A long time ago (the GameCube era, to be exact), Nintendo and HAL announced a Kirby title that involved co-op multiplayer. Then that game quietly disappeared. It's back at E3 this year finally, now reborn for the Wii. Up to four players take control of Kirby, King Dedede, Meta Knight, and a lowly Waddle Dee armed with a spear in order to go on an adventure together. I took the controls of Waddle Dee in West Hall this afternoon and joined the fun only to come away feeling as if I'd played this experience before. This is basically New Super Mario Bros. Wii with a Kirby coat of paint, although that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. It's a solid if familiar concept, but coming off of last year's absurdly charming Kirby's Epic Yarn, the new Kirby feels trapped in the past (which, considering that it was basically announced in 2005, I suppose it is).
As Waddle Dee, I was stuck moving in a pack with the other characters. I could not enter doors on my own, nor could I absorb powers like everyone's favorite pink puffball. I felt as if I'd been relegated to the role of Yellow Toad from the aforementioned Mario Bros. Dee's spear attack is nothing to write home about, and I suffered from serious Better Character Envy as I watched Kirby do his inhalation trick and Dedede smash things with his massive hammer. Who wants to be stuck as a mere Waddle Dee? How can I possibly get a thrill out of being a lesser mook? When I play a Kirby title, I want to control Kirby. Heck, the more Kirbys I can control, the better!
And that's why Kirby Mass Attack appealed to me. In fact, I enjoyed it more than its Wii cousin. In this Nintendo DS title (note that's regular DS, not 3DS), Kirby must eat fruits and other tasty foods in order to summon additional Kirbys after being split apart. Up to ten iterations of the character could be on screen at once in this demo, and all of them are controlled indirectly by the stylus. The idea is to tap the screen at the spot where one wants the Kirbys to gather. It's also possible to tap individual Kirbys and fling them around to break blocks or trigger bombs. Rapidly tap on enemies and the Kirbys will gang up and beat the foe to a starry pulp. Our hero(es) have plenty of adorable animations to share and charisma to spare in this action title. If any of this sounds familiar, it's because Mass Attack is the same title as the previously announced Gather! Kirby title from Japan. While the demo was entirely in Japanese, I enjoyed trying to figure out how to maneuver the Kirbys and found myself smiling at their adorable mannerisms when meeting with success or failure. Of the two titles, Attack has more personality. It's a shame that I think that Nintendo won't do much to promote it. It was revealed at the E3 Media Briefing only as a small logo on stage as the audience was leaving, and the demo is not at a kiosk like other Nintendo titles and is instead tethered to an unmarked wandering booth attendant. That's too bad. More people should have a look at this one.
Both Kirby titles will be out in North America in the fall, but in the meantime there are trailers to enjoy.