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Month of Kirby: The Uncopyable and Vital Mascot

Posted by Tim Latshaw

Before he could be anything, Kirby was one thing

The Hypernova power is a fantastic addition to Kirby: Triple Deluxe. Dynamic and stage-altering, it’s a continued step up from the heightened inhaling power Kirby was granted in his Return to Dreamland.

“But what’s really so special about that?” one might ask. “Kirby has always been a waddling little vacuum. That’s who he is.” Exactly! And in a time when the puffball has portrayed nearly everything under the sun, he deserves to be given more nods back to his original, marshmallow-like core.

Simplicity has been a main draw of Kirby since his humble beginnings. The character was conceived as a mere placeholder sprite while developing the original Kirby’s Dream Land, but the friendly, unassuming shape ultimately charmed creator Masahiro Sakurai and it was retained as the main protagonist.

Kirby’s uncomplicated form was also not lost on marketers, who incorporated his high doodle-bility into the Japanese commercial for Kirby’s Dream Land:

Trippy ending aside, the commercial showcases the intended approachable nature of Kirby toward beginner gamers. If you can draw him, it suggests, you can surely play his game. The same tune and drawing lesson were carried over to the start-up screen of the next game, Kirby’s Adventure, but granting Kirby a new feature here would blow the creative potential for him wide open.

Copy abilities took the easy “inhale/spit” options available in Kirby’s Dream Land and piled on a roster of equally accessible moves, dramatically increasing the freedom players had in choosing to attack and explore. Outside the games, however, there was little impact.

Just kidding, of course. People saw Kirby could suddenly get a sword and a Link hat and they lost their minds. Not only could Kirby’s minimalist style be adapted to a variety of internal powers, but he could easily be accommodated to reflect properties outside his own realm as well. The point was further hammered in upon the release of Super Smash Bros. and Kirby was given a ticket to directly consume his colleagues.

Kirby quickly rocketed to a Hello Kitty-like iconic status within the realm of video games, but this can be seen as both a boon and a detriment when it comes to the depth of his character. On one hand, there’s no better way to spread your name than to be universally recognized and applicable. On the other hand, changing a character so often this way hinges its identity on the identities of others and gradually pushes its individuality out of the spotlight.

There are arguments over whether Luigi is really as cowardly as portrayed or it’s in Samus’s personality to wear high-heeled jet boots, but you don’t see the same with Kirby. He’s a relatively blank slate, which makes it easier to add to his abilities without any trouble. The trade-off is that there is less talk about Kirby himself and more about whether he’s going to get a sweet set of shorts and gloves when he swallows Little Mac.

Is it necessarily bad that Kirby has developed this way, though? Should we initiate a Pure Kirby movement and abolish all copy abilities? Not in the slightest! Even with the sea of copy abilities he now swims in, Kirby’s original purpose was never to strike out with a personality of his own beyond one of child-like innocence. To have given him “attitude” would have cut into the accessible, relatable nature that makes him so successful at his prime directive.

Kirby’s role has always been one of an ambassador, but while Smash Bros. and fanart have emphasized this on an external level, his true strength will always lie in drawing people internally within his games. No matter what title he appears in — whether he’s an adventurer, a fighter, or just a ball on a playing field — that happy (well, depending on eyebrow placement) face and harmless, roly-poly shape signifies a welcoming, inclusive environment for newbies and veterans alike, just as much as it did in his first game when he couldn’t generate sparks or throw cutters.

That’s Kirby’s uncopyable ability. Among Nintendo’s roster he is its soft, pink comfort blanket. You can wear it as a cape, make it into a fort, or just draw Batman all over it, but in the end it’s always going to be there to do what it was made for.

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User Comments (28)

Gold

#1

Gold said:

Kirby's unique. I wonder if Kirby wasn't created, if we would have something like him now.

Obito_Tennyson

#2

Obito_Tennyson said:

Kirby all the way! Plus, that Kirby Epic Yarn picture was hilarious. I would have know idea how Kirby would know what pants feel like, but who knows what he has tasted over the past 22 years? He'd probably know what anything feels or tastes like knowing his expierience.

thesilverbrick

#3

thesilverbrick said:

I had no idea the opening jingle from Kirby's Adventure originated in a Japanese commercial. You learn something new every day...

NintyMan

#4

NintyMan said:

KIrby really is a unique character. From a gameplay perspective, he's very impressive because you can play so many different abilities and personalities in him. There's just so many opportunities! And it all comes from a little pink creature that can suck things up.

Emblem

#5

Emblem said:

That advert was horrifying.... Snap they should do a horror version of Kirby lol.

allav866

#8

allav866 said:

@thesilverbrick I've said it here many times that Kirby's Adventure is my favorite game of all time, and it's because it never stops surprising me. I play the game at least once a year since it came out, and I still manage to learn something new about it.

retro_player_22

#9

retro_player_22 said:

As a kid, I use to think he was just a walking Pac-Man since his first game was only in black and white and he can suck and devour enemies. Now with the copy ability and some unique gaming mechanic, he can be so much more.

unrandomsam

#10

unrandomsam said:

@allav866 The NES one or the Wii one that is called Return to Dreamland in the USA ? Never played the NES one (Stuff like slowdown and sprite flicker I cannot put up with). I did like the Wii one a lot but its far too soon for me to be bothered for a sequel. (Famitsu rated it lower than the Wii one which is probably all I need to know. If they raised the bar again that would have been different).

Yoshi's Island with a break of 8 years was about right for a new entry in a series.

Action51

#12

Action51 said:

@DestinyMan - Kirby is not really unique at all.

As another poster mentions, he looks like Pac-Man, and for my money I think he resembles another HAL laboratory game character: LoLo.

Speaking of Pac-Man, Kirby's powers are a combination of Pac-Man who can gobble up everything in sight and Megaman who can claim the powers of his opponents.

I'm not a fan of Kirby, and never played a Kirby game I found to be remotely challenging, but then I haven't played them all by a long shot. I guess for a kids game, he's alright...

@Daz-brum - I think Nintendo uses Kirby too much! He's got a ton of games and appears in Smash Bros.

DinoFett

#13

DinoFett said:

What do you think? We had the year of Luigi now it should be the year of Kirby.

DinoFett

#14

DinoFett said:

What do you think? We had the year of Luigi now it should be the year of Kirby.

unrandomsam

#15

unrandomsam said:

@Action51 The spinoff Kirby games have much more originality than nearly everything Nintendo does. (Dream Course / Air Ride for examples when compared the Mario Kart or Mario Golf). Even though I didn't really like Epic Yarn or Canvas Curse they had originality at least.

Xiao_Pai

#16

Xiao_Pai said:

Really wished they kept the copy ability mixing from 64 in future games, always loved that. lol

Thulfram

#23

Thulfram said:

@DinoFett So now we have the month of Kirby, and we were sad to end the year of Luigi. So what's next? The day of Tingle? The minute of Digger D. Mole? When will it ever stop?

DinoFett

#24

DinoFett said:

I think all of us should make a Nintendo calender of all the characters for each year. After Kirby it should be the year of Fox Mc Cloud.Then the year of Mario and the decade of 'Iwata'. Every character will have a month and also a year and all of us will vote on whom will get the decade. :-D

allav866

#28

allav866 said:

@unrandomsam Talking about the NES game, not Return to Dreamland. There's a remake of it for the GBA, and there's also 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure on the 3DS eShop, which recreates the original in 3D and without any of the NES's graphical flaws. I personally recommend the latter, as it is IMO the definitive version of the game, and can be played without the 3D effect to keep the original look.

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