch. When we first saw Kirby and the Forgotten Lands we were hoping it would like Super Mario Odyssey, however it turns out to be much more similar to Super Mario 3D World, the game that was successfully re-released on Nintendo Switch in 2021 alongside Bowser’s Fury. For example, the levels are contained, and as Kirby you have a bunch of enemies to defeat, platforms to traverse and bosses to battle. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is classic Nintendo design, the levels are tight, they are packed full of neat little ideas and there’s an overwhelming sense of fun albeit in a confined space.
As a Kirby fan, there’s plenty of nostalgia in Forgotten Land too. Kirby’s classic copy abilities are present and perhaps the best they have ever been. You can suck in an enemy and take one some of their abilities, plus there’s a load of new features too. Mouthful Mode has been introduced, which left many Kirby fans jaws on the floor during a recent Nintendo Direct with Kirby inhaling a whole car and then having the ability to drive around just like the object he’s holding in his mouth. This mechanic is more than just fun humour, you solve key puzzles in the game by taking on the abilities of the objects in really interesting ways.
The story in the game is a little light, as you can imagine from a Kirby adventure. The Waddle Dees have been kidnapped by the big baddie and caged all throughout the Forgotten Lands. The idea is to then cross the lands, find and save all the Waddle Dees and restore your new hub location called Waddle Dee Town.
The world itself is something new for Kirby too. Kirby wakes up in this new world, which looks very similar to our own world, and it’s a run down, post-apocalyptic cuddly version of ‘earth’. Imagine a cartoon version of the Last Of Us and you get something similar to the Forgotten Land. You’ll see a lot of the landscape because much of the game is spent exploring and discovering the secrets, or the locations of the Waddle Dees. Similar to Super Mario 3D World you’ll have to find a certain number of Waddle Dee’s to unlock the next stage in some cases, so there’s no getting round the exploration.
Structure-wise the levels are set out with five missions to complete, each time saving a Waddle Dee to add to your collection. There’s a few bonus levels too if you want to get stuck into those, but they aren’t mandatory. There are certain objectives to complete too, which feels new for the Kirby franchise. Examples of these include defeating bosses with certain weapons or eating your way through a number of consumables. Previous Kirby titles have been knocked for their ease, and this one takes a different direction. Rather than blowing through all the levels, these new objectives and challenges mix up the gameplay in new ways. The combat and platforming isn’t going to challenge you like something from FromSoft or Celeste, but it’s new for the Kirby franchise to tackle a different way of doing things, and I’m looking forward to Nintendo doing more of this in the future.
As well as the main story and you also have side quests. These open up as you play the game and work your way through levels and different mini-games get opened up. The mini games range from cooking, bowling, ice skating and spinning coins. Some of them are better than others, but they all nod back to earlier Kirby games and bring them all together in this new package, which doesn’t feel like you are being taken out of the main gameplay. It doesn’t feel like an obnoxious change, it’s smooth and seamless and feels complimenatry to the main experience.
Combat in the game feels good. It’s all fairly straight forward as you would imagine from a Kirby game, however, there’s a good amount of variety to the enemies, and there’s lots of them. The copy abilities are great fun, plus this time you can upgrade them, having collected upgrade materials throughout the side quests and mini games. Kirby has fire abilities and sword abilties, which can be upgrades to crazy levels allowing you to spew out lava and have giant swords. It’s all done in good humour, it’s over the top, it’s big and bold.
After each level you’ll head back to Waddle Dee Town, which over time gets rebuilt thanks to the progress Kirby makes. Each time you rescue a Waddle Dee, they go back to Waddle Dee Town and help rebuild, meaning slowly over time it becomes a bustling hub zone, which is a relaxing place to hang out in between levels. As you progress improtant features open up including a weapon shop, Kirby gets his opwn house (finally!) and you have your generic vendors where you can pick up health and other supplies. There’s also more mini games here including fishing and a nice boss rush mode made up of bosses you’ve beat in the game. The overall gameplay loop found in Kirby is satisfying; head out into the story mode, save some Waddle Dees, come back to the Town and pick up some upgrades, take on some bosses or play some mini-games and then head back out into the story.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn’t too long. It can take anywhere between 6-10 hours to play through the whole game. There’s a few hidden surprises throughout the game and post-game secrets to find too. There’s some good set pieces including boat rides, car chases, decent boss battles and swimming. There is an array of environments and set pieces to run through with Kirby, and for his first 3D outing, this is very impressive stuff from Nintendo. I was slightly dissapointed at the game’s length, given it’s price tag, but it’s a small gripe considering the entertainment you are getting with Kirby here. The game may be short, but the moment-to-moment gameplay is great.
It’s not all plain sailing and there are a few things about the game I wasn’t too keen on. Some bosses are fought time and time again, and the environments can feel a little samey. I do think there are definitely more positives in the game than negatives though, and you can see the pedigree of the development team at work. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a suprisingly beautiful game. Comparing this to another recent Nintendo Switch game, Pokemon Legends Arceus, this looks much better than that, although not on the level of Super Mario Odyssey.
This year it’s Kirby’s 30th Anniversary, and this is a great way to celebrate Kirby’s birthday. We’ve seen Kirby before on Nintendo Switch, in the free-to-play Kirby Star Allies. That felt a little half-baked or not quite what we were looking for. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is much more like it, and does our little pink friend justice. The platforming is great, the battle system is decent and the boss battles are big and over the top as you’d want from a Kirby title. This is an excellent outing for one of Nintendo’s best loved characters and it’s worth giving it a shot.
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 25th March 2022