No other Nintendo series is more geared towards children than Kirby. Even its titular protagonist is an adorable pink puffball whose childlike demeanor helps his games feel both cute and accessible enough for players of any age. I say this because the Kirby series isn’t known for its depth or massive titles compared to the likes of Breath of the Wild or Mario Galaxy. They are simple in design and accessible to anyone who wants to smile a little bit along the way – and that’s what makes them so special.
- Beautiful 3D levels to explore;
- Fun side objectives that encourage replayability and exploration;
- Co-op mode is a blast.
- Bosses are repetitive;
- Copy abilities feel limited despite upgrade options.
These sentiments remain strong with the newest installment in the series, but you do get a sense that Kirby has grown up a little and ready to take on the world in a different way. The joy Kirby games bring is still as present as ever, but Kirby and the Forgotten Land elevates it to a new level and scale the series has never seen before.
A Forgotten Land to Explore
When I first saw the trailer to Forgotten Land, my mind immediately went into thinking we were finally getting an open-world Kirby game and one set in a post-apocalyptic world to boot. For almost 30 years, Kirby games have been cutesy 2D platformers with the occasional gimmick thrown in, but we have never truly seen more than a 2.5D experience at best. While Forgotten Land is less of Super Mario Galaxy and more of a Super Mario 3D World in how “open” it feels, its level design offers you a new sense of freedom and wonder Kirby has never had before.
This new apocalyptic world is also new for Kirby as it gives the series a seemingly darker edge not seen in previous games. After Kirby gets sucked into a dark hole, he washes up on the shore of an abandoned city where he learns that Waddle Dees are being taken prisoner by enemies known as the Beast Pack. You really don’t learn more about the story until further into the game, and even your setting remains a mystery until the very end where a sudden revelation brings it all together.
What’s great about your setting is how rich it feels despite following the usual format seen in past Kirby games. Yes, you have your forest, water, snow, and desert areas, but how the game presents each level is quite impressive as each one has a unique twist on what you would expect. My favorite level, for example, is a frozen metro station that makes you wonder what happened to it to get it flooded in the first place. There’s also an abandoned – yet very much alive – amusement park filled with parading robots and even a haunted house with deceptive mirrors that try to trick you. All in all, Forgotten Land paints a very interesting world and leaves most of it up to your imagination to truly interpret.
Exploration at its Best
Your adventure still takes place in a level by level format, but being able to walk around on 3D plane feels amazing and opens up so much to discover on your screen. Kirby games are known for offering secrets that sometimes require some thinking or careful planning, and Forgotten Land continues on this tradition. Each level has various optional objectives you can meet that sometimes require to keep your eyes peeled for anything that stands out.
Sometimes you will need to use an ability to light up lanterns, located some wayward duckling and reunite them with their mother, or water all the flowers in an area. You won’t know what the secret objectives are until you complete each level so the game encourages you to take a minute to explore your surroundings before moving on to the next room. Levels are big enough that they sometimes tell a story in how they evolve, but are still simple enough than anyone can enjoy and revisit. What’s great about Forgotten Land is that it still feels like the Kirby games of the past but offers new ways to challenge you.
The introduction of Mouthful Mode, for instance, feels like a silly way to have Kirby suck large objects into his mouth but proves vital for completing certain levels and provides a new way to enjoy them. Sucking up a car lets you engage in occasional timed races while sucking up a water pipe turns Kirby into a giant water balloon that lets him clean up gunk around him a la Super Mario Sunshine. This new gimmick introduces area puzzles for you to solve and changes the flow of each level preventing them from getting stale.
True to its roots, Forgotten Land is a very friendly, lighthearted, and immensely delightful experience filled with the brand of exploration and discovery the series is known for. A little more variety in the selection of abilities and boss battles would have taken it to the next level, but it still manages to offer fans fresh concepts that elevate it to a new level and scale the series has never seen before.
Combat has never been a major part of the Kirby series so it’s great to see some improved controls have been added to take advantage of the 3D nature of the game. You can now block and dodge attacks instead of just pummeling enemies, so you do need to figure out when to attack and when to defend. Later bosses will be one of the hardest challenges Kirby has ever faced in his career, but they are still straightforward enough to overcome without much difficulty.
More is Better
Sadly, there isn’t much variety in the enemies you will face in your seven-hour adventure so don’t be surprised to see the same mini-boss or big boss a few times before the end of the game. The later encounters offer some variation in how they attack, but the general idea remains the same when battling them so things can get a bit repetitive and you will wish the game featured a more varied cast of enemies from Kirby’s past.
Copy abilities are still present as always, but they don’t feel as special as Mouthful Mode nor are there many of them to enjoy. Classic powers like yo-yo, parasol, and beam are noticeably missing, and even the ones that make the cut feel less special than before simply because their attack variety is limited compared to past games. To make up for it, you can upgrade your abilities to change how they come out or how much damage they do. This also lets you change their hit rate or power so you can swap out to your favorites based on your playstyle. It’s a nice touch, but more variety would have been so much better.
Forgotten Land also offers bite-sized Treasure Road levels that challenge you to complete them in a set amount of time to unlock Rare Stars that are required to upgrade your abilities. The treasure itself isn’t what makes these levels fun as much as it’s their unique designs and how they highlight specific abilities that truly make them a joy to complete. You also will unlock your reward even if you don’t beat the target time, but setting a new record is a fun way to challenge yourself.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Forgotten Land is definitely geared towards even the youngest of Kirby fans and makes for a game the whole family can enjoy together. Playing co-op mode is a fun way to explore and fight alongside your partner, but if things prove to be too challenging, you can always adjust the difficulty to make it all more accessible. Even the game’s hub world where you can upgrade your abilities and see what your Waddle Dee are doing after you rescue them offers some lighthearted mini-games to play and even gotcha capsules to collect. It’s a nice break from the action and offers something for everyone to enjoy.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
True to its roots, Forgotten Land is a very friendly, lighthearted, and immensely delightful experience filled with the brand of exploration and discovery the series is known for. A little more variety in the selection of abilities and boss battles would have taken it to the next level, but it still manages to offer fans of all ages fresh concepts to keep the exploration exciting yet familiar at the same time. Forgotten Land stands tall among its peers and proves to be a memorable start for Kirby’s first foray into the 3D world.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com