Five years later Kirby: Planet Robobot remains one of the series best

Enjoyed Forgotten Land? Play Kirby: Planet Robobot Next

Kirby has always been popular. It is hard to believe that the franchise is not as revered as some of the other Nintendo heavy hitters. 

When the general consumer thinks of the Nintendo brand in 2022 they think of a few names. Mario, Pokemon, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and maybe Donkey Kong or Splatoon come to mind. Thanks to the success of the Switch some already well-established series have gained even more notoriety. 

I will always tell people that Kirby is not the most prestigious Nintendo series. However, it is the most consistent in terms of quality and one I have grown to appreciate over the years. It is neither underrated nor overrated. I still get the impression that it is tip-toeing on the border of becoming Nintendo’s next mascot franchise. It can follow behind the likes of Mario or Pokemon. 

The cute, kawaii character design makes Kirby easy to promote and experiment in gameplay. Kirby has a healthy amount of spin-offs, many taking advantage of his spherical design.

Kirby Craft Boss

Much like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the latest Kirby game, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, released on the Switch. Since its Spring release, it is already on pace to be the second highest selling in the franchise history. The Nintendo Switch’s large install base has been huge in promoting many brands.

The announcement video for the new Kirby spinoff for the Switch Kirby’s Dream Buffet received millions of views in just a few days. Additionally, when users now click on Nintendo’s official website Kirby is now one of the featured series. He shares the main page with Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing. 

If that was not enough proof that Kirby’s popularity is about to hit new heights, even national chains have gotten involved. Kirby has a limited-time exclusive ice cream flavor at Cold Stone Creamery

This is no doubt due to the recent sales and critical reception of Kirby and the Forgotten Land. To returning fans and curious new ones, this title was special. It was the first main series platformer to go fully 3-D. 

The game is not as ground-breaking as Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in the 90s. Still, Kirby and the Forgotten Land translated the core gameplay seamlessly into a 3-D platformer. The game mechanics are more akin to Super Mario 3D World or Crash Bandicoot in linear gameplay. 

Just like most of the series, it brought along its creative charm, hands-off approach to storytelling, and world-building. It also featured a reasonably difficult main story with a fairly challenging post-game to extend one’s playtime. 

Kirby and the Forgotten Land will automatically be an essential game in the franchise just for breaking new ground in 3-D space. Some fans will say it’s one of, if not, the best in the franchise!  

Having 100% completed it, which is rare for me to do in games, I can see myself agreeing with many of those fans. I, however, tend to take some time to reflect before making those claims. Peoples’ opinions on our media tend to shift as it ages. I remember a distant past when people hated Zelda: Wind Waker and the Star Wars prequels. Perhaps in the near future there will be a newer or better received 3-D entry in Kirby. The general public’s opinion may change. 

Are there other Kirby games on the Switch?

Trio of Kirby Games

For those like myself after finishing their playthrough of Forgotten Land and finding themselves on a Kirby kick, the Switch is the most accessible to scratch that itch. 

If you have a subscription to the Switch online service you’ll have access to many of the Super Nintendo and Nintendo Entertainment System Kirby games. If you paid for the extra expansion you’ll even be able to try Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards via the Nintendo 64 online. 

Forgotten Land was not the first mainline entry from the series to come to the Switch. In early 2018, the Kirby Star Allies launch was met by an apathetic reaction.

This was the fourth in a similar style of 2-D platformers that replicates the gameplay I found perfected in 1996’s Kirby Super Star. The first in this modern era arrived on the Wii in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. This game was followed by Kirby: Triple Deluxe and Kirby: Planet Robobot both on the 3DS. 

Fans found Kirby Star Allies to be fine, but unnecessary. Players were getting tired of the 2-D platformers and the same aesthetic used since 2011. Reaction to Star Allies is likely what added to the overall enthusiasm for Forgotten Land spicing things up. 

I enjoyed Return to Dreamland and liked Triple Deluxe even more. These were great purchases along with my 2DS back in 2014. I originally missed out on 2016’s Planet Robobot. At the time, I was focusing my small gaming budget on PS4 titles such as Uncharted 4 and Overwatch. This was an awkward period between the Wii U’s lack of titles and the Switch’s launch. Over those years I lost some interest in Nintendo. 

Having already played many of the main Kirby console games that were available through Switch Online, my obvious Kirby gaps were either Kirby: Planet Robotot or Kirby Star Allies. Having tried the demo for Star Allies, I wasn’t too impressed with the game’s featured gimmick. It was also tough to get excited by the game performing at thirty frames per second.

I was spoiled by Triple Deluxe’s smooth sixty frames per second. For these types of games, I think the faster frame rate compliments the pick-up and play style. 

I have rarely seen Star Allies or any Switch game get discounted. I wasn’t about to drop $65 on a rare Kirby game I found mediocre. Alternatively, over the years I heard and read internet opinions that not only was Kirby: Planet Robobot great, but some were considering it the best Kirby game yet.

The right time to dust off the 3DS 

It became a game that I put on the wishlist, but too many other pressing needs and other releases distracted me from going back to get it. With Nintendo disabling the ability to easily purchase digital games on the 3DS eshop and my Kirby fever, now was probably time to seek out a copy of Planet Robobot. 

The Nintendo 3DS was a great option to play many Kirby games. It offered many of the original GameBoy games to be downloaded along with great entries made exclusively for the 3DS. Unfortunately, users can no longer purchase these titles easily. Lucky for us, the backward compatibility with the original DS still offers a hefty library of Kirby titles. 

A classic line up on the 3DS

I was fortunate to find a new copy of Kirby: Planet Robobot at my local used game store for only $40. I would have preferred a title pushing five years to be a little more discounted. However, this still beats dropping $60 for Star Allies which is almost as old. 

Was the hype real? Was I better off dropping a bag on another 3DS title missing from my portfolio? I am happy to report that I had a blast playing through Kirby: Planet Robobot! 

Highest quality Kirby gameplay with uncompromising twists in gameplay

As mentioned Kirby: Planet Robobot was the third game in a series of 2-D Kirby platformers that ran off the same engine. Return to Dreamland reintroduced audiences to the traditional Kirby platformer that refined itself to a tee since Super Star.

The common theme through these three and eventually four games is more modern Super Star gameplay with one gimmick to set it apart. Return to Dreamland featured four-player cooperative gameplay. It also added the ability for Kirby to super inhale enemies during certain gameplay sections. 

Similarly, Triple Deluxe featured the HyperNova ability, which was a little more interesting than the super inhale. Triple Deluxe did not feature the four-player co-op gameplay. I would say it is overall a better single-player experience than Wii’s Return to Dreamland. 

Among the four titles in this era of games just based on presentation alone, Kirby: Planet Robobot stands out as the most unique. Ironically, of the four games in that modern 2010s era Robobot sold the least.

Robobot finds Kirby’s home, Planet Popstar being invaded by outsiders who aim to convert all organic life into robots. Players take control of Kirby and must stop this threat. Like many Kirby games, there is more to the story if players seek it out. However, t missing out on some of the deeper world-building plot points never hinders the experience. 

What’s nice about this plot is that the typical level schemes that seasoned platforming gamers will find like the grass, desert, and lava worlds are not present here. Imagine a Kirby in a MegaMan X. 

Also, similar to the game mechanic in MegaMan X, this Kirby’s gimmick is the robot armor. It looks just like the ride armor mech from MegaMan X. In its default mode it plays just like it too. What I found to be one of Robobot’s biggest strengths is that the robot armor does not interrupt the main gameplay. Rather, it enhances it. 

I found the gimmicks in the previous two games forced you to stop to showcase the ability. You’d have a one-shot kill attack on screens or solve simple puzzles. Both were utilized cleverly but after a while, it grew a bit stale. Eventually, I wanted to return back to normal Kirby.

The Robot armor performs similarly to Kirby. It copies the enemies to get the same powers as normal Kirby. Rather than being a situational one trick power-up, the robot armor adds more versatility to the moveses featured in the game. 

All the Kirby modes

This mechanic enhanced over ten of the various copy abilities, many of which returned from Triple Deluxe. The robot armor is occasionally used to solve optional puzzles or to combat bosses. There are a few times when the game forces the armor on you. These missions enter into a flying shoot-em-up level, which is a minor gameplay shift that has been in Kirby since its debut. 

With a few exceptions, the robot armor is not a required feature like the gimmicks were in previous games. This is ironic because I found it to be less intrusive. 

My biggest complaint about Forgotten Land when comparing it to Planet Robobot, or any of the other three games in that style, is that Forgotten Land scales back the number of copy abilities. This is likely because a 3-D game typically has more intense level development and there is generally more to accommodate for. 

Forgotten Land’s copy abilities can also be upgraded during playthroughs, making each one versatile. However, Planet Robobot features many more copy abilities with just as much versatility. With the abilities the Roboarmour can get it is hard not to look back at Forgotten Land and want just a little bit more. 

The game’s soundtrack features remixes of a few classic tunes. A large majority of the tracks are techno and electronic synth sounding to match the cybernetic theme of the story. I was shocked to find this game’s original soundtrack available to stream on Spotify. This is rare for a Nintendo game. 

These seemingly small, but impactful, changes set the game apart from previous Kirby titles.

This is still a traditional Kirby platformer at heart, just one I would say is quite polished. I’m sure a side-by-side comparison with Triple Deluxe could fool many people. 

A traditional Kirby had become an easier-designed 2-D platformer featuring light puzzle and exploration sections. What sets Kirby apart from the rest is the copy abilities one would get from the enemies Kirby can inhale. These modern games took specific elements from Kirby Super Star such as the ability to guard against attacks and making the copying abilities have more than one function much like the capturing mechanic utilized in Super Mario Odyssey. 

Breaking the glass

One of the biggest strengths of the game’s presentation is its utilization of perspective. Its predecessor, Triple Deluxe, similarly had players jump from the foreground and background. Additionally, there are items and challenges that involve keeping an eye on both planes. One thing that stuck out more for me in Robobot is that it is more cinematic than prior Kirby games. 

The camera will pan and rotate around Kirby as he scales mechanical enemy bases. Enemies and bosses also use this trick which makes me wish I was playing on a 3DS with the 3-D slider on.  Not only would it have made it easier to avoid some of these attacks, but it also would make the presentation cooler. It is nice to see that even as Nintendo was moving away from the 3-D aspects of the 3DS that developers still attempted to experiment. 

Kirby Robobot getting ready for take off

Level progression is linear with each world consisting of five to six stages. Scattered throughout every level are three cosmic cubes and various stickers. Technically, progression is determined by how many cosmic cubes are collected through each world. This feature is similar to how resourcing Waddle Dees were in Forgotten Land. 

I could not tell players how many were needed to proceed to each world’s boss. By the time I completed the levels I got most, if not all, the cubes. Players should have no issues finding them even if they skip a few of the puzzles blocking access to them.

Stickers are not as consequential but are still neat to find. Collecting them unlocks stickers of various characters, symbols, and art that players can decorate their robot armor with. They are only simple cosmetics where you can put one on each arm of the robot. With the game being 2.5-D the model of the robot makes it hard to see the sticker of one of the arms. While it is perhaps unnecessary, this charming collectible is still something to get excited about along your journey. 

Sticker collection

Is Planet Robobot the best Kirby game?

Kirby: Planet Robobot clocks in at roughly ten to fifteen hours depending on if you decide to complete it and dabble in some of the side minigames. Ever since Kirby Super Star, Kirby games have had the structure of the main story mode and then players unlock extra challenging modes. These extra modes usually consist of a boss rush or a semi-new game plus. Those that just finished Forgotten Land or have been veterans of the series should be familiar with the process. 

Having played through three other Kirby games this year and knowing there’s a never-ending backlog that needs to be completed, I decided not to 100% finish the game. Going through the main story while casually seeking the collectibles resulted in me achieving 65% according to the game file. 

I enjoyed playing through the base game enough to justify my purchase. When it comes to grading media I tend to avoid the letter or numeric rating scales. I am leaning towards claiming that Kirby: Planet Robobot is on my top five to three Kirby games I played. I can confidently state that of the four modern games it is my favorite. 

Just like legacy players from the Los Angeles Lakers or Beatle albums, there are so many great Kirby games to choose from. Everyone is going to have their own Mount Rushmore and personal favorites. 

However you like to rate your media, S-tier or certified fresh, Kirby: Planet Robobot was well worth its original $40 price. Given the status of the 3DS digital store, I would say for those interested to not be scared off paying a little bit extra for the game. Don’t break the bank, but if you’re able to snag Robobot along with Triple Deluxe for about the same price for Star Allies then I’d jump on that deal. 

Whether you’re a Kirby veteran and somehow forgot this gem, like me, or you are now a bonafide Kirby fan thanks to Forgotten Land, Kirby: Planet Robobot showcases peak classic Kirby gameplay for modern audiences. I’m glad I dusted off my old 2DS to finally play it!

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