A Look Ahead at Kirby DS

As one of Nintendo’s most perennially persistent 2D platformers, Kirby occupies a special place in the hearts of many gamers. Unfortunately, as an avid Kirby fan myself, I often feel as though our beloved creampuff is one of Nintendo’s most oft-neglected characters, as evidenced by the fact that nary a mention was given to Kirby’s next dual-screened foray at Nintendo’s E3 press conference. And while a short demo was playable on the show floor, it was easily lost amidst a flood of top-tier DS titles that included the words “Yoshi”, “Fox”, and “Zelda”. So what surprises does Nintendo have in store for us this time? Details are scarce, so we’ve compiled sources from all over the web to bring you the most comprehensive Kirby DS coverage anywhere.

If you’ve ever played a Kirby game before, then you’re already familiar with the basics of the story: [insert bad guy] has broken [insert item] into [insert number] pieces and it’s up to [insert you] to reassemble them and bring an end to [insert semi-nefarious scheme]. In this instance, those cuddly bastards have stolen Kirby’s strawberry shortcake, and it’s up to you to reconstruct it before it gets stale, or something equally inconsequential. It isn’t quite Hemingway, but it’s not like people buy Kirby games expecting to partake in a riveting tale of mystery and intrigue. No, as usual, the gameplay is where it’s all at.

Unlike last year’s Canvas Curse, the unimaginatively-titled Kirby: Attack of the Tentative Title abandons total-touch control and hearkens back to the classic D-pad slash face buttons combo. The action takes place on the upper screen, while the touch screen features an invasive view of Kirby’s stomach, where bubbles containing food, powerups, and treasure chests congregate. The player can either tap these bubbles to endow Kirby with whatever effects their contents may bestow or they can combine bubbles by dragging one into another.

Here we observe the first casualty of a vaguely-worded press release: while Kirby‘s official page on Nintendo.com states that the player can “mix and match copy abilities,” Planet Gamecube’s preview implies that mixing bubbles will only result in the standard random power roulette. Likewise, GameSpy noticed that mixing the Ice and Sword powers resulted in a Parasol, while mixing the Sword and Cutter powers resulted in… another Parasol. Apparently the mechanism works differently than that of Kirby 64, though at the very least I sort of expected that mixing Fire with Fighter would equip my pink puffball with a flaming uppercut.

While we’re on the topic, it looks as if Kirby DS will introduce us to a few new powers that we’ve never seen before. While the official trailer confirmed the appearance of old favorites such as Ninja, it also gave us a sneak peek at two new forms: for the first, Kirby wields a wand that she uses to bombard her enemies with bubbles, while the second grants Kirby a mole-esque outfit that we can only presume may be used to partake in mole-esque activities, such as burrowing, or annoying people who reset their console without saving. Speaking of burrowing, the environments in Kirby DS are expected to be more interactive than ever, allowing players to cut grass, freeze lakes, and burn shrubberies to their heart’s content while revealing hidden powerups and secret shortcuts. What’s even more exciting, though, is the prospect of a battle mechanic reminiscent of the SNES’s Kirby Super Star, wherein every power features multiple moves that can be executed by a combination of button presses. The past few Kirby games have half-assed this kind of functionality, so it would be nice to see HAL once again implement such a thorough dynamic.

Finally, let’s discuss presentation. Last week, Blake remarked that preliminary screenshots were rather underwhelming when placed next to screens of Canvas Curse. He’s got a point — Kirby DS lacks Canvas Curse‘s distinctive sheen, and the environments seem bland in comparison to CC‘s lively backdrops. Nevertheless, the gaming press has hardly made mention of this disparity: DS Advanced commented on the game’s fluid and detailed animation, Planet Gamecube fell in love with the gorgeous backgrounds, while 1UP noted an overall graphic improvement, calling the visuals clean and detailed.

In the end there are still many questions left unanswered, such as whether or not the free-roaming overworld of Amazing Mirror will make a reappearance, how many multiplayer modes will be featured, and whether the all-important power fusion technique will see an overhaul before launch. Regardless, the game already smacks of great potential, and with the confirmation of new powers, interactive environments, and the return of those lovable helpers, Kirby DS could turn out to be one of the most memorable Kirby titles yet.