Kirby and the Forgotten Land Review

Jeremy Peeples6 minute read


Deaf / Hard of Hearing: 3 out of 4
Blind / Low Vision: 4 out of 4
Fine motor: 3 out of 4
Scores transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints)

The Kirby franchise’s nearly 30-year run has been revered for not only delivering fun platformers, but also making the genre something almost anyone can enjoy. Beyond the portable-only entries not exactly being the most user-friendly due to a small screen, Kirby’s mix of strategy with inhaling and action with that enabling him to get new powers in most games has proven to be a winning formula. The earliest entries lacked that, but still felt enough like what the series would become while also feeling a bit like an evolution of Balloon Fight with the button-tapping to fly upwards to navigate the world being a very similar mechanic. The Forgotten Land takes Kirby to places he’s never been in 3D and manages to retain so much of what has kept the series so popular over the years while expanding the gameplay and offering up more kinds of action to the player.

HAL has done a brilliant job keeping Kirby’s core gameplay intact with the added wrinkle of the third dimension to consider. Being 2D always took away issues like having to aim weapons and made it easier to time attacks out. Kirby still has a wide range of attacks available to him and they have made the smart move to shift everything into an aim assist mode by default across the board. Kirby’s inhaling ability naturally leans more towards enemies and objects when it can, which takes away any wasted time manually moving around trying to aim properly. 

Kirby and the Forgotten Land cuts back on the sheer amount of abilities Kirby has at his disposal for weapons, while also greatly increasing overall gameplay variety for the player. Star Allies gave the player over two dozen abilities to work with, but wound up being a bit of a confusing mess to play as a result. It’s tricky to keep mental track of all of those powers, and a streamlined approach helps in real-time. Kirby has ranger, hammer, crash, fire, cutter, sword, bomb, tornado, drill, sleep, needle, and ice abilities to work with in normal stages alongside the addition of mouthful mode to completely change the game in even more ways.

On a practical level, the abilities have been made to give Kirby a healthy mix of short and long-range attacks while also adding a bit of strategy to the mix too. The most fun abilities involve things like sword, cutter, hammer, fire and ice where you have a weapon at your disposal. Others blend in offense with strategic placement of Kirby himself or proper aiming like drill and cutter. Drill allows the player to dig underground to find items, but is normally used in areas with a bit of time limit on them, forcing the player to be more efficient and map their movement out a bit in advance. Similarly, the cutter skill provides long-range slicing and attacks while also allowing the user to hold the item in place to use for switch-activating purposes.

There is a grander use for pretty much every ability in the game and everything can be upgraded as well, offering Kirby something it really hasn’t had until now. There’s a real sense of Kirby gaining power throughout the adventure and it’s interesting to go through an early-game area with what you have at your disposal then and having trouble before then going through it with later-game weaponry and experiencing in real-time just how much more power Kirby has.

Mouthful mode is similar to the copy ability only it involves him swallowing an item and taking on the properties of things like cars, soda machines, a traffic cone, a plane, and scissor lifts. This mode turns Kirby into a car that drives with just the analog stick, turbo, and a jump, making him a breeze to control thanks to incredibly responsive controls. The soda machine turns Kirby into a 3D shooting kingpin and there’s a real sense of power as he shoots through brick walls and tears through enemies in no time. The traffic cone slows down Kirby’s platforming while turning him into a giant spike, while the plane is a blast to use and enables simple movement and either standard or inverted flight movement.

The game’s controls across the board are just about perfect. Forgotten Land has some nice options available for controls, with the ability to keep the default B and A button scheme for jumping and inhaling/attacking or switching to a more modern-feeling diamond configuration of B and Y. Controls are incredibly responsive across the board and easy to use for every ability and item Kirby gains use of. The game includes a co-op mode as well, which makes larger-scale boss battles easier and is one of the better anti-frustration features in the game.

There is definitely room for improvement in that regard. Nintendo pioneered the Super Guide that played the game for the player to show them an ideal route to success and more importantly, unlocked progress for the game in doing so. It seems like the rise of YouTube playthroughs has nixed that feature being needed, but that comes at the expense of being able to fully enjoy the experience if a player encounters an obstacle they can’t topple. They can adjust the difficulty to help or add a healing item to their arsenal, but that isn’t quite the same thing and hopefully Nintendo does put the Super Guide back in their games, especially for something that is so transformative to a series like Forgotten Land is.

Thanks to being so user-friendly control-wise, it is a very accessible game when it comes to making progress. Mini-games allow a player to enjoy things with just the d-pad and a single button as well, and that increases the amount of fun that someone can have with the title even with fine-motor impairments. Visually, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is one of the Switch’s best-looking games and benefits from large menus, large menu text, and high contrast being used by default for every part of the user interface.

Bold colors make it easy to see everything if a user is visually impaired and bold shadows make it easy to tell where Kirby is in relation to either enemies or the environment below him at all times. Depth perception for long and short-range sword attacks is easy to note thanks to large light flashes. The only area that could really be improved upon would be aiming in the long-range ranger mode as it requires stick aiming and doesn’t use a gyroscope at all, which would allow for faster and more accurate aiming overall. Still, for being a 3D platformer, it’s hard to imagine a better implementation of everything the game tries to do beyond that one area of improvement.

Musically, Kirby and the Forgotten Land relies on a great soundtrack with minimal vocals. The opening theme is one of Nintendo’s best since “Jump Up Superstar” and features full lyrics on-screen. The rest of the soundtrack is a blend of relaxing for indoor and tranquil areas, fast-paced for action sections and ominous for boss battles. It’s the best Kirby soundtrack to date and features large text boxes for dialogue with no spoken words, making it a great choice for deaf and hard-of-hearing players. Sound effects are also used to help get across things like attacks or just the simple joy of completing a stage and having Kirby and his waddle dee pals hop around with glee, and that isn’t gotten across with any kind of description of the music being used for it. It would be nice to see that added in since it is something that has become very well-known for the series.

Overall, Kirby and the Forgotten Lands is a surprisingly accessible 3D adventure. HAL has taken great care to make sure that players have a variety of difficulty levels and healing items to work with alongside co-op play to complete the adventure. It would be better with a Super Guide-style feature, especially for the time trial challenges that help unlock ability upgrades for Kirby. Visually, the game benefits greatly from a UI that features not only large text and icons, but also a stark contrast for each, enabling a high-contrast mode by default without any menu tinkering. The game is also quite accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing players thanks to its usage of text boxes, but would benefit from a text description for musical tone shifts and signature sound effects.

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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