M.I.A.: Koro Koro Kirby 2

Don’t be melodramatic. Games explode every day. Wonky business decisions, bad development practices, lack of money, a changing market, there are quite a fair few reasons why games get cancelled, and they do get cancelled, quite a lot. Usually you’ll never know about it; NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements) force developers to keep schtumm about their work, even after an ignominious death. But there are few games that get announced with a lot of fanfare and then suddenly disappear never to be seen again. For one horrible, heart-stopping moment I thought the upcoming Super Paper Mario was one of those when it disappeared from the GameCube launch list, but luckily it popped up again as a Wii title.
One title that was less lucky was the late Koro Koro Kirby 2 for the GameCube.

If you’ve never played the GameBoy Color version of Koro Koro Kirby, released in the West as Kirby Tilt’n’Tumble, then you’re a fool. It was a great little game that used a motion sensor in the cart to allow you to balance your Gameboy to control a rolling Kirby around a maze, making him jump with a quick flip upwards of the console. It was surprisingly responsive and fun. I have fond memories of publicly, without shame, playing this game on my Japan-only clear transparent Gameboy Color with a Mr. Driller strap, tongue sticking out in concentration as I held the console as if it was a saucer filled to the brim with liquid gold. Which it was, in a sense. Looking back, though, I realize I must have been a horribly geeky little shit and I probably deserved the many whiplash wounds in my face the Mr. Driller strap caused every time I flicked the GameBoy upwards.. Nonetheless, it was a great game. The nay-sayers could call it gimmicky, which it kind of was, but then, they said that about the DS too. And who says gimmicks aren’t fun? This game was fun.

Nintendo used to organize its own game shows called Spaceworld, avoiding the noisy, stinking Tokyo Game Show. Though Spaceworld was never meant to be a fixture they haven’t done one for years now, in stead organizing the occasional Pokemon Fair or demo road show. Back in 2001 though the launch of the GameCube was just around the corner. Using a clever ruse that wasn’t all together honest I wormed my way into the pre-Spaceworld press event where an excited Messrs. Iwata and Miyamoto showed off the new console and some up-coming titles.

At the press event we got our first glimpse of the new Zelda, “Kaze no takuto” (“Wind Waker”) which just blew my mind. The cartoon style graphics were what I instantly fell in love with and I still prefer them over the recent, admittedly beautiful “Twilight Princess”. But the title that got more stage time was Koro Koro Kirby. The big display screen revealed a 3D environment in which a ball-shaped Kirby was rolling around. A cut-in showed a camera aimed at the hands of a stage hand holding a GBA connected to the GameCube which he was tilting around to control the orientation of the maze on-screen.

After showing Kirby roll around a bit, duplicating, activating a switch or two and jumping, by flipping the GBA upwards, they showed Kirby rolling off the edge of the world. Here is where it got really interesting. On the GBA screen were clouds. A quick-witted player could maneuver the cloud the catch Kirby as he fell off the television and onto the GBA screen. Once safely caught in a cloud, a quick flip of the wrist would hurl him back up to the television where he would bounce back into play. The interaction between the GBA and GameCube was what really excited me. Mr. Miyamoto tried his hand a little but as he was concentrating on speaking he didn’t do too well and laughing humbly handed the GBA back to the stage-hand.

The rest of the press event went on as you’d expect. Afterwards the masses were allowed to play on a few demo machines where this strange new title “Pikmin” was getting some attention, and we all left happily and giddy, excited about the upcoming console and me, particularly, eager to play the new Kirby.

And then…nothing. Not a sausage. It just disappeared from the scene forever.

As mentioned before, there are a lot of reasons a game gets canned, but I can think of a few difficulties that may have helped kill Kirby.

For one, it was totally dependant on both a GameCube and a GameBoy Advance. If you look back on it, all GameCube titles that supported GBA link-up had it as a feature but also provided play for those without the handheld. Zelda Four Swords Adventures, for example, allowed GameCube-only play and used a little GBA screen inlay on the television for when you’d normally use the GBA. Only multiplayer absolutely required it, but a person who bought the game would not be unable to play it anyway. Kirby would have to have massive warnings on the box to warn people they needed both a GameCube and a GBA or the game would be unplayable. And as age limitation warnings have shown us, nobody ever reads the box but people are quick to complain and demand compensation if that lands them in trouble or “corrupts” their kids.

Or maybe the game simply didn’t stand up to Nintendo’s standards. This is a bit odd as those titles usually end up delayed, rather than cancelled, especially since it had been used as a demo for the pre-launch GameCube. That said, Nintendo probably cancel a lot of games, but we simply never heard about them. Cancelling announced games, though, is a fairly big deal.

Other issues may have been at play too. The GameCube/GBA cable was from the pre-WiFi era and an excited player may yank the console off its shelf during hairy, exciting moments. Or, quite simply, maybe the graph that plots cost to profitability just wasn’t steep enough. The GameBoy Color game reportedly didn’t sell as well as it should have, which may have lead to the cancellation. We’ll never know.

The title should work well on the Wii though. Similar tilt titles already exist and the Wiimote seems made for this kind of game, except that the one thing that made the proposed GameCube game so interesting was the interaction between the home- and held-held consoles. Nintendo have talked about integrating some kind of Wii/DS link-up system. The game I envision would use the DS as a controller, a motion-sensor cart in the GameBoy slot, to tilt the on-screen world to roll Kirby around. Again, a quick flip of the DS would make Kirby jump. If he falls off the television screen he’ll land on your DS screen from where you can rescue him or play hidden, under-world type maps. The DS, of course, can use rudimentary 3D graphics as well, using the top screen as an extra time buffer, showing a falling Kirby, so the player has enough time and a visual indication to react. The motion sensor cart can even contain some mini-games to play when you’re on the go. Drop Kirby from the Wii into the DS, save the game and shut down. Then on the train you can roll Kirby around the mini-games to collect extra points, unlock abilities, secrets, etc. Back at home you switch on both games, flip Kirby back up to the television screen and continue playing. The imagination runs wild with possibilities.

Will this ever happen? Who the Hell knows? I certainly don’t. Again there would be the problem of needing both a Wii and a DS, which, if you haven’t got them yet, are both in very short supply right now. Who knows what hit game will be released later to cause another drought? I would certainly welcome a game like this though, and if I wasn’t so convinced that internet petitions were an optimistically naïve waste of time I’d have started one. Let’s just hope a clever, English speaking, forward-thinking employee at Nintendo or HAL Laboratories reads Japanmanship; a double-edged sword, as that would probably mean they wouldn’t want a trouble-maker like me to work on it.

7 comments:

  1. I remember wanting this game from, perhaps 5+ years ago. Time sure has flied. The GBA-GC thing was pretty corny though "hey Kirby dropped off the playing field onto your dinky GBA screen".

    Thanks for the Guru Logic Champ recommendation awhile ago - I nabbed it and it rocks. I'm stuck on the last 14 puzzles...at 321 stars.

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  2. Ah, shame to hear about what happened to that game. But then, people were complaining loudly, and nasally, about any game that had a GBA link-up feature. I can see why they cut it even while I can lament its disappearance.

    While Twilight Princess is good, it doesn't feel as -great-, in the grandness-sense, as Wind Waker. And it's not as fun either; something like half of Wind Waker's overworld is just random things to explore that aren't required of the plot. It was the first Zelda game, really, to do this since the original. Sadly, the game's relative failure may make Nintendo standoffish about doing something like that again.

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  3. > The GBA-GC thing was pretty corny though

    Corny? I thought that was the coolest part!? Oh well, horses, courses, etc.

    321 stars? I think I gave up about around there. I unlocked the extra puzzles, clearing all previous levels 100%, but some of those just made my head implode. I think I needed about half a dozen puzzles to finish but I just. couldn't. do. it. You've got to love the stories, though. Utterly charming in a mad way.

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  4. > I unlocked the extra puzzles, clearing all previous levels 100%, but some of those just made my head implode.

    Interesting. I have the exact opposite problem. (At 324 stars now), I've solved all of the extra puzzles bar 2 (1 which I haven't beaten yet, and of course the 1 that's locked because I haven't beaten everything else yet), but still have 9 from rescue 12 left. I loath the puzzles where you can move the bouncy blocks in every direction, it makes it hard to narrow down the possible steps that you need to take.

    > Utterly charming in a mad way.

    Indeed. It doesn't go the easy "everything's fixed, ends up great and perfect in every way" sappy sentimental route.

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  6. I found a shop to buy Kirby from Japan. http://bit.ly/TTTk2Z

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