Whether I played as Kirby, Karby, or a soda machine, Nintendo’s penchant for innovative gameplay continues to deliver remarkable moments. When I think of Nintendo and its franchises, the one that has always stuck with me is Kirby — I’ve played as the pink blog from the earliest moments of my childhood be it on the Game Boy or NES. Each game has been a big part of my earlier years and while the series may not be as revered as Mario or Zelda games, Kirby will always be as important to me.
Kirby and the Forgotten Lands is a simple platformer so don’t go in expecting an Elden Ring level of challenge but don’t let that deter you from skipping out, either. The laidback pacing and style of play are a perfect palette cleanser to the last several weeks of high-profile releases we’ve had. Knowing that a new Kirby game would bridge the gap in March to the next several big releases is exactly what I needed — I’m able to play fun video games filled with imaginative scenarios and abilities.
Kirby Can Inhale, Spit, Float, Copy Abilities
The inclusion of everyday objects being palatable for Kirby is a new mechanic that feels right up the series’ alley and one that begs the question, ‘why hasn’t this been done before?’. The more I played Kirby and the Forgotten Lands, this is the one question I kept asking myself. Sure, absorbing the powers of enemies is fun, but is it as fun as absorbing a car, a pylon, or a vending machine? Many of Kirby’s abilities are things Kirby picks up along the way and in this new world where Kirby is unfamiliar with the land, will need every bit of help.
In this new world, Kirby sets out to rescue the Waddle Dees from the Beast Pack. In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, you’ll explore a land abandoned by an old civilization. Nature has overtaken every aspect of the urban centres, vines and overgrown grass littering the landscape. Through malls, convenience stores, playgrounds, and an assortment of familiar places including an amusement park and sunny beaches, it’s up to you to explore this unknown land and rescue your friends.
Joining Kirby in this adventure is Bandana Waddle Dee, a partner to help out in a local co-op mode. While Bandana Waddle Dee doesn’t have the same skillset as Kirby, they can keep up and help out in a pinch. Kirby’s ability to absorb enemies and copy their abilities is in full force while Waddle Dee can attack with a spear in addition to being able to jump and slide to damage enemies. The long reach of the spear makes Waddle Dee a viable partner, whether you have young children or not, this is a great character to allow them to play as.
A Land Lost to Time
For nearly 30 years now, the Kirby games have never been overly challenging and in terms of difficulty, the included Wild Mode is where knowledgeable players will want to start. Kirby and the Forgotten Lands is not a tough game but for casual fans and players familiar with the genre, I would recommend starting here. For younger children, the included Spring-Breeze Mode is about as simple as the game can be, giving newcomers more health and is effectively the ‘easy mode’ found in-game. Kirby has more health while enemies have less.
Much of Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s game design feels inspired by another Nintendo game — Super Mario Odyssey. A lot of the similarities lie in level design with secret passages leading to worthwhile collectibles, others hosting a puzzle to crack to earn Star Coins. Some even boast great usage of Kirby’s powers which will feel familiar to anyone who played Mario’s latest adventure on the Switch.
Each level includes several optional missions to complete before reaching the end. In some, you might need to find the tulips and see them bloom, break a shutter on a building, or ride the water jet to a hidden area. Kirby moves between each stage on his iconic yellow star on a gorgeous, colourful world map but the real star is Waddle Dee Town, the main hub of Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
With each level being semi-open — anyone that’s played Super Mario 3D World or Super Mario Odyssey will see how secrets are tucked around the world. Each stage is brimming with hidden collectibles and secrets well worth finding. I would revisit any level I wasn’t able to complete the checklist for as it usually gave me some insight on how fast I mow through to find the corresponding bonus (like not touching mud, driving Karby without hitting any obstacles, etc) or which of the hidden Waddle Dees I had missed.
We Built this City
With so many of the supporting Waddle Dees hidden in each level, it is up to you to find them all and send them to their new home. It is here where a lot of your new friends will assist you as you take on the Beast Pack. The more Waddle Dees you save, the more buildings open up, each one offering its personalized service to Kirby including Waddle Dee’s Weapons Shop, Waddle Dee Cinema, Waddle Dee Café, and Kirby’s House.
If you head to the Weapons Shop, you can use blueprints tucked away in stages to upgrade your abilities. Upgrading your Hammer to the Toy Hammer means extra damage or upgrading your sword to the Meta Knight adds speed to your attacks. Upgrading your bomb from a single explosive to multiple makes bosses a cakewalk — every ability offers a higher level of power and is worth finding each blueprint. With more Waddle Dees populating the hub, you’ll see how progression is tied into the expansion of the town.
Waddle Dee’s Weapon Shop requires you to collect rare stones from the treasure levels as a form of payment. With the star coins and rare stars, upgrading abilities like fire to volcano fire or cutter to chakras cutter. Finding the blueprints in each level will be a challenge but one worth completing as many of these abilities boost power against enemies.
Nestled at the top of Waddle Dee Town is the Colosseum. Kirby unlocks the building after completing several tasks and once unlocked, offers a fun way to take on previous bosses in a new setting. The first cup, Meta Knight Cup, is a really fun way to not only revisit previous bosses but also to see how fast you can beat them to earn the highest score.
Progress is tied to the Waddle Dees, with each point on the map requiring a certain amount of your pals needed to expand the map. When you do meet the criteria, a boss level is unlocked and you’ll need to defeat the boss before moving on. Kirby games in general are not challenging but don’t let that deter you from enjoying Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
That’s a Mouthful
Mouthful Mode is the most impressive of Kirby’s abilities that you’ll come across at each level. We’ve seen Car Mouth, an ability that transforms Kirby into Karby, capable of bursting through concrete walls. Kirby absorbs a pylon with his cone mouth, opening up cracked floors and walls to reveal secrets hidden throughout each level. This isn’t a knock against the copy abilities but Mouthful Mode offers the best gameplay deviants the series has seen. Whether you’re driving as a car, spitting soda cans as a vending machine, or gliding as a plane, the mechanics are continually impressive.
All of these new mechanics aren’t gimmicks, either. I was genuinely surprised how often I was crashing down on an enemy as a set of stairs. Going into Mouthful Mode also doesn’t disable your active copy ability, so you can be a vending machine with your current ability (it’s shown as whatever hat you have associated with your skill).
Kirby and the Forgotten Land sprinkles minigames throughout the world map in the form of Treasure Road levels. Each Treasure Road level is based on an ability you’ll acquire throughout the game, with each level having a difficulty level and the best time to complete.
None of these levels are particularly challenging at first but they are often fun. One level might use bombs to toggle switches while another level may use the boomerang to collect shards around the level. Your target is to acquire the associated rare stone within the target time (each level varies) but they are a nice way to break up the main levels. Later Treasure Road stages begin to incorporate some smartly designed challenges for the player.
One thing I’m a bit disappointed to see is how many of Kirby’s Copy abilities have been limited. In Kirby: Star Allies, these moves have expanded move sets and can be a lot of fun to use. While that notion of fun remains, abilities like Sword don’t have the down thrust, upward slash and so on. You can charge attacks and depending on the upgraded ability add a specific flourish but the lack of expanded move sets is a bit of a disappointment.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is another stellar outing for Nintendo packed with surprised and genuinely compelling moments. As I got further into each stage, the satisfaction I found in completing every level with every optional request is hard to replicate today. Nintendo’s video games always, always leave a lasting impression and a lot of it is because the developers have that Nintendo Magic a lot of employees need to make these memorable experiences. Kirby’s time in the spotlight may not be as frequent as Mario’s but when it is time to shine, Kirby flourishes in the light.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch