Kirby and the Forgotten Land Hands-On Impressions – A Super Star 3D Debut
While he may look unassuming, Kirby used to be one of the true superstars of Nintendo’s roster. Games like Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby’s Adventure, and Kirby Super Star were deep, polished platformers that pushed their respective hardware to its limits. That said, for the past couple of decades, Kirby has settled into a comfortable spot on the Nintendo B-list, starring in charming yet simple 2D platformers and quirky experiments like Kirby Canvas Curse and Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
Well, the upcoming Kirby and the Forgotten Land may be the pink puff’s chance to float back up to the A-list. Forgotten Land is the Kirbster’s first full 3D platformer, featuring a unique new post-apocalyptic world (yes, really), lush production values, and plenty of side content. It looks like the kind of ambitious game Kirby’s name used to regularly be attached to, but is he ready for a bigger adventure? Or has he inhaled more than he can chew? I’ve had the opportunity to go hands-on with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, so scroll on down for early thoughts based on my time with the game’s intro and first world…
Kirby and the Forgotten Land begins with our spherical hero being sucked out of his usual pastel-colored surroundings and deposited into a mysterious post-apocalyptic world replete with the crumbling, overgrown ruins of some lost civilization. It’s basically a Kirby version of I Am Legend, except instead of vampires, an unruly (yet still adorable) group of animals called The Beast Pack are wreaking havoc, busting up the local Waddle Dee village and kidnapping its inhabitants. It’s up to you to get those Waddle Dees back and perhaps figure out who’s behind The Beast Pack’s dastardly deeds.
If you’re looking for recent 3D Nintendo platformers to compare Kirby and the Forgotten Land to, it’s really more Super Mario 3D World than Super Mario Odyssey. The game features a traditional overworld map and is broken up into individual stages, although they’re typically longer than those in 3D World, lasting up to 15 minutes apiece. In addition to the main levels, each world also offers a number of bite-sized “Treasure Road” stages, which task players with completing challenges as quickly as they can.
It may have taken Kirby nearly 30 years to make the jump to 3D, but worry not, playing Forgotten Land feels great. Once again taking notes from 3D World, the game mostly sticks to set camera angles. While there are very occasional moments where the view of the action isn’t perfect, not having to fiddle with the camera stick is appreciated most of the time. Kirby is easy to maneuver, and all his basic moves, including his trademark enemy inhaling and flying, remain intact.
Of course, Kirby can still copy the abilities of many of the enemies he encounters, with plenty of favorite powers like Fire or Sword returning. New to the game is the much-memed “Mouthful Mode,” which lets players stretch Kirby’s unnervingly-rubbery body over larger objects such as cars, vending machines, traffic cones, and more. While the traditional copy abilities grant Kirby different attacks, the Mouthful Mode transformations completely change the way he moves and interacts with the environment and are often the key to opening up new paths forward or discovering secrets. For instance, the car transformation can crash through walls while the traffic cone can break through cracks in the ground.
And trust me, there are a lot of secrets to be found. Each level is packed with extra Waddle Dees to find, but there are also capsule toys, copy ability upgrade blueprints, and money to collect. There are also little bonus challenges strewn about – remove wanted posters in this level, eat a certain number of donuts in another – which you’ll be rewarded for completing.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s level design is fantastic in general. Not only are the game’s stages fun, varied, and full of secrets, but there’s a logical consistency to them that you usually don’t see in Nintendo platformers. Forgotten Land’s first world takes you through a series of connected locales, from the downtown of a ruined city to an underground subway tunnel, to an abandoned mall, and onward. Each stage is full of great little touches as well. For instance, the mall stage is done up like an actual 90s-era mall, with chintzy carpet and decorations, a variety of shops, employee break rooms, and security stations. You’ll even catch enemies sitting down to a meal in the food court. This is all conferred to the player with some of the best visuals yet seen on the Switch. Each stage is bright, colorful, intricately detailed, and runs smoothly (and load times are brief to boot). Forgotten Land’s world isn’t just a collection of platforming challenges, its world actually feels lived in.
Speaking of lived in, Forgotten Land also offers a home base of sorts, as rescuing Waddle Dees gradually brings their village back to life. As the little guys return, you’ll gain access to a Weapons Shop where you can upgrade your copy abilities, a café, a handful of minigames, and more. Heck, they even build Kirby a house where he can crash between adventures. Real heroes take the occasional nap.
There’s plenty more to play before I render my final verdict, but based on my time with the game’s first world, Kirby and the Forgotten Land has a shot of hanging with the very best first-party Nintendo Switch titles. Yes, that includes the likes of Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. From what I’ve played so far, Kirby and the Forgotten Land offers a fascinating, beautifully-realized world, exciting action, top-notch level design, and near-deadly levels of cuteness. While my opinion could change as I delve deeper, I’m fairly certain Kirby fans will be eating hearty when this one arrives later this month.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land launches on Nintendo Switch on March 25 and a demo for the game is available now. Expect a full review from Wccftech before then.
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