Title: Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Kirby is one of Nintendo’s top IPs that has been around for over three decades. Now, the pink blob has finally ventured into full 3D for the first time in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. If you’ve been dreaming of the next big Nintendo platformer after Super Mario Odyssey, the latest from Nintendo and HAL Laboratory is exactly the fix you need.
It’s a wonder why it took so long to get here, but the series’ transition into 3D is nothing short of smooth. The classic gameplay is intact, as Kirby inhales anything that moves and can copy some neat abilities too.
However, rather than having tightly focused 2D action stages as in the past, the latest adventure takes a more exploratory approach. Players uncover lavish environments at their own pace and solve some of the most inventive environmental puzzles ever seen in a Nintendo platformer.
It’s a 3D platformer with all the necessary prerequisites. Various forms of collectibles, hidden areas, big boss battles, but all with the signature Kirby touch. The experience doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t have to. Still, this will undoubtedly be a unique iteration of Kirby from a whole new gameplay perspective for longtime fans.
The basic premise has our hero and his friends enjoying a sunny day when suddenly a dimension warp sends them into a mysterious post-apocalyptic world. It’s all King DeDeDe’s fault, obviously. Though, having these characters in a new setting adds a sense of intrigue and wonder to the journey. This may be a forgotten and abandoned scene, but there is still plenty of colorful charm even within the bleak post-apocalyptic motifs.
Aside from exploring a strange new setting, the game’s central premise involves rescuing Waddle Dees scattered all over the stages. Like most past 3D Mario titles, these Waddle Dees are the primary collectibles needed to progress through the adventure while unlocking other features.
There are other collectibles too, and more than just reaching the end of each stage, there are several optional objectives that can be fun to pursue. Alongside the main stages are various challenge stages, and while these are optional in terms of game progression, they are absolutely worth doing to collect stars needed for upgrades later.
Kirby can copy enemy abilities, but new to this game is the ability to swallow entire objects and assume their function. Early on, he takes a literal mouthful of a car and becomes the car, I guess. It doesn’t stop here, as later in the game, you get to become several things, everything from vending machines to drain pipes. It may feel silly at first, but these new abilities add a whole new twist to the level design as most environmental puzzles involve using seemingly ordinary objects to do inventive things.
The quality of 3D platforming is right up there with some of the best Nintendo has ever produced, whether it’s diving into the various stages or taking on massive bosses who each have their own unique patterns. It all feels familiar, and sometimes that’s a good thing even when it isn’t groundbreaking.
The pacing keeps it all together, which has an addictive rhythm and flow. Further, while most of the game can feel quite breezy, this is a sizeable adventure that also presents a challenging end game. Even if you find yourself blasting through the whole thing in a weekend, there is still plenty of replay value, thanks to all the secrets and various collectible items.
In between all the platforming action, the various Waddle Dees you rescue all assemble in a town that serves as a fun little hub world. Here, you can participate in a few fun mini-games, collect toy capsules, and view galleries. You can also use collected stars to upgrade copy abilities which really help with the adventure.
Although most of the Waddle Dee town may seem superficial, this sort of attention to detail is what makes Nintendo platformers so distinct. Not everything has to serve a mechanical purpose. I mean, just look at the health pickups scattered throughout the game. They could have settled for one object to be the health item, but instead, you get to see cuisines from all over the world. This is the kind of charm you wouldn’t ordinarily find in most other games.
Although the stages and their level design are carefully thought out, the presentation of Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn’t anywhere near the grandiose spectacle of something like Super Mario Odyssey. In fact, with the release of this game and even the recent launch of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, it’s clear that the Nintendo Switch hardware is showing its age.
With Kirby, the texture mapping feels off; there are noticeable anti-aliasing issues and even framerate drops in both handheld and docked modes. These aren’t serious performance issues by any stretch, but it says a lot when even first-party properties are hitting the upper limits of what the Switch can do.
Performance naggings aside, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a beautifully charming and vibrant game, filled with clever character designs, exciting locations to explore, a ton of artistic detail, and to top it all off, some memorable music that is right up there with some of the best soundtracks the series has ever produced.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a good time certified with Nintendo’s seal of quality. If you’re a Switch owner, you simply can’t go wrong with jumping into this one. It may not do anything groundbreaking, but as a platformer, it unites several ideas into excellent level design pacing, with everything coming together smoothly for an adventure that you’re sure to enjoy.
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