A master class in game design
While everyone tends to think that Super Mario is the only platform game that matters, I think the Kirby The series is arguably just as good and as innovative. The last entry is no exception, as Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a masterclass in game design.
the Kirby series began in 1992 with Kirby’s Dreamland on the original Game Boy and was both a commercial success and an altogether excellent one. The basic premise was that the titular Kirby would traverse multiple levels while jumping and floating, as well as swallowing enemies whole only to spit them out as projectiles.
This configuration is always the basis for the Kirby games even today, but over the years games have also introduced copy capabilities and now a new Mouthful mode. Copy abilities allow you to swallow enemies which in turn give you a special ability. These abilities are numerous and very varied, which has often had the effect of transforming the complexity of the level design of each game.
In the forgotten land, these copy abilities can also be upgraded to force multiplication of what Kirby can do. The new Mouthful mode allows Kirby to inhale a larger object, such as a car, and take control of it. Again, this has fascinating ramifications for level design.
The last major Kirby the game I seriously got into was Planet Robobot on the 3DS, which I loved. It was more of a traditional 2D platformer, but had Kirby pilot the mecha and use copy abilities.
the forgotten land is a bit different and closer to Super Mario 3D World in terms of the sprawling level layout. This time around, there is also a greater focus on scalable copy capabilities.
The general structure of the forgotten land takes you into an area where you unlock levels to progress and end with a boss fight for each of these sections. Each level has various hidden Waddle Dees, which are either directly hidden by various ingenious means or by completing a sub-objective.
Waddle Dees Rescue has a dual purpose, one being to unlock the final boss fight in each area and the other being to populate Waddle Dee Town. The more Waddle Dees you save, the larger the town grows and various shops begin to open. The shop managing the upgrade of copy abilities being vital.
The cost of upgrading copy abilities is divided into three parts; first of all you need the blueprint for each upgrade and these are hidden in different levels. Second, you need in-game currency to pay for the upgrade, which is again accrued by playing through levels. Third, you need a variable number of rare stones.
Rare stones are awarded at the end of Treasure Road stages. These stages are either unlocked by completing a main level or by finding them on the level map. Each stage of Treasure Road is a unique challenge, which teaches you the inner workings of the game. Many of these Treasure Road stages are also based on specific copy abilities and act as extended tutorials on how to get the most out of each. of them.
The more you progress in the game, the more complex the level design becomes. The demands placed on the player increase with each major encounter. Mastering Kirby and his wide range of abilities is no small feat either, and will certainly push you to your gaming limits.
Each Copy Ability upgrade increases in cost and power, often with additional technical twists thrown in for good measure. While Forgotten Land might look adorably cute, it’s still a properly technical game the deeper you dig into it. For example, dealing with Kirby’s dodge ability is also a big part of surviving later boss battles, and like many recent Kirby games, the later stages are downright epic.
the forgotten land also has a ton of post-game content, so you won’t run out of things to do either once you’ve completed the main game.
The whole quasi-real world is also skillfully handled in the forgotten land, with each area showing you what’s left of a once great civilization. Having the cute Kirby walk through these environments creates a fun juxtaposition and helps give the game a unique visual character, especially compared to other entries in the series.
That said the references to the classic Kirby games are always dotted throughout the forgotten land. Wobbly bullets created by Satoshi Mitsuhara for the original Game Boy game to familiar enemy faces in the form of Meta Knight, among many others.
Globally, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is an amazing and involved modern platformer with a surprising amount of content. While Super Mario 3D World gets a lot of attention on the Switch, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is actually the best game and pushes the platforming genre forward in a surprisingly involved way.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Platform: nintendo switch
Developer: HAL laboratory
Published: March 25, 2022
Disclosure: Nintendo sent me a copy of this game for the purposes of this review.
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