Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Kirby's Back And Rounder Than Ever
Nintendo has been on a streak lately in terms of bringing back its iconic IPs into a new generation. Last year's Metroid Prime kicked things off, seeing Samus return after years of not having an original game in the series. The lovable pink puffball gets his time to shine in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, taking Kirby where Kirby's never been before: In 3D.
Despite Forgotten Land being Kirby's first official 3D adventure, this wasn't the first time we've seen him in 3D. The first 3D title, technically, was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on the Nintendo 64. However, despite the graphics being 3D, it kept the traditional 2D gameplay along with other "3D Kirby" titles. Forgotten Land is the first true 3D Kirby game and the transition from 2D to 3D is seamless. All of Kirby's iconic moves are present much like how Super Mario 64 was back in the 90s. A 3D Kirby title was long overdue, but is it too little too late?
Kirby and The Last Of Us
Kirby and the Forgotten Land begins with Kirby and his neighbors getting sucked in by a space rift, displacing everyone in a foreign land. A new group of baddies known simply as the Beast Pack has kidnapped the Waddle Dees and it's up to Kirby and his new companions to save them. While I didn't play far enough to see the King himself yet, I'm certain Dedede has something to do with this. Regardless, Kirby finds himself stranded on a beach, serving as the game's first level. It wouldn't be the first platformer mascot stranded on a beach, right Crash?
Players familiar with previous Kirby titles will quickly catch on to the controls in Forgotten Land as they remain largely unchanged. Kirby's jump allows him to hover with every press while his basic attack exhales, causing his descent. He has his iconic suction ability, vacuuming everything inside him and spitting them out accordingly. Enemies that have special powerups are absorbed by Kirby as he claims the power-up for himself. Several returning power-ups include Sword, Cutter, Bomb, and Fire among others. The new world that Kirby finds himself in is a long-abandoned city ripe with vegetation. It gave me The Last of Us and Crysis 3 vibes, which is a weird comparison for a Kirby title but it makes sense aesthetic-wise.
Do You Like My Kar...by?
One of the new abilities Kirby has access to is the ability to take over certain inanimate objects dubbed "Mouthful Mode." One of the first objects Kirby can try this out on is an old abandoned car. This transforms him into a four-wheeled monster, crashing into enemies, walls, and other objects alike. It is after he lowers a bridge in this form does the level end, introducing the world and its inhabitants. That's the one charm Kirby games always had in that even the enemies are cute. Some are seen frolicking and napping until they see Kirby and suddenly the gloves come off.
Mouthful Mode comes in handy when Kirby uses the objects to dispatch enemies and reveal hidden paths. One object turns Kirby into
Coneby a traffic cone, where he can dive into weakened cracks in the ground and reveal hidden areas. Using this same attack on a cracked water pipe, for example, will cause a geyser to reach inaccessible areas. Another object turns Kirby into a set of stairs, also granting him access to "out-of-reach" areas. The game does a good job of nudging the player to try different paths by placing coins in peculiar areas. If there's something that looks suspicious, chances are there's a Waddle Dee waiting to be rescued or a checklist to be completed.
Simply Getting To The End Of A Level Isn't Enough
Each level has optional objectives that Kirby can complete in order to free the Waddle Dees, yet some are hidden. It's up to the player to explore the levels and reveal what these objectives are. Some may ask Kirby to rescue lost ducks, grow tulips, or light lanterns. Others may reward Kirby for finding a hidden room or freeing his hidden friends. There are a set total of Waddle Dees in each level and each objective is tied to freeing them. The more Waddle Dees Kirby finds, the more they help him back at the Waddle Dee Village.
The Waddle Dee Village is Forgotten Land's version of a "home base," slowly filling up with Waddle Dees as Kirby frees them. At first, the only thing that's available is a movie theater that allows players to watch previous cutscenes. There's also a Maxim Tomato waiting for Kirby to eat should his health need recovering. Considering Kirby keeps the same health in-between stages, it's not a bad idea to stop by for a bite to eat every once in a while.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land Is Well Optimized
After freeing a certain number of Waddle Dees, Kirby can access bonus missions to earn a crystal heart. These missions are mini-games that ask Kirby to use a copy ability to fulfill an objective. One mission may require Kirby's Cutter ability to grab floating gems within a time limit. Not only does this provide a challenge, but it also teaches the player that the Cutter ability is also used for grabbing items. Another mission will have Kirby use the Bomb ability to roll switches. Getting the crystal in the time limit is enough, but going above and completing the target time will earn bonus coins.
From the opening cutscene to Kirby being stranded on a beach, cutscene and gameplay integration is nearly seamless. There aren't many loading screens, levels load instantly, and the framerate is smooth. I mentioned how I'd like it if Bowser's Fury was a larger game than a bundle and Forgotten Land became that full experience for me.
HAL Laboratory continues to show its love for its son, even after 30 years of swallowing enemies and planets alike. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is shaping up to be one of the best Nintendo titles in a very long time, something I recently said about Metroid Dread. Samus passing Kirby the baton seems only right and it's something that may very well be the case.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available now on the Switch.