Kirby (カービィ, Kābī in Japan) is a pink puffball and the main protagonist of Nintendo's Kirby series of video games named after him. The series has been running for over two decades, and nearly thirty titles have been released under Kirby's name, most of which are developed by HAL Laboratory Inc. or published by HAL for co-developing studios.
Kirby has been featured in his own anime series, many manga publications in several countries, and even an educational video co-starring Mario. He has his fair share in Nintendo's merchandising from all his appearances, although many of them are only released in Japan.
Kirby lives in his dome-shaped home in Dream Land, a country on his home planet Pop Star. His adventures take him throughout Dream Land and occasionally into local star systems for various reasons, and he has saved his home land several times.
The Kirby series is one of Nintendo's many well-known game franchises, spanning nearly twenty games since 1992. His first appearance took place in the 1992 video game Kirby's Dream Land, where he was portrayed by a two-dimensional sprite; since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards for the Nintendo 64, he has made several appearances in 3-D. He has been featured in other video games from Nintendo, on Nintendo's merchandising, on comic books, and even on a television show. Kirby also appears in the Super Smash Bros. series.
Kirby is described in his games as a small pink puff ball, who is a citizen of Nihongo on the planet Pop Star. In the main game, he almost always has the same abilities; he can walk, run, jump, float, slide, and inhale, spit out, or devour his enemies.
Kirby often journeys across the planet Pop Star, defeating antagonistic forces such as the greedy King Dedede or the evil Dark Matter. On other occasions, he encounters the enigmatic Meta Knight. To defeat his foes, he uses his signature ability of inhaling large objects and spitting them out with great force. From Kirby's Adventure onward, Kirby was able to gain the abilities of the enemies he swallowed, better known as his Copy Abilities. In several games in the series, he obtains a mystical weapon during the climax of the battle against his enemy; this weapon is usually required to defeat the final boss.
Concept and creation
Kirby was first called Popopo, his original name, and his model was created as a blob placeholder sprite during the development of what would be the first Kirby game, originally titled 'Twinkle Popopo' instead of the current Hoshi no Kābī (translated as 'Kirby of the Stars'). After a while, creator Masahiro Sakurai started to prefer Kirby's placeholder design over the original concept. He later stated that he envisioned Kirby as a 'game for beginners'.
As Kirby's first appearance was on the monochrome screen of the Game Boy, his "true" color could not be represented in-game. Sakurai intended Kirby to be pink. However, Shigeru Miyamoto had envisioned him as yellow. Because of this ambiguity, Nintendo of America was left with some confusion when the game was ported to the West. The American box art, cartridge label, instruction booklet, and even the television commercial for Kirby's Dream Land features Kirby entirely white in color. The Japanese box art, however, depicts Kirby as light red.
One widespread view is that Kirby adopted his Western name from the Kirby Corporation, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, leading to the belief the name is a play on Kirby's ability to inhale just about anything. The other possible explanation is that Kirby was named in honor of Nintendo's legal counsel, John Kirby of Latham & Watkins LLP, who represented them in the courtroom during a copyright infringement lawsuit over Donkey Kong filed by Universal Studios. However, Masahiro Sakurai has been quoted as saying he does not remember how Kirby got his name.
Kirby is voiced by voice actress Makiko Ohmoto in the Super Smash Bros. series, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby Mass Attack, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and in both versions of the anime Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, since Kirby does not display extensive linguistic skills in the latter media. She considered the time doing Kirby's voice and working with others on the show and games to be a great experience. In a previous 1993 educational video called Mario Kirby Masterpiece, Kirby was voiced by Mayumi Tanaka.
Kirby is a pink, small, spherical creature with large red feet, stubby arms, and trademark pink cheek-blushes. His body is soft and flexible, allowing him to be flattened. He is supposedly 8 inches tall, according to the Super Smash Bros. games. His weight is unknown, although several parts of the anime, the game Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, and the Super Smash Bros. series suggest that he is light enough to be carried and for the wind to cause him to move in an unwanted direction. He hails from the planet Pop Star, where he lives in a dome-shaped house in the kingdom of Dream Land. His appearance has changed subtly over the years, becoming more rounded and defined, mainly in his face and larger blue eyes. The new design has been used in all subsequent games.
Kirby has a positive attitude, and helps to save Dream Land through the use of his unique powers. His age is never directly stated, although he was once called a "little boy" in the English manual for Kirby's Dream Land, literally acts like a baby in the anime, and was referred to as being a "jolly fellow" in Kirby Super Star. This, along with his high-pitched voice, suggests that Kirby is young.
Kirby is happy, polite, honest, jubilant, delighted, optimistic, cheerful, blameless, trustworthy, and innocent. He loves to eat, dance, defeat enemies, and play, especially during the day. His favorite food is Maxim Tomatoes, which fully restore his health in the games (although in the anime series Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, his favorite food appears to be watermelons and he eats them whole). He is said to dislike caterpillars. His other hobbies include singing, although he is tone-deaf. He sometimes acts in an impulsive nature, such as when he accuses King Dedede of interfering with the Fountain of Dreams (also known as the Dream Spring) in Kirby's Adventure, and then leaves to retrieve the pieces of the shattered Star Rod without even letting Dedede explain himself, or when he accuses Dedede of stealing his slice of strawberry shortcake in Squeak Squad, not knowing that Dedede's castle has also been burglarized recently.
The same personality and nature is presented in the Super Smash Bros series. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, his trophy profile states that he is an "extremely skilled technician". Kirby has been seen to have made the biggest, and most playable role in Subspace Emissary, the story mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Meta Knight and King Dedede also play a prominent role in the Subspace Emissary mode as well. Unlike most trademark Nintendo villains (Bowser, Ganondorf, etc.), King Dedede ultimately has good intentions in the Subspace Emissary.
Although (or perhaps because) he appears cute and innocent, many commercials and ads have showcased this as a contrast to his extreme fighting skills when he takes on the abilities of an enemy.
Kirby is a character of few words and rarely speaks in-game. His dialogue is largely limited to appearances in some games' instruction manuals, and brief comments such as "Hi!" or "Poyo!" in games including Super Smash Bros. and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Despite his lack of dialogue, Kirby narrates the functions of certain Copy Abilities on the pause menu in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, and Kirby: Squeak Squad. Kirby gives short descriptions of various menu options when they are highlighted. The concept of Kirby being mostly mute is supported by Masahiro Sakurai's insistence that Kirby does not speak in the anime series, although he does occasionally say the names of his special attacks and certain foods and sometimes repeats other words that he hears. In the Super Smash Bros. series, when Kirby copies a foe's ability, Kirby says the name of some attacks, such as Captain Falcon's "Falcon Punch", Ness' PK Flash, and Lucas' PK Freeze. There are some notable exceptions where Kirby actually does speak in-game, such as Kirby's Avalanche, Kirby no Kirakira Kizzu (Also known as Kirby: Super Star Stacker) and Kirby's Epic Yarn.
Kirby's main attack is inhaling enemies (both his mouth and body expand to allow him to inhale things much larger than himself) and swallowing them. He can also attack others by spitting enemies out as star-projectiles. Certain enemies, when swallowed, grant Kirby new powers called Copy Abilities.
In Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby did not have Copy Abilities. He collected power ups, such as a mint leaf, which enabled him to shoot out endless air pellets for a limited amount of time, and curry and chicken (which makes a reappearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as Superspicy Curry), which let Kirby shoot out fireballs from his mouth until the item's effect wore off or he loses a life.
In most early games, an ability does not change Kirby's appearance drastically, aside from his color changing to orange or snow white in Kirby's Adventure, Kirby Air Ride, or wielding a weapon for abilities like Sword or Hammer. However, with Kirby Super Star, Kirby gains a unique hat for each ability, such as an "ice climbers" hat (similar to Popo's parka from Ice Climber) for freeze, a frozen crown for Ice, or a backwards baseball cap for Yo-Yo and Wheel. While this would be overlooked in later games not designed by Masahiro Sakurai (such as Kirby's Dream Land 3 and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards) the hats soon became a staple of the series (with the exception of Kirby: Canvas Curse).
In Kirby Super Star, Kirby could sacrifice his copied ability to create a 'Helper', an allied version of the enemy he had devoured. The new Helper would be controlled by the game or a second player. The 'Helper', or sidekick as he is known, would fight enemies with Kirby. This feature has not yet been included in later Kirby games, although it was included in Kirby Super Star's remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra.
Kirby also uses his powers to attain food or other special items like lollipops that grant him beneficial effects such as healing or temporary invulnerability. Kirby Super Star, Kirby Super Star Ultra, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror and Kirby's Return to Dreamland contain a feature where Kirby can share his food with the second player.
Kirby can inhale air to make himself more buoyant, flying slowly by flapping his arms. He can attack enemies by quickly exhaling a puff of air. This technique is known as the air gun. While in most games he can float indefinitely, this ability is limited in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Super Smash Bros. Other games have developed his powers even further, such as allowing him to block attacks in Kirby Super Star. As a whole, however, his basic moves have remained the same, although more Copy Abilities are added in each new game. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kirby displays an ability called "Cook Kirby", that was taken from Kirby Super Star and other recent games, as his Final Smash Attack. For this power, Kirby acquires a chef's hat, cooking utensils, and a boiling pot. All objects, including Assist Trophies, Pokémon, and players within a limited range are drawn into the pot. Various items then rain from above into the pot, and the players shoot out.
In Kirby's Epic Yarn, at the start of the game, Kirby inhales a yarn-based Maxim Tomato (referred to by Yin-Yarn as a Metamato) transforming him into yarn, granting Kirby the ability to transform into a car, a surfboarding penguin, a UFO, and many other forms. Also, since Kirby cannot suck up enemies in this game (since air just goes through him), he uses a yarn whip to grab enemies and turn them into yarn balls, which can by thrown at other foes, attached to buttons, move zippers and more.
In Kirby's Return to Dream Land, he gets many abilities. In the start of the game a flying ship crashes on Pop Star. Kirby and his friends decided to help out. The adventure begins as they help an alien named Magolor. During this adventure, Kirby can gain "Super Abilities", which can be gained by swallowing certain enemies. While they are used to take out other enemies with a single attack, they are mostly used to open hidden warp holes that go into another dimension. The Super Abilities can also be used in certain boss battles.
While Kirby is the one most often emphasized, he is not the only member of his kind. His similar kind is evidenced by similar looking characters seen in the ending of Kirby's Dream Land, Spring Breeze in Kirby Super Star, and potentially Meta Knight along with Galacta Knight, who appears to look nearly identical to Kirby. In Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, Kirby's Return to Dream Land and Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, different colored Kirbys appear as other players in multi-player games. In the case of the latter, they are the result of Kirby being divided into four by Dark Meta Knight. In general, members of the species all look similar, but sometimes have different colored skin, eyes, and feet. They are commonly referred to as Kirbys, just as 'Yoshi' in the Mario series is the name of both the species and character. As a name, however, 'Kirby' refers to only one character. Terms like creampuffs or puffballs are also used to describe the species, referring to their soft, round appearance. In the English manual of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, the term Kirbys is used at points, to illustrate the feature of having four differently colored versions of Kirby active in the game simultaneously. Another common term is Dream Landers, a term used in the instruction manual for Kirby's Adventure. This term, however, also refers to anyone who lives in Dream Land, including characters like King Dedede. The biography of Kirby in Super Smash Bros. Brawl says Kirby is a citizen of Dream Land.
In the anime, Kirby has also been called a Star Warrior, along with Meta Knight and other characters that have appeared in the Kirby animated series. It's a common belief that this refers to their species, but this is untrue as there is another person referred to as a Star Warrior who looks nothing like them. It is said that Kirby is just a young Star Warrior or an underdeveloped one. In the first episode of the animated series, Kirby's space ship prematurely crashed on Pop Star. The trip was supposed to take him several hundred years and in that time he was supposed to be dormant; however, his ship drifted into a space rift causing it to warp to Dream Land and making his trip shorter, not allowing him to develop into the Star Warrior he was going to become. Kirby was also called a Warpstar Knight or a Warpstar Warrior, but this was only occasionally seen in select advertisements. Although it is unclear, the possibility also exists that he may be one of Holy Nightmare's (NME or Nightmare Enterprises in the English dub) monsters that turned against his creator.
In Kirby's Dream Land 3, mysterious characters appear called Batamon. They resemble Kirby aside from a more flattened shape and different face. They are always seen walking past walls or ceilings beyond Kirby's reach, with the exception of a single stage in Cloudy Park, where Kirby can continue past the exit and come into contact with one.
Kirby set off on his first adventure in Kirby's Dream Land when the self-made ruler of Dream Land, King Dedede, stole everyone's food and the Sparkling Stars they needed to get more food. Since this act of greed, more dangerous enemies have threatened Kirby's home. His journeys have become more daunting as creatures like Dark Matter possess and control his friends against their will. Kirby maintains a brave and cheerful personality despite it all, gaining new powers and allies to aid him.
Super Smash Bros. series
Kirby also appears in the Super Smash Bros. series of games as a playable character, which is also created by Masahiro Sakurai. He was the series' sole representative in Super Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Melee, but is accompanied by fellow characters, Meta Knight and King Dedede in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where Kirby plays a huge role in the Subspace Emissary Adventure mode.
The character Kirby is represented in an anime titled Kirby of the Stars (Japanese: 星のカービィ Hoshi no Kāabīi). It was originally in Japanese but was later remade in English by 4kids under the name Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. Hoshi no Kaabii was licensed in North America by 4Kids Entertainment and the Canadian company Nelvana, and produced by Warpstar Inc., a company formed between a joint investment between Nintendo and HAL Laboratory. It aired on 4Kids TV, via Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting (since 2001 which has done 100 episodes). Kirby was also in a short educational video that was only released in Japan, designed to teach kanji to young children. The feature was not animated, but contained illustrations.
Kirby's image in the animated series is similar to his in-game image. His feet are a deeper shade of red than in the games, although most anime-related merchandise does not reflect this change. Though Sakurai prefers Kirby not to speak, he has allowed him to use a small vocabulary.
Only in the anime series is Kirby's background given any significance. On the show, he is a legendary Star Warrior who, according to legend, is fated to save Pop Star from destruction. No such legends are ever referred to in the games. It is implied early in the series that he was a creation of an ancient evil entity called Nightmare. It is also said that Kirby was meant to sleep for 200 years, but was awoken too early by mistake, which is why he has baby-like qualities. Because of his age, he depends even more on the help of his friends to pull through tough situations.
Unlike the games, the anime contains darker themes such as war, blood, violence, and death (although mostly in the Japanese version), though it still maintains most of the cheerful and surreal themes from the games. Kirby's creator, Masahiro Sakurai, was greatly involved in its creation, so it did not stray far from his vision of how Kirby should be.
A main trademark of the show is his Warp Star, which, although it appeared in some of the games, is used in almost every episode in the series. It is, apparently, his source of power. He only needs to see it to get his power, but he can't keep it safe for himself. Unlike the games, there is only one Warp Star that Kirby uses for transportation.
Manga and comics
An issue of the Kirby manga - Kirby of the Stars Volume 21. Kirby also stars in several manga series, most of which haven't been released in a language other than Japanese. The longest running series is titled Kirby of the Stars: The Story of Dedede Who Lives In Pupupu, running up to 25 books, and was written by Hirokazu Hikawa (ひかわ 博一 Hikawa Hirokazu). Other Kirby manga are typically one-shot comedy 4koma based on the games, and have multiple artists. They usually have recurring themes and running gags, despite having different creators.
A few comics published in the German Club Nintendo magazines feature Kirby as a detective and King Dedede as his friend. His animal friends Rick, Kine and Coo appear in the comics as pets of a female Kirby look-alike, ostensibly one of Kirby's girlfriends. In one comic, he meets Lolo, Lala and Lulu, the stars of the Adventures of Lolo series. These comics were advertisements for Kirby games that would be released in Germany.
It was originally confirmed that Viz Media would release the manga beginning on September 2010. It was then pushed back to October 4, 2011. Suddenly, on May 16, 2011, the manga was removed from Viz Media's website.
Since he first appeared in Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby has received positive reception. Nintendo Power listed Kirby as their 19th favourite hero, commenting that he doesn't get the respect that he deserves. Kirby ranked second on GameDaily's Top 10 Super Smash Bros. characters list. GamesRadar listed Kirby as one of the most lovable blobs, calling him one of the cutest things to appear in a Nintendo game, yet also calling him nothing in the way he defeats his enemies. He ranked sixth on IGN's top 10 veteran Super Smash Bros. characters, described as the "pinkest badass ever made." An issue of the webcomic VG Cats depicts Kirby in 100 forms from both video games and other forms of media, such as characters from The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear and Gundam. UGO.com listed Kirby on their list of "The Cutest Video Game Characters" stating "It’s easy to get on board with someone who will eat anything." In 2011, Cheat Code Central ranked Ninja Kirby as the ninth top ninja in video games.
In 2009, GameSpot chose him as one of the characters to compete in their poll for the title of "All Time Greatest Game Hero". In a 2010 Famitsu poll, Kirby was voted by readers as the 12th most popular video game character. The 2011 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition lists Kirby as the 18th most popular video game character. In 2012, GamesRadar ranked him as the 40th "most memorable, influential, and badass" protagonist in games, saying "if you don’t think a pink blob can be tough, then you clearly haven’t seen Kirby in action".
- Some of Kirby's Copy Abilities can make him change color, some examples include:
- Fire - Red
- Ice - Blue
- Mirror - White
- Ninja - Purple
- Needle - Yellow
- Plasma/Spark - Green
- Water (in Kirby: Right Back at Ya!): Translucent Blue
- In the Super Smash Bros. series, many of Jigglypuff's attacks and abilities are similar to Kirby's.