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The Great Pink Experiment: Kirby's best concept games

Kirby went experimental with last week's Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, but it was hardly the first time he's gone the unconventional route. Today, Shacknews looks at Kirby's best concept games.


Kirby made his jump to Wii U last week with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. While Kirby's latest adventure was a hit with Shacknews, it can definitely be classified as an experimental outing for the pink puffball. Of course, it's hardly his first. In fact, Nintendo often turns to Kirby when it's time to get conceptual with a game concept.

Today, Shacknews looks back at some of Kirby's quirkiest outings, offering a glimpse at other instances where Kirby was expected to carry a gimmick to something playable.

Kirby's Pinball Land (Game Boy, 1993)

Sure, pinball games based on popular properties seems almost commonplace nowadays. Heck, Zen Studios has practically built an empire off of the idea. But arguably, one of the games that started the whole "pinball in video games" trend was Kirby's Pinball Land, a cult 1993 Game Boy classic.

The whimsical Dream Land setting made an ideal layout for a pinball game, where players would keep Kirby in play long enough to shoot him off towards a Warp Star. Hitting the Warp Star would trigger a boss battle with a familiar Kirby baddie, like Whispy Woods, where players would have to contend with the boss's attacks while also doing their best to keep Kirby in play. It was a formula that Nintendo would later recycle for Metroid and Mario, but arguably worked the best for Kirby, who had the dream-like world to help carry such a concept forward.

Kirby's Tilt 'n' Tumble (Game Boy Color, 2001)

Games that take advantage of gyroscopes and motion sensors are rather commonplace nowadays. Many modern mobile games are centered around tilting mechanics. Nintendo made millions off of the idea with the Wii and its motion sensitive Wii Remote. However, such an idea in 2001 was downright revolutionary. So leave it to Kirby to introduce what would eventually become a modern mobile gaming concept.

Kirby's TIlt 'n' Tumble would have players guide Kirby across obstacle courses by tilting him in directions that would send him towards his goal. This was in the age before accelerometers and tilt sensors would find their way into hardware. So what was Nintendo's work-around? Build the sensors directly into the game cartridges themselves. Movement would be determined on which direction the cartridge was tilted, which would make eventual Game Boy Advance compatibility something of a problem. Despite this, Kirby's Tilt 'n' Tumble would inadvertently become one of the most influential games of the early 21st century, displaying yet another instance in which Nintendo wound up being ahead of its time.

Kirby: Canvas Curse (Nintendo DS, 2005)

Once again, the tough task of selling a new concept fell on Kirby. This time around, the pink puffball needed to help illustrate just how much an additional touch screen could add to the overall gameplay experience. With that, Kirby: Canvas Curse was born.

Rather than put Kirby in another side-scrolling adventure, the main premise would see him attempt to save Dream Land from the witch Drawcia. Players would not control Kirby directly, but rather help guide him with the aid of a magical paint brush. The brush would help draw platforms and bridges, using the Nintendo DS touch screen. While other first-party franchises like The Legend of Zelda experimented with pure touch-screen controls, few of those games went over with audiences as well as Kirby: Canvas Curse, which provided both a sufficient challenge and an aesthetic that fit with his world like a glove. It's with this aesthetic in mind that Nintendo revisited this concept for this year's Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.

Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii, 2010)

Kirby has had a life filled with weird experimental outings, but perhaps none was more bold than his 2010 adventure where everything was turned into yarn. Kirby's Epic Yarn followed many of the basic tenents of his old-school platformers, but the main difference was… well… everything was yarn.

Settings, backgrounds, items, and even characters were all constructed out of yarn. Defeating enemies would undo them from the seams and leave them as a lifeless string. And Kirby would gain outrageous yarn-based powers, albeit at the expense of his copy abilities. Nintendo did an admirable job of tying this idea into the narrative by introducing the villainous wizard called Yin-Yarn, but its greatest feat was undoubtedly making a solid platformer out of what appeared to be a juvenile concept.

Some criticized this particular Kirby game, since it removed most of the hero's trademark abilities and it even removed the consequence of death. But given that Epic Yarn wound up being one of the Wii's most visually-stunning games while also ushering in a new art style, Nintendo decided to refine developer Good-Feel's idea for some of its future games. FIrst up? Yoshi's Woolly World, set to come to Wii U later this year.

Kirby Mass Attack (Nintendo DS, 2011)

Kirby's craziest experiment was also one of his most recent. In yet another attempt from Nintendo to push a brand new gaming concept forward, players would be tasked with controlling multiple Kirbys simultaneously in what would be full-blown chaos.

An evil sorcerer named Necrodeus would use his sinister magic to split Kirby into ten pieces, each with a fraction of his strength. In order to push forward, players would not only control Kirby, but they'd control nine other Kirbys all at the same time. The major difference between this and previous Kirby games is that the Kirbys are all fairly weak and would often go down in just two hits. Players would have to work diligently to recover any defeated Kirbys and keep the entire party together, making this more of a Lemmings-style outing. Final level scores would be determined by how many Kirbys survived.

Like Canvas Curse, Mass Attack utilized touch screen controls exclusively, marking this as another occasion where Kirby helped push a hardware concept forward. By this point, he had become used to this sort of thing.

These are just a few of Kirby's more experimental outings. Is there one that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Senior Editor

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