Kirby (JP) is a video game series developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo. The majority of the games in the series are action-platformers with light puzzle-solving elements. Kirby has the ability to eat enemies and objects thereby gaining a characteristic ability from them. The series is known for being relatively simple for first time players to pick up and play while offering additional challenges for more experienced players; in addition to its bright and artistic settings, cute characters, and upbeat, cheerful music.
Currently, the Kirby series includes a total of over twenty games, and has sold over 34 million units worldwide, putting it in the top 50 best selling video game franchises of all time.
The first game in the Kirby series, Kirby's Dream Land for the original Game Boy, was released in Japan in April 1992 and later in North America in August of that year. A simple game, consisting of only five levels, it introduced the main protagonist Kirby, main antagonist King Dedede, and Kirby's ability to inhale enemies and objects.
The game features a second adventure, known as the "Extra Game", which features stronger enemies. The North American box art showed a white Kirby, although the Japanese box art had the correct pink coloring. The second game, Kirby's Adventure, introduced the concept of 'copying' the abilities of enemies, and as one of the last games created for the Nintendo Entertainment System, featured astonishing graphics and sound that pushed the hardware's capabilities to the limit, including pseudo 3D effects on some stages. It was re-released in 2002 on the Game Boy Advance, retitled as Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, featuring greatly updated graphics and sound, multiplayer support, and the ability to play as Meta Knight.
Kirby's Pinball Land, is a pinball game featuring Kirby as the pinball. Kirby's Dream Course was a unique golf-based game which features an isometric graphic design. Kirby's Avalanche is a puzzle game known to be a cloned version of the Japanese game Puyo Puyo. Kirby's Dream Land 2, continued using the ability-copying idea first featured in Kirby's Adventure, but lowered the number of abilities to seven. The game introduced three animal companions: Rick the Hamster, Coo the Owl, and Kine the Ocean Sunfish. Pairing up with any of these three alters how Kirby's abilities work. Also introduced was Gooey, a dark-colored blob-like creature, who could be found in a bag. The major boss enemy Dark Matter was also introduced in this game. The game was to be remade for the Game Boy Color as Kirby's Dream Land 2 DX, but was cancelled.
Kirby's Block Ball, as a variation of the game Breakout, featuring multiple levels, some of Kirby's copy abilities, and numerous enemies in unique boss battles. Kirby Super Star, known as Kirby of the Stars Super Deluxe in Japan and Kirby's Fun Pak in Europe, is composed of eight separate games, and features several characters and abilities which have not appeared since in the series. The game features "Helpers", which can be created by sacrificing the ability currently in use, to help the player dispatch enemies.
In 1996, a Kirby mini-game series entitled Kirby's Toy Box (カービィのおもちゃ箱 Kābī no Omocha Hako) was released via the St.GIGA satellite broadcasting system for the Nintendo Satellaview. These mini-games were not released simultaneously but were each given a unique broadcast date. Mini-game titles included: Arrange Ball, Ball Rally, Baseball, Cannonball, Guru Guru Ball, Hoshi Kuzushi, Pachinko, and Pinball.
Released in 1997, Kirby's Star Stacker is a puzzle game which involves touching two or more similar blocks together that have Kirby's animal friends on them. The game received a sequel on the Super Famicom in 1998 in Japan as Kirby no Kirakira Kizzu.
Kirby's Dream Land 3 is a direct sequel to Kirby's Dream Land 2, as it featured the return of Kirby's animal friends. Similarly to Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby's Dream Land 3 features a few copy abilities which were modified when Kirby paired up with one of his six animal friends. The game had a multiplayer option with the second player controlling Gooey, a recurring character. The antagonist was, once again, Dark Matter, and if certain conditions are met, 0 (Zero) was fought as the true final boss. The game had a unique pastel-drawing art style and used dithering to improve visual performance.
The first 3D entry in the Kirby series, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, was a game that features a unique compound ability system that allows two of the seven abilities in the game to be merged, making a new compound ability. It also marked the first playable instance of King Dedede, where sections of some stages had Kirby riding piggyback while King Dedede attacked enemies and obstacles with his hammer. It is considered a direct follow-up to Kirby's Dream Land 3 due to the reemergence of Dark Matter and the final boss, albeit in a different form, called 02 (Zero Two). It also included three four-player minigames.
Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble became one of Nintendo's first motion-sensor-based games. Players are instructed to tilt the Game Boy Color to move Kirby on the screen. Quickly flicking the Game Boy Color upwards would make Kirby jump into the air. Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble is currently the only Kirby game to have a special cartridge color (transparent pink) in North America.
The only Kirby game for Nintendo GameCube, Kirby Air Ride, is a racing game which deviates greatly from usual Kirby titles, although still featuring series staples including enemies and copy abilities.
A Kirby e-reader card for the Game Boy Advance was released. The card was released under two names, Kirby Slide and Kirby Puzzle. Swiping the card would allow for a sliding puzzle game starring Kirby to be played. Cards were given out at Toys R Us stores and in the 2003 December issues of Nintendo Power and Tips & Tricks. The game was released to advertise the English dub of Kirby: Right Back At Ya!
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror is the second game released on that system, following the aforementioned Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. It features Kirby in a Metroidvania format, with all the levels being interconnected and able to be completed in any order. Also unique was the in-game phone, which can be used to summon up to three additional copies of Kirby to fight enemies and solve puzzles.
Kirby: Canvas Curse, unlike most previous Kirby games, the player does not directly control Kirby with a directional pad, analog stick, face buttons, or shoulder buttons. Instead, Kirby is a helpless ball, and can only move when he gains momentum, the player painting paths with the stylus to direct his movement.
Kirby: Squeak Squad in late 2006, revived traditional Kirby gameplay and dabbled in the use of the touch screen to store several items and copy abilities in Kirby's stomach. Ability scrolls could be found that served as upgrades for each ability, giving them additional moves and/or enhanced functionality. An unlockable copy ability was also introduced.
Kirby Super Star Ultra is a remake of Kirby Super Star. In addition to the nine games from Kirby Super Star, seven new games have been added. It features updated graphics, pre-rendered cutscenes, and a map on the touch screen.
2010 - Present
An untitled Kirby platform game originally planned to be released on the Nintendo GameCube was thought to be canceled for some time before being re-announced for the Wii. Although Kirby's Epic Yarn was announced and released for the Wii in 2010, it was actually an entirely different project from the untitled game, which, in January 2011, finally resurfaced with an altered design and motif. Kirby's Epic Yarn began development as an original title by Good-Feel called Fluff of Yarn, but was given the Kirby license at Nintendo's proposal.
A fourth game for the Nintendo DS was released, titled Kirby Mass Attack. The game features multiple copies of Kirby in touch screen-based gameplay reminiscent of titles such as Lemmings.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land (tentatively titled Kirby Wii) returns to the traditional Kirby gameplay and allowing up to four players to play simultaneously. Players 2-4 could choose to play as Meta Knight, King Dedede and/or Waddle Dee, each with dedicated abilities; they could also play as different-colored Kirbys which offered power copying abilities, or as a mixture of the options.
Kirby's Dream Collection to celebrate Kirby's 20th Anniversary. It includes six games from the early history of the series, which are Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. It also has new Challenge Stages that run on the engine of Kirby's Return to Dream Land (known in Europe and Australia as Kirby's Adventure Wii), and a Kirby history section, which includes three episodes from Hoshi no Kirby (Kirby: Right Back at Ya! in North America). Similarly to the Super Mario 25th Anniversary packaging in 2010, a booklet and a soundtrack containing music from the various games in the series are released alongside the disc.
A new Kirby game for the Nintendo 3DS was announced, later named Kirby: Triple Deluxe. It incorporated action spanning varied depths, where Kirby could swap between the foreground and background areas. It included a multiplayer fighting mode called "Kirby Fighters", where players could choose one of ten available abilities and fight on themed stages, with the winner being the last Kirby standing. It also included a rhythm-based action game starring King Dedede. There were also over 250 in-game "keychains" to collect that featured sprites from previous Kirby games as well some original sprites based on characters from Triple Deluxe.
During a Nintendo Direct in March 6, 2013, Nintendo unveiled a new game based on the context of Kirby: Triple Deluxe called Kirby: Planet Robobot. This game is the second Kirby game to be released on the Nintendo 3DS. It was released alongside a set of amiibo made for the Kirby franchise, including a newly announced amiibo, Waddle Dee. It also includes 2 new minigames, called Kirby 3D Rumble and Team Kirby Clash. These minigames, in 2017, received expanded version on the eShop called Kirby's Blowout Blast and Team Kirby Clash Deluxe respectively.
On top of the two eShop titles in 2017, a new multiplayer spinoff called Kirby Battle Royale. It was teased with the release of Team Kirby Clash Deluxe but, it wasn't properly revealed until the September 2017 Nintendo Direct. The game is an arena fighting game between 4 different Kirby with a selection copy abilities.
During E3 2017, Nintendo revealed a new installment for the Kirby franchise, tentatively named Kirby for Nintendo Switch. It was later revealed to titled Kirby: Star Allies. The game's visuals are similar to that of a more traditional Kirby platformer, as opposed to using a unique art style as the previous console entry did. Kirby can also throw hearts to turn enemies into computer-controlled allies, a variation of the Helper System from Kirby Super Star. Beside this is the ability of Power Combination, originally from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. And, although their role of being main or brief gameplay elements are not yet known, one of the animal friends from Kirby's Dream Land 3 resurfaced in the trailer through an attack of Clean Kirby.
The Kirby series was made into an anime on October 6, 2001, originally titled Hoshi no Kaabii. It was produced by Warpstar Inc., a company formed between a joint investment between Nintendo and HAL Laboratory, Inc. It was licensed in North America by 4Kids Entertainment, under the title Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, on 4Kids TV, and was distributed by 20th Century Fox, Nelvana Limited, and HAL Laboratory, Inc. It ended in Japan in 2003 with 100 episodes.
The show is about the adventures Kirby has with his friends Tiff and Tuff after he crash lands in Dream Land, on Pop Star. Here, he is a legendary Star Warrior destined to save the universe from the intergalactic conqueror known as Nightmare. However, he was summoned 500 years too early and as a result awoke in a childlike state. The ruler of Dream Land, King Dedede, jealous of the attention Kirby receives from its inhabitants, frequently orders monsters from Nightmare's company, Nightmare Enterprises, to attack Kirby and the people of Dream Land. Not yet ready to achieve his destiny, Kirby must get the hang of his incredible powers, sometimes with the help of the enigmatic Meta Knight, who while he claims to be loyal to King Dedede, will often work behind the scenes in order to aid Kirby or train him in the use of his abilities.
The show is based on the game series, but rather than being a direct adaptation of any of the games uses characters and concepts from the games (especially Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's Adventure, and Kirby Super Star) to tell its own story.
Comics and manga
Kirby stars in several manga series, none of which have been released outside of Japan yet. The longest running series is Kirby of the Stars (a rough English translation of Hoshi no Kirby), written by Hirokazu Hikawa. This series was announced for a release in America by VIZ Media, but was never actually released.
Other Kirby manga are typically one-shot comedy 4koma based on the games, and have multiple artists. They have recurring themes and running gags.
Kirby also appears in several German comics, featuring him as a detective and King Dedede as his friend. His animal friends appear as pets of a female Kirby look-alike with red glass slippers. In one comic, he meets Lolo, Lala, and Lulu, the protagonists of the Adventures of Lolo series. The German comics were meant to let German Kirby fans know of Kirby games which would be released there.
Several video games have been in development, for various reasons, were ultimately abandoned. Such titles include Kirby's Air Ride 64 (also known as Kirby Bowl 64 and Kirby Ball 64) on the Nintendo 64, which was eventually released on the Nintendo GameCube as Kirby Air Ride.
Kirby's Tilt 'n' Tumble 2 on the Nintendo GameCube, which was supposed to use a combination of motion-sensor technology and connectivity to the Game Boy Advance via the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable.
There was also a planned game called Kid Kirby that was to be released on the Super Nintendo. The game would have served as a prequel to the series and would have utilized the SNES mouse. The game was cancelled due to the declining sales of the mouse; however, early screenshots of the cancelled game have been posted online. This unreleased game was developed by DMA Design for Nintendo and was scheduled for 1995.
Though resurfaced as Kirby's Return to Dream Land, the Nintendo GameCube was initially going to have its own original Kirby game, simply titled Kirby Adventure at the time. It was nearly complete and featured at E3 2005, but was cancelled due to issues incorporating a unique multiplayer mechanic, which became the special attack in Kirby's Return to Dream Land (where all players stack on each other, hold A and release at the same time). Most of Kirby Adventure was scrapped in the game it became to be, such as the helper system that was featured in Kirby Super Star which made a return in the GameCube version of the game before cancellation, as well as having faster-paced gameplay similar to Kirby Super Star.
Kirby appears as a character in all five Super Smash Bros. games as a light weight character with strong recovery and a fighting style that utilizes moves from his copy abilities. From Super Smash Bros. Brawl onwards, he's joined by Meta Knight and King Dedede. Knuckle Joe, an enemy from the Kirby series, also appears in Brawl as an Assist Trophy, which he kept his role in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Nightmare, a major antagonist in the Kirby series, also appears as an Assist Trophy in the 3DS and Wii U games.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening/DX (Game Boy/GBC, 1993/1998): as an enemy called the Anti-Kirby
- Stunt Race FX (SNES, 1994): appears on a billboard
- EarthBound (SNES, 1994): In the hidden "Debug Mode" menu, Kirby appears as the cursor.
- Picross NP Vol.3 (Super Famicom, 1999): includes picross puzzles of many Kirby characters, like Waddle Dee, King Dedede and Meta-Knight.
- Pokémon Stadium 2 (N64, 2000): you can decorate your room with consoles. The NES shows Kirby's Adventure and the SNES shows Kirby Super Star.
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA, 2003): appears on a poster in Yoshi Theater.
- The poster also appears in its remake, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions
- Donkey Konga (GC, 2003): One of the songs is "Kirby: Right Back At Ya", the theme song of the Kirby anime.
- Daigassou! Band Brothers (DS, 2004): A song is entitled "Kirby Medley"
- Picross 3D: Round 2: amiibo puzzles
- Some time during Kirby's Dream Land's development, Shigeru Miyamoto made the suggestion to Masahiro Sakurai that Kirby be yellow instead of pink. Since Miyamoto had little, if any, involvement in the games' development (Kirby is developed by HAL Laboratory, while Miyamoto works for Nintendo's EAD division), this could have only have been a suggestion. However, to honor Miyamoto's suggestion, yellow Kirby is usually the 2nd player palette swap for Kirby in his multiplayer appearances, including the Super Smash Bros. series.
- Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards are collectively known as the "Dark Matter Trilogy" due to the three games having Dark Matter as the main villain(s). All three games were directed by Shinichi Shimomura instead of series creator Masahiro Sakurai (who directed all other non-spinoff games in the series prior to his departure post-Air Ride), and have more of a focus on puzzle solving rather than combat.
- The bandana wearing Waddle Dee that served as Dedede's right hand in Super Star Ultra was referred to as Bandana Dee, which Nintendo made canon in Triple Deluxe.
- Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble is one of the very few Kirby games that has not received a digital re-release on the Virtual Console, and Kirby Super Star Ultra is the only DS Kirby game that has not been released on the Wii U Virtual Console.
- While it didn't make a Cash Cow Franchise out of the series the same way the Pokémon anime did, quite a few Kirby fans will admit the anime for the games, Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, is what introduced them to the series and it shows. The anime still maintains a dedicated following to this day. So much so that, since its conclusion, HAL has brought various things from the show into the games and even included several of its episodes in Kirby Dream Collection which celebrated the series' 20th anniversary.
- The Super NES version of Kirby Star Stacker never got released outside of Japan due to being released there in 1998 two years after the Nintendo 64's release and one year after the SNES's discontinuation in North America.
- For lesser-known reasons, the 20th anniversary compilation-game Dream Collection didn't get a Europe or Australian release.
- Between Kirby's Air Ride and Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Epic Yarn was developed by Good Feel instead), HAL Laboratories made repeated attempts to create a home console game for the Kirby series. Their most known attempt was the Nintendo GameCube game, announced in 2004, and widely believed to be reincarnated as Kirby's Return to Dream Land. However, an interview revealed that the GameCube game was only the first of four attempts at a home console game, the final being Return to Dream Land.
- Kirby Air Ride itself was trapped in Development Hell for quite some time. It was originally intended as a Nintendo 64 game, but after spending many years in production, it was quietly canceled. It finally showed up as a GameCube title at E3 2003.
- Air Ride began on the Nintendo 64 and was scheduled for a late 1996 release. It went through years of delays until it was quietly cancelled in 1998. It caught the public by surprise when a GameCube version was announced in 2003.
- When the Nintendo 64 was in development and still called the Ultra 64, one title in development was Kirby Bowl 64 — Kirby Bowl being the Japanese name for Kirby's Dream Course. The snowboarding mode it featured likely led to Kirby's Air Ride as described above.