Nintendo appears to have a strong 2022. Some titles have confirmed release dates like Pokemon Legends: Arceus, meanwhile others have open windows like Bayonetta 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. There are even rumors for development on the next Mario Kart circulating online. One title many are interested in seeing come to fruition this year is Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
The pink puffball already debuted on Switch with 2018's Kirby Star Allies, but that adventure was more a celebratory take on the franchise's history with post-launch content adding new playable characters from various Kirby games. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a larger step forward as Kirby's first true 3D platformer. However, it shouldn't forget about the past, and the Ghost copy ability from Kirby: Squeak Squad may offer developers a way to experiment in 3D space without impacting the fundamentals this transitional title needs to nail.
Kirby: Squeak Squad's Unique Traits
Kirby: Squeak Squad released in 2006 for the DS handheld; one of many Nintendo titles developed by Capcom subsidiary Flagship. It had previously developed Kirby and the Amazing Mirror on Game Boy Advance, but was also known for Legend of Zelda games like the Oracle duology and The Minish Cap. Squeak Squad was the studio's final project before Capcom announced its closure in 2007.
Whereas Kirby and the Amazing Mirror immediately stands out for its metroidvania structure, Squeak Squad is an easier, smaller, and stage-based affair that asks players to dig deeper if they want to find its unique spark. Its story is simple even for a Kirby game, with the hero chasing after his new rodent antagonists after it appears they've stolen his cake, only to reveal the Squeaks stole a box sealing away the evil Dark Nebula. Each stage contains treasure to keep away from the Squeak Squad (who all appear with Daroach in Star Allies' DLC), but otherwise it's a very linear adventure.
That being said, its positives still shine through. Squeak Squad is the second title after Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to experiment with ability mixing, and it does so via a new touch mechanic that involves Kirby keeping a number of items in his stomach (represented via the DS bottom screen). Many of the game's new abilities are also fun gimmicks, like Bubble turning enemies into items or Animal letting Kirby dig through certain walls.
Ghost is only available after players collect seven pieces of the Ghost Metal scattered in treasure chests, and then only obtainable from the miniboss Tedhaun or an unlockable secret area that gives Kirby any copy ability. It allows Kirby to float around indefinitely, and its only utility is to possess enemies and steal their attacks. While Kirby has used copy abilities since Kirby's Adventure in 1993, with some variants like the scanning "Copy" ability in Super Star, Ghost is unique in that it can also possess enemies without pre-determined abilities like Fire or Spark.
Ghost Could Let Kirby and the Forgotten Land Experiment with 3D Space
Kirby and the Forgotten Land has to walk a fine line with its 3D movement. On the one hand, it has to innovate if it hopes to make Kirby's transition memorable beyond Forgotten Land's post-apocalypse setting. On the other, it has to appease long-time fans by not getting rid of many basic tenents of the series, despite features like Kirby's flight possibly breaking any semblence of challenge in a 3D space.
The gameplay in Forgotten Land could tone things down to create a basic platformer with some copy abilities, ensuring as little friction in the shift to 3D as possible. Its announcement trailer from the September 2021 Nintendo Direct certainly isn't flashy in this regard, showing Kirby run and jump more than he does float - and when he floats, it's only to a limited height.
This all makes sense, but the Ghost ability returning in full for the first time since Squeak Squad could add a lot more flavor, especially if it's saved to be a late or postgame addition. Giving players the ability to explore this game's environment without being restricted could open the door for tucked away Easter eggs or a great photo mode, and any ideas making use of Kirby's 3D traversal that are cut could instead appear via possessed enemies. The ability is a stand-out part of an undersung Kirby game that deserves another chance, and Forgotten Land may be perfect for it.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land releases in spring 2022 for Nintendo Switch.
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