By Jeison Liranzo
The Kirby franchise recently made a comeback with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, developed by HAL Laboratory and released on March 25, 2022. As in the franchise’s other games, Kirby has the ability to inhale enemies and take their powers, and there’s no spoken dialogue. This installment introduces many new mechanics, though, and – most importantly – the game is now 3D so the world feels bigger.
At the start of the game, Kirby is stuck in a rift in the sky that teleports players to an apocalyptic world where they have to defeat enemies and help free all the mouthless Waddle Dees that were transported along with Kirby. The maps look run down where nature has taken over cities, and there are enemies everywhere. Each map has different stages, and each stage has light puzzles and hidden paths to seek out. My favorite stage was the one in which we inhale a light ball and have to be careful when we turn it on to guide us. If we’re not careful, we’ll be attacked by an enemy. All stages also have side missions like lighting up five flame torches, eating three donuts, rescuing three hostages, etc. The one I liked the least was having to defeat the boss without taking any damage, but the others were quite simple as long as you pay attention to your surroundings; that aspect made it feel similar to a Mario game, which I liked.
Of the bosses, my favorite was Clawroline the leopard, because I had to dodge a lot. I also enjoyed King Dedede – the giant penguin. He’s a boss – one of my favorites – that we encounter throughout many Kirby games, so it was nostalgic for me to see him. I also liked Fecto Elfilis, a green, deer-like creature with wings and a spear, because his design was so cool and his gameplay was amazing: he fires projectiles that I had to dodge, and I had a hilarious fight with him in a truck.
I should reveal that the game wasn’t that much of a challenge, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. I played the wild version because I thought it would be tougher, but it was easy to defeat most enemies. The only things I found difficult were some of the side missions and the time challenges.
In addition to the main campaign and the time trials, there were also minigames to play, such as serving people food in a cafe, fishing, and tilt and roll, in which Kirby is a ball that we have to tilt and roll safely to the star without letting him fall into a hole. Players can compete against their friends in the minigames or team up in co-op mode, which allows two people to play as Kirby and a Waddle Dee with a spear. Your co-op teammate can help you complete stages and also play mini-games with you.
The Forgotten Land has some new copy abilities, like the drill and the gun-toting ranger, and players are able to upgrade their powers by finding blueprints and coins, or by obtaining stars from time trials and then visiting the upgrade shop. And players are now able to use a new mechanic called Mouthful Mode, in which Kirby can inhale and control objects like cones, cars, and vending machines. I particularly liked how cute Kirby looked when he moved around as the cone, and how you could see his little legs in the back of the car.
The visuals of the game were impressive, mostly because of all of the bright colors. The design is, as expected, cartoonish, and there are many adorable things to look at, such as the Kirby sleeping animation, and players greeting the locals. We also see a return of the iconic dance scene that happens whenever you defeat a boss and complete a stage. In previous games, Kirby was 2D, and the game wasn’t an open world so we had to move side to side. Now, players can explore their surroundings, making it possible to find hidden paths and little challenges that can free some Waddle Dees. The sound effects for movement and abilities were nicely done, especially the freezing power, which sounds as if you are actually freezing, the ranger’s gun and the digging sound. The soundtrack was honestly pretty forgettable, but it did blend into the background nicely.
Making Kirby and the Forgotten Land was one of Nintendo’s best decisions because the new features bring new meaning to the game. The game has become my second favorite in the Kirby franchise right below Kirby Mass Attack because of how refreshing the gameplay is compared to past Kirby games. I recommend this game if you are a fan of Kirby, or if you’re just looking for a relaxing game to play alone or with friends.
Jeison Liranzo is a New York Videogame Critics Circle contributor, part of our ongoing partnership with the DreamYard Project.