Kirby is now a firmly-established member in Nintendo's vast catalogue of intellectual properties, but back in 1993 he was very much a newcomer looking to prove himself - as this fascinating interview from the period attests.
Freshly translated by Shumplations.com, the feature originally appeared in the official guidebook for Kirby's Adventure on the NES and featured input from Masahiro Sakurai (Director), Satoru Iwata (Producer / Programmer), Shigeru Miyamoto – (Producer), Hiroaki Suga (Chief Programmer), Takao Shimizu (Producer) and Takashi Saitou (Designer).
As you can imagine, the questions and answers are rather light-hearted, but there are some interesting nuggets of into contained within. Discussing the origins of the character, it is revealed that he could have been a different colour than his now-famous pink:
Was Kirby always pink?
Sakurai: I had been thinking he would be pink since we made Kirby's Dream Land, yes. Of course the Game Boy visuals had to be monochrome.
Shimizu: But Sakurai, you were the only one who thought Kirby was pink!
Sakurai: Yeah, that's right! Once it came time to create a full-color promotional illustration for Kirby's Adventure, the staff were all talking about it: "What! You mean Kirby isn't white?!" or "I thought he was yellow…" (laughs)
Iwata: Now that you mention it, on the cover for the American release of Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby was colored white. It had a very mysterious aura!
Miyamoto: I remember the first time I saw the color illustration. "Yeah, pink. That looks good!", I thought to myself. Normally a character like Kirby would have been yellow. Think Pac Man, or Noobow. (laughs) That's why when I saw Kirby with a different color, it felt really fresh.
Another topic was the name:
Why is his name "Kirby"?
Iwata: Before we settled on the name Kirby, he was originally called Twinkle Popo. After we finished the game, however, we talked with Nintendo and it was decided that we should change the name.
Shimizu: We wanted American kids to enjoy this game too, you see. We asked Nintendo of America for their suggestions. Kirby was one of many that they sent us, and it caught my eye when I first saw it. I remember "Gasper" was another one… there were lots.
Miyamoto: We wanted a name that would sound like an American idol. But "Kirby" was actually the name of an important lawyer at Nintendo of America. (laughs)
In case you were wondering, the lawyer in question is John Kirby, who defended Nintendo in the Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. case in 1984.
Later, Kirby's unique powers are discussed, as are some of the abilities which were cut from the final game:
Iwata: Originally we had over 40 enemy abilities. From those we selected the best ones, whittling it down to the final number you see in the game today.
Saitou: What were some of the abilities that didn't make the cut?
Sakurai: I believe there was one where you could create blocks, and one where Kirby could shrink down. I think there was even one where Kirby rode on a rocket.
Iwata: There was one called "Animal" too, where you could scratch and bite enemies.
Amusingly, the team then talk about the pressure certain members placed on themselves by striving for perfection:
Iwata: Someone said, "Wouldn't it be cool if Kirby planted a flag when he beats the level and comes out of the door!" And before you knew it, I had programmed that in myself. (laughs)
Saitou: That door was originally square, too. But Shimizu came to us and pointed out that, "the problem with this door is that it opens inwards, but Kirby is standing there in front of it, so you can't tell if it's open or not."
Iwata: I remember he had that grin on his face when he said it, too. (laughs)
Shimizu: Yeah, I caught a lot of flak after that. (laughs) "Shimizu! We're already behind schedule here, stop bringing us these impossible requests!" The only thing that saved me then was frequent hinoki (cypress wood) baths. (laughs)
Saitou: The development center of HAL Laboratories is in the Koufu Basin in Yamanashi prefecture. There was a ryokan inn near our offices with hinoki onsen baths. Towards the end Shimizu was taking a bath there nearly everyday before work. (laughs)
As with all of the interviews translated by Shumplations.com, this is well worth a look. Kirby's Adventure is available on the Wii U Virtual Console, so why not check it out if you haven't done so already?