Kirby sucks. In fact, I think he sucks more than any other video game character. But, unlike Cloud or Sephiroth, Kirby’s suckage actually has a point. See, Nintendo’s little pink mascot, whatever he may be, consumes his enemies and takes their powers as his own. Quite a devious ability for someone so cute and cuddly, isn’t it? Seems to work for Kirby, though, and he’s got a slew of video games, toys, and even a cartoon! Let’s take a look at what the puffball’s been up to over the years…
Kirby first appeared in the Game Boy title Kirby’s Dream Land, released way back in 1992. The game was a short and relatively simple platformer, but our hero of indeterminate species endeared himself to gamers everywhere. Ever wonder why Kirby looks the way he does? Well, when Dream Land was being developed, the main character hadn’t yet been created, so the programmers just put in a smiley face as a "placeholder." The concept grew on them, and they added little blobs for feet and arms…and voila! We’ve got Kirby! His name likely comes from the vaccuum cleaner brand, which makes sense, considering Kirby’s inhalation ability. Another amusing sidenote is that on the cover art for Dream Land, Kirby is depicted as being white. It wasn’t until the subsequent releases of Kirby’s Adventure on the NES and Kirby’s Pinball Land on the Game Boy that we found out that he’s supposed to be pink.
|Kirby’s Dream Land
Kirby’s Adventure is also where Kirby gained his famous "copy" ability. In Dream Land, Kirby could only inhale enemies and spit them back out. If he swallowed them, they’d just disappear. In Adventure, however, consuming certain enemies endowed Kirby with specific powers. Kirby could spit fireballs, freeze enemies, electrocute them, or even gain a knight’s sword!
Kirby’s Dream Land 2
Kirby’s Dream Land 3
Later games, like Dream Land 2 and Dream Land 3, gave Kirby a little help from his friends: Coo the owl, Kine the fish, Rick the hamster, Pitch the sparrow, Nago the cat, and even a sentient blob named Gooey! (That guy reminds me of the Slimes from Dragon Warrior.) Couple that with even more copy abilities, loads of hidden items, and more devious enemies, and you had quite a rich platforming experience on your hands.
Most importantly, however, the SNES got Kirby Super Star. Widely hailed by most Kirby fans to be the pinnacle of the series, Super Star was really eight games in one. A complete remake of Kirby’s Dream Land was found in there, along with mini-games, a treasure hunt game, and a completely new adventure to boot! If nothing else, Kirby Super Star is worth it for the RPG boss fight. Trust me. Oh, and there’s that whole samurai thing that lets loose Kirby’s innate martial arts skills. Cliché, yes, but hysterical and tons of fun. If you can only get one Kirby title, this is the one to get; there’s so much hidden stuff and replay value that you’ll never put it down.
Kirby Super Star
Continuing Kirby’s onslaught of platforming goodness was an N64 title called Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, were you could combine abilities to create all-new ones! Even though the game was fully rendered 3D, it played like a 2D platformer of old. After that, Kirby moved on to the Game Boy Advance in a remake of Kirby’s Adventure dubbed Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. He even has his own e-Reader card (Kirby Slide-e) with a simple slide puzzle on it; this was distributed for free inside an issue of Nintendo Power magazine. Recently, he’s showed up in an all-new adventure, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, where three Kirby clones join in the fun! Minigames and other multiplayer madness rounds out Kirby’s latest title, making it a must-have for any fan.
Kirby64: The Crystal Shards
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land
Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
Let’s change gears a moment, and look at Kirby’s other titles, which aren’t platformers at all (I bet you were wondering why I skipped so many titles, huh?). Like any video game powerhouse, Kirby was never content to stick with his own genre. He’s branched out into plenty of others, like racing, fighting, pinball, puzzle, miniature golf, and even a revamp of an arcade classic! Kirby’s first venture outside of the platforming world was with Kirby’s Pinball Land, which still reigns supreme as one of the best handheld pinball games ever made, if not the best. The physics were good, the challenge was balanced, and with no battery save or password function, you just had to keep playing if you wanted to clear all three tables and advance to the final showdown! Next up was Kirby’s Dream Course, a miniature golf course done Kirby-style. If any Kirby game needed a proper sequel, then this one is it! This SNES title had eight single-player courses and four two-player ones. Players could angle their shots with plenty of control, and hitting enemies en route would absorb their abilities, which were useful for clearing out more enemies (and opponents!). Back on the Game Boy, we had Kirby’s Block Ball, a Kirby version of the popular arcade game Breakout. Kirby became the ball in this game, bouncing around to smash bricks and using captured abilities to rack up even more points.
Kirby’s Star Stacker
The popular Japanese puzzle series Puyo Puyo was brought into Kirby’s world, too. Kirby’s Avalanche on the SNES was literally nothing more than classic Puyo Puyo with Kirby characters thrown in (much like how Pokémon Puzzle Challenge was simply Tetris Attack with Pokémon added into the mix). Since that was relatively weak, Nintendo tried a new approach and gave Kirby his own puzzle game, Kirby’s Star Stacker. The US only got the Game Boy version, but over in Japan, they got a Super Famicom (SNES) version a few years later, Kirby no KiraKira Kids. This game featured Kirby and his pals from Dream Land 2 in a fast-paced puzzle environment reminscient of Tetris. It started out simple enough, but as you progressed to later levels, the difficulty ramped up considerably. Hey, there’s a damn good reason the hardest difficulty level is labeled "Insane!"
Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble
Kirby’s most innovative game is far and away his sole Game Boy Color offering, Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble. Aside from being a huge leap forward in game design, this game simulatenously annoys the piss out of the ROM-stealing crowd and those who only own a GB Player rather than a real GBC or GBA. Why? The cartridge had a built-in motion sensor, and that was how Kirby was moved around! Can’t really emulate that properly. You held your system flat in front of you, and rolled Kirby around as if he were a marble atop a table. The precision of the sensor was very impressive indeed, as tilting the GBC lightly to one side would cause Kirby to roll oh-so-slowly, while a sharp dip would cause him to accelerate accordingly. To make Kirby jump, you literally "flicked" the system towards you a bit, once again acting as if Kirby was actually rolling around atop the GBC. The "A" button was only used to confirm selections and fire Kirby out of cannons and such; otherwise, everything was controlled via the motion sensor. A second Tilt ‘n’ Tumble game was planned that would use both the GBA and the Gamecube, and a demo was even shown. However, the game was later cancelled; quite a slap in the face to the fans who would’ve loved to see this perfect example of GBA-to-GC connectivity come to life.
Kirby Air Ride
Kirby did eventually get his own Gamecube title, however. He must’ve been jealous of Mario; since that fat Italian plumber’s got a slew of racing games under his belt, Kirby decided to give it a whirl, and Kirby Air Ride was the result. Kirby and friends whip around various courses on hovercraft, acquiring abilities and using objects to their advantage. The biggest thing that separates Air Ride from other racing titles is that are no accelerator or brake controls! This isn’t to say that your speed is constant, however. You have a "boost" control that you can use to speed around turns and activate various effect panels around the course. If you’re close to an enemy, you can also nab their ability and use it to demolish your opponents. Finally, since all the racing machines are hovercraft, you can angle your craft when going off of ramps and jumps to increase or decrease your speed accordingly. There’s plenty of modes in the game, and you can even link up multiple Gamecubes for LAN play (or internet play using Warp Pipe).
Finally, our pink devourer has showed up in a few games other than his own. He appeared in a dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and he proved himself as a venerable warrior in Super Smash Bros. and its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee. Where will Kirby show up next? Who knows. He’s appearing on Nintendo’s newest console, the DS, and with another Gamecube game coming out within the next year, he’s likely to continue being a potent mascot for years to come. Maybe we really will get Kirby’s Dream Course 2 someday…
Game List (in release order)
Kirby’s Dream Land (Game Boy, 1992)
Kirby’s Adventure (NES, 1993)
Kirby’s Pinball Land (Game Boy, 1993)
Kirby’s Dream Course (Super NES, 1994)
Kirby’s Block Ball (Game Boy, 1995)
Kirby’s Avalanche (Super NES, 1995)
Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Game Boy, 1995)
Kirby Super Star (Super NES, 1996)
Kirby’s Star Stacker (Game Boy, 1997)
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (Super NES, 1998)
Kirby no KiraKira Kids (Super Famicom, 1998)
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, 2000)
Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble (Game Boy Color, 2001)
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (Game Boy Advance, 2002)
Kirby Air Ride (Gamecube, 2003)
Kirby Slide-e (GBA e-Reader, 2003)
Kirby and the Amazing Mirror (Game Boy Advance, 2004)
Kirby Canvas Curse (DS, 2005)
Kirby (tentative title, GC, 2005)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Game Boy, 1993)
Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 64, 1999)
Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube, 2001)
Buy a Kirby game, or he will eat you!