Kirby and the Forgotten Land: Early Impressions

Image from Den Of Geek

Prepare to temper your expectations, folks.

Kirby’s formal debut on the Nintendo Switch came four years ago with Kirby Star Allies, but that game got a lukewarm reception for feeling safe and uninspired in the wake of franchise-redefining releases like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. Players were looking for a game that pushed the boundaries of what a series could be, which is why so many people (myself included) were so excited when Kirby and the Forgotten Land was announced last year. The game would be Kirby’s first true foray into 3D, and the crumbling, grown-over civilization that served as the game’s setting hinted at a deep, dark story hiding just below the surface.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Kirby series since the days of Kirby’s Dream Land, and after freeing the Roselle in Triangle Strategy, I dove headfirst into Kirby prepped and ready to absolutely love his latest adventure. After playing through the first few worlds, however, I discovered that I only kinda-sorta liked the game, and I was ready to go back and replay Triangle Strategy before I even made it to the first boss fight. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it’s nowhere near what I expected either, and that’s likely where most of my disappointment stems from. If you’re planning on trying this game, you’ll want to do it with your eyes wide open: This is a refinement of the old Kirby formula rather than an earth-shattering new one, so don’t expect to be bowled over when you dive into this forgotten land.

Let’s start by talking about the forgotten land, shall we? From a graphical perspective, the game generally looks and plays pretty well (and some of the textures, such as the leather on Weapons-Shop Waddle Dee’s hat, are outstanding), but there are noticeable and consistent frame drops for enemies that are far away from you, and there was even a moment coming out of a tunnel where the game suddenly slowed to crawl for a few seconds. The bigger issue for me, however, is the level design: If you heard “3D” and your thoughts immediately jumped to “open-world,” prepare to have your hopes dashed. The levels all have a linear layout that’s much more reminiscent of Super Mario 3D World than Super Mario Odyssey, and given how small and constrained they feel, even calling them “3D” feels like a stretch. The dense overgrowth and debris invite you to explore the areas, but you’ll find yourself forever bumping into invisible walls and ceilings when you do. There are certainly secrets to find and each level’s Waddle Dee checklist encourages you to search for them, but for the most part you’ll see everything the level has to offer the first time through, and playing through them again to find one or two trailing Waddle Dees was more of a chore than a joy. There are also optional Treasure Road challenges that help you upgrade your copy abilities (more on that later), and while they were shorter, I found that the “target times,” despite their minimal rewards, encouraged me to retry them and optimize my path and my strategy. Overall, unfortunately, I would say the levels are “meh” overall, and none managed to stick in my memory for too long once they were complete. (One positive thing I can say, however, is that the music tracks here are great, conveying an upbeat and confident tone as you boldly explore a fallen civilization.)

I’ve got similarly mixed feelings about Kirby’s moveset in this game. For the most part, he’s springy and responsive and plays about how you would expect, but there’s been one major nerf to his moves: Flight is limited to a set height above the ground you jumped from (hence the invisible ceiling comment in the last paragraph) and is no longer infinite (you’ll slowly fall back to earth after a set period of time). I’m not really sure why these changes were made: It’s true that infinite flight could allow players to skip many obstacles, but that’s been something players could do in past Kirby games as well, and it would have opened up more potential exploration options that could have taken advantage of the game’s 3D environment. Instead, Kirby plays a more ground-bound game here, and feels less distinct as a result (every platform protagonist can run and jump, but taking to the air is what makes Kirby…well, Kirby!). The good news is that copy abilities are still present here (albeit not as many as in past games), and you now have the option of upgrading the abilities to more-powerful versions if you have the right collectibles, which adds a bit more power to Kirby’s kit. The abilities that are here are generally pretty good, but Sleep still feels like a troll even if it does restore your health, and I kind of wish Needle had more movement capabilities that weren’t dependent on sticking enemies or blocks. The new ability additions are Drill, which lets you move around underground and attack from below (it feels a bit awkward at times, but it’s generally decent), and Ranger, which gives Kirby a gun and lets them aim freely around the screen (it works pretty well here and doesn’t feel out of place, even if aiming in 3D can be a challenge sometimes). Overall, I like the additions that were made, but the flight restrictions don’t make any sense and and make the game feel less Kirbified.

The game’s major gimmick is “Mouthful Mode,” where Kirby swallows a massive item and gains its powers, such as the speed and ramming power of a car or the can-flinging power of a vending machine. It reminds me of the various robot transformations in Kirby: Planet Robobot, but the fun factor of the mouthfuls is much more variable: Sure it’s fun to zoom around as rusty hatchback, but going up and down as a scissor lift or hopping around as a staircase? The mouthful sections are also a lot shorter here, so often they boil down to moving the item the equivalent of a couple hundred feet. I’m hoping the game unlocks more of its transformation potential as the game goes on, but the early returns are iffy.

Each world consists of a couple of standard levels, a few Treasure Road challenges (some appear automatically, others are hidden and hide to be searched for), and a culminating boss at the end. (The bosses are generally decent, and I appreciate that unlike previous games, going in with a copy ability can be just as viable as waiting for the consumable stars to appear.) The goal for much of the early game is to save as many Waddle Dees as possible by clearing levels and completing other challenges, which will then populate and slowly build up your home base of ‘Waddle Dee Town.’ It’s a cool idea and eventually leads to some interesting options, but the early-game options are a bit underwhelming: You get to rewatch some of the cinematics, you get a house you can decorate with collectible figurines, you get a ‘Dee-livery’ service that lets you enter codes found either in-game or via Internet giveaways, you can buy health recovery items and play a simple Overcooked-esque game to feed hungry Waddle Dees, and you can obtain or upgrade copy abilities. That last one is really the only one I frequent with any regularity, and while you’ll eventually add battle arenas and fish ponds, don’t expect to spend a ton of time there, at least at the start.

Overall, I wouldn’t say there are any dealbreakers in the early stages of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, but there isn’t much to compel the player to keep playing either. Kirby still kinda-sorta feels like Kirby and the copy abilities are generally useful and fun, but the story is vague and slow to ramp up, and the levels invite exploration but really don’t allow it. It’s a capable platformer but nothing more, and while Kirby has a habit of getting both dark and epic in the end, in the meantime we’re left with a game that takes some effort to stay interested in. I was really hoping this game would join the ranks of the franchise-defining titles we’ve already seen on this console, but as Alan Jackson would say, it’s got a long, long way to go.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn: Is It Worth Buying?

Image from Nintendo Everything

Time changes everything, but it hasn’t softened my opinion of this game.

I was a little wary of Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn in my initial sessions with the game, but I held out hope that things might grow on me over time. Instead, the opposite happened, and I got more and more frustrated with the game’s flaws and “features” as I kept going. While Extra Epic Yarn is technically a spin-off title rather than a mainline game like Triple Deluxe or Planet Robobot, the 3DS games are the most convenient comparison here, and this game just doesn’t measure to its predec…er, its successors.

Let’s start with the control scheme, which seemed to introduce more and more quirks to irritate me as the game went on. Forget about the lack of common Kirby mechanics like flying and copying for a second; I’d just settle for tighter controls and a better physics engine. Trying to use the Control Stick to control Kirby is a royal pain in the neck, as the same motion might make him walk normally one time and start dashing/driving the next, which made controlling the puffball’s momentum nearly impossible. In addition, the amount of bounceback Kirby got from hitting the wall (unlike, say, 2D Mario games, where the protagonist sticks to the wall) made it unnecessarily hard to fall through small gaps and kept ricocheting me back into enemies. I’d like to say the transformations were an improvement, but many were not: The UFO was painfully slow to maneuver, the giant robot and surfing character were equal parts slow and “meh,” and trying to use the fire engine was an absolute nightmare (a slight tap of L or R would send the hose flying in one direction or another, making aiming the darn thing as fun as pulling your own teeth). The game felt better when it was faster (race car transformation, DeDeDe GoGoGo), but in general this title is a master class in how not to make a platformer control.

The repetition of the levels started to take a toll after a while as well, which is a big problem because repetition is a huge part of the “extra” in Extra Epic Yarn. You play through a level on Normal mode to get the gold medal, you play through it again on Devilish mode to get all the star pieces, and then you might play through it again in a hide-and-seek or gem-finding minigame…I’m torn between my OCD need for collectibles and my utter boredom of getting dragged through the same darn level so many times. The same issue crops up in DeDeDe GoGoGo and Meta Knight’s Slash And Bead: If you want those coveted S medals, you’ll be playing those stages over and over and over until you pull off a flawless run (and then you discover that’s there only four stages in each mode). That not to say that the modes aren’t fun and the stages aren’t well-designed; rather, they aren’t much fun after the third or fifth or twentieth time through them, and the charm of the stages wears off a lot quicker than you might think.

But what about the story? In truth, Prince Fluff’s tale of woe and Yin-Yarn’s plot for Dream Land chaos just didn’t draw me in, which means I didn’t have a ton of motivation to keep fighting the controls and replaying the levels. The characters felt a bit flat (literally and figuratively), with Prince Fluff serving as an overqualified cheerleader, the shopkeepers and building owners lacked a ton of personality, and the mini Devils providing little more than an annoyance. Kirby’s stories tend to be pretty boilerplate until they peak with an epic ending, but with so much “meh” between here and the fun stuff, I just didn’t find the time investment to be worth the potential payoff. After all, I’ve got Splatoon gear to grind and Mario Kart races to win, darn it!

All of the above comes down to this: Do not buy Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, regardless of whether or not you missed the original Wii game. If you’re hankering for a 3DS Kirby fix, pick up Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot instead, as they’re much more fun and interesting to play. This game is disappointing enough that I’m starting to wonder if this was Nintendo’s plan all along, dropping a last-gasp mediocre title to signal that yes, the 3DS’s time has officially past. After eights years of loyal service to the Big N, however, the 3DS deserved a better sendoff than this.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn: Early Impressions

Image from Nintendo of Europe

When is a Kirby game not a Kirby game anymore? Because this title really stretches what such a game can be.

I’m generally against double-dipping for a game you already own (see: my reviews for Super Mario Maker for the 3DSMario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, etc.), but I missed out on Kirby’s Epic Yarn during the Nintendo Wii era, so I was genuinely curious how the game that appears to be the 3DS’s last stand measured up to its competition. I’ve always been a sucker for mainline games like Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, so this would likely be a similar experience, right?


There are certainly elements of past Kirby games here, and this entry still showcases the same cutesy charm as its predecessors. At its core, however, there are some fundamental differences (and most seem to be for the worse) that make you question whether you’re really playing a Kirby title. After a couple of hours with the game, I’m cautiously optimistic that it will turn out okay, but some changes will take some time to get used to.

My specific thoughts on the game so far are as follows:

  • The biggest difference between Extra Epic Yarn and most mainline Kirby titles is the control scheme. At its core, Kirby distinguishes himself from other platformer protagonists through two things: His infinite flying ability, and his ability to steal powers from his enemies. Here, neither ability is included: Kirby can only float slowly downwards as a parachute, and he is limited to lassoing enemies and throwing them at other baddies Yoshi-style (he has to obtain special headgear to swing swords, throw bombs, etc.). Its the lack of flying that really throws veteran players for a loop: I don’t know how many pits I fell into because I didn’t realize I couldn’t fly out of them! Additionally, using the Control Stick makes Kirby turn into a car for fast ground movement, but the controls felt incredibly twitchy and hard to control (you could use the D-Pad to slowly walk along as usual, but then it takes you forever to finish the stage), and the amount of rebound you have when you hit a wall makes aiming and falling through smaller holes in the level way more frustrating than it should be. The result is that I just don’t have the tight, responsive controls I’ve come to expect from Kirby, and makes accidentally running into enemies far more common than it should be.
  • Besides the Control Stick issue above, Extra Epic Yarn makes a fairly smooth transition to the small screen of the 3DS. Unlike with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, I never felt constrained by the smaller form factor, and while the aesthetics don’t pop like they might on the Wii, the stages remain as bright and colorful as ever (and honestly, even when things pop like they do in Yoshi’s Crafted World, the novelty wears off quickly). In terms of enemy and stage design, this felt exactly like the Kirby games of yore, and after so much success with Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, the 3DS just feels like a natural fit for the pink puffball.
  • Speaking of aesthetics: I now know why Kirby and Yoshi had to be released in different years, because they borrow a lot of elements from each other and can sometimes feel like the same darn game. Some of the sound effects here were straight-up copied by Yoshi’s Woolly World, and with their similar control schemes and loads of collectibles, this game actually feels like a better fit for Yoshi than Kirby.
  • There’s quite a bit to do here besides the main game (hide-and-seek minigames, room design/decoration that needs to be in Splatoon 3), but there are also a lot of post-Epic Yarn additions as well: A harder Devilish mode, a speedrunning DeDeDe mode, and a hack-and-slash Meta Knight Mode have all been included in the Extra portion of the game. (Some new transformations have been added as well.) Unlike the junk modes included with M + L: Superstar Saga and the excluded modes from games like Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo 3DS, this game actually feels like it’s got enough “extra” content to justify the title change. I didn’t find Devilish mode to be too compelling beyond the original Normal mode, however, so the amount of mileage you get out of all of this may vary.

I haven’t seen enough of the game to feel comfortable making a decision of whether it’s worth buying or not, but this one has more potential than some of the other 3DS ports I’ve seen. It’s about as un-Kirby a game as you could imagine (I’m hoping the controls grow on me rather than continually frustrate me), but there’s enough Kirby here to make me want to see how the whole thing turns out. For a 3DS swan song, I suppose you could do worse.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe: Is It Worth Buying?

Image From Nintendo UK

Now that Nintendo is on record saying the 3DS isn’t going anywhere for a while, I think it’s time to dig into the system’s back catalog and revisit some classic titles to see if they still deserve your love/dollars. For my money, there’s no better place to start than everyone’s favorite amorphous pink ball of death Jigglypuff Kirby!

The dirty secret of the Kirby franchise is that its mainline games are incredibly formulaic: flying, copying abilities, simple gameplay with minimal challenge, a sudden stake-raising moment at the end that leads to an epic boss fight, and some tough-as-nails postgame content. Once you’ve played one of these games, you’ve basically played them all, give or take an occasional title-specific gimmick (I’m still waiting for playable Nago to come back). “Formulaic,” however, does not mean “not fun to play,” and in general Kirby games inhabit that same magical place that Pokémon games do: You might do the same thing 100 times, but it’s just as fun to do the last time as it is the first.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe was the pink puffball’s first foray onto the 3DS (outside of a bunch of Virtual Console releases), and it’s exactly what you’d expect a Kirby  game to be. A few new copy abilities have been introduced (Archer being the most useful for its range, but also Beetle, Bell, and Circus), and aside from Sleep (which is meant to be a trap), all of them end up having enough utility to grab in a pinch. There are a few small puzzles scattered around the game (mostly tied to the collectables, and some of which make use of the 3DS’s gyro controls), but by and large it’s your typical Kirby platforming experience, with the usual level and enemy design (most of the mini-bosses have been around since Kirby’s Adventure, and Whispy Woods, Kracko, and King DeDeDe all return as world bosses).

Triple Deluxe‘s primary gimmick the Hypernova ability, which increases Kirby’s suction power and lets him inhale bosses, large objects and even pieces of the background in a single gulp. It only appears in certain stages, but it fits seamlessly within the rest of the gameplay and was a ton of fun to use (inhaling four mini-bosses in one go was particularly cathartic). I actually preferred Hypernova to the robot armor of Planet Robobot (it felt more natural and didn’t restrict the rest of Kirby’s moveset), but it led to an ending sequence that didn’t feel as satisfying.

There are two primary collectibles to find here: Sun stones, which unlock secret stages within each world, and “keychains” of different characters from past Kirby games. They’re not terribly hard to find (although locating the rare keychains make take a bit of sleuthing), and aside from the boss stages requiring a certain number of stones to unlock, they don’t impact the gameplay at all.

The game comes with two additional game modes from the start: Kirby Fighters, which is basically a watered-down version of Kirby Battle Royale (which I wasn’t that impressed with), and Dedede’s Drum Dash, a rhythm that forces you to bounce along a drum course while collecting coins, avoiding enemies, and clapping along with the beat. Neither minigame is worth writing home about, but they do seem to be required for a 100% completion rating. The unlockable modes, however, are a bit more interesting:

  • Dededetour: Lets you play through a harder version of the main campaign as King Dedede.
  • The Arena: The usual Kirby boss rush with limited health and abilities.
  • The True Arena: The usual Kirby boss rush, but with the harder version of the bosses from Dededetour. This is where things get real.

For those of you looking for a bit more pain and challenge from your Kirby experience, this’ll cover you.

Given all this, we need to answer the following questions:

  • Is this game worth buying? If you’re a fan of Kirby or platforming in general, yes. This game delivers everything you want from a 2D platformer, including (eventually) a nasty-hard test of mettle. It’s a game I would especially recommend for younger or newer players, as a) Kirby’s flight ability let you bypass any non-boss situation you might have trouble with, and b) it’s a gently-sloped difficulty curve that’s much more considerate of your ego/confidence level than a game like Breath of the Wild.
  • Should I buy this game or Planet Robobot? From a gameplay perspective, it’s a “six of one, a half dozen of the other” situation. Outside of a few tweaks, the game are basically the exact same. However, there is one notable meta difference: As a “Nintendo Select” title, Triple Deluxe now retails for half the price of Planet Robobot ($20 as compared to $40). If you only want one of the two, Triple Deluxe is definitely the better value.

As someone who hadn’t played a Kirby title since Kirby’s Dream Land 3, I really enjoyed both Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot. Both were great experiences, but Triple Deluxe‘s reduced price make it a much better investment. (Now let’s see if Kirby: Star Allies can meet the same standard.)

Kirby Battle Royale: Early Impressions

There’s an art to making repetitive gaming fun. There’s also an art to making a demo that enticing players to play the full game. Unfortunately, Kirby Battle Royale pulls off neither.

Kirby will be making the jump to the Switch in a couple of months, but the franchise is getting one last hurrah on the 3DS with Kirby Battle Royale, a multiplayer-focused title offering gameplay that’s a strange combination of Mario Party and Mortal Kombat. I was nervous about how much mileage a player like me (who has no local friends with a 3DS) would get out of the game, and after playing through the demo a few times, I’m afraid the answer is “Not much.”

Part of this is the fault of the demo itself: The trailers showcase lots of different game modes and player abilities, but you’re limited to just three of each in the demo (and one of each has to be unlocked), and you only get to play a limited number of games per day (five single player, seven multiplayer). The single-player campaign gets a brief spotlight at the beginning of the demo, but otherwise it’s locked away completely, and you’re given little taste of how the mode will feel. (Kirby headgear customization is also missing from the demo, which makes all the competitors look and feel the same.) In short, there’s just no a lot here to judge the game, and certainly not enough to draw the player in.

Of course, a limited content release would be tolerable if the content that you got was engaging, but none of the game modes I played held my interest for very long. You’re limited to 2v2 battle royales, apple-picking contests, and a first-to-ten series of short challenges (the strangest of which is trying to stand on an area representing the correct answer to a question like “4 + 5” while trying to knock your opponent out of said area). Both the maps (small) and the controls (attacks are various combinations of the B and Y buttons) felt overly constraining, and there wasn’t any strategy involved beyond frantic button-mashing. In the end, I was just mindlessly completing the game to unlock the various modes so I could finish this review and go back to more-interesting games that got repetitive gaming right (PokémonMiitopia, etc.)

In short, Kirby Battle Royale lacked everything: Very few modes were available, and what was available didn’t hold my interest for long. Still, I’m hesitant to say “it’s not worth buying” because:

  • The demo does not give us a complete-enough picture of the game, and
  • Everything is more interesting when played with friends, right?

However, what I saw here raised a lot of questions about how good the full game is actually going to be. If you’re looking for a fun Kirby experience on the 3DS, I’d say Kirby: Planet Robobot (or even Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which is available as a Nintendo Select title for half price) is a much safer bet.