All I want is a hungry lil’ dude.
Noted friend of Gogglebob.com and professional Digimon enthusiast Abby Denton recently posed a simple question: “So pitch Kirby to me. What’s that guy’s deal?” And, while my response was pretty straightforward (see the opening sentence up there), the question itself did cause some inner turmoil. What is Kirby’s deal? A Kirby game is unmistakably a Kirby game, but what makes it unique from everything else out there? Mario runs and jumps over unique environments. Link explores a world while stabbing at skeletons. Sonic must move at a speed of significant intensity. Kirby? Is his source of individuality his copy ability? No, Mega Man has been doing that since before Kirby ever squeaked a squad. Beyond that, Kirby’s identifying distinction is…. What? That he can fly at will? An unmistakable love of food? His ability to “right back ‘atcha” any and all opponents? Wait. Does that last one mean he is responsible for “counter based” gameplay? Is Kirby the Dark Souls of Nintendo characters?
Today’s game is
the Dark Souls of the Kirby franchise Kirby’s official foray into the world of 3-D. Or maybe that already happened? No… any recollections of multiple dimensions of Kirby racing around on stars is clearly a false memory. This is the first time Kirby has explored huge, open environments in a 3-D space. This ain’t Kirby: Breath of the Wild, but it is an excellent opportunity for Kirby to exist on a planet that allows for our favorite puffball to truly experience the life of a sphere. Little dude has to run, jump, and suck through a series of 3-D “challenge levels” that may also contain secret collectibles, hidden paths, and a whole host of rivals. All your old friends (like the petulant penguin and the crying tree) are here in this world, and Kirby even has a few new copy abilities to exploit in this brand-new world. And mouthful mode! Kirby has wanted to be a car ever since he swallowed a tire so long ago, and now there is a legitimate reason to race a bomb block to the nearest prize! Technology finally caught up to Kirb!
And, in a lot of ways, that is the crux of Kirby and the Forgotten Land: technology can finally support a 3-D Kirby adventure. This is not the same “3-D Kirby Experience” that would have been Kirby’s jump to the third dimension 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. This is not the Mario 64 of Kirby games, this is a game that looked to the likes of Super Mario 3D Land after Mario himself spent 15 years working out the kinks of what does and does not work in a 3-D space. This is a game that very deliberately pioneered “well that counts” style gameplay where if it looks like Kirby should have made that jump or hit that enemy, well, that counts. In short, Kirby and The Land After Time is a good game not just because it successfully ported the puff into a new environment, but also because it is the end result of two decades’ worth of designers learning from the games that came before. Kirby is exploring the far-future of a human-dominated world through the immediate future of game development!
But that brings us back to the central point: Kirby and the Forgotten is not simply a good videogame, it is a good Kirby game. And why does this never-to-be forgotten land nail Kirby so perfectly despite shedding his native dimension?
Kirby has obviously been nerfed for this adventure. His floaty jump no longer allows completely unfettered altitude accumulation, and all that flapping around seems to tire Kirby out a lot faster than in any previous title. Additionally, while Kirby’s signature spit is as powerful as ever (and seems like the obvious win button for the first time since Plasma made the scene), his various copy skills all feel like shells of their former selves. Where Kirby Super Star would offer as many options as there are directional buttons back in 1996, 2022 offers a “fire attack” that barely includes the fireball dash. The upgraded abilities are a neat bit of potential permanency in a franchise that rarely sees the need to “level up” as Kirby progresses, but, let’s be real here: about half of these upgrades are “exactly the same thing, but now a tiny projectile pops off”. And while we’re on the subject of “exactly the same thing”, barely enough sub bosses to fill out a string quartet made the jump to this dimension, and the big bosses are more plentiful, but extremely similar. The same franchise that initially gave us a battle against a tree, Lolo, a shoot ‘em up blimp, and an extremely pissed cloud is now offering a big animal person with strong attacks, a big animal person with fast attacks, a big animal person with weird attacks, and, finally, a big animal person with big, fast, and weird attacks. And that tree from the first game is back, because I guess thematic consistency is nothing before tradition. In short (ha!), even when Kirby and the Overlooked Earth is following Kirby tradition, you can see where it falls short.
But even if you slice a few choice cuts off a steak, you still have a steak (and one would have to assume Kirby enjoys steak as much as tomatoes). The basic gameplay of Kirby is still untouched here, and it sure seems like that is how you define a “true” Kirby game. Yes, other videogame stars run, jump, and/or copy abilities. But Kirby? That little dude has a weight about him that has been consistent for decades. He has a health meter that (give or take nightmare mode) means you can survive if you decide your strategy is going to be “stand there like an idiot and keep slashing”. He might not always have “jet” or “ghost”, but “ice” and “hammer” are pretty reliable. And, right from the first time Kirby bit down on an invincible lollipop, every Kirby game even seems to include a new and exciting way to completely wreck the place… even if that means you have to become a vending machine.
So you want to know the pitch for Kirby? Here it is: it feels good to be Kirby. No matter where he goes or who he has to fight, Kirby is Kirby, and it is a blast to explore a world with the pink guy. You can run, jump, attack like the other guys, but Kirby always does it like Kirby, and he does it well.
Kirby is just a hungry lil’ dude. And it’s good to be a hungry lil’ dude.
FGC #626 Kirby and the Forgotten Land
- System: Nintendo Switch exclusive. The Playstation 5 just can’t handle this much sucking.
- Number of players: Two player cooperative! I asked my wife to play, but she was afraid it would lead to a fight when I just ran off and she was left behind to fester. She was probably right.
- Favorite Copy Ability: Hammer, but specifically with the Bonkers upgrade. I like ‘em slow and strong.
- Story Time: So I was expecting there to be an explanation for what happened to this now-ruined “Earthy” culture. I, however, was not expecting a possible canon explanation for a super boss that previously only appeared as a random “color swap” in a previous Kirby game’s optional boss rush. There is now no doubt in my mind that there’s someone on the Kirby staff obsessed with justifying all the wannabe Kirby conquerors throughout the franchise.
- Boss Rush: Speaking of bosses, I generally enjoy a good boss rush. However, KatFL finds a number of reasons to include a boss gauntlet through the final levels, and then revisits all the bosses in super forms for the nightmare mode. This makes the traditional “Kirby Arena” seem entirely perfunctory, as there are already reasons to beat down that gorilla repeatedly well before there is a timer available for your troubles.
- Platinum Trophies: I enjoy the “waddle dee achievement” system in the main levels. I distinctly appreciate “dumb” achievements in videogames, and have vaguely been begging for “I stood on that thing” or “I found that secret passage” recognition from the game itself since I was a kid. It feels like a weird kind of acknowledgement from the developer, and I feel a deeper connection to games that recognize… that I have OCD. And half the fun of those things is that you are not given a checklist, you just find something, and then you see that there is recognition for it. Half of these Kirby “achievements” could just be another waddle dee cage in the secret cave listed in the achievement, or a cage that disappears when you fall in lava and “miss” the challenge of not doing so… but I’m fine with it just being a message and +1 on the stage score card. And I also appreciate that, if you clear a stage without accomplishing “the cool thing”, you will receive a hint to what you are supposed to do. I remember Kirby’s Dream Land 3. I remember looking at a FAQ over and over again with the question of “what the hell was I supposed to do to make this flower happy?” I appreciate the hint, even if it does come off as a checklist for revisiting a stage, as it saves me having to be completely stuck and consulting an outside source. In the end, I’m as happy with this system as a waddle dee being freed from their cage.
- Watch it, Buddy: We played Kirby and the Forgotten Land as part of a stream, because absolutely everything else on my Nintendo Switch is garbage.
I apologize for the frame rate. It was a rough night for OBS.
- Did you know? Absolutely everything about Kirby “mouthful mode”ing a car, and then successfully driving said car, raises more questions than can ever be answered.
- Would I play again: I really like this game/world, but it does feel a bit short. It needs a little more… even if “a little more” is just “an alternative to seeing Mr. Frosty again”. I am hoping for DLC. If we never see such, I am hoping a future Kirby game builds off this very sturdy foundation. So, yeah, I’ll probably play it again, but I am more hoping for Kirby and the Forgotten Land 1.5 than anything.
What’s next? Random ROB is taking some time off as we transition over to the Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play. I only have so much time to do videogame stuff! And Let’s Plays are complicated! I do plan on randomly posting FGC articles as the mood strikes me during this time, but the usual “Monday update” will be Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play chapters. At least that is the plan! We’ll see what happens! So please look forward to it!