Shinya Kumazaki, chief creator at HAL, has worked on a lot of Kirby games. That includes both mainline entries and spin-offs. In an interview with Kotaku, Shinya Kumazaki elaborates on the design process for some recent Kirby titles.
“For recent core Kirby titles, I come up with ideas at HAL Laboratory’s Yamanashi Development Center and we get started on small game experiments. For Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, I was aiming for simple 4-person simultaneous play using Wii Remotes. With [2014’s] Triple Deluxe, I wanted to leverage the 3D capabilities of Nintendo 3DS by having two fields, one up front and one further back, and started devising a world of floating continents that would reflect that idea. In [2016’s] Planet Robobot, we started by expanding on a small idea of contrasting the gentle appearance of the sky and plants from the world of Triple Deluxe by making a world of machines, and introduced Robobot Armor as a good fit for that concept.
I may have made the initial proposal and was responsible for the overall direction of these titles, but the ideas and feedback, the technology and the style all come together from a variety of people to complete a single Kirby title.
The core titles have an important role as the core of the series, but leave a separate role for the more unrestrained spin-off Kirby titles that are full of surprises you’d never expect to see in a Kirby game, and then these slightly more unusual spin-off Kirby games drive anticipation for the core Kirby games, which helps us get enthusiastic about developing a title that meets those expectations. The series keeps getting bigger as we fill those roles and make it more diverse.“
Working on those spin-off titles alongside main entries is important for the team, as it helps newcomers cut their teeth on Kirby games, and also allows team members to express new, fresh ideas.
“With each passing year, the development of Kirby games gets larger in scale and more complicated. Completing smaller games like these is a good experience that gives the younger staff members at HAL Laboratory an opportunity to take up a more active role. Kirby’s Blowout Blast was originally a mini-game that came about because we wanted to try out 3D action. A younger director worked hard to develop both that title and Team Kirby Clash Deluxe.“
A lot of people knock Kirby games for being too easy, and while the mainline experiences are certainly manageable for most gamers, there's usually some kind of challenging content to unlock once you wrap up the core game. Kumazaki feels this is the right approach, as it fits for newcomers and seasoned gamers.
“I think this quality of being approachable while culminating in a climax with some depth is one of the things that makes Kirby games unique. You get drawn in by the cuteness, and find yourself playing until suddenly you and Kirby are ready to face the final battle with the fate of the world on the line. Then, after completing the game, you can take on a new mode that is surprisingly difficult.”
While HAL has done a lot with Kirby, Kumazaki wants fans to know that there are still a ton of different ideas the team wants to tackle.
“I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot at this point, but in no way is our team at HAL Laboratory burnt out. There are still a lot of things I personally want to try, and I hope we can bring Kirby’s endeavors to even more people around the world.”