In the first of a series of features that'll form a mini Month of Kirby — ahead of the release of Kirby: Triple Deluxe in May — we look at a few games starring the pink mascot that never saw the light of day.
Kirby has had a storied run as one of Nintendo’s most recognizable characters, having appeared in traditional side-scrolling platformers like Kirby’s Dreamland and Kirby’s Adventure, as well as more experimental titles like Kirby’s Dream Course and early DS hit Kirby Canvas Curse. While every Nintendo platform (save for maybe Virtual Boy) has had ample Kirby content, there have been several planned or in-development concepts featuring the small pink ball that haven’t seen the light of day for various reasons. Here are some Kirby games that were cancelled or never made it past the concept stage.
Kid Kirby — SNES
Developed by DMA Design (now Rockstar North)
Today, Rockstar Games is most associated with gaming mega-franchise Grand Theft Auto and other mature, complex titles like Red Dead Redemptionand L.A. Noire. Nintendo’s had occasional support from the company — Bully: Scholarship Edition, Rockstar Table Tennis and Manhunt 2 graced the Wii early in its lifecycle, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was widely acclaimed on the DS — but back in the days of the SNES, the developer was hard at work on a game featuring a young Kirby that would act as a showcase for the SNES Mouse. Unfortunately, the title was never completed due to the peripheral’s limited success.
There is very little in the way of gameplay information available for Kid Kirby. Most of the details about the lost game come from ex-DMA employee Mike Dailly, who posted concept art and assets from Kid Kirby on his Flickr account. Art renders show a little Kirby with a cowlick in a baby crib, dreaming of what appears to be a cupcake. Dailly’s set also shows in-game tile graphics and some level design, which suggest that the the game would have been a puzzle platformer of some kind. Promotional art was sent to retailers, so the game was likely significantly along in development. Whether Kid Kirby would have brought success to the SNES Mouse is debatable; Kirby has always been a gentle, kid-friendly franchise, and adding “Kid” to the name may have turned off some older gamers. Alas, we’ll never know.
Kirby Bowl 64 / Kirby’s Air Ride 64 — Nintendo 64
Developed by HAL Laboratory
One of the earliest titles shown for the “Ultra 64,” Kirby Bowl 64 (named after the Japanese name for Kirby’s Dream Course) was conceived as a racing/rolling game for up to four players, with the objective of knocking the others off the stage. Later retitled Kirby’s Air Ride 64, other modes included a snowboard/airboard race. Perhaps due to the long development time and complex gameplay, this iteration would never be released, leaving Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards to represent the franchise on the N64.
Kirby’s Air Ride resurfaced as a racer for the GameCube in 2003 to a somewhat lukewarm reception. The overly simplified gameplay didn’t resonate with all fans, and it would be the last main-series game that series creator Masahiro Sakurai directed (he still utilises the character in the Smash Bros. series). Sakurai-san cited the pressure to constantly work on sequels as part of the reason for his resignation from HAL Laboratory.
Kirby Tilt ’n’ Tumble 2 — GameCube / Game Boy Advance
Developed by Nintendo/HAL Laboratory (unconfirmed)
Kirby Tilt ’n’ Tumble was the first Game Boy Color title to use motion tilt controls, and Nintendo planned a sequel that would require both the Game Boy Advance and GameCube in order to work. Players would use their GBA as a controller for the GameCube game and tilt their GBA to guide Kirby to the goal on the TV screen. The GBA/GameCube link didn’t take off, however, and development was eventually halted.
At one point, Nintendo made the decision to take the Kirby character out of the title entirely, renaming the game Roll-o-Rama and continuing development, but the coverage for the game slowed and the experimental title was quietly cancelled. With popular titles like Kororinpa and Marble Mania, there could have been a place for this game; unfortunately, the unwieldy GBA/GCN connection proved to be its undoing.
Satoru Iwata’s Lost Kirby Games
In an Iwata Asks interview for the Wii platformer Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Satoru Iwata and his round table colleagues discussed three “lost” Kirby games that were in various stages of development over the course of several years. The first, according to HAL Laboratory’s Shigefumi Kawase, would have featured four-player co-op and was briefly shown at E3 in 2005. Ultimately, it was decided that the logistics were too complicated and the project was scrapped. The next project discussed would have been a fully 3D Kirby adventure, giving the player the ability to roam around freely in levels, but quality concerns led to its cancellation. The third abandoned project was a more traditional Kirby platformer that would feature animated, storybook-like visuals and enhanced copy abilities for the little guy, but development was ultimately halted.
While it’s bittersweet to look back at what could have been, the Kirby series is in a good place. With Kirby: Triple Deluxe, his upcoming appearance in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, and whatever Nintendo has up its sleeve next, the love and care put into each Kirby title ensures that this iconic franchise is here to stay.
Kid Kirby Image Credit — https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikedailly/sets/72157602112466044/
Kirby Bowl 64 Image Credit — http://lostmedia.wikia.com/
Kirby Tilt ’n’ Tumble 2 Image Credit — http://www.unseen64.net/