Kirby Designer Saves Memory Space With This One Weird Trick

Legendary game developer Masahiro Sakurai has reached a new milestone in his YouTube journey, posting his 100th video on his channel just a month after its launch. To celebrate, Sakurai shared some of the development secrets for his first-ever game, Kirby’s Dream Land, that he designed while at HAL Laboratory.

Kirby’s Dream Land Development

Sakurai, in his latest YouTube video, shared some intriguing development secrets for Kirby’s Dream Land. The video shows how Kirby and all the enemies in the game are designed with limited memory and pixel constraints while still preserving their unique charm.

Making More Enemies Without Taking Up Memory Space

Sakurai revealed a creative way to use memory space more efficiently by using the same sprite for the backside of two different enemies. In the case of Waddle Doo and Waddle Dee, the only difference between them is the placement of one small dark spot on their body. Sakurai easily remembers which one’s which by recalling the “doo” aspect of the former’s name, which has two O’s that resemble its circular single eye.

Animation Techniques

The developer also spoke about animation techniques. He showed how a single character, Gordo, appears to be shifting its spikes in and out while moving across the screen. By mirroring a single image vertically, flipping it, and then adjusting which side is going in and out, Sakurai created this effect. With this technique, the animation appears smooth and creates the illusion that the spikes on Gordo’s exterior are wriggling from side to side.

Whispy Woods: An Ingenious Design

Whispy Woods is the first and most memorable boss character in Kirby’s Dream Land. Sakurai revealed that he created Whispy Woods’ eyes and mouth by mirroring an oval that resulted from duplicating a dark triangle. By precisely aligning the ovals, he was able to make Whispy Woods’s eyes look like they were well-shaped, in addition to creating the mouth. This astounding bit of craft is a clear demonstration of Sakurai’s exceptional design abilities.

The Limits of an 8×8 Grid

Kirby is designed to move, jump, and attack in a fixed grid that measures eight-by-eight pixels. Sakurai utilized this limitation to his advantage, using it to create several of Kirby’s moves and techniques. Sakurai found that despite the constraints of the 8×8 grid, he was still able to program Kirby to express himself in a variety of ways that wouldn’t be possible on other action game systems. He did this by employing a number of tricks, such as using Kirby’s iconic ability to inhale and swallow enemies.

Green Greens: The Stage and Setting

Sakurai also discussed how the first level of Kirby’s Dream Land, Green Greens, was designed to set the stage for Kirby’s adventure. Green Greens presents a cozy, peaceful environment to start off the game while simultaneously teaching players Kirby’s moves and mechanics through helpful signposts and sparingly-placed enemy encounters.

Boundaries and Crossover with Super Smash Bros.

The video also explores how Kirby’s Dream Land and Super Smash Bros. have similar boundary rules, making it a perfect starting point for players to transition to Smash Bros. The similarities in the gameplay mechanics of the two games probably indicate Sakurai’s comfort and preference for a more streamlined development process while still preserving the soul of the games he creates.

The new video from Masahiro Sakurai demonstrates his extraordinary imagination, creativity, and technical ability, all within the constraints of a limited space. Fans of Kirby’s Dream Land and Masahiro Sakurai alike are bound to enjoy the insights shared in this latest video, which is sure to leave them eager for more.


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