Throughout Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby encounters the Beast Pack: a new group of villains that are set on kidnapping all the Waddle Dees who have recently arrived. Kirby is tasked with rescuing the Waddle Dees, who then go on to restore Waddle Dee Town. As to why they are being taken in the first place, Kirby and players don't know for a majority of the game, but the real reason goes to a deeper, darker place than just giving the player something extra to collect. Spoilers for Kirby and the Forgotten Land ahead.
Kirby has plenty of Waddle Dees to save across the many levels of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, totaling 300. The end of each stage rewards Kirby with three, but anywhere from four-to-eight more are offered via optional course objectives. These can range from finding a Waddle Dee in a hidden location to collecting a certain number of food items, or even beating a boss with a specific copy ability. Collecting Waddle Dees is fun on its own, but doing so rewards Kirby greatly.
First and foremost, rescuing Waddle Dees helps to restore Waddle Dee Town, which is full of buildings to help Kirby on his journey. Locked beyond specific Waddle Dee requirements are shops that grant Kirby healing items and stat boosts, as well as mini-games that provide star coins to spend and Rare Stones to upgrade Kirby's copy abilities. It is beneficial to unlock these buildings as soon as possible.
Beyond this, saving Waddle Dees in each stage unlocks Treasure Road stages, which are completed for even more Rare Stones. Finally, a certain number of Waddle Dees must be rescued in each world to unlock the boss, so progression through the game is restricted without saving at least some of them. The Waddle Dees must be saved, but why they are being taken in the first place remains a mystery for some time.
At Kirby and the Forgotten Land's climax, Kirby defeats King Dedede after he is hypnotized by the Beast Pack, and then heads to the previously hidden Lab Discovera. Lab Discovera contains the head of the beast pack, Leongar, who is revealed to also be hypnotized by Fecto Forgo; the other half of Kirby's ally Elfilin. Fecto Forgo's goal is to utilize the Beast Pack to capture the Waddle Dees so they can power the facility, as well as find Elfilin to regain its power to travel between and conquer dimensions.
While exploring Lab Discovera, Waddle Dees are seen in the background, powering the lab by running on hamster wheels. The Kirby series is no stranger to unexpectedly dark plot twists, however, Forgotten Land's twist signifies Fecto Forgo as a significant threat. It is clearly a villain that has no qualms destroying dimensions to gain power, even if it means enslaving a whole species from another dimension to do so. Saving the Waddle Dees connects to saving Elfilin and stopping Fecto Forgo's interdimensional conquest, so Kirby has all the more incentive to do so.
Even though the Waddle Dees are not in a favorable position, it is nice to see them having a larger role in a Kirby story, as opposed to being the Kirby equivalent of Super Mario's Goombas. Players needn't worry much as, despite its darker imagery, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a creative and cheerful adventure for the majority of its runtime.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available now on Nintendo Switch.