Nintendo and HAL Laboratory will officially release the first mainline 3D platformer in the Kirby franchise in a few weeks. Kirby and the Forgotten Land, a vivid and beautiful platformer that presents the iconic pink puffball in a way that we haven’t seen before, will be released this year. With the release date approaching, we’ve had the luxury of being able to jump into this journey a little early, as part of a preview that includes the entire first world.
The plot of this game follows Kirby as he goes about his daily routine before a weird fissure in the sky swallows him and the rest of the Waddle Dees inhabitants. Kirby wakes up on a deserted beach with little to no idea where he is, but after exploring a lush forest nearby, our squishy hero uncovers a vanished civilization that has been overtaken by nature, as well as an armada of opponents who have begun kidnapping Kirby’s defenseless Waddle Dee buddies. Kirby leaps into action and sets off to explore the island to release its buddies and discover the secrets of this lost world.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land distinguishes itself from other Kirby games by allowing the player more freedom in how they approach a level. It’s comparable to what’s available in Super Mario 3D World, where the courses are linear and simplistic, but there are lots of secrets to uncover and silly mechanics to employ to dramatically expand the gameplay. You can explore the level and look for hidden treasures, smash a variety of things, and interact with other elements like flowers and thick grass, all in the hopes of finding Star Coins and other useful stuff. In this way, it’s similar to the simpler 3D Mario games, but it’s even more accessible and simple to pick up and play.
And we say this because Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a really simple game. The stages aren’t supposed to be difficult, the puzzles aren’t built in a way that would frustrate you, and the few places that do need some effort usually have the added safety net of being virtually impossible to fail. This is a game that is supposed to be whimsical and inherently enjoyable to play, regardless of your gaming abilities and prior experiences, as the first world demonstrates.
However, don’t let this detract from the fact that Kirby’s current journey is a blast to watch. The Forgotten Land is lush and colorful (and looks incredible on an OLED Switch), as well as diverse and full of opportunities for exploration. World 1 contains five levels, each with its distinct design, such as a shopping mall, a lush grassland, or a gloomy tunnel, as well as a significant boss level near the finish, with the first being Gorimondo, the previously seen huge gorilla with a cage of Waddle Dees around his neck.
While the goal is to simply complete a level, there are plenty of additional activities to complete, including numerous side objectives that, once completed, will result in another Waddle Dee being saved and returned to the safety of Waddle Dee Town’s central location. These duties could be obvious, such as discovering missing Waddle Dees within a level, or more obscure, such as removing a wanted poster or lighting candles throughout a level. Sometimes you’ll come across these side jobs and finish them by just exploring, while other times you won’t realize what the objective is or where it is inside a level until you replay it. The majority of these objectives, however, are related to the numerous Kirby power-ups that can be acquired, of which there are quite a few in the Forgotten Land.
First and foremost, Kirby can obtain two types of power-ups. One is the classic approach, in which Kirby sucks up an enemy or an object to get its abilities, which may include a Sword that looks like it belongs in The Legend of Zelda, or the power to shoot fireballs, bladed boomerangs, explosives, ice, and more. The Sword, for example, can be used to just hack-and-slash through adversaries, or it can be charged up for a single hefty, greater damage assault. Because you rarely play as the vanilla Kirby, this is how you’ll be recognized in-game. That’s why it’s ideal that you can upgrade and strengthen these skills by spending Star Coins and Rare Stones obtained by completing brief time trials on the world map to make them significantly more effective. For example, the Fire ability can be evolved into Volcano Fire, which deals greater damage and has a different look and visual effect.
The other major set of abilities is around the new Mouthful mode, which allows Kirby to suck up particular objects and become that object in some way. This is distinct from the other abilities in that while Kirby is in Mouthful mode, he can only do particular techniques and can only use specific Mouthful mode objects in specific locations throughout each level. Take, for example, the instantly timeless automobile. This allows Kirby to wrap his lips around a car and drive around in it, boosting and leaping around different portions of the level until the automobile is no longer useful. The Dome-Mouth ability, the vending machine, and the cone are all examples of abilities that have unique, genuinely enjoyable uses inside specific levels but are otherwise underutilized.
Finally, Waddle Dee Town’s hub area offers more than just a place to upgrade items as the game progresses. The rescued Waddle Dees will have built a workshop (where you upgrade items), a theatre to re-watch cinematics, a café to play a silly mini-game and buy healing items if needed, as well as a house for Kirby, so the squishy savior can relax if needed, by the time World 1 has been conquered. You can see that as time goes on and more Waddle Dees are saved, more buildings will be built in the surrounding region.