Since Kirby’s debut in 1992, most of his games have started out cute and cuddly only to unveil some monstrous, Lovecraftian horror at their conclusion. It’s an oft-memed pattern we’ve come to expect out of every instalment. But the pink puffball’s latest outing, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, still managed to lull me into a false sense of security before ripping away its adorable veneer, and I think we should talk about it.
As usual, I’m going to insert a big, ugly graphic before we get to the good stuff for those of you who inexplicably clicked on a story about Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s ending while also being worried about having its ending spoiled. I’m sure it’s only a handful of folks but seriously what the heck are you even doing here? Go finish the game and come back later, you confusing people.
It’s clear from the outset that Kirby and the Forgotten Land has sinister underpinnings. Our eponymous protagonist is ripped from his reality into a different dimension by a tear in the fabric of spacetime, which unceremoniously spits him out into a world that’s endured some sort of life-altering apocalypse.
Still, the strength of Kirby’s cuteness is enough to make even abandoned shopping malls and derelict oil rigs seem happy-go-lucky, and you soon stop worrying about the unknown tragedy that made them that way.
Kirby’s main goal throughout Forgotten Land is to save the captured Waddle Dees who were pulled through the wormhole with him, but it’s not until the end of the game that you find out why the animals who now rule the post-apocalyptic world want them. Turns out, hundreds of Kirby’s friends are being used to power a scientific facility on hamster wheel-like contraptions.
Upon entering the laboratory, a cheery recording explains through the facility’s intercom that it was built to house ID-F86, an “ultimate life-form” from off-planet that invaded the world of Forgotten Land long before the events of the game.
“From the moment ID-F86 arrived on our planet, it began a campaign of destruction that threatened the native wildlife of our entire world,” the voiceover says. “Luckily, our research team managed to capture it before it could complete its invasion. Once it was contained, our lab began studying ID-F86’s spatial teleportation ability, research that laid the groundwork for the planetary warp technology we enjoy today.”
The narrator then grows more serious, detailing an ominous-sounding “warp-experiment incident” that saw ID-F86 grow dormant. It’s here that Kirby meets the leader of the animals who rounded up his friends, a gigantic lion named Leongar. Another bit of expository dialogue reveals that the people of Forgotten Land’s world used ID-F86’s powers to enter a “land of dreams,” leaving all wildlife behind. As such, Leongar and his followers hope to awaken the alien and reunite with the people who abandoned them.
It should go without saying that a fight ensues. Kirby defeats Leongar, only to see the lion monarch possessed by the seemingly docile ID-F86. Again, the pink puffball wins, sending Leongar crashing through ID-F86’s holding cell and inadvertently freeing the captured monster. Its plans ruined, ID-F86 fully awakens and curses Kirby for interfering before proclaiming, “EVERYTHING. SHALL BE. CONSUMED.” And then it does just that, devouring Leongar and several animals who had rushed to the king’s aid to become, well, this:
Yep, one of the final bosses in Kirby and the Forgotten Land is basically The Thing.
Where the slimy Fecto Forgo falls on the spectrum of “creepy Kirby shit” depends on your own tolerance for blood-curdling monstrosities, of course. But I think we can all agree this unholy amalgamation is just as awful as the body horror of King Dedede’s stomach mouth in 1997’s Kirby’s Dream Land 3 or the Biblically accurate, “be not afraid” arse angel boss waiting at the end of 2000’s Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is everything I want out of the franchise, with chill platforming and surprising challenges to attempt for those left unfulfilled by said chill platforming. And the story, while barebones, culminates in a satisfying turn from the cute to the hideous, as all Kirby games should, without veering into the overwrought creepypasta nonsense of an Eversion or a Pony Island.
Plus, seeing Kirby tackle these foes really makes you respect his mental fortitude. Would other Nintendo heroes like Mario or Link be able to face down the same horrors and walk away smiling? I don’t think so.