One of my main beliefs and admissions that I discuss over and over again not only within my articles but also with friends and colleagues is that my videogame baggage has never been much. A contradiction for those like me who have aimed at a career and academic education focused on the videogame market and which could give countless bullets to the various detractors of the trade press. Yet, due to lack of liquid in my youth or pure and simple lack of interest in particular genres and titles, my "growth" as a gamer is a rather recent event and which day after day continues to define me as an author. And it is with this attitude that, when asked “Hey listen, we have a code for Kirby and the Lost Land. Are you interested? " I replied "Yes why not?"

Kirby. My relationship with that bloody pink ball created by Masahiro Sakurai is the exact representation of most clichés overused of the Smash and Nintendo communities: those "Smash fans don't know any other game " and especially "Nintendo only makes games for children", a stereotype that I hate to the utmost and that occasionally leads me to respond in a rather heated way during a discussion, but which in the end I was legitimizing because I snubbed this series with the classic elitist attitude. Aware of this, and curious to experience firsthand the colorful and carefree atmospheres of this "unexplored world" and in contrast to most of the releases that arrived in March 2022, I picked up the controller and immediately started taking notes and playing . Unaware of the fact - and I can already imagine the faces of the Kirby-Stans of the first hour laughing under his breath - what the experience would be pleasant but far from a stroll.

A new world in 3D

Kirby and The Lost Land opens with a sharp rift between "the old Kirby" and this new interaction. Away with the fairytale landscapes of the Popstar planet, this time the pink ball will be teleported to a territory it creates dissonance and which by pure irony represents the situation of HAL Laboratory during the development of this game. In a recent interview released by Nintendo to some key development members, the General Director Shinya Kazumaki spoke of the difficulties in developing a main chapter of the series that fully exploited the three-dimensional formula.

Looking back throughout the history of Kirby's games, there was a time when we couldn't get certain game concepts to work. As a result, no new Kirby main series games have been released for more than a decade. We kept bumping into a wall that we couldn't get over.

From there, we decided to apply a "trial and error" approach to the creation of game prototypes. We experimented with unconventional gameplay directions while developing relatively smaller series games to gradually explore Kirby's 3D platforming concept. However, there were still many specific difficulties to overcome. Some colleagues at HAL Laboratory even thought that only 2D games could be considered "real" Kirby games, so we couldn't get to the point where we could make a full 3D Kirby main series platformer.

If I had to buckle a metaphor to the path that led HAL Lab to the release of Kirby and The Lost Land, I would say that the post apocalyptic lands represent the Platform 3D genre. Alt! This view of mine is not to be misunderstood as "Derogatory", as if the whole genus were an abandoned wreck. Quite the contrary, in the last 20 years this genre has been able to adapt to new technologies and to produce excellent titles and in the case of Nintendo we are talking about a company that has now become the very synonym of Platform (in most cases, but I do not think that now is the time to quote Chibi Robo Zip-Lash).

Within this context, this new chapter of Kirby is called to his own fire test and to propose a convincing formula, surrounded by the ruins and remains of those who arrived long before him. Will he have made it? Let's find out.

Super Kirby 64

Once the short but well-executed tutorial is finished - which in addition to allowing the player to become familiar with the controls and game mechanics offers a nice opening cutscene complete with an exploratory-themed soundtrack - you are catapulted into the City of the Waddle Dee, the central hub dedicated to enhancement of their skills, to the performance of various extra attività and completism. City that initially has very little to offer and that Kirby and the player will have to repopulate going through the various levels of the game map, in search of the Waddle Dee captured by Beast Pack, the band of wild animals that dominate these lands.

Contrary to what many thought during the first announcement, Kirby and the Lost Lands is structured like a classic 3D platformer, with a progression of levels that follows the classic pattern go from point A to point B. A definition as true as it is unfair to the work done by HAL Laboratory, which has managed to render every single level unique and fun, pushing the limit to the limit gimmick that every biome is able to propose. Urban environments? Roads to go through, hydroelectric power stations to navigate and skyscrapers to furrow; the polar cold? Abandoned villas and subways; Luna Park? Roller coasters, horror houses and chariot parades. In short, it is evident that the development team has worked a lot on the sense of wonder of this adventure, enriching it with secret goodies, blueprints for new skills, challenges to conquer and hidden Waddle Dee accessible only to those who manage to master all of Kirby's skills.

And speaking of the skills of the pink ball, to the traditional ones transformations obtainable by aspiring enemies as the worst of the pests from sci-fi horror movies, in this new iteration the Boccamorfosi, and who carry the item parasitic previously exposed to the next level, touching "" the uncanny valley "". Yet, despite these words of mine reveal a certain disgust towards the aesthetic rendering of this mechanic, the Boccomorphosis and what it entails with regard to the design of the levels were one of the surprises of this title.

And in order not to miss anything, the game offers several timed challenges within the countless Streets of the Treasury scattered around the map, and requiring the maximum speed and precision in the inputs to be completed. Completing one of these sections is followed by obtaining a Star fragment and additional coins, necessary to obtain new skills more and more powerful.

Unfortunately, this abundance of creativity, skill and fun collides with one scarcity of enemies and secondary bosses, to the point that they are the most forgettable part of the whole experience. The variety tends to go towards the endgame, but 70% of the time they will face the same enemies of the first areas of the game. In short, a small sore point that might not have occurred if the team had thought of some enemy so different, but still able to lead back to the abilities obtainable.

Different speech for the end biome boss fight, which for charity are neither Artorias nor Shara Ishvalda and in general in difficulty reflect the target of the product, but are funny. The situation changes slightly when completeness comes into play, with objectives focused on exploring the weaknesses of one's opponents and trying to end the fight not only in the shortest possible time, but also without suffering damage.

In general, Kirby and The Lost Land offers a varied gameplay that - net of some flaws and imperfections - has managed to convince me and which in my opinion plays its role as a Kid's first Devil May Cry in the best way. Honorable mention for the Co-op mode present immediately, and which allows friends and family to join the ignorant fistfights through local multiplayer.

Kirby Impact 3rd

In the face of astandard experience Over a full 9 hours, Kirby and The Lost Land's replayability varies from player to player. Once the objectives offered by the 25 traditional levels and beyond 40 treasure routes, the title of HAL Laboratory wisely exploits the reuse of game assets to pack a nice post-game tostarello, where the player - to avoid particular spoilers - is called to retrace the various game worlds under a completely new guise. Nothing to do with madness Inverted mode di Crash Bandicoot 4, rather it can be interpreted as a best of the worlds explored so far, short-lived but with a repositioning of collectibles and enemies and with enhanced and even more exciting boss fights. It all ends with a climax that further expands the lore of the Kirby universe and that I admit, it increased my interest in the series itself once explored in detail (a bit for the narrative that plays on unspoken and on the apparent pucciosità of the protagonists).

And the clashes do not end here, on the contrary. Within the Waddle City it is possible to take part in Colosseum tournaments, boss rushes of varying duration and difficulty that test the player's technicality and resilience, and with additional coins, star fragments and figurine. The latter represent the piece of the nineties as far as collecting is concerned off the platfrom gameplay. Of the 256 figurines, depicting most of the characters, enemies and items, most can be obtained by selling the soul to the blindfolded goddess of fortune and spending hundreds of coins inside the Gatcha machines divided into 4 sets and the cost that will gradually increase. Fortunately, it is possible to achieve everything in a short time and with minimal credit loss, as the completion of the various levels and tournaments reward the player with a high amount of coins.

Through the completion of the activities offered within the various structures scattered around the city, or the completion of particular objectives, it is possible to obtain some special and necessary stickers to aim for the much coveted 100%, to the delight of one's carpal tunnel and the keys of the controller.

 

Squishy Softy Style

On the technical side, Kirby and The Lost Land is slightly swinging. Not his fault, mind you, unfortunately Nintendo Switch is the console it is and can't handle one crazy pink ball exceeding the threshold of 30 frames per second and certainly you are not in front of the open world jaw-breaker headline and it doesn't necessarily have to be. All these flaws are offset by the phenomenal art direction, able to return that already mentioned sense of wonder symbol of the Lost Land and that make this game a real joy for the eyes of any Nintendo Switch owner. Beside him, an incredible soundtrack. The Ogasawara / Ando / Ishikawa / Shimooka quartet alternates tracks quiet and nice to epic pieces and able to load a thousand and identify the player even more during the fiercest boss fights.

"And here we are! "

And here we are, at the end of this amazing journey into the new world of Kirby and HAL Laboratory. Summing up Kirby and the Lost Land is an exquisite game that has managed to resonate with my palate in several moments. In a period in which most of the discussions around the videogame medium revolve around titles focused on difficulty and hardcore experience, the latest adventure of the pink ball of the Nintendo family is a pleasant breath of fresh air capable of satisfying everyone. . But most of all, represents a great starting point for the development of the next games in the franchise, marking a point of no return and raising a bar that the HAL guys will have to overcome at any cost!