From "Ask Iwata" (2021), https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54736620-ask-iwata
> It was originally slated to come out on Game Boy under the title Twinkle Popo, but Shigeru Miyamoto told us, “This game deserves more attention.” So we put off its release and made a few tweaks and fixes, and eventually it was reborn as Kirby’s Dream Land, the first game in what became the Kirby series from Nintendo. Meanwhile, the ads for Twinkle Popo had gone up on schedule, and the orders had been coming in—around twenty-six thousand, in fact. When we canceled the release, it caused a scandal at the company, as you can imagine. From the perspective of the folks in sales, it was a mortal blow to our reputation. In reality, though, we wound up selling over five million units of Kirby’s Dream Land for the Game Boy. A quick calculation shows this to be over two hundred times the number of initial orders. Clearly, if we hadn’t canceled the release, the Kirby series as we know it never would have come to be. Across the entire series, these games have achieved cumulative sales of over twenty million units worldwide..
Awesome book whether you like games or not. It a curated selection of Iwata's writing. As a book, it's well up there with Hackers and Painters, and Joel on Software, as a compilation of thoughts from a highly successful programmer / businessman and their life's work.
And if you're into videogames (especially the Japanese games industry), it's all the better for it.
Kirby's Adventure is absolutely brilliant. It has some of the most varied platformer gameplay of any game ever made, let alone on an early console like the NES. It has four quite fun minigames built in, counting the jumping minigame at the end of each level. There are pseudo-3D levels (the tower world), a boss fight where you fence with a knight, and IMO the most remarkable final boss fight I've ever played, where the game becomes a side-scrolling space shooter for the final section. Despite all this variety and the NES only having two action buttons, the controls are absolutely rock solid throughout.
It's really a masterpiece of early video game design. Only takes about five hours to beat, but has more gameplay stuffed into those hours than most modern games made with teams of hundreds.
I'm a big fan of Kirby's Adventure as well, but I have to warn anyone reading this that the game's technical feats don't come without a cost. This game is notorious for slowdown when too much action is going on, and worst of all, frequent dropped inputs. The result makes the game very frustrating at times. Apparently the 3DS release fixed the dropped input issues. You can also play the GBA remake although you will miss out on the original's amazing visuals.
> and IMO the most remarkable final boss fight I've ever played
Please play Kirby's Return to Dreamland. You're welcome.
Kirby’s Adventure feels so distinctly modern in a way no other official NES game I’m aware of does. It almost feels like it’s from another time period.
It was in fact a very late release, but even so...
Later Nintendo carts did add more hardware into the carts to extend their capabilities so given that Kirby is such a late release, there's good odds there's hardware in there that allows for better graphics and other tricks that a 'barebones' NES cart from day one would never be capable of.
Allow me to geek out a little. I love this stuff.
According to  Kirby uses the Nintendo MMC-3 mapper , which brings some nifty features like a scanline counter. This can be used for finer control of scrolling regions/screen splitting (horizontal only). The scanline counter, alongside the swappable PRG banks and a theoretical max ROM size of 3216 CHR + 328 PRG = 768Kb enabled developers to really push the system to its limits, with advanced scroll tricks, providing for impressive parallax scrolling (while also presenting a status bar).
The CPU was still a limitation though. Some late NES games were at least partially written in C (at least you can see C format strings in some of the Koei strategy games), but it was mostly fine tuned, hand coded, 100% organic 6502 assembly.
As for mappers, there are more advanced ones, like the MMC5 (which enables things like 8x8 color regions, scanline IRQs and expandable memory), but no game ever really took advantage of it. Maybe a matter of keeping optins open in case they had to switch to another mapper for cost cutting measures, dunno.
I just looked up a video, and you're not kidding!
If I'd just been shown a screenshot, I would've guessed it was SNES!
The color palette is a good reason it's NES vs SNES.
But yeah, gameplay wise this is pretty impressive. You can tell in a few spots it gets weird when there are a lot of sprites on the screen / moving.
Overall I think it's similar in quality to megaman3 etc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmuWCwTel-g
Yeah wow these games came a long way on that platform.
It helps that mappers added a lot of functionality. IIRC Super Mario Bros. is the "best" you could do on base Famicom hardware. Later titles typically rely on mappers to allow for not only increased game size but potentially improved sound, and graphical effects like scrolling in multiple directions, saving, etc.
I don't actually think the graphics are particularly impressive, aside from a handful of pseudo-3D effects. It's definitely recognizable as an NES game to me.
But in terms of game and level design, I just think Kirby's Adventure has a more modern sensibility to it. It's the kind of game I can just pick up and play for an hour without realizing it (and not in a doomscroll-y way).
Perhaps if I was more studied in game design I'd be able to pick out exactly what it was doing differently. I suspect it largely comes down to the controls and the level design—and even the simple fact that it's not punishingly difficult.
I’m hoping that the success of the “Ask Iwata” book leads to someone writing a Miyamoto book. That tiny team at Nintendo basically invented the modern games industry after it had crashed from Atari. It’s always great to hear details of what happened behind the scenes, when future legends were just people at desks trying to build something great
> That tiny team at Nintendo basically invented the modern games industry after it had crashed from Atari.
That’s really only the perspective from North America. The “crash” was mostly limited to North America, with a much smaller impact on Europe, and hardly any impact on Japan. It was mostly a crash of Atari, specifically.
Europe was busy playing games on systems like the ZX Spectrum. The Atari systems were imported and more expensive.
Japan experienced a boom in game console sales during that same time period. Both the Famicom and SG-1000 were released in 1983. It was not a crash, and in Japan it’s simply called the “Atari shock”.
Never knew about that, do you have a good aeticle/book about that?
The Wikipedia article hints at it:
> The video game crash of 1983 [...] was a large-scale recession in the video game industry that occurred from 1983 to 1985, primarily in the United States.
> But outside of North America the video game industry was doing very well. Home consoles were growing in popularity in Japan while home computers were surging across Europe.
The Japanese language Wikipedia has a very different tone to the article, because it was written from perspectives outside North America:
Note that the article’s title in Japanese is “Atari shock”.
Honestly, I think it should be called the “US video game crash of 1983”, and the article should be more up-front that this was something that happened specifically in the US. I think the English-language Wikipedia relies too heavily on North American sources.
What an awesome interview. It's inspiring to read the reflections of people who built software truly out of a love for the craft.
>My hope is that Kirby’s Adventure will be a game with longevity, one you can always enjoy playing. We’ve included a lot of different things for you to play around with, so it will still be fun even after you beat it the first time.
A generation later my kids are loving Kirby on the NES Classic Mini, so I'd say they succeeded!
This site is a bit of a gold mine, I came across this a interview with gunpei yoki a few years ago (invented the gamboy died in car accident) http://shmuplations.com/yokoi/
What he says about games is really critical and I agree with him. Worth a read.
> Yokoi: If things are too realistic, there’s no room for your imagination, and the reality of those faces you thought were beautiful will be revealed. Or to use another common expression, it’s actually more erotic when a woman leaves some skin covered. Even if a video game doesn’t have the power to display very complex graphics, I believe your imagination has the power to transform that perhaps-unrecognizable sprite called a “rocket” into an amazing, powerful, “real” rocket.
> Morikawa: We must not steal from players the ability to add their own imagination to what they see. As designers, we show them the dotted lines where they’re supposed to cut, but we must leave it to the player to do the cutting. If we take that away then there’s no room for imagination.
Great link, thank you, but now I have more questions:
Bottom of that article shows his tombstone... is there another tombstone in the background with a triforce?
It might be a family crest: https://soranews24.com/2015/05/15/only-part-of-nintendo-empl...
That was a very insightful interview. It's always fun to see how those retro games were made
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