Video game : “Kid Kirby “, the eerie collaboration lost between Rockstar and Nintendo

It may be the studio the most famous in the world for its universe film and its themes adults, and have failed to give birth to one of the games most pink and the most childish – existing Kid Kirby, prequel misunderstood by a franchise of Nintendo. The episode remained unknown to the general public for almost twenty-five years, is one of the links missing from the early history of Rockstar, the label on the origin of GTA and Red Dead Redemption.

We are in 1993, the consoles, the queens are called the Super Nintendo and the Megadrive, Sony is preparing only to be landed with its PlayStation first of the name the following year. DMA Design, a small company of Dundee born in 1984 and soon to be renamed Rockstar in 1998, knows his first international successes. Worn by the scottish Dave Jones, he designs 2D games funny, innovative, and staggered as the wacky puzzle game Lemmings and rodents suicidal, or Unirally, a game of unicycle on the Super Nintendo.

When Sony and Nintendo were influenced by in the uk

This creativity does not go unnoticed. In the 1990s, the japanese giants are eyeing towards the perfidious Albion to take advantage of its inventiveness, its humour and its technical qualities, the image of Sony Psygnosis (WipEout), and Nintendo with Rare (Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007). Britain, then, is seen as the new eldorado of the video game. For Richard Wilson, chairman of TIGA, the association representing the video game industry, uk, ” the studio has had success thanks to his legacy. The history of DMA Design dates back to an era founding, when the United Kingdom became a world leader in the video game “.

Nintendo is close to a studio located in Dundee, and, after having entrusted Donkey Kong to the English, Rare, decides to order a game Kirby for Super Nintendo these scottish and full of ideas. Baptized Kid Kirby, it remains completely unknown to the general public until 2017, when Mike Dailly, programmer of Kid Kirby, but also Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto will reveal its existence on the social networks. Some veterans of the project have now evolved to strategic roles on Red Dead Redemption 2.

“It was extremely funny to play ”

What was it like ? “It was totally different from all the other games that were in development at DMA Design,” recalls Michael Stiring, then a member of the team in charge of tracking down the bugs. Cute, pink, innocent, it is the opposite of the productions which have since made famous Rockstar. Lee Bekier, one of the designers on the game at the time, remembers a title that would have deserved to have the success. “The game was extremely funny to play, some levels in the fairy world were full of colour, the graphics were super well to the screen “.

The title also presents an originality rare on the Super Nintendo : it is played with the mouse, with the Nintendo Mouse of the console. “You control Kirby with the mouse by stretching it like a rubber band then releasing it. The idea was to collect as many stars as possible from the enemies, avoiding enemies, ” explains Lee Bekier. The concept evokes a kind of Angry Birds in mazes, but with more action. “When Kirby was in the air, you could put him slaps to the change of direction, giving you a bit more control,” says Michael Stiring.

Lee Bekier recalls having designed one of the eight worlds. “My levels were made with rivets, steel beams, and springs “, details there, in a list that sings the video game from the era of the 8 and 16-bit.

He then spent many evenings doing overtime – a classic of the industry and the studio to test the game while eating pizza and noting bugs on a sheet of paper to send to the designers. DMA Design working on it for two full years. But the game will never see the day, because of the commercial failure of the mouse for the Super Nintendo, as much as to the end of the cycle of the consoles 16-bit. In 1996, after three years of prototypes, it is canceled.

Shigeru Miyamoto in Dundee

The episode does not mark immediately the end of the collaboration between DMA Design and Nintendo. The studio, scottish is part of the “dream team” of studios around the world to which the japanese giant will grant privileged access to its future console, the Nintendo 64. The designers of Dundee thus give rise to two exclusive games, both titles weird and experimental, Body Harvest and Space Station Silicon Valley, both released in 1998 after a long development in close collaboration with the japanese giant.

In 1996, Shigeru Miyamoto goes the same for two weeks in Scotland to see the work these British if creative. And then later, it is a part of the team DMA Design, which is invited in the local of Nintendo in Kyoto for rework of zero Body Harvest. “It was inspired by some of their ideas for his games on Nintendo 64,” says the same Benedict Deniau, then n°3 of BMG Interactive, the publisher of the studio – an assertion difficult to say.

The corner ” Grand Theft Auto ”

Neither does mark, however, the spirits. This is another game, on the PlayStation, which propelled the studio to the world-renowned Grand Theft Auto. Designed in parallel of Kid Kirby from 1993 to 1997, he also worked in prototype form on consoles 8 and 16-bit. It is at the time of a game of police and thieves in top view, thought of as a Pac-Man-urban, from a technical demo to emulate high-rise buildings in 3D from an aerial view.

But it is really his spirit and corrosive, which will make its success. “Of course, the series pays homage to the juggernaut that is american popular culture and parody. But this taste of parody, cynicism, good child, which defines both the GTA ? Many will tell you that this is typical of the sense of humour the scots “, writes Richard Wilson.

The current boss of the powerful label Rockstar Games, Sam Houser, arrives on the project to only a few days of its release. It quickly became a new manitou, and reorients it towards a world that is open to accents in film. Exit the antics of Dave Jones, pushed to the output.

The experiments in the way of Kid Kirby are permanently stowed in the closet. “He wanted to spend a production semi-industrial to the war of the stars ; 50 developers to 1 000 ; show the darkness of the world and the cruelty that can take on the world of cops and robbers offered to a teenager,” recalls Benedict Deniau. This is the birth of the paw Rockstar, basically seen from his first success-a phenomenon, Grand Theft Auto III in 2001 on the PlayStation 2. Far, very far, from the little pink ball of Nintendo.

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