For the three or four people on the planet who don't know, Yuji Naka is the former head of Sega's Sonic Team and had a hand in the creation of the Mega Drive Sonic releases. He was also heavily involved in the creation of NiGHTS Into Dreams for the Sega Saturn before leaving the team to pursue other projects.
Now Naka-san is in charge of his own game development company Prope and after unleashing the Wii title Let's Tap last year, he's set to release Wii and DS retail versions of his newest creation Ivy the Kiwi? later this summer in North America.
After getting the opportunity to play both versions of the game, it's now safe to say that both games are virtually the same as far as the actual core game goes. The visuals are obviously of a higher quality on the Wii version, but the stylus and touchscreen seemed to offer a slightly more intuitive gameplay experience overall.
Your goal in the game is to help Ivy the Kiwi reach the podium at the end of each level. To accomplish this you'll have to use the Wii Remote and Stylus to draw vines that will guide and propel Ivy along the many platforms in the game. Of course you'll also have to use these same vines to keep Ivy away from the many dangers strung throughout the game such as spikes, bottomless pits, and rats.
You'll quickly learn the ropes of how to control the vines, such as what angles to draw them at in order to keep Ivy's momentum moving forward, to bumping the vines up in order to make her jump into the air. You can even grab onto the middle of an already-drawn vine and use it like a slingshot to shoot Ivy high into the air. The Wii version even allows you to bring in up to three other players to help you draw vines and guide Ivy along if you find yourself having trouble playing the game as a solo experience.
And if you're looking to make things a bit more competitive in the Wii version of the game, you can play with up to four players in a split-screen race to the podium to see who can guide their Ivy the Kiwi to the end-of-level podium first. You can even draw vines on other player's sections of the screen in order to hinder and slow them down. Of course you'll still have to keep track of your Ivy the Kiwi on your own screen as well.
The DS version of the game eliminates the co-op play, but there is still the 4-player race to the podium mode if you've got some friends with a DS system and the game. Instead of split screen, each player's DS screen will be their playing field and the other player's Ivy will be projected as a transparent figure on the other player's screens so that they can track their progress and the current location of the other players in the race. Other than these small changes, the Wii and DS games are fairly similar, especially as a single-player experience.
While reaching the goal can be your one objective, there are a few reasons to keep you coming back to levels after you've completed them including attempting to gather up all 10 feathers hidden around each level, not to mention beating your previous time. And with 50 regular levels and 50 bonus levels that are unlocked after beating the game, there's plenty to keep you busy.
Visually and musically you'd be hard-pressed to find a more unique or endearing game than Ivy the Kiwi?. The gorgeous storybook visuals do a fantastic job of forming the game's many levels and telling the story, and the soothing musical tracks are the perfect fit to the action taking place throughout each level. It's also nice to see such a large amount of variety between the various worlds, from both a visual and musical standpoint. It's clear that a lot of passion was put into the game's audio/visual presentation and it really pays off in the finished product.
The game's creator Yuji Naka was kind enough to take time out of his busy E3 schedule to answer a few of our questions about the game and you can find out what he had to say in the exclusive Nintendo Life interview below.
Nintendo Life: How did you come up with the idea for Ivy the Kiwi? in the first place?
Yuji Naka: Prope is always looking for new ways to create a game using new technologies and this was originally actually an experiment done by some of our young employees. I saw it and thought there was a lot of potential in it so we decided to make it into a company project and from there it became Ivy the Kiwi?.
NL: Why was the decision made to develop the game for both the Wii and DS systems?
YN: Originally we started out creating it for the Wii and we noticed that with this type of gameplay, the longer the players would play the game the better and better they'd get at it. After a certain point we thought that maybe we could use this for the DS and we tried it out as an experiment. It seemed like it was going to work well so from there we just kept tweaking it and making it better and it just turned into the DS version we now have.
NL: In Japan, parts of these two games were made available on WiiWare and DSiWare. Will we see these downloadable versions of the game made available in the US or Europe?
YN: We're looking into it right now, but we're still not sure if we can bring it over to the US or Europe right now.
NL: Any plans for a sequel if the game sells well?
YN: If it sells really well we might eventually make a sequel, but right now we're actually involved in another action title so we'll likely not work on a sequel any time soon.
I'd like to personally thank Kyla Keefe for setting this demo and interview session up and also Yuji Naka for taking the time to answer a few questions.