Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Review)

Yes, it’s Kirby, a character and resultant series of games created by THE HAL Laboratory.  Yes, that’s *THE* HAL Laboratory, the creators of the Smash Bros series (though they did not develop the latest entries).  The thing is, Kirby has always struggled to achieve pillar mascot status against Nintendo’s stable of franchises.  Does Kirby and the Forgotten Land set out to change that?


GAMEPLAY

…remarkably like Super Mario 3D World

The first thing you’ll notice is that it seems remarkably like Super Mario 3D World, and in truth, you wouldn’t be far off the mark at all.  Kirby’s abilities, of course, are the real difference in flavor, and they make sure to get the most out of Kirby’s… erhm… physical flexibility.  Don’t be shy to give the powers a try, though: their core effectiveness in various situations does make them stand out against the various suits Mario gets.  But then you’re right back to playing Super Kirby 3D World, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I couldn’t help but feel like I was IN a special Kirby suit for Mario.  This doesn’t mean it’s bad, and the unabashedly copied core philosophy simply reminds me why the Mario series remains at the top of the food chain for platformers.  So you get through levels with various abilities, whether you deep throated it or wear it as a hat, and there’s no denying it’s one hell of a fun time for platforming fans (albeit relatively easy).  They do add one nice element to the whole thing, though: upgrading powers.  And I did find that upgrading them was quite useful: don’t be shy about using the sleep power as it grants free temporary combat boosts.  Of course, getting these upgrades requires doing bonus levels and that just ties right into the next section.


CONTENT

…considering Mario games often double this or more…

By the time you see the real credits roll, you’re looking at about 15 hours.  Considering I played the majority of the game saving almost all the waddle dees and doing nearly every bonus level, this might be one thing it doesn’t copy from the mainline Mario series.  Having fun is great and all, but this is 2022: we’ve come to understand value to some extent and that spending money comes with certain expectations.  With nearly zero replayability and an offline-only co-op mode (which is a missed opportunity and also rather unacceptable in 2022), this game falls a bit short of expectations.  Not Metroid Dread short, mind you, but considering Mario games often double this or more to reach the same level of completion sets a different bar for the same price tag.


PRESENTATION

I’m impressed, and when it comes to Switch games, that’s rare.

I love effort.  I’m one of those people that can tell when someone is genuinely trying, and it makes me even happier when the results are visible.  This is a surprisingly better-looking game than even the trailers let you realize.  Sure, I’ve accepted at this point that no Switch game is going to survive closer inspection.  But Super Kirby 3D World, remember?  The isometric and on-rails/mostly static camera views allow them to maximize every scene’s imagery and lighting which results in one of the best-looking games on the Switch.  The framerate isn’t perfect, and often chugs when enough alpha effects are happening, but this is mostly forgivable with the clear effort made to squeeze every drop out of the dated Switch hardware.  I’m impressed, and when it comes to Switch games, that’s rare.  As for the story, it’s a world-lore based one, and though barely narrated or told, it was also probably the most fleshed out Kirby villain.


CONCLUSION

Super Kirby 3D World is more accurate than anyone would want to admit…

To answer the question I made in the intro: this is easily THE best Kirby game they’ve ever made.  However, its biggest flaw is that its core foundation is another game that is also native to Nintendo’s hardware.  Calling this game Super Kirby 3D World is more accurate than anyone would want to admit, and it competes on the same system.  But this also means Kirby isn’t going anywhere and thanks to the large install base of the Switch, will surely climb a few notches in the franchise importance ladder.  It still falls short on content compared to its muse, though, and while its framerate hiccups can be ignored for its impressive showing on the Switch, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this is most definitely a good time for both Kirby and platforming fans.

I give Kirby and the Forgotten Land

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