Kirby (カービィ Kābī, Japanese pronunciation: [kaːbiː]) is a fictional character and the titular protagonist of the Kirby series of video games owned by Nintendo and HAL Laboratory. As one of Nintendo's most famous and familiar icons, Kirby's round appearance and ability to copy his foes' powers has made him a well-known figure in video games, consistently ranked as one of the most iconic video game characters. He first appeared in 1992 in Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy. Originally a placeholder, created by Masahiro Sakurai, at the age of 19, for the game's early development, he has since then starred in over 20 games, ranging from action platformers to puzzle, racing, and even pinball, and has been featured as a playable fighter in all Super Smash Bros. games. He has also starred in his own anime and manga series. His most recent appearance is in Kirby Star Allies, for the Nintendo Switch. Since 1999, he has been voiced by Makiko Ohmoto.
|Kirby series character|
Kirby, as depicted in promotional artwork for Kirby Star Allies
|First appearance||Kirby's Dream Land (1992)|
|Last appearance||The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (2019)|
|Created by||Masahiro Sakurai|
|Designed by||Masahiro Sakurai|
|Voiced by||Mayumi Tanaka (1993)|
Taeko Kawata (1994)
Makiko Ohmoto (1999–present)
Kirby is well known for his ability to inhale objects and creatures to gain their abilities, as well as his ability to float by expanding his body. He uses these abilities to rescue various lands, including his homeworld of Planet Popstar, from evil forces and antagonists, such as Dark Matter or Nightmare. On these adventures he often crosses paths with his rivals, the gluttonous King Dedede and the mysterious Meta Knight, though Meta Knight can be found as a hero, depending on the game. Kirby has been described as one of the most legendary video game characters of all time by PC World. In virtually all his appearances, Kirby is depicted as cheerful, innocent and food-loving but becomes fearless, bold and clever in the face of danger.
Concept and creation
Kirby was created by video game designer Masahiro Sakurai as the player character of the 1992 game Kirby's Dream Land. The character's design was intended to serve as placeholder graphics for the game's original protagonist in early development and thus was given a simplistic ball-like appearance. Sakurai switched to the placeholder design for the final character design when he believed that it served the character better. The character was known as Popopo (ポポポ) during development until the name "Kirby" was chosen from a draft list of potential names. Shigeru Miyamoto stated that "Kirby" was chosen in honor of American lawyer John Kirby, who defended Nintendo in the Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. case in 1984 and that the guttural-sounding name contrasted amusingly with the character's cute appearance. Kirby appears white in Kirby's Dream Land due to the grayscale palette of the Game Boy system. Sakurai intended the character to be pink, though Miyamoto originally wanted the character to be yellow. Kirby does appear white in the game's North American promotional materials and artwork to reflect the character's in-game appearance.
In North America, Kirby consistently appears in artwork with a more striking, bolder expression than in Japan, where his expression is more relaxed. Nintendo has said that the more battle-ready appearance appeals to a wider audience in North America.
Kirby has a pink, spherical, body with small stubby arms and large red feet. His eyes are a distinctive oval shape and are white (eye shine) at the top, black in the center and dark blue on the bottom (all black in early games) with rosy cheek-blushes near his eyes. His body is soft and flexible, allowing him to stretch or flatten and adopt different shapes, open his mouth really wide to inhale foes, or inflate himself with air and fly. According to the Super Smash Bros. manual he is 8 inches (or 20.32 centimeters) tall, however the games themselves are inconsistent with Kirby's height. Kirby's 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 hails from the distant Planet Popstar, where he lives in a dome-shaped house in the country of Dream Land. He has a positive attitude, and frequently helps to save Dream Land through the use of his unique powers. His age is never directly stated, although he is referred to as a "little boy" in the English manual for Kirby's Dream Land, described as a baby in the anime, and was referred to as being a "jolly fellow" in Kirby Super Star.
The same personality and nature is presented in the Super Smash Bros. games. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, his trophy profile states that he is an "extremely skilled technician". Kirby plays a prominent role in the Subspace Emissary plot as a protagonist, the story mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Although he appears cute and innocent, many commercials and ads have contrasted this with 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, Lucas' PK Freeze, Ryu's Hadoken/Shakunetsu Hadoken and "Jump/Speed/Shield/Buster/Smash" when using Shulk's Monado Arts. There are some notable exceptions where Kirby actually does speak in-game, such as Kirby's Avalanche, Kirby no Kirakira Kizzu and Kirby's Epic Yarn.
Despite his loveable nature, he sometimes acts in an impulsive or naive way, such as when he accuses King Dedede of interfering with the Fountain of Dreams in Kirby's Adventure, and then leaves to retrieve the pieces of the shattered Star Rod without receiving a full explanation. He also attacked Meta Knight in Kirby Squeak Squad for ownership of a chest that he believed contained a slice of his stolen strawberry shortcake. In reality, the Star Rod was going to be taken by Nightmare, who would corrupt the Fountain of Dreams and turn every dream into a Nightmare, and the chest that Kirby wanted contained Dark Nebula, a powerful being with evil intentions. King Dedede and Meta Knight were aware of these problems, and were trying to protect the world.
Kirby's main ability is inhaling enemies and objects and spitting them out with incredible force. Both his mouth and body expand to allow him to inhale things much larger than himself. However, there is a limit to what he can inhale; excessively large or heavy foes like bosses can resist Kirby's inhale. Against these opponents Kirby must find smaller objects to use as ammo or intercept his opponent's attacks and send them back at them.
Kirby is able to float like a balloon by inhaling a gulp of air to make himself more buoyant, flying slowly by flapping his arms. However, his only method of attack in this state is to spit the gulp of air, sending him back towards the ground. While in most games he can float indefinitely, he gets tired in some games such as Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, Kirby Fighters Deluxe and Super Smash Bros.
Kirby's main mode of transportation is a star shaped, flying vehicle called a Warp Star. By clinging to its side or riding it like a surfboard Kirby is able to move quickly through the air and travel quickly between areas.
From the second game onwards, by swallowing foes, Kirby can copy their primary attribute, called a Copy Ability. Giving Kirby new abilities such as gaining fire abilities from inhaling a fiery creature or the ability to shoot needles from his body by eating a spiky creature. Kirby can only have one Copy Ability at a time and must discard his current one if he wishes to use another. Additionally, if he takes too much damage his Copy Ability will be knocked out of him; though if he's quick he can inhale it again.
Kirby Super Star greatly expanded on the concept of Copy Abilities from Kirby's Adventure. Originally Kirby just obtained one technique from a Copy Ability which replaced his Inhale but Kirby Super Star introduced multiple fighting techniques for each ability with their own controls. Additionally while Kirby's Adventure didn't have Kirby's appearance drastically change when he had a Copy Ability, aside from his color changing to orange or snow white, or wielding a weapon for abilities like Sword or Hammer. Kirby Super Star gave each Copy Ability its own costume, such as a fiery crown for Fire Kirby or a floppy green cap that resembles Link's for Sword Kirby.
In Kirby Super Star, Kirby could sacrifice his current Copy Ability to create a 'Helper', an allied version of the enemy Kirby typically gets that ability from. The new Helper could be controlled by the game or a second player. 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 and was intended to return in the cancelled Gamecube Kirby game which would have had Kirby able to make up to four helpers at once. In the game Kirby Star Allies, it seems that there will be an aspect similar to this.
Other games have developed his powers even further, often with new ways to utilize his Copy Abilities. As a whole, however, his basic moves have remained the same. In Kirby 64 Kirby can combine two Copy Abilities to create new ones. This returns in Kirby: Squeak Squad in a limited form, but only with Bomb and Sword which are both able to combine with Ice, Fire, and Spark.
In Kirby's Return to Dream Land, some Copy Abilities received enhanced versions called Super Abilities. Stronger than normal Copy Abilities, Super Abilities are capable of destroying scenery and interacting with the environment but unlike normal Copy Abilities their use has a time limit. Likewise, in Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Kirby can eat a Miracle Fruit to become Hypernova Kirby, giving his basic inhale ability a temporary boost that allows him to inhale huge objects.
In addition to his natural and Copy Abilities Kirby makes use of a variety of power-ups and items. In Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's first appearance, 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 super spicy curry, which let Kirby shoot out fireballs from his mouth until the item's effect wore off or he lost a life. Kirby uses food or other special items like Maxim Tomatoes or Invincibility Lollipops to heal his health or gain temporary invincibility in the case of the lollipop. Kirby Super Star, Kirby Super Star Ultra, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror and Kirby's Return to Dream Land contain a feature where Kirby can share his food with the second player.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kirby's Final Smash is his Cook ability from Kirby Super Star, which cook opponents, items and more. In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Kirby's Final Smash is an Ultra Sword attack.
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 be thrown at other foes, attached to buttons, move zippers and more.
Although never explored in great detail in the series, Kirby is not the only member of his kind. Similar looking characters are seen in the ending of Kirby's Dream Land, and its remake Spring Breeze in Kirby Super Star. Meta Knight and Galacta Knight, both of whom bear a close resemblance to Kirby without their masks are often hinted to be of the same species as Kirby. In general, members of the species all look similar, but sometimes have different colored skin, eyes, and feet.
No official term exists for them other than Kirby's species. 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. 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, although in this situation the four "Kirbys" are four pieces of Kirby rather than four individual Kirby-like beings. 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. Sometimes the term 'puffballs' is used referring to the species' round shape.
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 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 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.
In Kirby's Dream Land 3, a mysterious enemy appears called Batamon, notable for its resemblance to Kirby aside from a more flattened shape and different face. These creatures 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 some.
Kirby's primary media form is video games, as he is the star and protagonist of the Nintendo owned series named after him. Most Kirby games are platform games in which Kirby fights enemies, solves puzzles, and challenges bosses. Each game typically adds a new twist or change to Kirby's abilities that the levels of the game emphasize, such as combining power ups in Kirby 64 or Super Abilities in Return to Dream Land. Most games involve Kirby saving a world or even universe from a dark, evil force of some kind. Typical Kirby games have a powerful being, such as Dark Matter or Nightmare, controlling or corrupting a secondary villain.
The series has 26 games currently, with the first being Kirby's Dream Land in 1992 and the latest being Kirby Star Allies in 2018. Although most are platform games, some spin offs have included pinball, racing, and puzzle games.
Super Smash Bros. series
Kirby 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. He reprises his role as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Kirby appears in his own anime titled Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, (Japanese: 星のカービィ Hoshi no Kaabii) in Japan. The series 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).
The anime series is set in its own universe independent of the games and offers its own take on the setting and characters however, 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. The anime contains darker themes such as war, and death while still maintaining the cheerful and surreal themes the games are known for.
In the anime Kirby's origin and backstory are explored much more deeply than in the games. Kirby is a legendary Star Warrior who, according to legend, is fated to save Pop Star from destruction, but he was awoken from his slumber 200 years too early by mistake and as such has many baby or childlike qualities. Because of his age he is still getting the hang of his powers and depends even more on the help of his friends to pull through tough situations. It is also implied that Kirby was originally a creation of the ancient evil entity called Nightmare but refused to follow his evil orders and was discarded into the depths of space.
Kirby's Warpstar is also expanded upon, as in the games it is a mode of transportation, but here the Warpstar is also the source of his power but as he's too young to keep it safe for himself the character Tiff takes it upon herself to keep the Warpstar safe.
Though Sakurai instructed that Kirby not speak in full sentences (citing the Peanuts character Snoopy) he did allow him to use a small vocabulary including a catch phrase "Poyo" and the names of various attacks and characters.
Prior to this Kirby was also in a short educational video that was released exclusively in Japan in 1994, designed to teach Kanji to young children. The feature was not animated, but contained illustrations and was bundled with a similar video featuring Mario and Wario.
Manga and comics
Kirby also stars in several manga series, most of which have only been released in Japanese. The longest running series is titled 星のカービィ デデデでプププなものがたり (lit. Kirby of the Stars: The Story of Dedede In Pupupu) running up to 25 books, and was written by Hirokazu Hikawa (ひかわ 博一 Hikawa Hirokazu). While Viz Media originally had plans to release the manga in English on September 2010. This release date was pushed back to October 4, 2011 before being canceled completely on May 16, 2011.
Other Kirby manga are typically one-shot comedy 4koma gag-manga based on the games, and have multiple artists.
The German Club Nintendo magazine often featured comics starring various Nintendo characters including Kirby. In his comics Kirby is reimagined as a detective and King Dedede as his sidekick. These comics were promotions for Kirby games that were released in Germany at the time including Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby's Avalanche, and Kirby's Dream Course.
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. They also included him in their "Pretty in Pink Video Game Characters" article. 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 describing the way he defeats his enemies as "horrific." 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. In 2011, Cheat Code Central ranked Ninja Kirby as the ninth top ninja in video games.
UGO Networks 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 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 "[i]f you don’t think a pink blob can be tough, then you clearly haven’t seen Kirby in action".
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