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Month Of Kirby: Kirby's Lost Levels

Posted by Lee Meyer

Kirby's Cancelled Curse?

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/

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User Comments (41)

absuplendous

#1

absuplendous said:

Losing that animated, storybook-like game (presumably represented in the lattermost screenshot)... that hit me right in the gut. Last-Blade-3-canceled tier hurt. Kirby's never looked more in his element than in that screenshot, and considering how solid most Kirby games are (visually or otherwise), that's really saying something.

SparkOfSpirit

#2

SparkOfSpirit said:

I'm disappointed that they never pursued the 3D one sinply because Kirby has never had a proper 3D adventure yet. I think it's about time now, isn't it?

torotoid64

#6

torotoid64 said:

YES MONTH OF KIRBY <3 personally Kirby Super Star was my favorite game return to dreamland is so close though it's the magic Super Star had and while not his debut Meta Knight became a solidified character :3

HyperSonicEXE

#8

HyperSonicEXE said:

I agree on the storybook look of that image being the best. Dunno how I feel about that lifebar, and the clipping could use some work, but that's a very solid art style for the series.

KDL3 and K64 were too light, and Air Ride and RtDL/TD are too defined and busy.

With some fluorescent colors and whimsical patterns and elements like the ones in Kirby's Adventure, this would be perfect.

NintyMan

#9

NintyMan said:

The three cancelled Kirby games mentioned at the end would have all been excellent games. That artsy screenshot looks great. I especially like the idea of a true, free-roaming 3D Kirby game. At least Kirby is still getting excellent games.

supermario182

#10

supermario182 said:

in a time were we desperately need some fresh 3d platform type games, that kirby game could surely be awesome

KeithTheGeek

#11

KeithTheGeek said:

All three of the final canceled Kirby games that would eventually become Return To Dream Land (or Adventure Wii, if you prefer) would have been awesome, imo. I'm a huge Kirby fan, and occasionally I'll go back and watch that old GCN trailer again. Honestly, I think that one looked a bit more fun than RTDL is.

Of course, what really pains me is the loss of 3D Kirby. I've been kicking around a few ideas in my head for such a game for a while now, and when I saw that screenshot come up in an Iwata's Asks...man, that was painful. It looked exactly how I imagined it.

Storybook Kirby looks interesting also, but aside from the art style it lacks the inherent intrigue of a 3D Kirby or the fleshed out presentation of that older trailer. Still, though, I'm sure it would have been great.

GloverMist

#12

GloverMist said:

I love finding out about cancelled games and what they could've been! In fact, this just serves to remind me that I need to play more Kirby games!
As far as I'm aware, that four-player game was one of the many early iterations of Kirby's Adventure Wii! It went though a lot, apparently!

BoltedArc

#16

BoltedArc said:

It seems all we do these days is wait for things to come out or reminisce of the good old days. Nintendo just hasn't gotten the message yet. They are willing to put there flagship console on the chopping block for their handheld and those that bought the wiiu are getting tired.

retro_player_22

#17

retro_player_22 said:

If only we get Kirby no KiraKira Kids (Kirby's Super Star Stacker) for NA. That was the best original Kirby puzzle game for the Super NES. I was surprised they didn't even bother putting that one in the Kirby Anniversary Collection for Wii.

NintyMan

#18

NintyMan said:

I think the low quality argument against a 3D Kirby game is a poor excuse. If it's poor quality, then work on it. Make it better. Don't just give up. A 3D Kirby game would be entirely possible to make.

JaxonH

#19

JaxonH said:

@DestinyMan

Sometimes it's not that simple. Sometimes the game is just fundamentally, well, boring. If a few changes are all that's needed to make a game great, I'm sure that's the chosen course of action. But you know when a company like Nintendo scraps a game for low quality, it's for good reason. Most likely the game was completly unsalvageable.

bizcuthammer

#20

bizcuthammer said:

If they made a 3D Kirby game in the vein of Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie games, i'd actually consider playing a Kirby game for the first time in about a decade. The Kirby formula has been so overdone and after Kirby 64, i just lost interest.

Dr_Corndog

#22

Dr_Corndog said:

I tend to forget about Kirby due to Nintendo having so many other great franchises. But Kirby's Adventure and Kirby 64 are a couple of fantastic games.

Bolt_Strike

#23

Bolt_Strike said:

I'd like to see them revisit the idea of a 3D Kirby game, it would be really neat to play.

unrandomsam

#24

unrandomsam said:

Everybody seems to have a constantly work on sequels.

I quite like Air Ride and Dream Course. Really liked Adventure Wii (Return to Dreamland) but I am not bothered for another just yet the delay was about right last time.

Steveovig

#25

Steveovig said:

That Gamecube game looks amazing! Reminds me of WarioLand Shake It. Why couldn't Nintendo adopt that style with more games?

LexKitteh

#26

LexKitteh said:

I've always thought the Wii U Gamepad would be too perfect for Kirby Tilt n Tumble 2. I really hope the project is moved to Wii U but that would make too much sense for Nintendo :P

DESS-M-8

#27

DESS-M-8 said:

Nintendo really need to do some projects that pull up and away from looking like the trademark nintendo visuals in sharper HD. Big bold colours on rounded chubby characters only need minimal hardware to look good. They need to drive 2-3 franchises into the next gen HD era, or a new IP that shows the Wii U isn't just a cartoon game machine.

I'm looking at Zelda, Metroid and F-Zero or a new IP.

Stop giving us relentless twee looking games. You're forcing your 13yrs+ gamers to look elsewhere

Ernest_The_Crab

#28

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@unrandomsam The problem is partially with the fanbase. They always demand sequels. Everytime Nintendo does develop something new, more often than not, their fans complain about them not working on an existing franchise.

Also, Nintendo of America is rather lacking when it comes to advertising new IP.

It ends up being a problem where the majority of new IP's do not sell well AND they get flak for not developing sequels.

JaredJ

#29

JaredJ said:

I always felt that a Kirby Tilt n Tumble game would have been perfect for the Wii using the motion sensing Wii Remote.

FJOJR

#31

FJOJR said:

Kirby Bowl looks like it would be a nice revival paired with today's tilt-sensitive controllers and handhelds.

SheldonRandoms

#32

SheldonRandoms said:

What about that cancelled Kirby game for the CD-I, I think it was called Kirby's 5-star motel. I wonder why they didn't call it hotel?

WalupeachyTime

#34

WalupeachyTime said:

It's strange to think that the team behind the GTA series were going to make a kid friendly game for the Kirby series. I guess it shows the evolution developers go through.

Kirby_Girl

#35

Kirby_Girl said:

Ah yes, I'm familiar with all of these. I think people need to keep in mind that HAL Labs is a second party company with quite a bit on their hands. They've had to take over the steering wheel after Sakurai (in regardes to Kirby games) and have recently had to also go forth without the help of other such companies like Flagship. Translating Kirby into 3D platforming was posing a challenge for them and if played as awkwardly as can be assumed, than we know why it had to be canned for quality. I so desperately want them to revisit the idea though. They certainly aren't afraid to experiment with Kirby that's for sure. As much slack as this franchise gets for playing "all the same", Kirby games have had some of the most unique gameplay that have taken the most advantage of their respected hardware. Even these cancelled titles indicate that as well. Tilt and Tumble, Canvas Curse, Mass Attack, Triple Deluxe, Air Ride, Kirby Super Star, K64, Kirby's Dreamland 3, Amazing Mirror, all play so differently. About the only game I can say is truly a rehash may be Squeak Squad which brought ZERO new elements to the platforming series of Kirby games. Still was fun though. I dream of a day that HAL will be able to translate Kirby and his amazing powers and movesets into 3D platforming!! Who knows what they're working on next. Regardless I can count on it being a wonderfully charming, beautiful looking/sounding, and enjoyable experience!

Kirby_Girl

#36

Kirby_Girl said:

@KeithTheGeek Oh god, that gamecube trailer from years ago is still the stuff of my dreams. Especially as such a big KSS fan, it was basically 3D KSS with what looked like amazing bosses, and 4 player co-op. I mean I can't complain that now it's got MK and Dedede in there as playable characters, but I do miss that idea.

Giygas_95

#38

Giygas_95 said:

I don't like the storybook style honestly...I'm not very big on hand drawn art. For Kirby, I prefer 3D character models.

ThreadShadow

#39

ThreadShadow said:

I absolutely want sequels to Kirby's Dreamcourse (SNES). I can think of names too. Kirby's Dreamcourse 64 (N64), and Kirby's Dreamcourse 3 -Cubed (Gamecube). Too bad they don't exist.
As for ones mentioned here. The last one pictured-"a more traditional Kirby platformer that would feature animated, storybook-like visuals and enhanced copy abilities..." It looks really great and I would buy it even though I'm not that into traditional Kirby games, or most Kirby games for that matter.
Nice article! Would like to see more articles on "lost" games.

Luffymcduck

#40

Luffymcduck said:

They really should make a 3D Kirby one day (a platformer, not a racing game like Air Ride).

Henmii

#41

Henmii said:

They really should do Kirby tilt n tumble 2 on the Wii u!

"They really should make a 3D Kirby one day"

I totally agree!

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