Prep for your journey into the Forgotten Land!
2022 is shaping up to be quite the birthday for Nintendo’s cutest mascot; Kirby. Yes, the pink puffball is celebrating his 30th anniversary this April 27th – the Japanese release date for the original Kirby’s Dream Land– and The Big N’s wasting no time dumping a boatload of commemorative merch (My poor wallet!). While previous anniversaries were celebrated via the heartfelt Kirby’s Dream Collection anthology pack and the grand Kirby 25th Anniversary Orchestra Concert, this is the first Kirby anniversary event to launch with a big, mainline entry in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. What better way for series developer HAL Laboratory to celebrate the precious boy’s 30th year than with his big jump to fully-realized 3D?
Obviously, Kirby’s new Switch game won’t be an industry-defining revolution in the vein of Super Mario 64, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes a page from Super Mario 3D World’s playbook by utilizing three-dimensional movement within straightforward obstacle courses. In this manner, Kirby’s gold standard for approachable gameplay is carefully juggled within this new, unfamiliar playground. This creates an inviting bridge for both beginners and veterans alike, allowing everyone to explore abandoned vistas in towering castles, colorful carnivals, and arid deserts surrounding a derelict, dilapidated shopping center.
Kirby games over the past decade primarily relied upon show-stopping gimmicks like Super Abilities and Robobot Armor to shake things up, but Forgotten Land isn’t satisfied with just expanding playgrounds to carry the game. If you thought Kirby already straddled the line between “cute” and “disturbing” in the character’s never-ending quest to devour everything in sight, you’ll undoubtedly revisit those feelings via Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s new Mouthful Mode. This fresh addition sees Kirby wrap his cavernous maw around the Forgotten Land’s trash like a living, breathing tarp in order to gain new abilities. Why Kirby is unable to swallow the likes of rusty cars and dirty traffic cones is yet to be explained, but the act itself remains eye-catching. (Albeit certainly not mouth-watering!)
Regardless of how disturbing you might find the mechanics of Mouthful Mode to be, there’s no denying the wild absurdity it provides. From the can-spewing Vending Machine (a striking similarity to Kirby 64’s refrigerator, no?) to the free-flying Arch-Mouth, there’s little doubt Kirby and the Forgotten Land is gleaning from Super Mario Odyssey’s Cappy mechanic. The way Kirby’s abnormal transformations confidently zip, zoom, and waddle across these abandoned landscapes promises to foster a flexible blend of inventive level design and mindless fun. This is perfectly on display in the gleeful absence of restraint in Car Mouth’s enemy-plowing rampages.
With Kirby’s familiar Copy Abilities thrown into the mix, Kirby and the Forgotten Land promises an unprecedented level of depth for the series’ level design. With the emphasis on three-dimensional movement, it’s vital that Kirby’s feats of mimicry not only avoid being sidelined by Mouthful Mode, but also appropriately reflect the wealth of space provided. For instance, newer abilities like the Drill’s underground traversal (shoutout to Nintendo of America’s Twitter for the Gurren Lagann reference) and Ranger’s long-range blunderbuss seem tailor-made for such ventures, especially with the former digging up mysterious red coins. (We imagine they’ll be this game’s collectibles, but to what end?)
Along with that, other recognizable abilities have been tweaked to reinvent classic mechanics. For example, the Needle now accumulates enemies like a rolling Katamari, while the Hammer’s switch-pounding unlocks new areas in faraway locations. This leaves us all too eager to test out the revamped toys, but don’t think the innovation stops there. Forgotten Land takes things one step further by letting you upgrade your favorite Copy Abilities.
Made possible by blueprints found on your adventure, visiting a particularly skilled Waddle Dee will enhance select Copy Abilities into super-powered versions. Get ready to experience elements such as the flying, lava-spewing Dragon Fire, the roly-poly Cluster Needle (yet another Kirby 64 callback!), and more. As explosively fun as they appear to be, we imagine they’ll also play into some devious, brain-teasing puzzles. (Many upgraded Copy Abilities are showcased in footage on the official Japanese site, which GameXplain kindly cataloged here.)
Teases of other classic mechanics invite further curiosity. Star Bullets will surely play into creative new conundrums, and we’ve already seen how Kirby’s famous “indefinite flight” ability can’t be used to circumvent ladders and avoid Shotzo sentries. Meanwhile, all four trailers depict massive boss battles that diminish Kirby’s already-diminutive size even further – a clear invitation to put our True Arena-hardened dodging abilities to the test.
While Kirby games were already among favorites in the sphere of multiplayer 2D action games, Forgotten Land is set to translate that tradition into 3D with a second player; Bandana Waddle Dee. As always, he’ll provide plenty of spear-poking action, but second-players can also interact with Kirby’s Mouthful Mode in unique ways. As seen here, Bandana Waddle Dee isn’t afraid to hitch a ride with Car Mouth Kirby, firing away at hapless foes during the trip.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on whether Kirby and the Forgotten Land provides online play. With that functionality usually locked to spin-offs such as Kirby Fighters 2 and Kirby: Battle Royale, you’ll probably want to keep your expectations in check. (Woe is us lonely gamers with no friends around!) In the meantime, let’s hope for some 3D World-esque hijinks in the vein of throwing our unlucky partners off all sorts of precarious set pieces!
Outside of the advertised highlights, there have been other tidbits discovered by scanning all available footage like a madman. Kirby fanatics are a persistent lot indeed, and as they’ve analyzed everything from easter eggs to haunting new locations, one fan made quite a discovery. One screenshot in particular seems to imply that the lives counter has been done away with. Many action platformers in recent memory have moved away from this classic mechanic, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land looks to be the next. If that does turn out to be true, it leaves us with one burning question: what’s to become of the series’ collectible stars? We can clearly see they’re still lying around in all corners of Pop Star, so what purpose will they serve in place of granting a 1-up? (Perhaps more importantly, what about the classic 1-Up jingle? Surely, that’ll be repurposed somehow, right?)
After some consideration, it’s possible stars might play into what could be the biggest Kirby renovation of all: the rebuilding of Waddle Dee Town. This is where the series’ pacifists congregate after being rescued from the nefarious Beast Gang. Acting as the game’s hub, it’s strongly implied Waddle Dee Town will be the game’s “menu” in itself. In footage released thus far, you can spot a collection of sub-games, the Arena towering above, and a building that appears to be a theater, which would be the perfect place to rewatch in-game cinematics. Could Waddle Dee Town use stars as a form of currency? Maybe we’ll be able to spend stars in Gotcha Machine Alley, a location housing all sorts of goodies like a figure-dispensing machine.
Other facilities can be spotted in Waddle Dee Town as well. For instance, Kirby gains a temporary home in the Forgotten Land that mirrors his humble Dream Land abode, featuring in-house decorating akin to Kirby’s Epic Yarn’s apartment. If you’re into leaderboards, a visit to Wise Waddle Dee will detail the most popular Copy Abilities used by other players. And let’s not forget the Waddle Dee Café, which is definitely inspired by a certain real-life eatery. This hotspot lets Kirby lend a hand as a part-time worker while also serving up adorably-themed meals to our hero.
Also spotlighted in recent footage is Elfilin, Kirby’s new friend. A floating critter adorned with pale, blue-green fur and oversized ears, Elfilin fits right in with the rest of the doe-eyed cherubs found throughout the Kirby franchise. That said, there could be more to our new friend than what we’ve seen so far. Given Kirby’s penchant for meeting adorable new friends that utilize him for their own gains, it’s entirely possible that underneath Elfilin’s silky fur lies yet another Eldritch abomination ready to antagonize our hero. While fans have spent plenty of time mulling over Elfilin’s true nature, I’m more intrigued by the creepy caged effigy spotted in the second trailer. Is it a boss, a dark version of Elfilin, Elfilin himself, or something else altogether?
As you can imagine, Elfilin’s identity has enticing implications for what’s already set up to be a lore-heavy game. This isn’t Kirby’s first rodeo with a post-apocalyptic setting (the “Ancient Civilization” mentioned in Return to Dream Land, the frigid planet in Kirby 64 that bears a striking resemblance to Earth, and so on), and with how rich Kirby lore has proven to be, multiple questions have been raised. What are Elfilin’s true motives? Could he be the secret leader behind the Beast Pack? Elfilin certainly fits in with the Beast Pack “creature” motif on display in members like the Donkey Kong Country-esque Sillydillo, and the uncomfortably curvaceous Clawrorine (thanks, internet!)
Even familiar faces appear to have joined up with this bad new crowd. Old foes like Mr. Frosty and Gigant Edge are now sporting feral new looks, and the latest trailer unveils that, yes, series bully King Dedede is possessed once more by supernatural forces. (Seriously, how many times does that make now; six?!)
Other questions continue to linger. Why are Waddle Dees being captured in the first place? Is there another misunderstanding between Kirby and Meta Knight? Most tantalizingly of all, just what is the Forgotten Land? Rest assured, mythos-hungry Kirby fans like myself will take a page from our insatiable hero and feast upon every scrap of delectable pause screen lore. (Let’s hope we get an explanation for this heinous anti-Kirby propaganda!)
When Kirby Star Allies launched four years ago to a divisive reception, some disappointed fans (including yours truly) had wondered if the series’ balanced appeal to beginners and experts had grown a little long in the tooth. The ease of difficulty, a Sakurai-era mantra that series director Shinya Kumazaki still channels today, could be in for somewhat of a shakeup. HAL Laboratory’s answer might bubble up in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and could very well be a potential game-changer for the franchise moving forward. That said, no matter the reception Kirby and the Forgotten Land receives following its March 25th release date, the confidence in its scale and presentation ensures it shan’t be forgotten.