Masahiro Sakurai’s latest Creating Games video looked at the development of the 2003 GameCube racing game, Kirby Air Ride, including its focus on the drift mechanic, and its tumultuous development. This game was Sakurai’s last HAL Laboratories title before leaving the company.
With the Kirby anime airing in Japan in 2001, Sakurai wanted the franchise to have a “more robust” lineup of titles. This was in addition to the Game Boy Advance’s Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby & The Amazing Mirror, as well as a subsequently canceled Kirby GameCube title. Sakurai decided that a Kirby racing game would be quicker to develop than a traditional action game. The team honed in on the premise “if drifting is fun, what can be done to make it more better?” Much of Kirby Air Ride’s design philosophy fixates on making drifting’s “squeeze and release” more engaging.
At the time, Masahiro Sakurai was working as Chief Director of the Kirby series, with directorship of titles led by other parties. However, after a year of flagging progress and reportedly at the request of the lead programmer, Sakurai returned as director of Kirby Air Ride. The game was subsequently finished in 3.5 months, helped by retaining many of art assets.
You can see the video below:
Accessibility and broad appeal are common themes with Sakurai-led titles. This extends to Kirby Air Ride’s breadth of game modes and the Checklist feature. This is an achievement system that provides a sense of accomplishment with casual play by revealing fulfillment conditions as players unlock milestones.
Sakurai noted it is a separate entity from the canceled Nintendo 64 title, which was more akin to a snowboarding game. However, there is a likely lineage of ideas between the two.
This video series explored numerous topics, including accessibility options in modern games and even his cat, Fukurashi. The next video will look at his first post-HAL Laboratories project, Q Entertainment’s Meteos.
Kirby Air Ride is available on the Nintendo GameCube.