Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble Developer Interview from Nintendo Online Magazine

Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble box art

Here’s a translation of Nintendo Online Magazine’s interview with Toshiaki Suzuki, the director of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble. The original interview was probably uploaded around the launch of the game in Japan which was August 23, 2000. This one is pretty interesting because they talk about iterating on the hardware and how it all came together from the concept to the actual game.

– Where did the idea for Kirby Tilt ’n’ Tumble come from?

Suzuki: My department, Research and Development 2, works with both hardware and software. When it came time to make something new for the Game Boy Color, we had people that could build hardware and we wanted to offer a new way to play so that was the start. We started considering new input methods and wondered if there was sensor we could use for it. That’s when we found the accelerometer. Then our members that were savvy with hardware did some experimenting and built a prototype.

the first hardware prototype for Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble
First Prototype

Suzuki: Now what we’re using for Kirby Tilt ’n’ Tumble is called the Movement Sensor Cartridge. It’s pretty high-tech and is used in automobile airbags. As for its functionality, it fills the same role as a control stick. First we tried making a game called 「おもしろゲームたまころくん」*. It had an interesting feel and we thought we can work with this.

*As far as I know, this is just the name for their internal test. It might literally translate to something like Interesting Game Ball Roller Boy.

– How long did it take to develop?

Suzuki: The hardware and software together took around a year. We also thought it would be interesting to have a battle mode or something. We found the processing power was too weak for it in our early experiments, so our teams built an improved circuit by hand. This is our prototype around 2 or 3 months in.

The second hardware prototype for Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble
Second Prototype

Suzuki: We were still making Ball Roller Boy, but thought it would interesting to roll around a monkey, so around that point we made the character a monkey.

– *Tries prototype* This is a lot more responsive than before.

Suzuki: We made one more after that one where the handmade part was integrated into the circuit board. This is also when we switched to Kirby. We spent around 3 months building and testing our experimental hardware.

– Was it already decided that it would be a game where you roll a ball around?

Suzuki: It was. At first, we were thinking it wasn’t interesting just rolling around and the character was balancing on a ball. We switched that to Kirby and made it so Kirby was the one rolling around. This big selling point is that the Game Boy itself becomes a sensor and when you tilt it, Kirby rolls around on screen. This would only be possible on a portable device and when we started using the Game Boy Color, the colors looked great on the LCD screen.

– There are a lot of prototypes, but did you keep making them until the end of the project?

Suzuki: We did. I’m a novice director so there was uncertainty up until the end. There were ideas we thought we interesting at first, but when we boiled them down, we couldn’t make them work. Even just a month ago, the game was totally different. I experienced something really awesome about Nintendo when the team pulled it all together in the last month though.

– What parts had changed?

Suzuki: While Kirby was rolling around, you could press A to jump. Everyone was always saying it was lacking something though. Things like raising the Game Boy to jump, voices, and being able to collide with bumpers to break them were added.The hardware was decided during the first stage of development, so we were hearing, “The rest depends on the software,” from those around us. The hardware left a great impression, but to get people to play it, we had to make interesting software. During development we spent around 6 months trying to make it interesting as a game. If we couldn’t meet our goals for the software, the hardware team couldn’t begin preparations for mass productions so there was constant pressure.

– For example, when the movement was decided for the jump action, was it easy to integrate?

Suzuki: It was. That’s what’s so great about the sensor. You can have analog-like input. When you flip the Game Boy up like this, it can recognize the centrifugal force.

– Having this kind of way to play on the Game Boy is really novel, isn’t it.

Suzuki: I’m truly happy to hear you say that. There’s one ball rolling game and other mini games that make use of the sensor so I hope those are enjoyed as well.

– Anyone that touches it will understand why it gives such a strong impression!

Suzuki: Right! It’s difficult to explain the movement in words. Right now our language for talking about games is in their relation to buttons, so we have to explain that you need to tilt it. To see if young children could really understand it, we did a lot of user testing. The kids were able to play it so we think it’ll probably be alright. The Game Boy has sold over 100 million units so I’m glad we can offer yet another new way to play. If it’s well received, I’d like to think up a new game using sensors.

– Would you like to say anything else to everyone reading?

Suzuki: Even if you’re a person that hasn’t played games lately, this is a game you can get to the end of and defeat the final boss. If you haven’t played games in awhile, please give this one a try.

If you enjoyed that, you may also like some of our other translations like this one with Sachiko Kawamura of Sega. You can also check the Translations page for a list of all of the translations on the site. And if you’re also studying Japanese, check the Vocabulary section for tons of vocabulary lists made from various games!

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