As the title indicates, I’m mildly disappointed that this game didn’t turn out to be an open world game. It’s not that I think e’ery game should be open world: I’ve been disillusioned by the past decade or so o’ Kirby games, — since a’least Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, which made e’en less sense than New Super Mario Bros., since Kirby had ne’er left Dreamland to begin with, or maybe e’en Squeak Squad — which all just felt like the same thing o’er & o’er ’gain.I feel like Kirby games are much mo’ interesting when they revolve round a major twist to the main template ( Kirby’s Adventure is an exception, since it created the main template in the 1st place ): Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards had mixed & matched abilities that exponentially expanded them; Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, in addition to using an “&” ’stead o’ an ol’-fashioned “and” in its title, turned Kirby into what I think is the best Metroidvania o’ all time; Kirby Super Star has several new gimmicks that later games would revolve their entire game round, if @ all, such as a prototypical version o’ the Metroidvania gameplay o’ Kirby & the Amazing Mirror in “The Great Cave Offensive”; Kirby’s Air Ride is an underrated racing game with many creative ideas, such as introducing Sakurai’s grid-based achievement system ( I should note that, as it turns out, Kirby’s Air Ride was the last Kirby game Sakurai led & Kirby & the Amazing Mirror was the last Kirby game he was involved in @ all, as an advisor, so that should let you know why Kirby games have fallen since then ). As it stands, “Kirby but in 3D now” just isn’t interesting ’nough on its own, e’en with the new mouth abilities, which are basically just glorified abilities, e’en if they are entertaining, both conceptually & in actual gameplay. In fact, Kirby’s Triple Deluxe & Kirby Robobot, or whate’er stupid name that game had, did mo’ with their 3DS 3DS visual effects, with shit constantly going back & forth from & to the background & foreground, than this game did with its complete Z axis.

This game does add an evolving abilities system, which just results in the player needing to play the repetitive, simplistic ability challenge areas to collect stars to buy multiple upgrades for each ability. For the vast majority o’ abilities — I think Crash is the only exception — all that these upgrades amount to are stronger or faster abilities. Like almost all new video games that need to pad out their games for that ubiquitous 60 hours o’ gameplay, rather than do what all good works o’ art in all other art mediums do & have 2 – 10 hours o’ great content that audiences will want to experience multiple times, these upgrades & challenge rooms were fine the 1st few times I did them, but they o’ersaturate the game & bog it down. I swear it feels like there’s mo’ challenge rooms than there are actual levels. Also, like many modern video games, it’s just padding by RPGifying thru grinding. & if that isn’t ’nough, after you beat the game, they introduce the ability to upgrade your abilities’ power level by, like, 1 point, for 1–3 stars mo’. This isn’t just for e’ery main ability, but for e’ery ability upgrade, too, ’cause they just couldn’t beat a dead horse ’nough.

In payment for this evolving abilities “feature”, this game gives you far fewer abilities than most Kirby games, lacking many classic abilities like beam, laser, wheel, stone, or fighting. Kirby 64 did something similar, but its ability combinations were far mo’ different than by themselves, making it feel mo’ like it had 36 abilities than just 6, whereas Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s abilities change so li’l after evolutions, it just feels like you have only 12 abilities — which includes sleep, which is a joke ability, so we should only say 11. ( Believe it or not, you can upgrade the sleep ability so that it heals you; but since the only time you’re in danger o’ dying is during bosses & since you can’t use any other abilities while using this, this ability is useless ).

The level achievements is ’nother element that’s better theoretically than in practice. For 1, there’s an inherent trial-&-error element in that the player doesn’t know what the achievements are ’less they happen to stumble ’pon them while playing or beat the level, in which case they will reveal 1 out o’ the 4 hidden achievements. This is made worse by the fact that many achievements are arbitrary bullshit that nobody would think to do, like “don’t touch ghost Gordo” ( ¡they don’t e’en tell you who ghost Gordo is! ) or “fall asleep next to some random pool”. This specially applies to bosses, which most players will probably have to beat 3 or 4 times ’cause they don’t magically guess they should do things like walk ’tween the gorilla boss’s legs or fight them with the fire ability or shoot the cat boss while she’s up on the rafters, ’cause nobody would guess to do these things. ¿Why would they? They’re stupid things to do. Unlike, say, Super Mario Odyssey, where you can warp near any area with various achievements, like in most standard 2D platformers, you can only enter a level from the start. Moreo’er, like many standard 2D games, you have to beat the whole level in order to keep any achievements accomplished, rather than being able to exit the level as soon as you accomplish these achievements, like in, say, the classic Donkey Kong Country games. It ne’er ceases to amaze me that these 90s games — games that have a reputation for being particularly difficult platformers, but are somehow mo’ user-friendly than a modern Kirby game — are still in many ways mo’ convenient than modern platformers. ’Gain, you don’t have to do this shit; but ’gain, it’s a problem when most o’ the game is tedious padding. I also don’t have to find all the treasures in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror or 100% Kirby Super Star; but I do usually do these things ’cause 100% completing these games actually feels fresh the whole way thru. This specially applies to a game like Forgotten Land, whose levels are too basic & bland to enjoy just playing thru any-%.

That’s not to say that I completely hate the achievements: I like some o’ them, like the 1s where you have to lead the ducks to their mother ( which are in your face, so I was able to accomplish these on my 1st run thru e’ery time ) or the achievement you get for not getting lost in the mall or the 1s where you have to find certain items or destroy sand or snow dogs, which encourage you to explore levels. Granted, if anything, the latter only makes me wish this were an open world game, which, as hinted @ with the Super Mario Odyssey comparison, wouldn’t have fallen victim to the same problems as you’d, presumably, be able to warp round areas you’ve been thru before. Basically, it’s ’nother common problem with video games: an awkward mix o’ exploration & action gameplay that doesn’t mesh well. Standard 2D platformers were ne’er truly made for exploration, which is why Metroidvanias & 3D collectathons diverge from many o’ their classic elements the way they do. Unfortunately, Kirby and the Forgotten Land clings too tightly to some classic elements that just don’t work well with exploration.

Also, a nitpick, but it really annoys me that you can’t choose to replay a level or challenge room when you haven’t gotten all the achievements or the time score, thereby forcing you to go thru several loading screens going back to the o’erworld & then coming right back.

In fact, like many modern video games, this game feels very slow, with too many repetitious animations & cutscenes — tho thankfully you can skip some o’ them — & other sorts o’ padding. When you return to Waddle Dee Town after getting an upgrade scroll, a message pops up telling me that I got an upgrade scroll, in case I got dropped on my head & developed amnesia on the short period ’tween then. Then when you go inside the ability building there’s an unskippable sequence where Waddle Dee blabbers on ’bout how you got an upgrade scroll & can use it to upgrade an ability, here, look @ this blue arrow sign, as if this wasn’t the 10th time he’s said this exact thing. Finally, when you select the ability & pay the requisite stars to upgrade it, there’s a cutscene wherein the Waddle Dee hammers on it a bunch o’ times ( apparently these scrolls held the arcane secret o’ just how many times to hammer on the ability to upgrade it ) — tho, thankfully, this cutscene is skippable. ¿Why can’t you just immediately upgrade the ability when I get the scroll? ¿’Cause then I wouldn’t have to grind for stars from tedious challenge rooms? ¿Why not just have menus & leave it @ that? ¿What kind o’ mad person enjoys seeing the same cutscenes & reading the same dialogue o’er & o’er ’gain?

¿& why does e’ery boss start with this long section o’ empty level wherein you just hold in a direction & wait — which, I might emphasize, you have to do multiple times when you have to beat this boss multiple times ’cause you didn’t guess you were s’posed to go ’tween the gorilla’s legs & have to try ’gain for a chance @ that achievement? ¿Why can’t you just start me @ the boss like very other game? Here’s a golden rule o’ level design: if any section o’ your level has me doing nothing or just holding in a single direction for a long duration, that section sucks & should be removed.

I wouldn’t say that the level design is bad, but now that I think ’bout it, I don’t quite remember the actual structure & layout o’ most levels. For the main levels, I remember I enjoyed sniping enemies throughout “Northeast Frost Street” — tho this just makes me think this game would’ve been better if ’twere a stealth shooter like Goldeneye 007 than a regular Kirby game. I enjoyed weaving ’tween parades in “The Wondaria Dream Parade” — tho the racing challenge was stupidly superfluous, specially coming after far harder racing challenges in “Circuit Speedway”. The final 2 levels were also well-implemented “final exams” for all the mouth abilities in the game, tho I didn’t like the cliché boss rush in the penultimate level.

The level design gets much better in the postgame, when you have levels where you go round collecting parts o’ the main villain’s souls for some reason, which for some reason have much cleverer level puzzles than the main levels. I particularly liked the section in the 1st bonus level wherein you have to cross bridges that break as you walk on them as Traffic Cone Kirby, with 1 section having you loop-de-loop, with the bridges timed just right so that the opening line to the loop respawns right as you loop back. For some reason the postgame levels are mo’ generous when it comes to helping you 100% them, as the bootleg Pokémon following you round tells you when you’ve gotten all the lion’s souls in a section, making it easier to avoid having to replay levels mo’ than once ( tho I did have to do this in 1 level that makes the 1st half o’ a section impossible to get to & respawns you in the 2nd part after dying ).

On the other hand, the rollercoaster in “Welcome to Wondaria” is trial-&-error bullshit & mostly pointless, the jumpscare cardboard cutouts in “Invasion at the House of Horrors” just waste your time waiting for them to go the fuck ’way till then end when you can finally destroy them with the vending machine powerup, & “The Battle of Blizzard Bridge” wastes a great level theme on yet ’nother generic miniboss rush that’s far less memorable than the Rainbow Resort tower in Kirby’s Adventure. This game is full o’ platformer clichés, like falling lava rocks in the final world, the most trite lava level gimmick e’er, or collecting mini McGuffins to unlock the next section.

Like many Kirby games, this game is full o’ bosses — too many. In addition to world-ending bosses, levels are scattered with the same minibosses in e’ery Kirby game, like Chilly Willy. Rather that streamline this tedious shit out o’ the game, like you’d expect from a modern game, the developers went in the opposite direction, & made these bosses take e’en longer, with way-too-long life bars & repetitive attack cycles. O well: a’least most bosses allow you to attack them @ any time & don’t have the Rareware “dodge attacks while boss is invincible & then get 1 attack in during a temporary period o’ vulnerability” tripe very much; & for most bosses you have so much health that you can oft just stand there constantly hitting the bosses while tanking hits, specially if playing on “Spring Breeze” difficulty. Howe’er, by the end o’ the game this changes, with bosses attacking several times @ once, having very short periods during which they’re not attacking, making them feel like Rareware bosses, & they have e’en longer lifebars. You’d think getting all the weapon upgrades would help, but it still takes fore’er to beat late-game bosses.

The nadir is the final boss — or should I say final 4 bosses. No, I’m not exaggerating. & they’re so bad. The lion just keeps doing the same shit o’er & o’er, gives you a short period wherein you can hit them, rinse-repeat. The 3rd bosses constantly chases you, giving you few chances to hit it.

Howe’er, these bosses are paradise compared to the very final boss, some generic Pokémon-looking thing, which I think might be a possessed version o’ the Pokémon-looking thing following Kirby thruout most the game ( by this point I was sick o’ this game, & I definitely gave the minimum o’ fucks ’bout its dumbass cliché post-apocalyptic bullshit, specially since caring ’bout the story in a fucking Kirby game is the dumbest thing in the world ).

It’s hard to ’splain what makes this boss so unbearably miserable, ’cause critics have been indoctrinated into this simple-minded dichotomy o’ “easy” & “hard”, which oft leads to games that are either easy or hard, but still not fun, either way, or have difficulty modes to get round actually balancing their game well & also, surprise-surprise, not being fun either way. After a game that felt easy ’nough e’en on “wild mode” this game ends with a boss that goes on for like an hour ’cause it’s the worst Rareware boss o’ them all: it keeps doing these same tedious attacks you have to dodge, shit like throwing crystals down on you, which I already saw many other bosses do, ’cause the developers had li’l creativity when it comes to bosses. & these phases go on so long. It’s not ’nough to have the crystals fall after you or a laser beam to go left & right or for the boss to slash @ you; they need to do it 4 or 5 times. You get so li’l time to attack the boss before it goes into its next o’erlong phase. E’ery so oft the boss gets a cheap hit in, specially thanks to the camera that swings round gainst my control, allowing the boss to snipe me from offscreen, or the 10th giant meteor manages to hit me, e’en tho I’m flying as far ’way as the invisible force fields will let me go. This is specially the case ’cause I’m so desperate to not miss any chance to attack, ’cause I know I have to wait thru the 8th several-minute-long barrage o’ meteors & several-minute-long sequence o’ the boss going back & forth with its sword ( which, in contrast, I don’t e’en think can hit you e’en if you’re not bothering to try dodging, so it’s just an exercise in waiting ), followed by the boss slashing 5 times, before I get ’nother chance to attack, that I oft play a bit too aggressively & get swiped with li’l warning, & these li’l swipes add up, ’cause this boss has such a long health meter, which refills after you get it halfway down. Thinking back, I only died to this boss once; but you have no idea how miserable just dying once to this boss is, ’cause that means you have to go thru 30 more o’ that stupid slashing back & forth on its sword attack, 40 mo’ crystals falling on you, 20 mo’ meteor barrages. Which also means you don’t have a good way to experiment with different weapons, which, to be fair, I don’t think the weapons I used were the best fit. This “challenge” o’ this boss is nothing mo’ than wearing me down from how tedious it is that I can barely muster the energy & attention to dodge the 100th fucking attack.

I swear, this was the worst boss I’ve e’er played in my life; I don’t think I’ve been as pissed off @ a video game in a long time, which may seem silly to say ’bout a Kirby game, but that’s exactly how stupid this boss is for this kind o’ game. If I wanted that kind o’ bullshit, — & I ne’er would, ’cause it’s ’bout as fun as picking slivers out o’ my toes — I wouldn’t be playing a fucking Kirby game. I’ve ne’er seen any other Kirby game with this kind o’ bullshit in it. I genuinely wonder why anyone would think something like this would be enjoyable in any way.

Having said all that, I did go back & try the boss — ’cause I hate myself that much — on “Spring Breeze” to see if it’s any less insufferable. Not really. The boss still takes fore’er, it just takes a li’l less time ’cause I had so much HP this time ( & also have internalized all its patterns having dealt with them hundreds o’ times ) that I could just not give a shit & just keep attacking them & not caring when I got hit. Also, I noticed this time that 1 o’ its attacks heals it, which I ne’er noticed before, ’cause why the fuck would I be staring @ its health bar when I need to focus on hitting it. This healing move is very counterintuitive, expecting you to attack 3 o’ its weird white things that I thought were guarded clones that I wasn’t s’posed to go near. It’s pure luck that I found out ’bout this this time, & can only be ’splained by the fact that I was fucking round & not paying attention on fighting the boss. Also, what kind o’ asshole puts a boss with a giant health bar that can heal itself in a Kirby game — & keeps that shit on easy mode, to boot. This boss still isn’t fun, & it wouldn’t be fun e’en if you had infinite health. There would be no way to salvage this boss, other than to throw it in the trash. I would much prefer a harder boss with a shorter life bar & doesn’t have a billion attacks where you just dodge shit & do nothing else for minutes @ a time.

If all that wasn’t ’nough, the game follows all that with a chase sequence with Truck Kirby, with quick-time events, ’cause those are always great, & then you have this hokey ending where its shows a close-up on the Pokémon thing’s face with a tear falling & then it sacrifices itself to save the world, but then it ends up just fine, ’long with Dedede, who was left ’hind during 1 o’ the several cutscenes before the boss onslaught, & I couldn’t care ’less ’bout any o’ this shit @ the time ’cause I was too busy screaming for this game to fucking end already.

Pictured: my expression ’pon seeing that the game still wasn’t o’er yet.

The element where Forgotten Land shines, like many modern video games, is its visuals, specially its art design. Admittedly I’m biased since I ne’er stop writing haiku on the subject, but I particularly like the mix o’ nature & modern civilization themes, such as the mossy cities — which I think is meant to evoke Seattle, which is, indeed, a city full o’ greenery, if the totally-not-space-needle is any hint — & mall in the 1st world & the snowy metro station & ol’ town in the snow world, the latter o’ which seems to combine Victorian Britain & Soviet Russian architecture styles. While I can’t quite remember the level structures, I can acutely remember e’ery level’s theme.

Granted, there are some low points: the water world & desert world are mostly forgettable, as they usually are in video games; & I was particularly disappointed that this game ended with a generic volcano/lava theme, just like Donkey Kong Country Returns.

The music is… fine. Not particularly catchy or memorable as classic Kirby music, but it’s a vibe, I guess. Honestly, the only song I remember is the main theme, & e’en then all I noted was that it’s a transparent copy o’ the Perfect Strangers theme song, which is mo’ funny in a meta way than actually good to listen to. Happy to hear HAL Labs is doing SiIvaGunner’s work for them.

But after all these minor complaints, there’s 1 final fatal flaw: ¿where in the motherfuck is Waddle Doo, best Kirby character e’er in creation? These fuckers revolve this whole game ’bout saving Waddle Dees, the inferior species with their 2 beady boring eyes, rather than that 1 giant bubble eye, ¿& they don’t include Waddle Doo @ all, e’en as an enemy? Unforgiveable.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who remembers this sprite comic e’er existed & that the files I have are the only remaining copies, since I couldn’t find any trace o’ it online anymo’.

Pseudoscientific Ratings:

Visuals: 8/10
Music: 6/10
Game Mechanics: 4/10
Controls/Physics: 7/10
Level Design: 5/10

Final Grade: 6 / 10

Originally published @ The Mezunian.