I still haven’t played Kirby Star Allies. While I’ve been a fan of the Nintendo character for quite some time, the previous mainline Kirby game just looked like more of the same to me. When Nintendo revealed Kirby and the Forgotten Land, the first thing that struck me is that it looked like a big deviation for the series. The traditional sidescrolling gameplay was dropped in favor of a 3D style, while adding in new gameplay elements. After spending some time playing the first world of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I’m pleased to say that it feels like a much-needed breath of fresh air.
In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby must try to rescue Waddle Dees that have been kidnapped and scattered throughout each area. To do so, Kirby can use his traditional copy abilities, sucking up foes and gaining classic power-ups along the way. In the early stages, we see familiar abilities, including Sword, Bomb, and Freeze, and they work just as longtime Kirby fans would expect them to. After rescuing Waddle Dees in each stage, the characters relocate to a new area called Waddle Dee Town. The more Waddle Dees that are rescued, the more the area will grow, giving players access to fun extras, like a “Gotcha” Machine filled with in-game trophies. This is also where a Weapons Shop is located, where Kirby can get upgrades for his copy abilities.
In addition to traditional copy abilities, Forgotten Land has also brought in the new Mouthful Mode. Essentially, players will come across new things that Kirby can suck up, but can’t actually swallow. Before the title screen even comes up, the game introduces the first Mouthful Mode item: a car. When Kirby gets his mouth around it, he’s able to use it to drive around or run over his enemies. Driving with the Kirby car is absolutely ridiculous, but it’s also a ton of fun. Some Mouthful abilities give Kirby offensive powers, like a soda machine that lets him spit cans at enemies. Others, like storage lockers and staircases, simply give Kirby an interesting way of finding hidden clues or pathways in the environment. Those are definitely less exciting, but they do add a fun element to the exploration.
Cars, soda machines, and storage lockers might not seem like the kinds of things that would normally be found on Planet Popstar, but they fit well with Forgotten Land and the levels found in the first world, Natural Plains. While Forgotten Land seems pretty light on story, it’s quite evident that Natural Plains was once inhabited by humans, or a human-like race that hasn’t been around for quite some time. Old machinery is juxtaposed with lush greenery, and it almost feels like something you’d expect from The Last of Us. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, the presentation is every bit as cheery as you’d expect from a traditional Kirby game, with vibrant colors and a bouncy soundtrack. The cheery atmosphere often made me think of Super Mario 3D World, and I say that as a big compliment.
Kirby games have never been known for their challenge, but Forgotten Land actually offers two levels of difficulty: Wild Mode and Spring-Breeze Mode. Thus far, Wild Mode hasn’t thrown anything too difficult at me, but it does feel a little more challenging, and I’m interested to see if that ramps up in later worlds. If it does, players can always switch between the two modes in the pause menu. Speaking of the pause menu, players can also easily toggle between single-player and co-op. In co-op, a second player can take on the role of Bandana Waddle Dee. This Waddle Dee uses a spear to attack, as opposed to Kirby’s transformation abilities; this led to a little bit of envy from my daughter, but the two-player mode is a fun inclusion, regardless.
In my limited time with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I’m already really impressed. This feels like a strong step forward for the series, offering a new perspective, more to do, and a slightly higher level of challenge for those that want it. But even with all of the new options, it still feels stuffed with all the elements Kirby fans have come to love over the years. The gameplay is fun, the graphics pop off the screen, and it’s a joy to play. When all is said and done, I don’t know if Kirby and the Forgotten Land will rank with my personal favorite series entries, but I can’t wait to see more of what the game has to offer.
Kirby fans can find out for themselves when Kirby and the Forgotten Land releases on March 25th, exclusively on Nintendo Switch.