Ah, here we go. I’ve heard more DS fans cite Kirby: Canvas Curse as the game that made them fans than perhaps any other release for the system. And well it should have. With this release, the system finally arrived.
It wouldn’t be fair to say Canvas Curse was the first DS game that could only have been done on that system — it was preceded by the likes of Feel the Magic and Zoo Keeper, both of which revolved around their touch screen mechanics. What set Kirby’s first DS outing apart was the fact that it was much more of a traditional video game than the bite-sized novelties that preceded it. Yoshi Touch & Go was fun, but it felt like it should have been a piece of a much more fully developed product. Canvas Curse, on the other hand, was a full-sized platformer full of action and challenges, one that just happened to play entirely with a stylus.
The idea behind Canvas Curse was pretty simple: Kirby had been transformed from being merely round to being a proper ball, subject to the whims of gravity. The player didn’t control Kirby directly but rather used the stylus to draw ramps for the little guy (the shaky rainbow line in the image above), and he would roll along as Newton’s laws dictated. But you could apply all of those laws here: Not only would he fall in respect to gravity, he’d also accelerate, so if you gave him enough of a downward ramp he’d build sufficient momentum to roll upward if you drew a path at an upward angle. Simple, but brilliant… and sometimes surprisingly tricky, since your rainbow ink came in a limited supply and had to recharge once expended.
It might seem strange that Kirby of all characters would be the one to reveal the true brilliance of the DS, but it makes a kind of sense. HAL has said that Kirby games alternate between traditional platformers and more experimental works, and this was an experimental work that also happened to draw heavily on the traditional platformer side of things. Good timing that the Kirby slated for 2005 happened to be one of the offbeat ones, I suppose, but whether kismet or coincidence it really demonstrated the possibilities inherent in Nintendo’s odd little handheld.