Bimblesnaff Rants

Spinning a Yarn

With the most shocking announcement from the past five years finally made, all eyes (of Kirby fans at least) are turned towards the future and the now imminent questions that need answered. What really is this game, and how does it reflect upon the Kirby series as a whole? Some people have reflected upon this, but most everyone is more cared about the other heavy hitters announced that day. Donkey and Samus, of course, got more of the public focus. Most analyzers don't care about some cutesy romp through a world of fabric. Here at Rainbow Resort, however, it's the moment we've been waiting for since half a decade ago. There were several emotions, thoughts, and concerns that stormed my brain the moment I first saw Kirby's Epic Yarn and the scraps of details regarding it. I can't say much anything about what the game has as far as content, characters, or features at this point, but I can at least say how it makes a veteran Kirby fan feel.

The first and foremost concern that I think most of us in this dying breed had is, "I guess Kirby (untitled) is finally dead." Well, I guess the real first concern is, "What is the exact date this game comes out and here's money for it." This game is not in any way related to the one revealed five years ago for the Game Cube. It's a different development team, different company, and let's not forget entirely redesigned game play and graphics. I mean, they still could shock us and pull out that "more traditional" Kirby game in a year or two, but I held a funeral for (untitled) years ago. Nintendo should have done what I said countless times: released the title as the nigh-on last game for the soon-to-be defunct system. Kirby did it for the NES and SNES. He should have been given the honor on GCN, too, rather than yo-yo Gimming our hopes like they have done all these years.

After saying farewell to the action-packed, powers-stuffed, helper-stacked game that will probably never be, a lot of folks have another nagging concern on their mind: Is this game really Kirby? From what has been seen thus far, there's no inhaling of enemies or even copying of abilities. Either of those are pretty solid Kirby staples, have been present since the first or second action title, and appear absent in this one. The winds carry whispers of Mario Sunshine and straying too far away from classic roots. Yes, the game looks amazing (at least I think so, both visually and as a game concept) but was it another Kirby's Dream Course where the popular puff was inserted into a fleshed out concept to give it more star power? Super Mario Bros. 2 is a more potent example where the game was actually a wholly new concept that just had Mario characters pasted over the original character sprites to meet a sales boost when sent over seas. Look between SMB1 & SMB2 and then Amazing Mirror & Epic Yarn. They appear to have about as much in common.

I had these concerns. I had to. I've been a Kirby fan for, what, eighteen years now, the whole of the puff's lifetime and the majority of my own. That's more time than many of his fans have even been alive, sometimes twice. Sucking up and spitting out is a tried and true cornerstone to the Pop Star patron, but I feel people forget what truly makes a game series. People seem to hold the expectation that if it's not broken, don't fix it. Mega Man did this seven times, and then twice more. Every game in the original set just slightly added on to a proven system. The core game never changed much, mostly just gaining new features. This makes the sequels little more than "expansions" of new levels, powers, and items. Yes, that works fine, but if one likes Game X so much, why buy Game X+1 when it is effectively just the same as the prior? Just play the old one again.

This is an idea that boggles the minds of many video game fans: change. People are always frightened by the concept. Really, most fans seem to frown at anything that isn't blatantly in the seam of Super Star. The rightful successor to Bubble Bobble, one of my all time favorites, was Rainbow Islands. While still a platformer, the player changed from trapping enemies in suds to dropping them off colorful arcs. Yarn manages to land closer to Kirby's roots than that did to its own. One thing that people seem to (choose to) forget is that Kirby has always been pushing the envelope. Games like Tilt 'n' Tumble lacked both inhaling and copying abilities in its game play, and that came out close to a decade after the cream puff's debut. Canvas Curse, like most any title with a spherical Kirby, lacked eating enemies as well. Kirby likes to change and be different. One of Sakurai's original fears was turning his creation into a heartless profit machine by churning out repetitive game after game. Game makers don't want to just get a skeleton and tack on flesh to it. They like to build it from the ground up themselves because they enjoy creating new and innovative ideas. Good game makers do that. Lazy, profit hungry fiends make the third God of War within five years of the first. The fact that Nintendo was able to say, "Guess what, folks? Entirely redefined!" is grounds for kudos in showing that a veteran character can be kept fresh after twenty years.

But is it too fresh? Is there any trace of the original cream puff behind all those strands of yarn? It comes up rather frequently in the game trailer, actually, that Kirby can lash out at enemies, wind them up into a tight spool to carry overhead, and hurl them out at other foes. Other instances show him throwing back foes in comical missile shapes back at others in a redirecting swing. Pull in, procure, and projectile are the pillars that permeate the puff, and they are well still present, but they don't even stop there. Other scenes showed Kirby as a flying saucer and, while I have no idea how that's pulled off, I did notice him "abducting" enemies even in this state. After bagging X many, he let out a huge attack. Yeah, it's still Kirby, and it's awesome. Even more testament to the age of this game's roots, one can dig back to the early nineties to find a Kirby's Adventure commercial from Japan, as an astute Resorter so kindly pointed out. In the advertisement, Kirby is nothing more than an outline of pink yarn. And he sings. People think that Kirby (untitled) was waiting in the wings long? Kirby's Epic Yarn has been seventeen years in the making. That's old school.

That's avoiding the question, however. Is it really still Kirby? One of the ways that I define (and have in a previous spiel) continuation of a series is the replacement test. If the protagonist could be replaced with some other character, would any real difference be known in the game? If it were, say, "yarn boy" instead of Kirby that the player controlled, would the game remain unchanged? In truth, it probably wouldn't change anything, but that's not to say that the concept doesn't benefit from the pink one greatly. There are angered fans who think Kirby never turned into a car before or any other number of cartoonish shapes seen thus far. However, most fans are just familiar with him gaining mysteriously appearing head gear rather than modifying his own form. What they forget are the trio of works featuring Dark Matter. In those titles, the puff transformed into everything from a refrigerator to a curling puck. Even simpler, just becoming a rock or slimming down into a boomerang are feats of metamorphosis. From Dream Land to Adventure, the entire world of Kirby was redefined with copy abilities. That was one path for Kirby. He continued to grow and change between all titles, sometimes more than others. One route had Animal Friends while another featured a flurry of fighting abilities. Epic Yarn, while not an entirely new path, is another road for him to take. There's a junction joining the two around 2000, and both begin from the same point and lead to the same destination. It's just how they get there that's different.

Godzilla is another popular and long running series. However, after a well established movie career, they said, "You know what? Let's go back to square one, ignore all the movies, and just make a direct sequel to the first, black & white film." It worked. I do not think this game goes that far to accomplish its goal, but it's similar. The magnificent marshmallow is going back to his roots of charm, whimsy, and innovation in game design. This is what made Kirby's Dream Land stand apart from other titles and gave the hero of the stars the chance to become the pink powerhouse that he is today. Does it mean that copy abilities will never see the light of day again? No. Does it mean that all future titles will feature a yarn whip and buttons? Of course not. This is just one item on Kirby's vast and diverse resumé. Each one is unique and innovative in its own way.

I think the game looks great. It'll be the reason I purchase a Wii. I skipped the Cube since Popopo didn't have any face time on that system. This is exactly the type of refreshing, ground breaking ideas that look for in a game. Plus, it's 2D side scrolling. Score!

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Last Updated - June 17th, 2010