Note: This is a guest post. Some parts of this article are based on opinion, and should not be taken as fact. If you would like to submit a guest article, look over the Guest Posting Guidelines.
Hi all, I’m InfinityAlex. Having approached the Source Gaming team asking if I would be able to make some sort of contribution to the work they do, it was suggested that I write an article about Kirby, a character who I’m a big fan of. As in, big enough to organise a whole mashup album based on the little guy. In my personal opinion, one of the most fascinating aspects of Kirby’s history as a franchise was the relatively quiet period during the 2000s. After Kirby and the Crystal Shards was released on the Nintendo 64 waaay back in March 2000, Kirby would not have a traditional platformer on a home console for another 11 years, with the gap in between being filled with Kirby Air Ride (GameCube, 2003), Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii, 2010) and a whole slew of handheld titles on the GBA and DS consoles. Out of said portable games, only two of them were brand new traditional platformers (with the rest being remakes or deviations from the traditional formula); Kirby and the Amazing Mirror and Kirby Mouse Attack (Squeak Squad in the US).
However, Kirby finally made a triumphant return to home consoles in October 2011, with Kirby’s Adventure Wii/Return to Dream Land (henceforth Adventure Wii for Britishness) on, well, the Nintendo Wii. After the slightly mixed reception seen by Epic Yarn, many fans of the series saw Adventure Wii as a return to form for Kirby, though this is met with disagreement by critics, with Adventure Wii‘s review scores being on average a little lower than Epic Yarn’s.
With the context of the game out of the way, let’s address the elephant in the room; It’s more or less common knowledge among fans of the series by now but, for the uninitiated, Adventure Wii is actually what became of a very similar looking game that was shown for the GameCube at E3 2005. Please, take a look:
The resemblance is uncanny, no? This game, known only as “Kirby GCN”.
Out of all the projects conceived up until Adventure Wii (as there were several other attempts at this game, which I may cover in the future depending upon the success of this article), this one is by far the most similar to what we eventually got. However, that’s not to say Kirby GCN doesn’t have its differences to Adventure Wii. In fact, it seems like Kirby GCN would have been vastly different to what Adventure Wii is, basic mechanics and engine aside. First of all, there is the functionality of the multiplayer; Judging by the trailer, it appears that Kirby GCN would have had a Helper System akin to Kirby’s Fun Pak/Kirby Super Star and its DS remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra; In order for second, third and fourth players to join, the player controlling Kirby would have had to inhale an enemy with a Copy Ability, and then sacrifice said Ability in order to create a Helper. It’s impossible to determine by the trailer alone whether there would have been AI support for these Helpers, but I think it’s likely, given the precedent set by Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and Kirby’s Fun Pak, and there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.
As a consequence of this, it seems that extra players were limited to only being able to play as these enemies, rather than Adventure Wii’s choice of King Dedede, Meta Knight, Bandanna Dee or up to three other Kirbys (Kirbies? Kirbi?) as, at the time of writing, there is no footage or screenshots showing any of these characters to playable. King Dedede was busy being the antagonist of the story anyway. Yes, you read that right, King Dedede was actually the villain of this game! It’s unknown whether he would have been the main villain or whether the plot would have been hijacked by a third party at some point, but a robot modelled on Dedede’s…illustrious visage can be seen during the trailer, and what little we know of the story supposedly entails Dedede having stolen Kirby’s Warp Star, and that Kirby must get it back.
One of the most substantial differences between Kirby GCN and Adventure Wii is the levels. One of the criticisms of Adventure Wii was that it had uninspired levels, with almost all the worlds of the game being based, aesthetically, on levels from previous games. While the game was still in development, it doesn’t seem that way with Kirby GCN, as it looks like the levels would have been much more varied. One of the most prominent levels featured in the E3 2005 trailer was a level which seemed to take place within a castle garden (in my mind, it seems probable the castle would have been Dedede’s) filled with cherry blossom trees.
Along with this, frankly beautiful, level, there were many other fresh locales which hadn’t been seen in the Kirby series before. Environments such as (what seems to be) a coastal mountain range, an Arctic sea-like level and, my personal favourite, a canyon/ravine area filled with bridges can be found in screenshots of the game, as well as levels which share visual similarities with Adventure Wii’s Cookie Country and Nutty Noon levels. In one such screenshot, we see another hint that Kirby GCN later became Adventure Wii; Landia.
Now, it’s unknown whether this actually is Landia, as the Kirby Wikia claims that this is actually Flappy from Kirby Air Ride (and I must say, I can see why), but I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that this is what Landia’s design was ultimately based off, as the two look very similar. It seems most likely to me that this would’ve been just another enemy that Kirby would have been able to ride on once friendly with it (á la the Wheelie) judging by the helmet on his head, but it’s also possible that this is a specific mount for a shoot-’em-up type level, like those seen in Fun Pak/Super Star Ultra and Adventure Wii, based on the corona around the mook Kirby is riding; It seems to be performing a manoeuvre similar to one that could be done with Landia in Adventure Wii‘s Another Dimension level by pressing 2 on the WiiMote.
Finally, I’d like to draw your attention back to the levels seen in the publicity material for the game. While I’ve already covered two levels which seem like precursors to Cookie Country and Nutty Noon, there are also screenshots showing a level (or perhaps two seperate levels) which seem very similar to Egg Engines from Adventure Wii; The first area, shown in an image earlier on in this article as well as in the E3 2005 trailer, seems nearly identical to the factory segments from Egg Engines, while the image below bears passing resemblance to the out door sections seen in Egg Engines, as well as (funnily enough) the arena in which the player fights Dark Meta Knight in Kirby Triple Deluxe‘s DededeTour mode.
Sadly, I was unable to find any information about these screenshots, but they give us somewhat of an idea of how much of Kirby GCN was carried over into Adventure Wii, as well as how complete Kirby GCN was before it kind of just fell stopped. While there are a lot of areas lacking graphical polish, as well as there being no other known bosses besides the HR-D3 seen in the E3 2005 trailer, the game certainly looks to be in a playable state and, with no clues given by the trailer or any interviews regarding the game, it’s anyone’s guess as to why this project was scrapped. There was a vague hint given by Shigezo Kawase in an Iwata Asks that “It’s hard when a game simply refuses to come together.”, which is strange as there seems to be no record of this game ever having traditional development difficulties.
So, to surmise, Kirby GCN shares a lot more in common with Adventure Wii than we first thought, and it seems like it would’ve been one of the freshest and most epic outings Kirby would have ever had. In my opinion, it’s such a shame that this game was cancelled, as it seemed like it would have been so much more imaginative than Adventure Wii (though that’s not to say Adventure Wii was a bad game by any measure or is devoid of creativity). If anyone reading this article would like to read into Kirby GCN further (as I’m already breaking 4 pages in OpenOffice at this point in the article), then I’d strongly recommend checking out these webpages (which have all come in handy while researching to write this article):
Kirby GCN on Unseen 64 – Includes screenshots and a snippet of the Iwata Asks interview referenced in the article.
IGN solicitation for the game – Note that the game’s status is listed as cancelled, leading me to believe that Adventure Wii simply salvages aspects of Kirby GCN rather than Kirby GCN being developed into Adventure Wii.