Welcome to a new writing series where I try to explain how two things you wouldn’t think are alike actually have a lot in common. As you can tell I’m going to compare the Kirby video game series to the Ratchet and Clank series. Of course, I’m not going to claim that the games an identical to each other. I’ll highlight a few similarities between the games, but I ain’t no fool, they’re different. I’ll mainly go through other similarities that each franchise has.
Now what has gotten me to write on this topic? There were a couple of comments made by both the GB staff and the community that actually reminded me that these two IP’s are literally in the same position for Nintendo and Sony. For Kirby, I remember watching the Rainbow Curse quick look and I remember Jeff saying that he really likes Kirby and wishes that Nintendo did more with the brand. I was a little confused when he said that because in the past 6 years, there have been 6 related Kirby titles released in that span. But now I understand Jeff’s statement because it doesn’t feel like that Nintendo gives Kirby this giant marketing push that it would for Mario or Pokémon.
As for Ratchet, I remember the UPF where the crew was looking at N64 3D platformers due to Yooka-Laylee killing it on Kickstarter. Ratchet was brought up amongst 3D platformers that were done right. One community member stated that he wished that a new R&C game would come out. After reading his comment, I couldn’t help but reply to that member and tell him that a) Its rumored that a new R&C game may get revealed at E3 this year and b) if he wanted a new R&C game, go check out Into the Nexus on the PS3. I wanted to tell him that because kind of like how Nintendo has treated Kirby, Ratchet has been an ongoing franchise, but gets very little of a push by Sony for people to know about its upcoming games. I felt like that one member was an example of someone who didn’t know. These a both first party IP’s that are actually a lot alike in falling under the radar with game releases, box art policies, similar themed titles that came out from 2011-2014 and their efforts into other media.
The clear differences:I’ll just get the clear differences out of the way:
- Kirby is traditionally a 2D platformer while R&C is traditionally a 3D action platformer.
- Kirby’s main ability is to suck in foes near him, where’s Ratchet has his wrench.
- Kirby games are generally meant to be about as easy as lifting a 2 lb weight, while R&C games have more of a difficulty curve.
- Ratchet has Clank alongside as a pretty rad sidekick. While Kirby may get a partner on occasion, Kirby don’t need a permanent sidekick.
- Unlike Ratchet, Kirby’s spinoffs do not include him having tower defense gameplay or have you play as a secret agent, say, Agent Meta Knight.
- Unlike Kirby, Ratchet’s spinoffs don’t include a full-on racing game, the characters turning into yarn, or having a re-skinned Puyo-Puyo game.
- Kirby is 10 years the elder of Ratchet and Clank.
- Kirby games are so adorable they make bunnies look like Medusas. Ratchet games are cartoonish and funny, but I wouldn’t call them “cute”.
- R&C games have a tradition of having sexual innuendos in their titles, while Kirby doesn’t, unless to read “Mass Attack” or “Triple Deluxe” as innuendos.
- Ratchet and Clank have no personal vendettas towards trees, but Kirby does.
The few similarities in games:
While both franchises are incredibly different in terms of how they play, I can find a few similarities when it comes to the characters. Both Kirby and Ratchet are aliens who have been isolated from their own species. And while Ratchet has done more of this, both have a history of traveling to different planets and realms to save the day. Two characters from each franchise that also share some similarities are King Dedede of Kirby fame and Ratchet and Clank’s former rival Captain Qwark. Both are public figures that try to put a good label on their names, but really hide their support for some dastardly plans whether its intentional or if they don’t know better. Plus, both have a history of going back and forth being antagonists or allies to the protagonists.
To sum up the games’ few similarities, they’re both very colorful franchises, both have many spinoff/experimental titles (Kirby has more), and both take pride in letting the player defeat enemies in absurd ways. On that last statement, Kirby will suck in enemies to take their ability. Some are common like the Sword and Beam abilities. But soon Kirby gets unique abilities where he can land a sick suplex on a fool or, in Kirby 64, get ice and spark powers to fight as a refrigerator! Ratchet does it through having a large arsenal of weapons to buy. While given standard blasters or bomb gloves at first, you eventually work your way up to weapons where you turn foes into farm animals and even shoot missiles with the 1812 Overture playing in the background.
Lack of Marketing Despite new games coming out:
I remember back in the 2000’s there seemed to be a solid amount of TV advertising for both IP’s. For R&C, there were those commercials where all those idiot bros toyed with the games’ gadgets. Sony wanted R&C to succeed alongside Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper to usher in a new generation of mascot games for the PS2. For Kirby, I remember even seeing commercials for games like Kirby 64 and Canvas Curse on mostly every TV channel I watched.
My question now is, if these IP’s are still up and running, where are those commercials now? While Nintendo and Sony continue to let Hal Laboratory, Insomniac and other developers make games for both series’, they don’t seem to do much of a role in making their audiences aware that a new game is coming soon. In the world of the Internet, it would be ideal to give Kirby or Ratchet a little side ad on a webpage or have a Youtube ad to increase awareness of an upcoming title. But from my experience, I haven’t seen any ads. It is kind of weird how these two don’t get much of a marketing push, but it could be worse. Kirby could have ended up like F-Zero or Earthbound, where no new games for those series’ have came out in the past few years. If Kirby was in that position, the only software released associated to it would be either Mario Kart 8 DLC, Super Smash Bros or Virtual Console re-releases. Ratchet could have ended up like Parappa the Rapper or Medievil, where besides PSN downloads or Playstation All-Stars, no new software would be released. Fans of each IP should feel thankful that new games are coming out. We may not always know, but they are being released.
Though admittedly, if there is any advertising for these games, it would probably be on either a webpage devoted to Nintendo or Playstation or commercials on kids’ channels like Nickelodeon because these games are aimed at younger audiences.
It’s almost like if I had to compare these IP’s to WWE wrestlers, they’re basically Nintendo and Sony’s Dolph Ziggler or Cesaro. Like how these wrestlers are well liked and consistently perform on live shows, both Kirby and Ratchet are liked and consistently had 1-2 games come out every 1-2 years. But also like these wrestlers, it doesn’t seem like Nintendo or Sony will give them that main event push. Mario is Nintendo’s John Cena, and Sony’s Cena… I don’t know, but Uncharted has become their Brock Lesnar. Why? Because like how Brock is a part time talent who makes PPV's or RAW's special when he shows up, Uncharted games don't come out every year, but its a huge deal whenever its seen at either Playstation press events or when a new game is out.
Similar Box Art Policies:
So this is an ever-relevant topic when it comes to presenting a game to different cultures. Generally video games will have a unique box art in somewhere like Japan or Europe to that of its North American box art to appeal to various audiences around the world. Both Kirby and R&C have a long history of this with their North American box art and Japanese box art.
Kirby is perhaps better known on the subject matter. Since 2002, Kirby has been shown as happy, innocent or neutral in the Japanese box art of his games. In North America, he tends to look grumpy.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as Epic Yarn and Rainbow Curse, but for the majority of Kirby games since 2002, the box art has changed based on the region. It’s believed that it is to cater to the cultural differences of each region. So Nintendo lets Kirby be his joyful, cute self in Japan because if the game is cutesy, that’s gonna be known to the Japanese audience. But for North America, they probably feel like Kirby will sell better if he looks angry because they think North Americans want their heroes tough, even if Kirby’s an adorable pink ball.
Ratchet and Clank have also gone through a similar box art policy, or for a time. The original trilogy of R&C games had box art that looked way different in Japan than that in North America. In NA, Ratchet and Clank either had cocky smiles or serious faces but in Japan, they were generally seen as happy and stoked. In the NA Up Your Arsenal art, it has both Ratchet and Clank looking at the sky with grimacing looks. In Japan, both protagonists are falling through the sky, having the time of their lives.
This practice was extended to their PSP games like Secret Agent Clank (also below) where you have a 3D Clank rocking a tux and a sketchy, 2D Ratchet smiling with a black and white prisoner outfit. Unlike the NA version, which just has Clank in a tux.
Clearly it seems that R&C has its box art changed for a similar reason to Kirby. Sony probably wants the heroes to look tough despite the cartoonish appearance to appeal to the Western audience. The exaggerated cartoon look in Japan will cater towards the Japanese crowd. This practice seemed to continue until 2014, where in Japan, the Ginga Saiyko Tristar Pack was released, which bundled 3 PS3 R&C games. The box art used artwork from the NA box arts of Full Frontal Assault, Into the Nexus and Quest for Booty with Japanese title fonts.
From 2011-2014, a recent trend of similar ideas in titles were coming out:
So this sort of jumped in my mind when comparing these two franchises. From 2011 to 2014, these games had similar themes in certain game releases that came out in each year. In Fall 2011, both Kirby and R&C would release an exclusive on the Wii and PS3 respectively that put a major emphasis on 4 player co-op play, which was a first for both. Kirby had Return to Dreamland and R&C had All 4 One. Kirby also had Mass Attack for the DS in 2011, but that won’t be compared. Both games could be played solo, but both titles encouraged the player to play with up to 4 players. Though RTD plays more like a Kirby game than All 4 One plays a Ratchet game, according to reviews. Also, look at the A41 NA box art compared to the Europe RTD box art and look at how similar the styles are!
In 2012, both franchises had an anniversary collection released. Yes R&C had Full Frontal Assault which was basically a tower defense game with Ratchet and Clank, but that won’t be discussed (this might be the first time you’ve heard of this game, either). There was the Kirby Dream Collection, which celebrated Kirby’s 20th Anniversary, and the Ratchet and Clank Collection, celebrating R&C’s 10th Anniversary. Sony also released Jak and Sly 10year collections in 2012. I got the R&C collection and the games are great and definitely hold up. But its super lean on extras as the only extras worth noting is trophy support and the Sly 4 beta. Much like Ratchet, Kirby’s collection has Kirby’s earliest core platformers, ranging from Dream Land to Kirby 64. But unlike Ratchet, there are plenty of extras thrown in, like a Challenge Room using the RTD engine, a 45 song soundtrack, and a museum feature looking at all of Kirby’s history and believe or not, three episodes of a Kirby anime (we’ll get to that soon).
While the next two games weren’t released in the same year, they were both returns to traditional gameplay for each IP. In 2013, Sony published R&C Into the Nexus on the PS3, making it one of the last PS3 games before the launch of the PS4. After having Ratchet in a 4-player co-op game and a tower defense, Into the Nexus was marked as being a return to roots for the R&C series. The gameplay harkens to those of the original trilogy where you collect bolts, buy new weapons and gadgets and complete missions. There were some new gimmicks like the 2D Clank levels to add some variety. In 2014, Kirby also returned to his roots after having some experimental titles released (RTD could count, 1st 4 player co-op Kirby game). Kirby Triple Deluxe for the 3DS had gameplay that resembled something like Kirby’s Adventure where you suck in enemies, get power ups, and complete a series of worlds. It also brought in a few new tweaks to make it different, like the Hypernova ability where Kirby will literally eat everything in front of him!
Though the streak of oddly similar releases by concept will come to an end. Nintendo just published the clay-mated sequel to Canvas Curse, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Unless the new R&C game has claymation or has the player draw lines for a ball-form Ratchet, this streak will be over. It sounds all but confirmed from E3 2014 that the new R&C game is based on the upcoming movie, which both will try re-tell the original game’s story. Speaking of which…
10 or more years after being exclusively video game franchises, both IP’s have had/will have their crack at animated entertainment:
So believe it or not, both Nintendo and Sony have approved letting different animation studios produce animated entertainment based on Kirby and R&C respectively. Though Kirby already had his chance. In 2002, the Saturday Morning Anime, titled “Kirby Right Back at Ya!” premiered on the former FOX Saturday Morning program, the FOXBOX. It was dubbed by 4 KIDS Entertainment and it had King Dedede deal with the final boss from Kirby’s Adventure to make a monster to destroy the E.T. known as Kirby. Kirby would then get a power up from the games to save the day. I remember watching this as a kid and I didn’t like it. Kirby was not the problem though. Beside making his cute sounds, he was a silent, hungry protagonist who would always claw his way to victory. The problem? Every other characters' voice acting was a grind to listen to, like Dedede talking like some redneck. It was a pretty silly show as expected and this series had 100 episodes aired on TV.
More than 10 years after being just a game series, Ratchet and Clank will also have animated media released soon, though in the form of a movie. In 2013, it was announced that Rainmaker Animation and Blockade Entertainment were working on a Ratchet and Clank CGI animated film originally set to release 2015. It had two teasers, one on the day of the announcement and the other at E3 2014. No news popped up about the film until on May 13, when the film was delayed to release in theaters on April 29, 2016. The news also stated that celebrities are lending their voices to the film, including Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Rosario Dawson and Sylvester Stallone. Don’t worry! The games’ voices actors for Ratchet, Clank, Qwark and Dr. Nefarious will all reprise their roles for the movie. So if you were thinking that Stallone was voicing Clank, which could either be great or terrible, its not happening. It actually was shown to international audiences not too long ago at the Cannes Film Festival, where all that news was announced. Honestly with the delay and hearing that the writer for the R&C series, TJ Fixman, is behind the screenplay, it sounds like they’re trying to make a decent movie while staying true to its source material. Fingers crossed.
Yes both forms of animation are completely different to each other. But this is proof that both Nintendo and Sony gave different animation studios the thumbs up to let their respective properties be turned to animation media. Plus, Kirby Right Back at Ya was set in the earliest games of Kirby’s series, being Dream Land and Adventure, and the upcoming R&C movie is set in the first game. So both have the similarity of taking place in the earliest games. Also, like how the upcoming R&C movie has a game coming out alongside, Kirby had a game in Nightmare in Dream Land released shortly after the anime premiered, which was a dope GBA port of Kirby’s Adventure.
So basically, Kirby and R&C have way more in common than you might think. New games come out for each series even if the marketing doesn't seem to be there. They also have a similar history in changing box art in Japan and North America, having similar themed titles come out and one having a crack at animated entertainment while the other will have its chance in 2016.