I went into 2022 like many others did, cautiously, and with an exhaustion that came from having endured genuinely world-altering events for a long time prior. For many, January brought with it a collective feeling of uncertainty, as we all slowly tip-toed out of the shadows and looked forward to the approaching light of Spring.
The first big releases of the year helped set the tone for what would follow. Elden Ring swallowed up most of the gamers I knew, and went on to spit them out triumphant heroes, reshaped by hundreds of hours of sheer adversity. Sifu did something similar by reforging its players with an onslaught of fists, bottles and sticks. We all grieve differently, however, and it was actually Nintendo's pinkest and roundest mascot that ended up giving me the hope I needed to push on with the rest of the year.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land begins as many games do, with utter chaos and destruction brought on by swirling black portals and an ever-smirking villain. For all intents and purposes, everything that Kirby knows is ripped from him in these opening moments, before he too is sucked up into the stormy skies. He lands with a hollow thump, and sits for a moment looking around at the strange broken world that he now inhabits. There's a split second where it looks as though he might break down, but no, this Kirby we're talking about here. With a wobbly bounce Kirby thrusts himself forward, swallows an entire car, and triggers what is surely the feel-good gaming moment of this year.
For those who didn't play, or even worse, those that did and skipped it, the cutscene that opens Kirby and the Forgotten Land involves a road trip. Perhaps that's underselling it, as it's important to point out that this particular road trip (and all road trips worth their salt) is soundtracked by an original song complete with full lyrics, rising strings and even subtitles so that you can sing along.
With his own theme blasting from nearby radios, Kirby rockets down a long stretch of highway, with his shiny pink head bobbing as he goes. He stops at a crossing to let some ducklings pass, he looks up, his eyes wide and curious, at ruined towers that shine like jewels in the sunlight. Kirby may only be a pink orb with a face drawn on it, but he's also a living reminder that well, Nintendo are bloody good at this, aren't they?
Leave it to Nintendo to once again offer up a slice of pure sunshine at the exact moment we all needed it. I enjoyed the heck out of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and not just for its excellent combat, its surprisingly fun boss battles. No, the reason this game stuck with me all year long was because while playing, I felt like everything just might be okay after all.