We already knew the Kirby series could make Eldritch abominations lovable. Now we know that HAL Laboratory can make a post-apocalyptic world a rather pleasant place to be. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a joyful 3D foray, all things considered. Even though the situation starts out a bit dire and mysterious, it quickly proves that we will always have a good and goofy time when our buddy Kirby is around.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land begins with Kirby and denizens of Dream Land being sucked into another world. Kirby awakes on a beach near a ruined city. After exploring a bit, he finds a dilapidated world with animal-like inhabitants. However, there are also captured Waddle Dees. After meeting a flying squirrel-like mascot named Elfilin, Kirby sets off to explore more of the world, figure out what’s going on, and save the day.
A 3D Kirby world works much like a 2D one. Enemies abound, and they’re as adorable as they are aggressive. (Though sometimes the Awoofies just need a nap.) Inhaling some will grant him Copy Abilities. 12 are present, with each one getting between one and three upgraded forms. Stages are filled with secrets and traps. Which means exploring is critical to finding every captured Waddle Dee and secret. Many of these “extras” can involve things like removing wanted posters, reuniting duck families, getting certain times while racing, or even finding special areas. When you trigger a condition, a notification pops up in the bottom right corner the screen. This alerts you to how many other goals might need to be met. Complete them, and you get more Waddle Dees.
Once you get through locations in an area, the boss stage opens up. At this point, if you’ve rescued enough Waddle Dees, they’ll beat down the door so you can get inside. These stages are much more brief, naturally. You get a sense of scope for the new area. A few Copy Abilities are on hand to choose from that might work well for the fight. (In many cases, they’ll also be tied to hidden tasks.) A Maxim Tomato will probably be around. You’ll then face one of the bigger foes, with the second stage of these fights always adding new attacks. Also, if you do fall during these matches, or at any time during the game, you’ll only lose 100 Star Coins and be able to keep going.
While this does mean a smaller number of Copy Abilities, it still offers some variety. For context, Kirby: Planet Robobot offered 27 for Kirby himself and 13 Modes for the Robobot Armor, while Kirby Star Allies included 28 and 13 special Dream Friends. However, each one’s tiered approach does add some extra variety. By collecting Rare Stones from brief Treasure Road challenge levels dedicated to showing off a specific ability, coins, and blueprints, you can have the Waddle Dee Blacksmith evolve them. The new versions tend to increase the abilities’ powers and add new functions. The difference between a Cutter and Chakram Cutter is more blades. You start with a Bomb, can pay to get Chain Bombs that link together for bigger blasts, and eventually can invest in Homing Bombs that can seek out enemies. Once you unlock a tier, you can set which one is the one that will appear in levels. It is handy.
Though admittedly, I was sad to see a few of my favorite skills didn’t make the cut. This isn’t to say the new Copy Abilities are inadequate in any way. I’m a very big fan of the Ranger. Especially the Space Ranger’s look and abilities. The Drill is also mechanically interesting when it comes to exploring. It is clear the skills that are here appear because they work well with what HAL is trying to do.
And then there is Mouthful Mode. This is a new mechanic that involves Kirby inhaling some sort of item or piece of technology left behind to use it in helpful ways. They look weird! They also work pretty well! Some are more fun than others. I really liked Ring Mouth, which involves puffs of air, as it ended up being more versatile than expected. Car Mouth — affectionately known as Karby — appears both for drives that involve ramming through obstacles and racing on impromptu courses. Some Mouthful Modes are just about unlocking access to a new area or item, like Dome Mouth or Storage Mouth. They’re occasionally novel and always silly. You’ll see some more than others, but I was pleased that a few variants showed up more often than I expected. Though you definitely will see a few specifically designed to appear only in select situations, then barely show up again
What I appreciate most is the world around Kirby. There are absolutely some fun level design decisions in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. A stage in which using the ice ability to stake around is a winner. So is a desert wasteland that rewards you for packing pistols. The way a haunted house plays with hidden paths and subterfuge and a mall relies in maps to lead to secrets. Things work well. You’re rewarded for experimenting. Certain spaces are clearly designed for specific power ups. It’s often obvious too, so you know “Now is when I need to inhale that ape so I can wield their hammer.”
But what’s even more important is how cohesive everything is. Yes, enemies are everywhere. However, in many ways I couldn’t help but think this is the most colorful and peaceful apocalypse. The initial area features buildings and structures that wouldn’t be out of place in The Last of Us or Tokyo Jungle. I loved leading ducklings around or enjoying a roller coaster at a theme park that made me nostalgic for NieR Automata’s. Speaking of which, Originull Wastelands got me thinking about the NieR series too. Every level in every area ties together in a wonderful way. They all simultaneously exist perfectly alongside each other. Know why I found secrets in Kirby and the Forgotten Land? Because this is now one of my favorite “post-apocalyptic” games and I wanted to take in the scenery.
That idea of building up atmosphere extends to Waddle Dee Town. This is the hub that gradually grows as you rescue more captured Waddle Dees. Things start small, with a theater to replay scenes. Eventually, you’ll unlock things like the blacksmith, an item shop, a cafe, a place to fish, an arena, a home for Kirby, and capsule machines. The restaurant and arena both serve as minigames, with one involving serving food and the other as a boss rush. It’s a charming, colorful respite. It is pleasant enough. Upgrading Copy Abilities aside, I didn’t feel as compelled to regularly return. If you need extra Star Coins, fishing or working at the Cafe is fine. But I felt like Tilt-and-Roll Kirby is the most worthwhile activity, both in terms of its challenge level and rewards.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is, like most games starring Kirby, thoroughly pleasant. It feels wonderful to play, offering all sorts of rewards for exploring and interacting with its world. I also feel like out of all his adventures, this is the one in which all of the areas fit together best into a cohesive world. It’s also quite well-balanced! I do wish some additional series staples showed up and that Waddle Dee Town did more to encourage me to hang around. But it is generally lovely.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available for the Nintendo Switch.