Kirby Triple Deluxe developer Hal Laboratories wants to see a fully-3D entry to the series, similar to Super Mario Galaxy. VG247's Dave Cook spoke with the studio about Kirby's initial creation, his long history of games and what could lie ahead in his future.
Nintendo published Kirby Triple Deluxe earlier this month, and as you can see from our review round-up, the platformer is actually really good. I've been a massive fan of the pink blob for years, as well as a crippled Kirby Pinball Land addict, but I've never had an opportunity to speak to the team behind his games in all my years as a games writer.
When I was offered a chance to ask Hal Laboratories some burning questions, I decided to shift focus away from the 3DS game, because let's face it, you've probably read that same article a million times already this month. I wanted to ask some different questions about who Kirby is, where he came from and more.
Our time was limited, but I hope you Kirby fans out there get some fresh perspective from the answers below, as provided by Kirby Triple Deluxe director Shinya Kumazaki, managing director Yurie Hattori and the team's public relations staff Satoshi Ishida.
On the urban myth that Kirby's abilities were inspired by vacuum cleaners:
Ishida: "I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the concept of Kirby didn’t come from vacuum cleaners. Kirby was designed around a simple circle, the kind of thing anyone can draw, so that he would appeal to a wide range of users."
Hattori: "It’s true that Kirby sucks anything up just like a vacuum cleaner, but he wasn’t modelled on one. At first all he could do was inhale something and then spit it back out, but as the series has grown he’s changed a lot as we’ve added all kinds of abilities and even had him transform into a ball or yarn creation! I think the secret to Kirby’s reception lies in his simple, round and adorable pink design."
On how the Japanese public responded to Kirby's initial reveal in 1992
Ishida (Picture above): "When Kirby was first unveiled in Japan, the simple design and novel play style, where you suck something up and then spit it back out again, hadn’t been seen in any games before. In 2012 we marked the 20th anniversary of Kirby. During this time we’ve released over 20 titles, 100 cartoon episodes and gained the support of a large user base."
Hattori: "One day shortly after the release of Kirby: Triple Deluxe in Japan, I happened to see a little child on the train hugging a Kirby plushy with a big grin on their face. I can still remember how happy they looked. Their mother looked to have been in her 30s, the same generation as me. It just struck me as very humbling that this lady might have played the very first Kirby game, and 20 years later is able to enjoy it again with her own child."
On Kirby's pink colour and how this might have changed gamers' perception of him
Ishida: "We get the impression that Kirby’s pink colour and colourful world are accepted by a wide range of users from different age groups. Of course it really comes down to the combination of the visuals and the basic gameplay elements that we’ve honed to a really fine level; that’s why people really accept it and why, in our opinion, Kirby isn’t overlooked by the gaming community."
Hattori: "Maybe there is a bias against the Kirby IP as a whole with people thinking they are games just for young children. Although we’ve made the games so that even a novice can play them, they aren’t just something that only novices can enjoy.
"We designed the games to have a high degree of freedom so that even core action game fans could play it again and again and still enjoy it. We’ve had core Kirby fans in Japan for a long while, and they have followed the various different play styles we adopted, but there are still going to be people selecting Kirby as their first action game.
"We take the utmost care in making the game so that we meet the needs of both of these groups of users. Because of this, I think if someone thinking it was simply a game aimed at children took a chance and tried it out, they would find it surprisingly deep."
On whether we could see a full 3D Kirby game like Super Mario Galaxy
Kumazaki (pictured above): "We’re really interested in making a fully 3D Kirby game! I suspect there are also more than a few users who’d appreciate being able to freely run around a sprawling map, fighting with copy abilities.
"In one of our previous titles, Kirby Air Ride (seen below), there was a mode called City Trial which saw players racing around a large 3D city area on Air Ride Machines. It definitely showed off how well the combination of the Kirby style action and 3D environment works, so I think it’s certainly a possibility given how much Kirby is capable of!
"The amazing 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS goes really well with 3D action games, as proven with Super Mario 3D Land. We thought this would also work well in a side scrolling action game too, and that we could use this to develop a new play style that made use of 3D effects with a real sense of depth. It was this that led us to create Kirby: Triple Deluxe.
"In Kirby: Triple Deluxe, most of the stages go back into the screen, and so what we’ve created is a new side scrolling action game where enemies come at you not just from back within the screen but also from at the front of it too! We think this area has a lot of potential for expanding on in the future.
"Of course, we’re also continuing to evolve the Kirby series as a whole, and I hope that one of our next challenges will be to produce a Kirby game in full 3D that still maintains the same depth of play our fans have come to expect."
Hattori: "Kirby as a character has such a huge variety of transformations and appearance that of course if there is enough desire from our users, it’s possible he might one day explore a 3D world."
On how HAL Labs comes up with the diverse mechanics in each Kirby game
Kumazaki: "We start by thinking about what the most fun and fresh experience we can get from the hardware is. For example, with the Nintendo DS we made use of the touch screen to deliver a new way to control Kirby and enjoy the game.
"With the Wii, we made use of the Wii Remote and had users shake it to charge up power. We also considered how playing with others on a large screen could work, and added in a multiplayer mode where you could join in or leave whenever you wanted. We expand our ideas as we investigate the features of the hardware and look at new ways of using it.
"Although you can say this is true for any game in the Kirby series, we tend to strike upon our ideas by understanding the features and strengths of the hardware we want to use and then comparing these with the actual appeal of Kirby.
"Kirby sucks up his enemies, copies their abilities, and can even turn into a ball and roll around, making him a character filled with possibilities. Not being bound by previous games in the Kirby series, we can continue to expand on his abilities. Coupled with Nintendo’s hardware, which always has new elements to work with, this allows us to continue to rise to the challenge of developing a new Kirby experience with each title."
On how years of experience have informed Kirby Triple Deluxe's design
Kumazaki: "Kirby: Triple Deluxe includes a number of elements that make use of the features of the Nintendo 3DS, as well as some big changes and new mechanics compared to previous titles.
I think what stands out the most in terms of making use of the hardware features is the design of the stages: we designed them with the 3D effect in mind and split them into multiple layers giving them a real sense of depth. Of course these span the entirety of the game.
"We are really fastidious about the new mechanics appearing in the stages and how to make them look appealing with the 3D effect. Even the Boss battles turn into an action onslaught with all sorts of characters, and attacks that really seem to leap out at you.
"In this instalment we’ve also added Kirby’s strongest power yet: a new power called “Hypernova”. We really scratched our heads to try and find the most Kirby-esque power that has both impact and that will pleasantly surprise players just at a glance.
"That’s really why we focused on Kirby’s main skill; his ability to Inhale. He’s appeared in TV adverts or promotional videos where he consumes a house or city or even the world whole, but we’ve never implemented something like this in the games before. We really wanted to experience this in game as a new power that has impact and that conveys the fun of the series, so we add the new Hypernova power.
"Not only does it look like a powerful suction technique, but there’s also a bit of strategy involved in its use. I think the prismatic colours and all the extra enemies, things that could only be done because of this new move, will really help make the game even more entertaining. I hope you all have fun using Hypernova right from the start of the game all the way through to the climax!
"We’ve also added a mode for players to enjoy multiplayer: Kirby Fighters. Here, up to four players can battle together as Kirby at the same time using copy abilities. I hope you all have fun battling it out to find out which is the strongest ability!
"There’s also a new type of sub-game called Dedede's Drum Dash, a combination of a rhythm and action game. Previous items and characters from the Kirby series will also appear as Keychains collectables. Finally of course there are all the wonderful colourful elements and I think all this together will keep the enjoyment going for a long while."
Are you a Kirby fan? If so, let us hear about it in the comments.