??????? © 1994 Nintendo Company, Limited.
Kirby Bowl is an isometric action/mini golf game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo. The ever cute and popular pink Kirby returns as the main protagonist in this unusual spin off. The evil King Dedede has stolen all the stars from the sky, and Kirby rushes off to the villain's floating castle to save Dream Land once again. The player is charged with the task of helping the titular character completing all kind of levels designed like cute miniature golf courses. But here, unlike other tiles in the franchise, Kirby acts as a golf ball and the player has to push the little round character and send him into exit holes in order to progress through the game. However, these exit holes are nowhere to be seen at the beginning of each level. In practice, Kirby has to hit all the enemies found on the course first, and the last enemy then magically turns into the exit that leads to the next stage. Kirby Bowl, despite its non-traditional nature for a Kirby game, still holds onto what made the series so popular in the first place. Our puffball can obtain different abilities from his enemies, and can turn into an U.F.O, grow sharp spikes or float with the help of an umbrella. He can also do a large variety of moves (jump over obstacles, spin or bounce) and the player often has to strategically balance strength and spin to achieve the perfect shot. Additionally, before making a shot, the player can even plot his next move and visualize the ideal trajectory! Finally, Kirby's life is symbolized by small red tomatoes - he loses one each time he makes a shot, and wins one each time he hits an enemy or finishes a hole. If he loses all his tomatoes then he loses a life, and once all the lives are gone then the game is over. Kirby Bowl consists of eight courses made out of eight holes each and also includes a two-player versus mode.
Kirby Bowl was released on September 21, 1994 in Japan for 7900 Yen.
Interestingly, Kirby Bowl was not originally intended to endorse any particular franchise. The first version of the game was apparently developed by Nintendo around 1992 and called Special Tee Shot. Additionally, this first version didn't even feature Kirby at all! The main character was a cute little red ball with googly eyes and the game used the same core gameplay as Kirby Bowl. But the ball couldn't steal powers from his enemies and could only gain a Power Shot (which doubled the strength for the next shot). The player also didn't need to defeat all the enemies on the playfield to make the exit hole appear. Special Tee Shot was never officially realized on cartridge, but it was apparently broadcasted by Nintendo via the Stellaview System in 1996. , and this exclusively in Japan. Interestingly, Special Tee Shot was featured at the back of the box of the early Super Nintendo system console in the United States (from the Super NES Control Set), with a short description - "Blast the ball off the tee to clink and clank as it bounces off of wacky obstacles on a sky-high, high-tech golf course of the future! The Super NES accurately plots the path of your shot for the most realistic and fun feel in a golf game yet!". It was also mentioned in the Nintendo Power magazine from June 1992 (Vol.37) and described there as a "hybrid golf/billiards game" (and even included a screen shot) - so Special Tee Shot was definitively in development at Nintendo in 1992, which was further confirmed by the discovery of a prototype cartridge in 2004 (and seemingly also dated 1992).