Thank you for waiting, Yamagami-san.
No, not at all. (laughs)
Over the last 11 years, this is the first Kirby game you have worked on. Could you tell us what you thought when you and Hattori-san became involved with the project and what you thought you would tell the team in order to complete it?
Sure. When first approached about it, I couldn’t understand why the three previous games had been cancelled. I thought if I could unravel that mystery, I would be able to come up with a measure against it. But looking at each of the games, they were all fairly complete. Even if I gathered info on why they got cancelled, I couldn’t quite grasp the reason. So I stopped looking for the reason and decided to work with the parts that already existed. Then I tapped Hattori-san, who’s good at lining up parts.
Then Hattori-san came on board.
That’s right. And then I added (Kazuhiro) Yoshikawa-san12, who’s good at action games, and paired the two. When development began, since the previous three attempts had been cancelled, the three of us were very thorough about trying to convey to HAL Laboratory exactly what we had in mind. Above all, we wanted a product that would, without fail, go on sale. Meetings began about March last year, and at that time we were very clear, saying, “We’re going to put it on the market in August or September next year. It’s already decided, so we have to complete it.” 12Kazuhiro Yoshikawa: Software Development Department, Entertainment Analysis & Development Division.
Yamagami-san, you were a prophet.
That’s right. Instead of giving them the big concept early on, at first we said, “Make a single-player game.” We knew we definitely wanted a game for four players, but we thought laying it all on them at once would be too much of a burden, so we had them focus on a single-player game at first, and then gradually introduced the multiplayer element. Then, we tried to express ourselves as best we could with regard to the specs that were done, saying, “We’ve come this far,” and, “Considering the stage we’re at, it’s looking good.”
Like constantly mentioning how much distance is left in a marathon.
Exactly. We were thorough about conveying our feeling as clearly as possible that it was going well. We wanted them to feel how complete it was.
All right, Hattori-san. You weren’t working on this game the whole time, so how did it feel all of a sudden when they handed you a bunch of parts and made the unreasonable demand that you do something with them?
I started under banks of threatening clouds. I was hearing from everyone at the company how three games had ended incomplete and nothing had been finished for over ten years, so I felt… threatened. (laughs)
I was a little scared at first. I thought, “I’ll pull an all-nighter with everyone to get myself fired up!” But once I got started, I’d never worked on a project before that I could just leave to the developers with such assurance.
Wow. That’s a compliment. (laughs)
Oh, thank you! (laughs)
I was confident from the first meetings that it would be all right. I thought, “This’ll definitely get finished. There’s no way it won’t.”
You were all under Yamagami-san’s influence. (laughs)
Oh, I suppose so. (laughs) But I really couldn’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t. And that wasn’t just a logical conclusion, it was because of the team’s exuberance. I mean, after three failures, their eyes were ablaze!
Yes, yes, they were! (laughs)
Yes, the fourth time, you feel the past as a weight and lose motivation. Just when you were thinking that, a team of people overflowing with love for Kirby, with eyes ablaze, tackled their work fast and furiously.
Yes! They showed us all kinds of things, saying, “Isn’t this awesome?!” (laughs) So I was dead certain from the very beginning that they would complete it. To illustrate, the only two requests we had to make were that they keep the Super Abilities and allow four players to all play Kirby at the same time.
Why did you request those two things?
Because we were certain so early on that they wouldn’t have any problem completing everything else. The basic components of a Kirby game had built up over the past 11 years, so we could really feel confident in leaving it to them.
Here’s one little episode from early in development. Talking with Hattori-san on the train on the way to HAL Laboratory, I said we should raise the issue of making it so all four players could use Kirby, but Hattori-san said that would be too much too suddenly, so we should just suggest each player controlling a different character. The idea was that if the game turned out to be fun, they would want to make it so all four could play Kirby. So at first, we kept the idea of all four players playing Kirby under our hats.
You talked about that on the four hour trip there.
Yes. Then, once development had made some progress and we brought up the idea of all four players playing Kirby, they were like, “We were talking about how we’d like to do that!” Like Hattori-san mentioned earlier, everyone on the team was exuberant, so we waited until they naturally wanted to do it themselves.
Everyone wants to play as Kirby.
If all four players couldn’t play as Kirby, then when brothers played together, the little brother would never get to play Kirby. The older brother would always take him.
Like, “I want to inhale enemies, too!” (laughs)
That’s right. Inhaling and spitting each other out and copying each other’s abilities are things the other characters can’t do.
That’s what’s fun about the game. Competition rather than cooperation gets people fired up.
Little scuffles within a broader context of cooperation is classic. Why did you request the Super Abilities?
Because they look so awesome! (laughs) Those scenes look so great that I wanted to put them in the ads. How fun they are comes across just by looking at them. But they’re powerful abilities that change the nature of the game, so we asked HAL Laboratory to consider toning them down a little, saying, “Just as an effect is fine, so could you put them in for fun?”
With regard to the Super Abilities, they weren’t in the first proposal that I submitted. The Super Abilities were in the specs for the third lost game, so we had done every experiment we could think of at the time, but it didn’t come together. In the end, we included them, but at first I was scared to try.
Those are really hard for designers. The cost of creating them is incredibly high.
Yes. You can do anything using a Super Ability. You can destroy landforms, and if there’s something huge, you can burn it up. Ideas were coming to us right and left, but actually implementing them was hard.
Am I correct in thinking that each ability is customised especially for each scene?
Yes. You can use them on any stage, but there are special stages on which you can make extra use of the Super Abilities. We cut down on the frequency and types, focused on power and surprise, and took care not to destroy the overall game’s “Kirby atmosphere” and tempo.
It’s great the way you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what will show up next.
Yes. Action on this large scale doesn’t exist earlier in the series, so I think in the end there’s a lot of merit in going as far as we did to generate surprise.
From what I can tell based on what I’ve played, when I’m playing and use a Super Ability, it feels like you have truly been considerate, and I’m happy.
It’s an effect to raise up Kirby as if to say, “He’s a hero!” (laughs) And by the way, toward the end, we prepared something challenging even for Super Abilities, so look forward to it!
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