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Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe devs explain the new graphical outlines

Posted on July 23, 2023 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe character outlines

HAL Laboratory has explained the decision to include new graphical outlines for the characters in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe.

The Switch title isn’t just a port of the original Wii game, as it contains new content as well as a number changes. One such change concerns the outlines for the playable characters.

General director Shinya Kumazaki, director Yutaka Watanabe, and coordinator Kenta Nakanishi commented on this in a recent Nintendo Dream interview. According to Kumazaki, the ultimately goal was to ensure proper visibility when four people are playing together.

Here’s our full translation:

In Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on Switch, the characters have outlines drawn around them – why was this? Was it to distinguish it from Kirby Star Allies?

Watanabe: Outlining the characters was one element we really spent a long time thinking about.

Kumazaki: We were very careful about adding something that wasn’t there in the past and thoughtful about whether fans would welcome the change. Star Allies is ‘a game for four people to have a lot of fun with’, and was the first in the series to bring classic Kirby to HD graphics. We wanted to distinguish it from the Kirby 3DS games at that time. Kirby Triple Deluxe and Kirby: Planet Robobot.

Simply having Kirby move from small portable screens to the large ones, leaves a real impression of having seen the true charm of Kirby.

Kumazaki: Kirby games are basically made while thinking about giving each title a uniqueness and expanding on its strengths. If we compare Star Allies to the games on the 3DS, we were really aiming for high end, beautiful and rich graphics. And because of that we arrived at this style, but while wanting to make the most of the idea of four people playing on one screen, we thought we needed to do a little something about visibility. So we considered the theme of ‘even with four people playing, you won’t lose sight of your character’.

Having a dark outline certainly makes it harder to lose track of which character you are controlling on the screen.

Kumazaki: We certainly went over and over the idea of adding an outline to ensure the finished look was natural and still beautiful. The outline isn’t simply a thick black line drawn about the models, but it also has a gentle gradation within, to help it melt beautifully.

That’s something you can’t really notice unless you look reaaaaally closely.

Kumazaki: On slightly older consoles, sometimes cel-shaded graphics could blur a little, but even if you look reaaaaally closely at this game it will still be beautiful, with each character outlined in a way almost like a piece of artwork or a sticker, which really brings out the beauty.

Watanabe: If you’ll allow me to talk a little technically, the traditional way to display outlines was with a technique called ‘inverted hull’. However just using that, for example in the case of Kirby, would result in the problem of having a pixelated outline in the area of overlap between his body and his feet.

Kumazaki: Even if we put the attachment for the feet inside the body it wasn’t hidden very well by the line and faint gradation.

Watanabe: This is something the art directors worked very hard on.

Nakanishi: Not just talking about the visibility, but I think distinguishability was also a very important part. A lot of Kirby adventures start out in grassy plains, and if they all had the same graphics I could imagine customers being confused in stores looking at the packages thinking ‘Which one was it again?’. If we were looking to develop a completely new product, then right from the start we could have a totally different atmosphere, and create something with a certain direction in mind, but this wasn’t possible when basing it on the Wii version. (haha)

Having four players play together in the same 2D graphics, certain problems must inevitably occur.

Nakanishi: I really wanted to make something that would clearly be distinguishable, so that when you saw the screen you would know that it was ‘Kirby’s Return to Dream Land’, and not ‘Star Allies’. If we compare the original Wii version and ‘Star Allies’, the background trees in the Wii game have a distinctive shape, and overall the game has a more fantasy aesthetic. The appearance is also slightly more cartoonish, which I think works really well with a distinct outline in the remake.

Kumazaki: Kirby Triple Deluxe was drawn as a fantasy world above the clouds and Kirby Planet Robobot was a world of technology. At the time of releasing Star Allies on Switch, it was really a culmination of everything until then in the series and we really wanted it to live up to that classic feel. Next came the first 3D game in the series history, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and then after eleven years when it came time to revive Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, and knowing we needed to work to keep true to the classic feel, it ended up being closer than I thought to Star Allies. (laughs)

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is now available on Switch.

Translation provided by Simon Griffin and SatsumaFS on behalf of Nintendo Everything.

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