JOYSTiCK Ep. 6: ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ – Turkey gizzards in the third dimension

By: Daniel Kendle

Aw, so cute! A galliformes’ intestinal contents!

Image taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirby_and_the_Forgotten_Land?scrlybrkr=5a2a8e49

Hello and welcome once again to JOYSTiCK, the HPSH serial that enjoys reviewing and exploring video games. Our 6th game is ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land,’ our 3rd Nintendo-exclusive title thus far. Released in March of 2022, it’s also my introduction to the series.

Kirby has always been an interesting franchise to look at from afar. Generally receiving good reviews, I’ve never been turned off to the idea of trying it. However, I generally play games I know I’ll like, or ones that I think will be an intriguing experience, even if bad. But while I think the series is cute, I’ve always left it at that; the 2D entries of great fame never really had me bursting at the veins for a chance to play.

But now, ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ is the pink intestine’s leap into its first 3D platformer title, now on the shiny, relatively-new Nintendo Switch. Is this game worthy of its pristine title? Or is this one big ol’ turkey in the making? Let’s find out.

PART ONE: GAMEPLAY

This is one of the few times I won’t be able to compare a game to its older entries, because…you know. So, with all that being said, this game is pretty fun!

Out of the 5 titles I’ve reviewed thus far, ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ feels the most…normal? Standard? Whatever the description, the game feels good to control and has a solid idea of what it’s doing.

Being a 3D platforming game, it obviously functions as one would expect: you have to make your way through levels through various means of mobility. This is where the game – and franchise as a whole – differs from others, due to Kirby’s 2 main abilities: floating, and…inhaling.

Let’s start with float. When you tap the jump button a second time, you puff up and enter a state of stasis in the air, slowly drifting back down if you don’t repeatedly hit the button to keep staying in the air, which means you’re able to cross large gaps and high barriers with ease. Since this has been a mainstay in the franchise since the first game ever, critiquing it can be somewhat strange due to the gameplay piece’s longevity, but overall, it’s an interesting feature. While I do like the range of freedom it grants you, I can’t help but find it painfully slow to wield, seeing as Kirby’s running speed is fairly quick, but his floating is just far too slow. I wish they could’ve upped the pace just a little bit, as what we have is an interesting ability that I used rarely in places where it wasn’t needed.

Inhaling fares much better. It pulls no punches; holding down another button has you breathe in, letting you inhale enemies, powerups and “Mouthful Mode” items, of which we’ll talk about in a minute. Anyways, inhaling an enemy has them be caught in your mouth and shot out again, defeating them. This can generally be done with most creatures, and is a decent – albeit basic – way of progressing. However, the much more diverse option of going about defeating the game’s bloodthirsty kittens and puppies is through powerups.

Power Ups consist of many different hats, each with different perks and powers, for instance, the Hammer ability gives you, what else, a hammer that lets you slap these small mammals into the ground. The Tornado ability has you be able to conjure and surround yourself in a whirlwind that gives you faster mobility and combat prowess, the Fire ability lets you breathe fire, and the Ranger ability gives you a…a gun.

Oh.

I really like these powerups, they all feel so lively and fresh. I personally like the Ranger and Tornado abilities the most, but that’s just me. The only one I’d say is subpar is the Bomb powerup, as I never found it very intuitive to control. Aside from that, power ups are great.

Finally, let’s discuss Mouthful-Mode. This feature allows you to swallow various objects, like vending machines or traffic cones, and use them with various perks. For instance, inhaling a car lets you drive around. I like these, however, I can’t help but feel as if they’re all a little under-utilized.

Pretty much every mouthful item you’re able to use is restricted to one single area. You’re never really incentivized to explore with these, or discover what else they can do. You basically get a set of obstacles for each, and that’s it. The game’s main gimmick, used so little and in so small of places…It’s pretty disappointing.

Outside of the levels, there’s also a hub world known as the Waddle-Dee Town, where you can buy items, upgrade your power ups, and do other fun activities. I like this, as it feels good to have a place to go back to after some levels in order to rest up and stuff. The fishing mini game is super cute and charming. I liked the arena and tourneys within it, and of course, the little luck-based machine that spits out little rewards and figurines! It’s neat how you’re able to unlock more series of figurines to roll for in-game.

Overall, gameplay in ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ is certainly a mixed bag. While some things are great, others feel very loose and underutilized in comparison.

PART TWO: GRAPHICS

So I, as a person, am a fan of cute games. I like games that have heavy, grungy atmospheres and environments, but I’ll always have a place for chibi or cutesy styles in my heart, no matter the game.

I’d argue that what “defines” a cute artstyle is through the emotion it conveys towards the player. For instance, a video game can have a chibi look to it yet be filled with gore and violence. You can also have a fairly realistic game that has generally fun and lighthearted play. This is all, of course, subjective, though some aspects just don’t mesh well together. I mean, give an infant a gun, and it’ll look out of place, right? The same goes with video game graphics. if you drop a high-def model of a heat-guided nuclear missile into, I dunno, ‘Animal Crossing,’ it’s bound to look out of place. This isn’t something that I’d argue is opinionated; some things are just a given, and the conflicts of 2 separate medium’s graphics is an example of that.

But is this a bad thing? Now, THAT’S divisive. While the combining of multiple art styles is, almost by definition, objective, how one feels about the clash is certainly the opposite. I personally enjoy seeing multiple mediums join together, though I require certain barriers to be made in order to feel like a successful mix of several graphic designs has been made. If things feel too out of control, then the whole thing blows. Combining different game’s art styles and graphics is a delicate, yet fascinating balance of complex forms.

And with all that being said…

…‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ looks really, REALLY good.

Nintendo, as a company, has proven they’re the masters of simplistic, appealing art and animation. ‘Super Mario Odyssey,’ ‘Pikmin 2,’ ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World,’ frickin’ ‘Pokémon Black & White,’ if you really wanna dig deep. So, this game looking great is practically second nature to us consumers.

To summarize, the game mixes semi-realistic environments with more cutesy characters. I mean, Kirby’s literally just a round ball with knobs at the ends; there’s really nothing too drastic here. I think this mix looks quite nice, as it could’ve come across much worse. I’ve seen these videos of people putting cartoony game characters into hyper-realistic environments, and while I may be in the minority, I’ve always thought that they look really ugly, personally. Meanwhile, while the background environments look semi-realistic, they never feel too out of place.

The only bad part is that the UI (user interface) sucks! Everything is so small; I have to squint to see my health bar.

Overall, the game looks great. Animations are solid, everything is super cute, and it feels like yet another great ‘Nintendo’ showcase of art. The UI is kinda lousy, but it’s just a minor issue on my part.

PART THREE: BOSSES AND ENEMIES

We haven’t done this in a while, no?

I say this because the last time we covered the bosses in a video game was ‘Metroid Dread,’ otherwise known as the first review we’ve done. So I thought it would be fun to bring that back. Plus, they’re the last big part of the game I feel the need to cover, and I want this issue to exceed 2,000 words.

While ‘Metroid Dread’ has very grungy, metal bosses, ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ has more cute creatures to fight. Literally EVERY enemy is cute, and I couldn’t help but go “awww…” before caving in their skulls. Also, like I said, you get power ups primarily from inhaling enemies, and most creatures have this functionality. The enemy’s theming also helps you know what they’ll give you: for instance, the bomb-bouncing seal gives you the bomb ability.

But moving onto the actual bosses, they’re pretty solid! Not as good as previous JOYSTiCK entries, but nonetheless quality enemies.

The first bout is with Gorimondo, this big ol’ gorilla thing. As someone who has a phobia of chimpanzees, I always thought that this thing’s design looked…off. Like, its feet were super tiny compared to this titanic bod. And the fight itself, while decent, isn’t very memorable. Babies could beat this thing, honestly.

The big palm tree Tropical Woods came next, and I quite liked this one in comparison. It has these roots that surround you and the stage, puffs of smoke that it can blow out in waves, and can summon large iron barricades to protect itself from harm. Overall, a pretty neat fight.

Then…we have a fight. Between a cat. That stands on 2 legs. Who is somewhat anthropomorphized. Everyone, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but what we have here…

…is a furry.

Clawroline is honestly a fine battle; the designers used some interesting ideas, like having the arena be part of some of her attacks. However, her design, like Gorimondo’s, is just so weird. Her legs…like, huh? Maybe I just don’t like anthro characters that much due to how they make me uncomfortable, but still. The fights are fine enough but the leopard we have to face is just creepy-looking.

I do like King Dede, however. He’s been a character within the franchise since the beginning, and while the boss fight isn’t super memorable, it’s still good and fun. I’d say that it’s the most interesting character, seeing as he’s a returning favorite.

Sillydillo is an armadillo who…is silly. (Who’da thunk it?) In reality, the fight is cool, though some of his attacks, like trapping you in a giant cage or rolling after you, are somewhat buggy and unpolished-looking. Like, they have very strange hit boxes, and I never really got used to them. Nothing feels very well-choreographed, and I think it could’ve done with some work.

Finally, there’s like, 3 final bosses, for whatever reason. I’ve decided to talk about the first, but I won’t spoil the last for story-related reasons. Leogar, this lion dude, is interesting, though his actual fight is very underwhelming. Again, there are 2 other fights after this, but for a final boss, he’s very weak. And honestly, that’s an issue I have with most bosses in this game: they’re just not very memorable. I’d still call them “good,” but that’s just not enough for a 3D Nintendo platformer.

PART FOUR: CONCLUSION

‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’…isn’t perfect.

The UI is stinky, the bosses, while good, aren’t memorable. The movement is janky at times, and the Mouthful-Mode items are generally limited in scope for a gimmick. These all keep it back from being one of Nintendo’s classics.

Of course, I had loads of fun with this game! The levels are fun, the town is great, the animation is lovely, and I definitely wouldn’t call this a rush job. More just that it didn’t exactly meet all of my standards.

I’m giving ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ a 7.5 out of 10. That can always change in the future; for example, I’ve raised ‘Pokémon Legends Arceus’ from a 7.5 to an 8.5. This could be the same for this game, which, while fun, has some personal issues.

And that’s all for this episode of JOYSTiCK! See you next time.

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