It was curiously absent at Nintendo's press conference, but a new Kirby game for the Wii was available to play on the Nintendo show floor at E3. Titled simply Kirby Wii (for now at least), this HAL Laboratory-developed platformer maintains all of the charm and wonderful level design of last year's Kirby's Epic Yarn.
Like that game, Kirby Wii is a classic 2D platformer featuring Nintendo's lovable pink fluffball. It drops the impressive craftwork art style for something more along the lines of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. However, during one boss battle, the game changed to a cool black-and-white style, so clearly HAL is still willing to play with surprising visual filters.
Since Kirby is no longer made of yarn, Kirby Wii features a return to his classic gameplay of sucking up enemies and stealing their powers. In the two levels that I played, I grabbed several classic Kirby powers, including fire, an eye beam, and a boomerang.
I also ran into one glowing, ultra-powered enemy. Swallowing this opponent allowed the ever-happy hero to transform into Ultra Sword Kirby. While in this timed mode, every press of the attack button causes Kirby to swing an utterly massive sword that cuts down all the enemies on-screen in front of him and even destroys blocks on the ground. Never has this cute character felt so destructive. It seems that different enemy types allow for unique ultra Kirby transformations, so there should be multiple ways to wreak havoc.
Both the special, ultra-powered enemies and large than normal blocks require Kirby to use another new skill: his super sucking power. If you shake the Wii remote while Kirby is inhaling the environment around him, he'll open his mouth even wider to pull in larger and more powerful enemies. This extra-powerful ability also allows Kirby to take in multiple items at once. The more items he pulls in, the larger a star he shoots out to destroy other enemies.
Again continuing where Epic Yarn left off, Kirby Wii also has an extensively-developed co-op mode. This time up to four players can join in. Instead of playing as a Kirby look-alike, extra players can choose between long-time Kirby franchise characters like Meta Knight and King Dedede. These supplementary characters each have their own unique attacks, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, Meta Knight has a powerful sword slash and can fly through the air. Certain bonus areas of the game will require multiple players.
The biggest change from Kirby's Epic Yarn is that you can actually die. Characters have a health bar that they can refill by finding and picking up various types of food, and they'll collect 1UPs and star to increase their life count in classic platformer fashion.
I'm not sure why Nintendo chose to ignore this great-looking game during its press conference, but I'm psyched to have another solid-looking 2D platformer to look forward to playing this fall.