Interview Kirby Mouse Attack, pt. 1


12/06/2007

Unless you speak fluent Japanese, chances are slim that you ever read any of the in-depth interviews at Nintendo Online Magazine.

Today we make thing a little easier, and present you with a fully translated interview with the development team behind the upcoming Kirby Mouse Attack. But first, let's present the participants...

The Kirby Mouse Attack Development Team

Atsushi Kakuta - Planning Department, Supervisor, HAL Laboratory, Inc.

Masanobu Yamamoto - Character Production, HAL Laboratory, Inc.

Kenshiro Ueda - Supervisor, Nintendo

Your humble interviewer for today is the chief editor of Nintendo Online Magazine.

NOM: "I must confess that whenever I see Kirby running around his world, I completely forget about playing the game and think: "Awww... Isn't he cute?" There is just something undeniably lovable about Kirby. But don't let Kirby's cute appearance deceive you - Kirby Mouse Attack is no pushover. The combination of charming visuals and challenging gameplay is what makes the Kirby series so irresistible. I spoke to the developers behind the latest Kirby title which overflows with a charm that is all its own."

A painstakingly-crafted classic platformer

NOM: "In comparison to your last title, Kirby: Power Paintbrush, which centred around the use of the DS stylus, this title is more conventional in style."

Kakuta: "Kirby Mouse Attack is something of a return to first principles; we wanted to add elements to the gameplay which would both deepen its appeal as a platform game while also pushing the boundaries of Kirby's world. We wanted to produce a classic horizontal scrolling platform game, while at the same time enhancing the fun by making the game world itself interactive, responding to Kirby's actions in a whole range of ways."

NOM: "After all this time, I thought it was great to be playing a platform game using the + Control Pad again!"

Kakuta: "I'm glad you enjoyed it! We began development of this title at around the time the DS was first announced. It was clear at the time that there would be a whole host of games coming out that would make use of the unique capabilities of the DS. But we believed that by the time this title was due for release, there would be plenty of players who were going to want to enjoy more conventional games as well."

NOM: "There is something about the cute atmosphere of this game that I can see appealing to people regardless of their age or gender."

Yamamoto: "Kirby Mouse Attack is by no means a game designed just for young children. Rather, we have tried to develop a platform game that a complete novice can also enjoy. The popularity of the DS is not restricted to any particular age group or gender, so I really hope that Kirby is a game that will be enjoyed by female players, as well as by older people who have never played video games before. I would like to see them playing Kirby together with their children and grandchildren."

Kakuta: "The big advantage of platform games is that they are rich in pointers and signs. The controls are very easy to grasp even when you play them for the first time. On top of that, we have designed Kirby Mouse Attack so there are numerous ways to complete the same stage and the player can choose the one that suits their style of play. To give one extreme example, you could conceivably jump your way through levels without fighting any enemies.

NOM: "Now you mention it, that's true! (laughter) But at their heart, Kirby titles have always had a challenging aspect to their gameplay."

Ueda: "Absolutely. While Kirby has the ability to copy his enemies' powers, you can still play the game without using this ability, keeping Kirby in his original state. But this isn't to say that the levels are by any means easy to complete. I also oversaw the testing and debugging process for the game, and I can tell you that there are levels where we've come up with some really tricky obstacles that will have players tearing their hair out! I think fans of the Kirby games will be able to appreciate these parts though."

Yamamoto: "I believe we have come up with a game that will really appeal to a wide variety of players. In a sense, through playing this game, the players will be engaged in a kind of dialogue with the developers, even if it is not a direct one."

NOM: "The graphics when the 2D Kirby is turning this way and that are superb. But didn't you have the choice at the start of using 3D graphics?"

Ueda: "We discussed this issue at the early stages of development. There were those who said that with the DS hardware, 3D graphics were an option. But this also entailed a consideration of issues such as how big to make Kirby in relation to the screen.

Kakuta: "In this game, the entire game environment reacts to Kirby's actions, a concept that we had in place from the start. For that reason, quite a large area surrounding Kirby has to be visible on screen to allow the interactive nature of the game world to be appreciated fully. This basically meant that Kirby's size in relation to the screen has to be about the same as it was on the Game Boy Advance version. Because of this, we wondered whether it was really necessary to render this small Kirby figure in 3D. This was the thought process behind our decision to keep Kirby in two dimensions."

Yamamoto: "On top of that, there are things which can only really be realised successfully using pixel art. Creating computer sprites with 2D pixel art really requires a craftsman's skill and attention to detail. Each image must be painstakingly drawn while considering the position and colour of every single pixel. When everything is successfully condensed into one whole, you can get a character with all the appeal of a sports team's mascot."

Change the world with Kirby's copy abilities!

NOM: "This title sees the addition of new copy abilities to Kirby's repertoire. Please tell us more about these."

Kakuta: "Well, these include the Animal ability, which lets Kirby burrow underground, as well as Metal which makes Kirby invulnerable to enemy attacks. Also, by adding the Bubble ability which allows Kirby to store copy abilities which can then be used to create new ones, we have made fundamental changes to the core gameplay mechanism."

Yamamoto: "The Metal ability makes you invincible, which can come in very handy"

Kakuta: "That's our special gift to the player! (laughter) But when you come to battle the bosses, it may actually turn into a disadvantage. You can suffer damage while your attacks are rarely that effective. As for Bubble, when we were thinking of how to utilise the DS Touch Screen, we hit upon the idea of Kirby being able to use foam to stock up on copy abilities by enclosing enemies in a bubble."

NOM: "The graphical design of the new copy abilities really grabs the player's attention."

Yamamoto: "With the Bubble ability, it was difficult to know what form Kirby should take when using it. Foam and bubbles obviously have no fixed shape and that caused all sorts of trouble for us. So we made Kirby wear a kind of ring-shaped shower cap [used by children in Japan when they wash their hair to keep the soap out of their eyes, Ed.]. Then someone would argue: "But Kirby doesn't have any hair!" And someone else would respond: "Yes, but think about the soap! If it gets in his eyes, it's going to hurt!" (laughter) This kind of shower cap is something that's completely normal to people of our generation, but we were concerned it wasn't really used by people nowadays. We ended up checking shop windows to see if they still existed..."

Ueda: "Yamamoto-san, why are you looking at me while you say this?" (laughter)

Kakuta: "As far as Kirby's copy abilities were concerned, we were determined to make each one of sufficient quality that you could take any one of those abilities and base an entire platform game on it. We didn't want players to try out the copy abilities and get the impression that we had just thrown them together."

Ueda: "Whenever we saw each other, we would discuss ideas for copy abilities. At times, two ideas were suggested that were quite similar. We would always select the one which would be the most easy to grasp and fun for the player to use."

NOM: "Kirby fans will no doubt be pleased to see many familiar copy abilities making a reappearance."

Kakuta: "We have actually subtly enhanced all of the copy abilities. For instance, the Ice ability can now freeze lava, while the Ninja has become able to walk on water."

NOM: "It makes you want to retry the same levels again and again, each time using different abilities."

Kakuta: "This connects very closely to what we were discussing just now, which is the theme of making Kirby and the game environment interact. We didn't merely want the game world to respond with one set pattern; rather, we wanted it to react in many different ways depending on which copy ability the player uses. This time round you can store copy abilities, so I really want players to enjoy trying them all out. That reminds me: when you are mixing and matching copy abilities, be sure to listen closely to the sound effects!"

Yamamoto: "On the DS Touch Screen, you use the finger icon to mix and match abilities or make items. It's important to pay attention to the pitch of the sound effects which changes depending on how long you spend mixing. Also, if you keep an eye on the colour of the soap bubbles as you are mixing, you may even get some idea of which item you are going to come up with."

Ueda: "Sometimes trying out a mix of two copy abilities, which might not be useful by themselves in that particular situation, can lead to the discovery of a really great ability."

Come back soon for part 2 of this interview!

Kirby Mouse Attack will be in shops June 22, only on Nintendo DS.