Iwata Asks About Kirby's Epic Yarn
Kirby's new Wii title originally featured a different character.
Satoru Iwata had some questions about upcoming Wii platformer Kirby's Epic Yarn. So, being that he's Nintendo's CEO and all, he summoned the game's development staff and asked them.
Sitting opposite Iwata for the Kirby's Epic Yarn Iwata Asks column were producer Etsunobu Ebisu (Good Feel), director Kentaro Sei (Good Feel), planning director Atsushi Kouno (Good Feel), producer Nobukatsu Matsumiya (Nintendo) and coordinator Emi Watanabe (Nintendo)
Good Feel is the developer of Kirby's Epic Yarn. The studio's main office is in Kobe, but Kirby was developed in their Tokyo office. Formed in 2000, the studio, which has about 70 employees, previously worked with Nintendo on Wario Land Shake and Atta Koreda. Epic Yarn is their third project with Nintendo.
One of the big revelations from the column is that Kirby's Epic Yarn originally wasn't a Kirby game. Good Feel developed the game with the desire to try something new, and so they started from zero. The Japanese name for Kirby's Epic Yarn is "Keito no Kirby," or "Kirby of Yarn." Instead of this, the game was originally set to be called "Keito no Fluff," or "Fluff of Yarn" and would have starred a character named Fluff in a world known as "World of Yarn."
According to Ebisu, the original idea for the World of Yarn came from the director of Wario Land Shake, Madoka Yamauchi. Yamauchi was head of Good Feel's planning department. After Yamauchi showed Ebisu the idea for the World of Yarn, they decided to make a game design document that would make use of the yarn concept and of a world with "warmth."
The visuals for this design document were made by Kouno alongside a Mr. Shinsaku, head of Good Feel's design department. To come up with ideas, they bought various cloth items and even touched actual yarn.
After making the design document, Good Feel held a presentation with Nintendo. Matsuyama was in on that original meeting, and he was shocked when he saw just the first page of the document. He'd never seen such a game before. The visuals had impact, and he was impressed with the types of play that could be had from the use of yarn.
Once formal development began, the staff first spent three months working on a prototype. They found some problems once they actually tried to play the prototype, though. It had the elements of an action game, like enemies and gimmicks, and the look of the World of Yarn was good, but something just felt wrong when they played. Additionally, although the game offered a simple play experience, Watanabe, a more casual gamer when it comes to action games, didn't find the first couple of stages too fun.
It was during this somewhat confused state, where they didn't have a full vision for the game, that Nintendo asked them if they'd like to make it into a Kirby title. This proposition came in Summer 2009.
Iwata asked Ebisu for his reaction upon hearing Nintendo's proposal. It turns out that he'd actually gotten a feeling that the game's Fluff character looked a bit like Kirby. However, he wasn't sure if he necessarily wanted to put Kirby in the game, as the people who'd made the original character would presumably like to have that character make it into the final product.
However, after putting Kirby in the game as a test, Ebisu was surprised with how persuasive seeing the character in there was. The reason for this, he feels, is that because the Kirby character already exists, the yarn version of the character offered a greater feeling of existing.
There's a lot more to the six page Iwata Asks column than I've been able to summarize above (this is just the first couple of pages out of six total -- the last half of the interview is actually with an entirely different set of people). For the rest, you'll have to see the column for yourself.
10/8, 4:55 -- This revision adjusts the translations of the Japanese names "Keito no Kirby" and "Keito no Fluff." They were previously translated "Kirby's Yarn" and "Fluff's Yarn," indicating that the characters have yarn, while the Japanese is more along the lines of the characters being made of yarn.