As I am wont to say at the top of each and every Kirby game review I post here at good, ol’ GeekDad, mine is a household of Kirby fans. To us, HAL Laboratory’s pink puffball is just as synonymous with Nintendo systems as their own Mario and Luigi, and each new release is greeted with no small amount of anticipation, speculation, and inevitable jubilation. You see, even an average Kirby game means, at the very least, that we get more Kirby in our lives, but I am delighted to say that Kirby and the Forgotten Land is anything but average.
While the setup is classic Kirby—he and the Waddle Dees get dramatically yanked off of Planet Popstar in the game’s opening scene—where he and his friends end up is nothing short of extraordinary. The titular Forgotten Land places our ever-hungry hero in a number of seemingly post-apocalyptic landscapes like overgrown cities, abandoned beaches, and even a rundown theme park. In the game’s latter half, more traditional environments like frozen wastes and sandy deserts are also introduced, but even these have a distinct patina of disuse, which really helps to tie Forgotten Land together visually.
While far from the open world that many of us assumed we’d get from the game’s original trailer, Kirby and the Forgotten Land offers beautifully crafted 3D environments complete with hidden paths, ample destructible elements, and new oversized enemies, which join the more traditional Kirby foes in making life difficult for this rosy, rotund warrior. While these members of the Beast Pack do take center stage—running the gamut from specialty bosses to mere cannon fodder—you’ll still spend plenty of time battling old favorites like Bombers and Blade Knights.
Standard enemies and Beast Pack mid-bosses can be swallowed, in trademark Kirby fashion, to acquire copy abilities that can be used to bash more baddies and solve environmental puzzles. While the addition of Mouthful Mode (gained when Kirby is only almost successful in swallowing special objects) is a big focus in Forgotten Land, this is not the only new power. In fact, I found myself equally thrilled with driving Car-Kirby through in-game racetracks and using Vending Machine-Kirby to fire soda cans at enemies as I did exploring seemingly more pedestrian copy abilities like the gun-slinging Ranger.
While Mouthful Mode moments are obviously relegated to specific levels, it’s easy to revisit your favorite copy abilities via Waddle Dee’s Weapons Shop, the very heart of Waddle Dee Town. This hub world grows and evolves as Kirby rescues more Waddle Dees, with helpful services like the Item Shop springing up alongside a cinema (for rewatching cutscenes), a café (complete with a food service minigame), and a special house that Kirby can decorate using gashapon-style minis discovered on his adventures.
Yes, in addition to food and Star Coins and copy abilities, Kirby can also find hidden “Gotcha Machine” capsules containing collectible mini-figures. This helps make Kirby and the Forgotten Land wonderfully replayable, but it’s far from the game’s only addictive element.
Each level contains five missions. The first is to clear the stage, which rewards you with three helpful Waddle Dees, but there are also a number of extra hidden Waddle Dees in each level (and finding all of them is the second mission). On top of that, clearing additional missions—such as using a specific copy ability or performing a certain action a set number of times—can also net you even more Waddle Dees. Note that these mission objectives are hidden at the start of the level, but simply finishing the stage or even partially completing a mission can help to reveal them during the end-stage tally, making it that much easier for you to clear the board on future play-throughs.
While Waddle Dees, Gotcha capsules, and Star Coins are all acquired through standard play, optional Treasure Road levels can also be discovered on the overworld map. These challenge rift-style exercises task Kirby with completing a timed map using one or more predetermined abilities. Beating the clock earns a Rare Stone, a special multi-colored star that can then be used alongside Star Coins to further evolve copy abilities. Assuming you’ve found the correct blueprints—which are, unsurprisingly, also hidden throughout the game.
So, yeah, there’s obviously a lot going on in Forgotten Land, and its mix of old standbys and cool new twists is sure to please longtime Kirby fans. But it’s also a fantastic title for first-timers.
Two different modes offer minor but meaningful tweaks to suit the style of the player. Wild Mode offers more Star Coins and the standard Kirby-series difficulty—not exactly Dark Souls, of course, but not always a walk in the proverbial park. Spring Breeze Mode, on the other hand, smoothes out that difficulty curve by providing Kirby with more health. Should fresh-faced players need even more assistance—your flying companion Elfilin is good at providing necessary exposition and the occasional hint, but not much more—the drop-in multiplayer is perfectly positioned to give even the greenest gamer a fighting chance with the addition of the ultimate player two, Bandana Waddle Dee.
With an impressive array of old friends, new enemies, and an exciting, expansive world at the ready, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is another out-of-this-world addition to Kirby canon. Further, its dazzling graphics and world music-tinged soundtrack are among the Switch’s very best—even when put alongside other bigger first-party releases. Most importantly, it’s undeniably fun.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land arrives on store shelves and in the Nintendo eShop this Friday, March 23. In the meantime, if you’d like a little taste of what makes this title such an undeniable gem, check out the free demo today.
Review materials provided by Nintendo of America. This post contains affiliate links. Truly, Sillydillo is lord of the dance.