With Kirby and the Forgotten Land debuting on Switch this week, a group of devs from Nintendo and HAL Laboratory recently got together to discuss some of the tricks they used behind the scenes to help the eponymous pink puffball gracefully transition from his 2D origins to the long-running franchise’s first-ever 3D adventure.
“[W]hen it came to directing the game, realistically there were a lot of issues that needed to be solved,” said Forgotten Land director Tatsuya Kamiyama, a HAL Laboratory veteran. “For example, we found that even the basic actions of inhaling, spitting out, or jumping didn’t work as expected when simply put into 3D as is. So, we looked at Kirby’s behaviour in past games, and spent a lot of time thinking about what to do to make a proper mainline Kirby game that can be enjoyed in 3D.”
A particularly hilarious hurdle came courtesy of Kirby’s non-descript design, which when put into a three-dimensional space, makes it hard to tell which direction he’s facing.
As is often the case, the developers on Kirby and the Forgotten Land employed several gimmicks to make the experience as pleasant for players as possible. This included fudging the parameters that determine whether an attack is going to hit, essentially giving Kirby the ability to completely whiff a move and still damage enemies if it makes sense based on the game’s fixed camera perspective.
“[I]f it looks like an attack ‘should’ hit on-screen, we make sure it does connect, even if it was going to narrowly miss,” Kamiyama said. “The game accounts for the player’s perspective by tracking the positions of Kirby and the camera. It then maps out a range in which attacks may appear to land. If an attack is within that range, the attack will hit. By doing so, even people who are not so good at 3D action games can attack enemies without any stress.”
Kirby and the Forgotten Land also includes a small buffer that kicks in when Kirby nears the ground after a jump that allows him to jump again without actually landing, a design element known internally as “fuzzy landing.”
“It can be hard to adjust your position midair and stick a landing in 3D games,” Kamiyama said. “Let’s say you’re looking at a top-down view of Kirby. You’re coming down from a jump and you want to immediately jump again. You thought you landed and press the A Button, but you actually didn’t land and end up hovering by accident. Therefore, we made a fuzzy adjustment so that the system treats Kirby as if he’s already landed if the A Button is pressed at a close distance to the ground.”
I don’t know about you, but I love learning design secrets like this, especially when they come from the notoriously secretive folks at Nintendo. All in all, Forgotten Land sounds like a big step forward, not only for the series itself but also how its creators approach making Kirby games as the franchise nears its thirtieth anniversary. I’m very much looking forward to joining Kirby in his post-apocalyptic travels sometime soon.