Sunday, June 5, 2022

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (NSW) Review

Don't call it a comeback... yet. However, SuperPhillip Central celebrates its 14th anniversary today, and I would have kicked myself if I didn't have a special something planned for it. Considering the site has been in a hiatus for essentially all of 2022, what better "special something" than a new, surprise review after this extended absence and silence!

While I can't say yet how routinely new articles and reviews will come this year, I can confirm that they definitely will start appearing more frequently than, y'know, every six months. 

That said, let's dive in with a new review, and it's a great way to return to reviewing on SuperPhillip Central, because it's a great game in general (spoiler for if my review will be positive or not, I guess!). It's Kirby and the Forgotten Land, another reason I would have kicked myself if I had not reviewed this delightfully adorable title. Let's check it out with the SPC review.

Kirby Deluxe'd 

Kirby is one of Nintendo's oldest and longest-running franchises. However, even in the franchise's illustrious and storied history, Kirby has never fully leaped into three full dimensions in a traditional mainline platforming setting. That is until NOW. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a brave, new frontier for Kirby, and while it's not a majorly revolutionary moment for the franchise as the jump to 3D was for Mario or Zelda, Kirby's first full foray into 3D platforming is a tour de force that is as fun to play as it is adorable.

Kirby's latest adventure begins with our pink puffball hero sauntering about Planet Popstar, when suddenly, a dark vortex appears in the sky, sucking up everything not nailed down, including Kirby and friends. A brave new world is in front of Kirby, who quickly meets a new companion named Elfilin, who tells Kirby that a group of never-do-gooders known as the Beast Pack have kidnapped (or is it Dee-napped?) and captured a significant segment of Waddle Dees. Not only must Kirby rescue the cute and cuddly Waddle Dees, but along the way, he must do battle with the Beast Pack itself, and find a way to return home to Planet Popstar.

Kirby enters a brave, new, yet somehow familiar world in his latest adventure.

The main hub of sorts in Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a settlement made thanks in part to the help of Elfilin: Waddle Dee Town. At the beginning of the game, Waddle Dee Town isn't much to look at and it is decidedly not the most happening place in this mysterious land. However, as more and more Waddle Dee are rescued, the town grows, blossoms, and flourishes, new attractions are built. These range from shops where food and temporary stat increase items can be purchased, to fun little mini-game distractions like fishing and a tilt-and-roll-style labyrinth game, and even a major part of recent Kirby games: a Colosseum. 

Waddle Dee Town is an important place to return to, so much so that after every boss has been beaten at a world's conclusion, Kirby and Elfilin are automatically transported back. It's a good thing, too, as no doubt special blueprints have been discovered, which can be turned into the local abilities shop to upgrade what else but abilities! By collecting and trading in Star Coins and Rare Stones (the latter are earned mainly through ability-themed obstacle courses known as Treasure Roads), the local ability shop owner will upgrade Kirby's abilities to make them even stronger and more useful in levels and skirmishes. 

For example, the ordinary Cutter ability launches a boomerang-like disc that shoots forward to attack a foe before returning to Kirby. With an upgraded version, known as the Chakram Cutter, multiple discs become unleashed on foes, arcing at various angles to dish out much more damage upon enemies. Not only do upgraded abilities present more powerful means to deliver destruction to Kirby's adversaries, but they also give some cute and adorable fashion to Kirby as well! 

The rifle-toting Ranger ability is one of two new copy abilities featured in Forgotten Land.

While Kirby's move set is quite a bit limited even with new abilities when compared to past games in the series--which might be a downer to franchise veterans--it makes for an easy to pick up and play feel to the controls and a super accessible game overall. It's so much so, that casual platforming fans will find a nice game that eases them into the fun without overwhelming them.

Kirby's adventure takes him to all sorts of interesting locales: from dilapidated concrete jungles to an abandoned amusement park. One might even consider this "forgotten land" to resemble a certain world we all live in currently, albeit a distant future version of it. (Wink, wink.) 

Trust me, Kirby--you do NOT want to be taken for a ride here!

Levels are comprised of linear affairs, though there are multiple opportunities to venture off the beaten path, and you'll always find yourself rewarded for it: whether that be with an assortment of Star Coins, something like one of the game's myriad collectibles, or completing one of a level's many achievement-like tasks, which reward you with a rescued Waddle Dee for tackling the task successfully. The latter can be things like discovering an alternate path in a level, defeating a mid-boss with a certain copy ability, finding a hidden Maxim Tomato in a level, and so forth. While you can complete all of the challenges in your first run of a level, you're unlikely to do so as they are all obscured under question marks from players until they beat the level again and again. Each time the level is beaten, one of the challenges reveals themselves.

Burrow deep under the soil with the all-new Ground copy ability.

Really, you can simply run through the levels at your leisure with doing the bare minimum of exploration. You can explore as in-depth or as little as you like. The real fun and entertainment, of course, does come from taking the time to scour each level for the various collectibles within, so you can truly appreciate the level design on offer. There are of course captured Waddle Dees, which many of these are hidden in clever locations, some in plain sight, some requiring a simple copy ability-related environmental puzzle to solve. There are also capsules containing one of over 200 game-related toys, available in four volumes. These can also be collected from various unlockable Gotcha capsule machines in Waddle Dee Town. Then, finally, there are the aforementioned blueprints that bestow Kirby with new copy ability upgrade opportunities. Some of these are hidden in insanely clever locations. Much like with captured Waddle Dees in cages, you'll have to keep a keen eye and look for telltale signs in the environment to pick up on their whereabouts.

Levels are mostly linear in design, offering a Super Mario 3D World-like approach, in essence.

When not venturing through levels as Kirby with or without one of his trademark copy abilities, a new mechanic featured within Kirby and the Forgotten Land grants our pink protagonist with the ability to suck up specific large objects and take control of them. From traffic cones that can puncture cracks in pipes and floors to reveal secrets, to cars that can rush through levels with ease, this "Mouthful Mode" offers some added variety to the game. They're also mostly plain fun to use to boot, so I found myself gleefully telling Kirby to "open up and say 'aah'" at many points throughout his platforming journey.

"Mouthful Mode" allows Kirby to take on even more forms, such as this traffic cone, for instance.

Outside of completing traditional levels, there are the previously mentioned Treasure Roads. These side attractions of sorts generally feature one copy ability or "Mouthful Mode" modes that Kirby must use to get through these speed-running, obstacle-laden stages. These Treasure Roads are quite challenging, offering a limited amount of time to complete them, but the rewards are well worth it. After all, you can't upgrade Kirby's copy abilities without the Rare Stones these Roads reward you with. If you're truly in tune for a challenge, you can attempt to beat each Treasure Road's target time, usually immensely tight in time. Thankfully, even to 100% Kirby and the Forgotten Land, beating each Road's target time is purely optional and doesn't reward much to the player outside of more Star Coins.

Boss battles turn up the action dial to 11, especially certain late and post-game encounters!

Kirby and the Forgotten Land offers a lot of value in its cute and cuddly package. Reaching 100% completion not only requires rescuing all 300 Waddle Dees, but also beating various game modes as well, including the post-game content which is pretty hefty. Therefore, just because you see the credits initially roll, don't be surprised when there's quite a bit left to Kirby's adventure! It also helps that most of the content available is all entertaining and enjoyable. 

What is also entertaining and enjoyable is simply how astonishing Kirby and the Forgotten Land looks. I was in awe a multitude of times enjoying the environments, sceneries, and vistas on display. The soundtrack? Well, that's a pure privilege and joy to listen to as well. The main theme of the game, a vocal one, permeates throughout a fair portion of the game's soundtrack, but there are plenty of absolute ripper tracks that delight without incorporating the game's main leitmotif. The fact of the matter, at least to this reviewer, is that all of the music is amazing. 

Kirby's adventure will take him through all sorts of dangerous destinations,
but they all look absolutely breathtaking to behold.

While some may have set their expectations of Kirby and the Forgotten Land to be something it's certainly not: the series' Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild moment, the game is exceptional all the same. It may not reinvent the wheel or revolutionize Kirby as we know it, the game really didn't have to. All I craved was the Kirby franchise finally entering the realm of 3D in a main game and knocking it out of the park while doing so. Kirby and the Forgotten Land did just that for me. With familiar yet phenomenal Kirby fun that translates splendidly from the limitations of 2D to full 3D, and plenty of content to keep players engaged for a while, Kirby and the Forgotten Land quite possibly stands as my favorite Kirby entry yet. 

[SPC Says: A]

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