REVIEW – Kirby and the Forgotten Land is like spending a whole day in a water park. At first you’re completely sucked in by the slides and pools, then it gets a bit boring at times, but in the end you’re surprised at how much fun you’ve had.
Kirby and The Forgotten Land was a huge step forward for the pink-ball’s Nintendo career, as it was the first serious attempt to bring the adventures of the adorable protagonist into a 3D environment, and it was almost entirely successful. Nintendo’s new platform game just debuted in March and has quickly become very popular with fans of the genre and Kirby games.
Kirby in 3D at last
One of the game’s biggest draws is its graphics, as while there have been previous Kirby games in 3D, none of them have been as well done as Forgotten Land. The visuals that open up when you start the game are fabulous; from the town of Waddle Dee, to the theme park-inspired world, to the boss battles, every world, level, location and cutscene is extremely detailed and full of tiny, beautifully crafted background elements. Each level has its own theme, so you’ll find deserts, snow-covered cities, abandoned shopping malls, theme parks, exotic islands, post-apocalyptic laboratories and futuristic out-of-this-world landscapes as well.
The characters and textures are also very well developed, but not too detailed, which makes them fun to look at not only during cutscenes, but also during the active parts of the game, without the disturbing feeling you get when you have to fight or run around with over-detailed characters and you get a headache by just watching them. Incidentally, even for other Kirby games – which have long been renowned for their cuteness – the characters are incredibly cute, especially Elfilin, a light blue fairy with huge ears that mostly reminisces a mouse. However, the other characters, including Kirby, are also very aptly crafted; they retain their old attributes and characteristics, but have been given a definite boost by 3D animation.
The textures are also quite nice, I liked the water surfaces the most, as that is one of the most critical texture types, but in the case of Kirby and the Forgotten Land they were very eye-catching and realistic. In addition, the grass and vegetation is very detailed and elaborate, which adds a lot to the experience of completing a level, as you can enjoy the environment in each location while fighting. The animation is also relatively well done, not choppy for the most part, and there are no objects or figures moving, twitching or reflecting strangely in the background of cutscenes, which was a big plus point for me.
However, the negative aspects of the design should also be mentioned, as there are a few of these. In some places, such as the water surfaces mentioned above, there are some interesting edges, which of course you might not notice while playing, but they can be distracting. Another problem is that sometimes, when you’re facing a lot of opponents, the picture becomes so cluttered that it’s almost hard to find Kirby himself, and the effect can be a bit distracting from the game itself. Fortunately, this doesn’t include boss fights, as they are usually one-on-one fights, which makes the animation very smooth and fluid. The biggest problem, however, is the odd frame rate, which again isn’t a fatal thing, but can be annoying – although perhaps more so on the second playthrough, when you have more time to look at the environment. The game came out at 30 FPS and it has been suggested to many that it could have been 60 FPS, but that may have been at the expense of the detail of the graphics. This problem is most noticeable when smaller opponents are pushed back and, as if stepping through a blurred curtain, their graphics degrade spectacularly. Other than that, I did not find this feature distracting.
However, overall, the visuals are sumptuous and exude the endlessly wholesome and cute atmosphere that characterises the entire Kirby franchise and Forgotten Land in particular, which for me was the most convincing in terms of graphics.
Another excellent aspect of Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the music. There are a huge number of soundtracks in the game – 133 in total – and almost none of them are forgettable. The game’s soundtracks are modern, yet still strongly evocative of iconic Nintendo games of the nineties, such as Super Mario, Sonic, Zelda, and of course the earlier Kirby. These soundtracks are partly what give the game its really cute, wholesome and distinctively Japanese “kawaii” atmosphere, all with surprising sophistication. For me, a big yardstick for game music is whether I’ll ever play the OST of a game again or forget it. In the case of Kirby, I came across an OST that I will be happy to listen to as background music in the future. The only thing that bothered me was one element, and that was that almost every boss fight related level had the same music, which I noticed by the third time and found a bit lazy. However, we did get a lot of new elements, such as King Dedede’s new theme, which has become a YouTube sensation since the game’s release, or at least has been very talked upon in the fandom, as it far surpassed the previous music associated with the penguin king. And of course, it’s also spawned a lot of memes.
So the tunes are very cute, beautiful and fun to listen to, they add a lot to the gaming experience. In addition, in the town of Waddle Dee, which is built up over the course of the story, a band is “built” at some point, who play any of the soundtracks for Kirby and his friend Elfilin. It’s a sort of juke box solution that I’ve seen in several games and I really liked it, as it gave me a good opportunity to listen to some of the OST elements within the game.
Kirby steps up to save the Waddle Dees
The story of the game is relatively simple, since it’s a platform game. Kirby is separated from his home, Popstar Planet, by a weird explosion and transported to a new dimension. Here he meets the light blue mouse-like Elfilin, who sadly informs him that his home has been ransacked by a horde of animals who have taken all the inhabitants, the Waddle Dees, with them. From here, it’s up to us to set off in the company of Elfilin and travel across five worlds to free the hidden Waddle Dees. As you complete the levels, it’s worth returning to the Waddle Dee town between each world, where more and more new facilities are built over the course of the story, such as an arena where you can fight any of the game’s opponents at your leisure, or a buffet where you can fill up on plenty to drink and eat – for the first time in the history of Kirby games, mind you – or you can choose to help out with the catering and serve hungry Waddle Dees in a mini-game. At the end of the game, we’ll confront the ultimate enemy who caused all the dimension-shifting and, once defeated, Kirby and the Waddle Dees can go on with their lives.
The game has a main gameplay of completing levels, defeating increasingly powerful bosses and freeing the Waddle Dees, who are hidden here and there in the levels waiting for Kirby’s help. The idea of hiding the Waddle Dees was a very good one, as it adds a bit of excitement to the game even when it gets a bit monotonous and encourages the player to explore their surroundings. In addition to saving the Waddle Dee, there are other sub-tasks to be done on each level, such as watering or bringing flowers to life, and my personal favourite, when you have to escort a group of ducklings to their mum. The tasks are just as cute as the rest of the game, but often present puzzle-type obstacles, which makes progressing through some levels even more exciting. This includes one of the game’s most entertaining features, the “Mouthful” mode. You may be familiar with the character’s fighting style from previous Kirby games, where he uses his copy ability to suck in an opponent’s attack and then turn it against them. With Mouthful, however, the little fluffball can not only absorb attacks, but also any object, even a large one, such as a car, a truck, a large hoop or a cupboard. These can be used to make very imaginative attacks or to get from A to B. My personal favourite is the one where you have to fill Kirby’s belly from a water tap, which turns him into a giant ‘water balloon’ and he can extinguish the lava-covered road in front of him, or water the plants, perhaps destroy the electronics.
And that’s not all!
In addition to Waddle Dee’s, the main gameplay also allows you to collect blueprints and gatcha statues. The blueprints are used to upgrade Kirby’s various attack abilities, which can be done in the Waddle Dee town. In addition, of course, there are many enemies, obstacles and bosses to contend with, which are quite weak at the start, so the balance of power is a bit disproportionate for quite a while. For example, a more skilled player can finish a boss up to Clawroline in almost 5 minutes, which makes the first few worlds less challenging. Some of the later bosses are harder to beat, such as Sillydillo (apt name…), who gives us some exciting attacks during a boss fight, or Clawroline, who can easily deliver hits to Kirby with her speed and sharp claws. Within the fandom, there has also been a lot of criticism of the pacing of the game, with many people saying that it is too slow and the levels are too easy. I think this is individual for everyone, and depends on the goal of the player. I didn’t mind the pace at all, nor the fact that I didn’t have to spend long hours stuck in a particular level, as the game was perfect for a light and uplifting experience on a few lazy evenings.
In addition to the main route, each world also offers the opportunity to complete extra levels, which focus on combat rather than adventure. During these, you will encounter various opponents and bosses, to earn a “rare gem” that can be used as currency. And you can visit the Waddle Dee town at almost any time, where you can try out a variety of mini-games. They are all fun and they give you a cash reward in return.
Eventually, the gameplay and story of Kirby and the Forgotten Land is not necessarily ground-breaking, but they serve the purpose. It’s a cute, fun, kind and heart-warming Nintendo game, which is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face with its message, which again is a bit corny; the power of friendship makes everything possible.
+ Cute and heartwarming atmosphere and story
+ Remarkable music and praphics
+ Enjoyable gameplay
– 30 FPS makes the objects in the background look weird
– A bit slow and easy gameplay
– Initially too weak bosses and too strong protagonist
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Genre: adventure, platform
Release date: 25 March, 2022