Kirby and the Forgotten Land

The Nintendo Switch has a powerful library for family game night, but Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a cut above the rest when it comes to introducing your kids to the hobby.

Nintendo’s pink spherical icon debuted thirty years ago in Kirby’s Dreamland on the Game Boy, a simple adventure game designed to be “one big game everyone can enjoy”, accessible to young gamers or inexperienced gamers. Since then, its series of games has largely kept this philosophy in mind, welcoming new generations with rewarding, but not necessarily difficult, experiences.

I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this approach. Kirby’s Adventure on the NES was probably the first game I beat on my own. I was consumed by it for a brief period, especially as I approached the final boss, and completing this ultimate challenge greatly boosted my interest in games for life. For years, it remained one of my favorite games to play on the NES for an afternoon.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land – Intro Trailer

But this is the last entry in the series, this year Kirby and the Forgotten Landwho could really accomplish the mission Kirby’s Dreamland started three decades ago. It’s not just a great game that should appeal to a lot of people, it’s a phenomenal way to build your kids’ skills and confidence.

The premise is simple: an unknown threat has taken Kirby and the other inhabitants of his homeworld, the Waddle Dees, to a new place, seemingly in the ruins of a civilization like ours; there he encounters the lively Elfilin, and the two embark on a quest to stop the villains and free the Waddle Dees. For the first time in the series, the levels are fully 3D. Kirby’s signature ability to inhale enemies and copy their abilities returns with an added twist – sometimes he can inhale certain large inanimate objects like cars or vending machines, and use the unique skills they grant to solve puzzles or go around obstacles.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is one of the best-crafted entries in the franchise, if not the entire Nintendo Switch library. Each level ends with retrieving a cage full of Waddle Dees; charge across the stage and you’ll eventually free a few. However, there are other Waddle Dees hidden in secret areas or behind challenges, and even more can be freed by completing certain unique tasks in this level. The game doesn’t tell you all of these objectives at first, leaving you to experiment and research, but will eventually reveal them if you replay the level multiple times.

These challenges are hidden in such a way that they are not obvious if you are sprinting. With a little observation and reflection, however, you’ll notice a small hint that there’s something at the edge of the screen, leading to a whole new path. The game doesn’t make them egregious, but after a while you start anticipating where new secrets might be, and the challenges increase very gradually throughout the main game (and there’s an easy mode if things are still too hairy).

Kirby And The Forgotten Land, except for its challenge rooms, can be played entirely in cooperative mode.
Kirby and the Forgotten Landexcept for its challenge rooms, can be played entirely in cooperative mode.

So it’s well done, of course, but so are many other Nintendo games. Where Kirby and the Forgotten Land rises above so many others is his cooperative play.

At almost any time, a second player can step in as Bandana Waddle Dee, one of Kirby’s main allies. If Kirby is knocked out and a life is lost, you are returned to the most recent checkpoint, but if Bandana is knocked out, it respawns in a few moments. He can’t copy his abilities, but he has a spear with a versatile moveset and his strength scales with Kirby’s. This makes it ideal for kids to play without being pressured to restart a level because they’re dead.

When I brought this game home, my daughter (aged 6 at the time) was immediately taken by the cuteness and all. But when I handed her a second controller and she stepped into Bandana Waddle Dee’s shoes, a switch flipped and we immediately had a blast. We’ve played the Yoshi games’ co-op modes, but these can be frustrating even with easy mode on – it’s too easy to get in the way. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is much more forgiving.

In the past, I’ve seen her struggle to control character movement with her left thumb and press buttons for specific actions with her right; sometimes it’s like watching an old person hunt and peck to type. This has even happened in 2D games like Super Mario Bros.and Animal crossing new horizons was previously at the height of his abilities in this regard. (Isn’t it weird that kids can master tablet controls from the time they’re two, but can’t have their multitasking thumbs to move around? and jump at the same time?)

“She learned the ropes without consequences for failure, while sharing experience and victories.”

But with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, all that has changed. There was a slight adjustment period, and occasionally she could get overwhelmed if too much was happening on screen, but otherwise she was pretty adept at directing Bandana. If all else fails, the second player will be transported to the first player/Kirby’s side if they fall behind.

As a team, we worked quickly on the main game in small chunks. By being the sidekick, all the responsibility was lifted from his shoulders. She learned the tricks of the trade with no consequences for failure, while sharing experience and victories.

This well-sculpted gaming design subtly intensifies through Kirby and the Forgotten LandThe main game, as does the narrative, as – without spoiling anything – Kirby is re-motivated and a bigger picture emerges in the final area. It all turns into a challenging and fulfilling final boss, by kid’s standards, and begins to venture into spooky, otherworldly territory.

Seriously, play through Kirby and the Forgotten Land and try not to smile once.  I dare you.
Seriously, play it all the way Kirby and the Forgotten Land and try not to smile once. I dare you.

But the end of Kirby and the Forgotten Land is not really the end; a new set of challenges opens up after play, crushing elements from each level into a gauntlet of remixed challenges. Erase that post-game and truly epic finale, final the boss that followed with my daughter was the highlight of my year in the game so far. Through it all, she felt the warmth of the heightened challenge but was never demoralized because I could keep her in the game playing Kirby.

We relaxed after each session exploring Kirby and the Forgotten LandThe hub of Waddle Dee Town. A handful of mini-games and an arena mode open up as you progress, and there are four sets of gachapon-style figures to collect, providing a relaxing change of pace to complete the set.

“Erasing that post-game and the truly epic final, final The boss that followed with my daughter was the highlight of my year in the game so far.

Since we completed the game 100%, we checked those of 2018 Kirby Star Allies, which was equally satisfying but not quite up to the high bar of affordability and design. Come back to Yoshi’s craft worldMultiplayer feels almost competitive by comparison now. But thanks to Kirby and the Forgotten Land, we have a new business to share and we keep looking for new cooperation opportunities. She even took the player one up to control Kirby instead, and her control improved dramatically.

With a fast-paced design and a co-op mode that lets kids get involved in the game without being pampered or intimidated by it, plus a vivid world that should put a smile on players of all ages, i can’t recommend Kirby and the Forgotten Land enough for parents who want to share this hobby with their young children. They’ll hone their motor skills, reflexes, and strategic thinking walking in Bandana Waddle Dee’s shoes, and you’ll have a great time bonding through teamwork.

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