The loveable, hungry, fluorescent pink puffball, who coincidentally shares the name of a North American vacuum manufacturer, Kirby, was the brain-child of Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai and the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Introduced to the world in 1992 with the Game Boy release of Kirby’s Dream Land, the mainline Kirby series has brought innovative 2D platforming gameplay to millions of Nintendo fans for almost three decades. As 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the adorable character from Planet Popstar, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, directed by Shinya Kumazaki of Hal Laboratory, will bring the franchise into the third dimension for the very first time.
Following a gorgeously rendered cutscene depicting innocent Waddle Dees swept from their home into a vortex in the sky as Kirby chases after them on his iconic Warp Star, the game starts off in a similar manner to the original Crash Bandicoot, revealing our main protagonist washed up on a tropical beach, as the layout gestures the player to travel in the direction opposite of the fixed camera. As you continue onwards, taking in the feel of finally controlling Kirby in 3D with his original moveset of guarding, sliding, jumping, and hovering intact, you’ll enter into a mysterious apocalyptic world, or as the title puts it, a forgotten land. You’ll discover that the transported Waddle Dees have been locked away in cages by a pack of beasts, and an unusual creature known as Elfilin will tag alongside you to help save them. Elfilin can best be described like Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but thankfully more passive, making them much less annoying. After you’re taught the ropes of gameplay, and listen to a catchy opening theme song, the groundbreaking next-generation Kirby adventure begins.
Levels in the game are accessible via a seamless world map and are unlocked one at a time, each of which being linearly structured, giving off vibes of Super Mario 3D World and the PlayStation exclusive Sackboy: A Big Adventure. While there is still plenty of room for exploration and discovery, Kirby and the Forgotten Land doesn’t really fit into the collectathon genre popularized in the N64 era, but instead offers somewhat of a traditional Kirby gameplay experience with the inclusion of a new axis, therefor adding a whole new range of possibilities for fun and imaginative environments.
The stages are filled with enemies to defeat, star coins to collect, gashapon to find, food to refill your health bar, puzzles to solve, and platforming challenges to conquer. Made up of multiple missions, including clearing the stage and saving the hidden Waddle Dees, your goal is to save as many Waddle Dees as possible in each level, which is done so by completing said missions. A few secret missions are available too, but they won’t be known until you either accidentally come across it while playing, or after you clear the stage, as it’s then revealed as encouragement to replay and collect everything. Gathering enough Waddle Dees is necessary to unlock the boss battle you’ll go up against as the finale to move onto the next World.
Seemingly taking inspiration from Super Mario Odyssey’s capture mechanic, the all new “Mouthful Mode” allows Kirby to hilariously transform into various inanimate objects such as a car, vending machine, or traffic cone. Instead of being done so by the act of possession like in Odyssey however, Kirby simply stuffs the object in his boundless mouth to take its shape and attributes. Mouthful Mode is limited to very specific objects, and is primarily used to solve platforming puzzles and introduce fresh mechanics. The car, for example, allows you to boost infinitely, destroying everything in your path, whereas the vending machine can forcefully shoot soda cans as projectiles. As for the aforementioned traffic cone, Kirby can use it to spike downwards onto cracked ground or broken water valves. Mouthful Mode is entirely separate from Kirby’s signature Copy Abilities, which, of course, also remain as a core gameplay aspect. Fortunately, activating Mouthful Mode doesn’t rid you of your Copy Ability, though it does render it as unusable until you detransform.
Copy Abilities function the same way as always. They’re essentially power-ups, obtainable by either inhaling and swallowing the proper enemy in order to, as the name suggests, copy their ability, or by popping a capsule that an ability is contained inside of. The first world of the game, Natural Plains, sees the return of many fan favorite Copy Abilities such as Sword, Cutter, Bomb, Fire, and Ice (granting Kirby with attacks that are exactly as they sound), while also introducing a brand new one, Ranger. This ability equips Kirby with a gun, but fearnot, it’s not as morbid as it sounds. The bullets are colorful stars that explode on impact, with the plastic-looking weapon aimable by using the left stick as you charge up the shot. Speaking of charging up shots, holding down the attack button with any of the Copy Abilities equipped deals a much greater amount of damage to your target. You can drop an ability at any time to swap it for another, or to return to Kirby’s default moveset of inhalation. As for inhaling an abilityless enemy, or even a random small object like an empty soda can or car tire, it will prompt Kirby with the power to shoot them directly out of his mouth as a projectile, but you can also swallow whatever you inhale into a void of nothingness with ZL or ZR if you so desire.
Waddle Dee Town is a new and exciting location present in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. It’s a danger-free hub that you can visit at any time from the world map. As you continue to save mass amounts of Waddle Dees during your playthrough, new buildings will be unlocked here that offer a large variety of purposes, the most important of which being Waddle Dee’s Weapons Shop, where you can strengthen your Copy Abilities. This is known as evolving, which requires the proper blueprint, as well as the spending of both star coins and rare stones. What’s a rare stone, you might ask? It’s a form of currency only obtainable by completing “Treasure Road” levels, putting your use of different Copy Abilities and Mouthful Mode transformations to the test, that are spread across the world map between the main stages. These are time-trials that you must finish within an allotted amount of time, and they are stylized very differently from the rest of the game, almost as if taking place within another dimension.
Other services available and/or unlockable in Waddle Dee Town include: a “Gotcha” Machine to collect in-game figurines, a Cinema to rewatch cutscenes, a house for Kirby to rest and regain health, the Waddle Dee-liveries postal service where you can enter Present Codes to unlock special items, “Wise Waddle Dee” who can offer you tips and tricks, and a Cafe to purchase food that you can store in your inventory for later. Also available directly from the Cafe is “Help Wanted”, a short and sweet minigame you can play to earn extra star coins where Waddle Dees line up in droves as you select the food order indicated above their head as quickly as possible. It’s simple, but also a nice time-wasting distraction, and there are even three different difficulty options if you want to spice things up and go for your personal best highscore.
It’s too early to tell for sure, but Kirby and the Forgotten Land is shaping up to be the greatest Kirby game ever made. Although we’ve only been given the opportunity to play through the game’s first world, initial impressions blew expectations out of the water. Controls are tight and responsive, the art-style is beyond adorable, and the classic gameplay feel that Kirby is known for remains. There is even an easily toggleable co-op mode so you can share the entire experience with a friend. This could quite possibly be the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D that a game series has seen since the revolutionary release of Super Mario 64. We’ll have to wait and see if our praise holds true after playing a bit more, so hang tight, as a full review will be shared prior to the game launching on 25th March.
A copy of Kirby and the Forgotten Land for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK. A full review of the game will be published in due course.
sonic frontiers, pokemon scarlet/violet and elder ring eat dirt compared to kirby and the forgotten land.
This is going to be game of the century, mark my words.
Don’t forget to check out the demo on the eShop :)