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Review: [NS] Worries about making it easy but not boring, Kirby Discovery of the Stars

Title: Kirby Discovery of the Stars, 별의 커비 디스커버리
Release date: March 25, 2022
Developer: HAL Labs
Genre: action
Emphysema: NS
Rank: full price
Language: Subtitle audio Korean
Writer: Mustang

The direction of ‘Kirby Discovery of the Stars’ (hereinafter referred to as Kirby Discovery), which was released on the Nintendo Switch on March 25th, is very clear. However, it does not stop at the transition to the 3D environment, which is a direct change. As the development team talked about in the interview, the value of ‘everyone can enjoy’ / ‘broad and deep’ has penetrated the series so far. At first glance, it may seem like an abstract association, but in terms of game design and visuals, the two values ​​are treated as the main values ​​that continue the series.

Both values ​​made it possible for the Kirby series to ‘make it easy to play and not trivial’. Concerns about play and difficulty, which can become monotonous and boring, melted away. The result of play was placed on top of the game design envisioned by the development team, bearing solid fruit. Therefore, for the first time in the series, ‘Kirby Discovery’, which consists of a game in a 3D environment outside of the flat form, is a title that stands out because of the troubles and efforts to keep the basics of the series.

Change from flat to three-dimensional and directing the camera

The most direct change in Kirby Discovery this time is the change from a plane to a three-dimensional one. Although it has been produced in 3D in the past, the Kirby series has been building a flat gameplay to the last. Kirby Discovery, which changed from a flat to a three-dimensional one, has many developments in many respects. As a result, the game play design as well as the level design composing the stage began to be built in a form that was not shown in the previous series.

The goal of ‘a three-dimensionally produced title’ is connected to a more diverse composition of flat play. Faster than any other title in the series. And it is a process of change so that it can be approached from various angles.

As a result, Kirby opened up more possibilities with this work, building a full 3D environment. The planar attack shown in the previous series started to include the Z-axis, and the design of the stage shows vertical movement. It can be said that the grammar of the 3D platformer action that has been released so far has been established according to Kirby’s style.

Here, the development team decided to design Kirby Discovery in a rather classic form with a fixed course and camera viewpoint, rather than designing the level in a sandbox form. There must have been many concerns during the development process, but the stage was structured in a complete form from start to finish. And the use of the camera used here is an important aspect to look at in this title.

The fixed camera interlocks with the features brought by the Kirby series, allowing the fixed course and stage to be approached from multiple angles. At the same time, the devs were creative with the stationary camera. Or, it shows how to use it properly to the point of wanting to be vicious.

Kirby Discovery’s gameplay is based on how the camera illuminates the stage. It starts right here. All stages are designed so that the foreground of the stage and the direction of the course can be judged at the beginning. Placing a sign that can be a destination in the distance. Or, it is a way of expressing Kirby in a small way and showing the stages stacked up vertically.

This is to prevent the player from getting lost and wandering, and at the same time, it is a methodology to utilize the destination / hidden elements set by the development team. It is a design in which the player cannot control the camera and then adjusts the focus of the camera to reveal the target. The expression of these stages can be said to be a deliberate and elaborate composition. The development team uses this methodology for every stage from the beginning of the game to the end of the game. The stage, which may feel simple and plain, is born as a place with a sense of vitality through the control of the camera.

Strictly speaking, each stage in Kirby Discovery isn’t very long. Still, it takes quite a while to clear one. This is because the camera illuminates the stage from various directions and goes through the process of breaking through the stage at different angles. Here, the process of finding the hidden elements and the newly added systems are creating pleasure.

Rather than freely exploring a wide area, the stage was created with a fixed path to take full advantage of this camera direction. Thoroughly intended direction and composition illuminate a course from multiple angles. During the play process, the camera naturally focuses on the point intended by the development team and guides the player to that point.

At the same time, it also makes them aware that there are hidden things. In the beginning, it shows clearly hidden elements, but as the latter progresses, it leaves room for the player to think in the process of finding a hidden path or Waddle D. I tried using most of my copy abilities and made it look for places out of the camera when you get used to the play.

The fixation of the camera and its use reveals its presence throughout the level design and expression that Kirby Discovery implies. Also in maintaining the identity of the series. And it’s all about giving depth to the gameplay. The fact that the angle and direction of the camera started to enter in the process of designing each stage is a clear change and a good idea.

From a specific point of view, the design that made it impossible to freely manipulate the camera is the starting point of all changes in Kirby Discovery. It seems to be defining the form of expression of this work.

Making it something everyone can enjoy – the concerns of Kirby Discovery

As the development team created a three-dimensional world, the play became a form not seen in the previous series. Naturally, the width of the action started to increase, but as a reward, the player has no choice but to reach the problem that it is difficult to grasp the location properly. The fact that Kirby’s appearance is not very conspicuous can be solved to some extent through the fixed camera. However, the overall gameplay and the proper dodging and attacking of enemy attacks were also contrary to the identity of the original series.

The goal of ‘easy to play without a lot of stress’ seems to be the reason that made the development team worry in a three-dimensional environment. Therefore, the development team can play smoothly in this part. And we made some improvements to make it easier to access in terms of play.

A typical example is the part about judgment. This is an unusual decision considering other 3D platformer action titles. If you look at the judgment of the projectile, it is designed around the camera, not based on the projectile. That is, if it appears to be correct based on the camera, it is judged as correct.

Because of this, the action of Kirby Discovery begins to be structured so that it can be enjoyed very naturally and without much stress. Considering the low-age group that the series mainly targets, it is natural that it does not require complex and accurate judgments. As the development team explained through the website, the meaning of the generous judgment is focused on ‘so anyone can play’.

The idea of ​​the development team as a game that can be easily enjoyed outside of action has been firmly established. If the play is too difficult, you can increase your stamina and attack power through doping. You can also get help from family and friends using 2P, which gives you unlimited lives.

There are a few relatively difficult boss patterns (especially round 2), but there is no problem in clearing them. Based on the first round before the ending, when you get a few game overs, even tips to lower the difficulty are played. Achieving 100% of the stage goal is also located in a play that can only be done after the ending, and in fact, it is a structure in which hurdles and goals that anyone can see the ending are continuously given.

This is what Kirby Discovery shows is that this series is fundamentally accurate and meticulously manipulated. And it also means that it did not start from the point of enjoying the delicacy of the action. It is a value that is maintained even if the development manager changes, and it will be a value and philosophy that decisively separates the Mario series and the Kirby series.

In the end, what constitutes the central axis of the Kirby series is the direction of ‘copy ability’, and the comfortable and enjoyable ‘action close to play’ that begins here is located. It’s not without depth though. The challenges that are easy to access but difficult to achieve 100% are expanding the depth and breadth of the game.

Making it broad and deep – copy ability and embracing transformation and avoidance

Placing challenges throughout the stage plays a role in making easy-to-play titles not trivial. The word “not trivial” here doesn’t just mean that the enemy is quickly knocked down. Aspects of adjusting the number of damage or health of enemies the player faces. Or it doesn’t depend on the difficulty of the object blocking the way.

From the point of view of game design, broadening the scope of the work and making it less trivial is close to an element that players can explore or arouse curiosity. In that sense, it can be said that the ‘copy ability’ that has been shown for generations in the series and the ‘transformation of holding on to’ that has appeared this time reveals its presence right here. These two elements play a role in attractively refining the series oriented towards easy and comfortable operation and play.

Copy ability leads to the question of how to use the enemy’s ability, as the series has consistently expressed. This is clearly the central axis of the Kirby series, and the differentiation and broad expression of action start here. Sucks and absorbs enemies. The key point of the series is that you can use it to enjoy different kinds of action and play.

If you look back at the actual play, you can see that the development team designed the stage based on multiple copy abilities. Inevitably, this is to induce them to break through the stage using various abilities. There are abilities that are located in the main theme, but you don’t need only one ability to clear all the challenges. This allows players to approach the stage from multiple perspectives and play styles.

For example, in a certain section, you use your first ability to progress. It will be a way to break through using the abilities of the enemies absorbed during the process. Naturally, in this process, the width of the action begins to change. You can also use a hammer to solve simple puzzles. If you find a hidden path here, you can enter there and use another ability by transforming it into Kaby again. In this way, the design to compose the stage in several layers makes the progress of the stage not monotonous. Or, it is a form of stacking up the process method one by one so that it is not trivial.

Looking back on such a design, waiting for the player in the process of challenging a new stage begins to get closer to the heartbeat. Thinking about what abilities to use. Use it to find or explore hidden paths. If new abilities are continuously given, you can use them to progress through the stages.

Another variation of the way of playing is added by adding a new element ‘transformation of embracing’. As an extension of the concept of copying ability, the transformation of the hold expands the range of puzzles and actions in various forms such as cars / water balloons / ladders. It is used fragmentarily and briefly here, but it is more meaningful in that it is throwing a new play at that moment.

The immersion transformation is not provided consistently throughout the stage and has clear limitations. It is extremely purpose-oriented, and once the purpose is achieved, the use ends there. You cannot take it to a high place, and you must release it when you finish using it. Through this, the development team achieved the purpose of evoking the atmosphere of the stage, supplementing copy ability and adding breadth of action.

The joy brought about by the transformation of embracing seems to be a concern not to take the flow of the stage as one-sided copy ability. It seems close to a kind of choice, but around the time when the copy ability becomes boring during the stage. Because it is presented at a timely point.

If you look at the timing of appearance, you can see that it is generally at the point where you will get used to the use of copy ability. It’s like a composition that adds novelty to one’s ability to use, just before getting used to the use of one ability or when the play style becomes solid. A play method that has not been used before is added, and new copy ability and action are presented again when a section that requires transformation is completed. Newness and ventilation given right before you get used to or become bored. That’s what helps make up a play that isn’t trivial.

If the stage induces you to proceed using various abilities, boss battles are inevitably the opposite option. This is because it is a structure that selects one ability and proceeds with the battle before entering. If the stage is configured to test different perspectives and actions, how far can one ability be utilized in the boss battle? And it focuses on individual abilities and the action of Kirby, the manipulative character.

Here, individual action elements such as evasion and sliding appear. It is easy to miss because it is a title that is easy to progress, but the two elements became the starting point for showing action and play that did not exist before.

Dodging and sliding, which will probably be mainly used in mid-to-late boss fights, add action beyond flat movements. The little bullet time given when you successfully evade is treated as a factor that shakes up your previous play if used properly.

It not only secures a more aggressive attacking opportunity in the play avoiding the pattern by jumping, but also adds a quick horizontal movement in the vertical movement. Unlike the relaxed play, by adding a sense of instantaneous speed, Kirby Discovery adds depth to the action. It is for this reason that the main enemies that appeared in the previous series – Didi, etc. – have a completely different feeling even though they are located in the same place.

In-depth play shines more in the play after the ending than in the first round, where the goal is to clear. As always, difficult challenges / time-limited conditions that cut like a knife / elements hidden here and there using the blind spot of the camera. Because you have to find everything. In this process, you will experience all the functional improvements and intentions envisioned by the development team, and you will feel that the title is more than just a title for children.

Kirby Discovery’s future

Easy but deep. And easy but not boring. The two values ​​that have been at the center of the Kirby series have fully blossomed through this Kirby Discovery. Comparing the previous work Star Arise and the current Kirby Discovery side by side, how elaborate calculations and intentions are in ‘make it easy but not trivial’. And you can see clearly whether the will is necessary.

Although it was solved to some extent through several subsequent updates after its release, it did not have the depth of play and showed a monotonous play with the previous Star Alliance. But Kirby Discovery was different. Lessons learned in the process of criticism and improvement of the previous work became the basis for making this work.

Three-dimensional movement in a 3D environment. And the level design and gimmicks created by fixing the camera. A new element of embracing transformation and stage progress using it. Even the ventilation given at the right time. All elements of the game are connected for one purpose. Even if the development team of this work was not at ease or if the direction was slightly changed, it would not have been possible to play the game without flinching like it is now.

In the end, the goal of ‘make people feel the joy in the process of playing’ is the development team’s many ideas. It seems to have led him to project it into this work. That’s why Kirby Discovery deserves a high rating. It clearly achieved what the development team envisioned. The concept and value of the series are also maintained, and the systematic expression and directing that follows the direction has been further developed. And through this, the Kirby series was able to complete its own identity more firmly.

A transitional situation from flat to three-dimensional. Nevertheless, ‘Kirby Discovery of the Stars’ showed a successful settlement. It is hoped that the values ​​and orientation that the development team has been thinking about while making this title will continue to be inherited in future sequels. Various perspectives, directing, and action changes that came out of fixing the camera. I just hope that the experience and design that approaches the work like a fun ride will continue.

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