I just didn’t get Kirby, he’s a pink blob that sucks things up and seems to act like a three year old child. Why would this appeal to me? Since I started this blog I began to notice just how much effort Nintendo have put into marketing Kirby with three major Kirby games released in 2011 (Epic Yarn was released in February in Europe and Australia). Over the past few months I’ve taken the plunge to try and see if I can ‘get’ Kirby.
Now what’s in a name? Mario was named after a landlord, Luigi after a pizza shop, Samus’ surname Aran comes from Pele’s middle name of Arantes and Zelda is named after Zelda Fitzgerald. So where does the name Kirby come from? There are conflicting reports on the story with the official reason being “I can’t remember”. Kirby’s either named after the British vacuum cleaner company Kirby or John Kirby who represented Nintendo in the infamous Universal Studios v Nintendo case over the naming rights to Donkey Kong.
Kirby was created by nineteen year old Masahiro Sakurai (Smash Bros. And Kid Icarus Uprising) and he was designed to be in a platforming game that would be one ‘for beginners’. The first game starring Kirby was Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy and that seemed like a good place to start.
To understand the game it’s important to look at what was going on with gaming at the time: the year was 1992 and a young upstart hedgehog was going for attitude and with that it opened the door wide to these sort of games. The Game Boy itself had been released for three years with Mario Land and Tetris leading the way, but rather than go for the attitude side of things (which it would eventually get with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 in 1994) it went the complete opposite. Enter Kirby who was either light red (in Japan), yellow (in Miyamoto’s mind) or white (on the game box in the west) and a blob. It was one of the easiest games ever but it’s fun to play and with that I really begin to see the potential charm of Kirby but for me everything wasn’t in place just yet.
In June of last year Nintendo released the Kirby Channel in Europe which gave us two episodes of ‘Kirby Right Back at Ya’ a week. With that a back story (probably non-canon) was given to Kirby and I began to appreciate the likes of Meta Knight and King Dedede. With that the next challenge: To only use Kirby character in Smash Bros Brawl. Now I liked Meta Knight in Brawl and Dedede I used quite a few times in Melee but Kirby? No thanks. A few battles with him and I began to like the character more and more, whilst putting on a cute face he then wallops someone with a hammer. Add into that the shenanigans such as swallowing an opponent who’s on their last life as you jump off the edge killing both of you and seeing the rage in your friend sat next to you.
I decided to then head to the Super Nintendo seeing as to me it is a timeless console and the Kirby game that I went for was Kirby’s Fun Pak (Superstar in the NA regions). I loved this game as it was a breakdown of smaller games including Spring Breeze, Meta Knight’s revenge, Dyna blade and quite a few others. The visuals were pretty decent with a great colour scheme working well with the soundtrack. This finally had me hooked to Kirby games and it was only a matter of time before I played Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
For someone who didn’t see the appeal of Kirby it was off that Epic Yarn really intrigued me. I liked the way it looked in wool form, I liked that Kirby turned into a UFO or a Submarine, I liked how you could interact with the background and I remember thinking it was very much a Paper Kirby.
Now if you’ve played Epic Yarn you know how fun it is to play but how easy it is as well, and yet I loved every moment of that game. Little things like stopping a teddy bear from crying and seeing the likes of Meta Knight as a piece of thread was just something that made me smile.
Someone said to me on Twitter “It was a breeze through- did the lack of challenge not bother you?” and then I realised it didn’t. The main thing I like about Kirby is that you can pick it up and play without needing to think about it. It’s pretty much the gaming equivalent to an early 90s Disney movie: It’s fun and you can pretty much have it on as a distraction. I guess Kirby and I have started the bonds of a good gaming relationship, now to get Mass Attack and Kirby’s Adventure Wii and see if it’s not a fleeting feeling.