Think Pink!

KIRBYIn honor of Kirby 64 coming to the Wii Virtual Console this week, I thought I’d repost a tribute blog to the pink puff. Kirby is one of my favorite Nintendo characters, but he and his games are oft ignored, I think.

I’ve read articles about the history of how Kirby came to be created, and while I have slight doubts about the complete credibility of the stories I’ve read (this is the Internet after all), it’s still pretty interesting and I’m sure there’s at least a shred of validity to the stories.

From what I remember reading, HAL Laboratories, the makers of Kirby games, noticed that a lot of 2-D platformers at the time had kid friendly themes, but were notoriously hard games that younger players and less experienced gamers may have trouble with. HAL wanted to make a 2-D platformer that was easy enough for young players to enjoy, but still fun for all types of gamers. In the planning stages of this game, they didn’t know what the main character would be like yet, so they drew a circle with eyes as a placeholder and named it Popopo. I think that’s the reason why a lot of other Kirby characters have three syllable names like Dedede, Lololo, Lalala, etc.

Of course, as we all know, the name Popopo didn’t stick. I’ve heard they named him Kirby either after the brand of vacuum cleaners (since Kirby’s power is to suck in enemies), or they named him after one of Nintendo’s lawyers at the time. I don’t know which story is correct. Maybe both. Who knows? Another interesting story is how Kirby got his color. The first Kirby game was on the old black and white Game Boy, so they didn’t have to worry about his color. In fact, the original box art for Kirby’s Dream Land has him be white! But when they were planning the first NES Kirby game, they had to decide on a color. They said they didn’t like blue or green, because that made Kirby look sick. I read somewhere that at one point, Miyamoto came into the room and said, “Kirby is pink.” And that was the final word, nobody argued with him.

Kirby wasn’t HAL Labs first foray into making games with cute little round characters in them. Before Kirby, HAL’s most famous mascot starred in a bunch of block pushing logic puzzle games. His name was Lolo, a blue round ball with eyes, and he would either try to save, or join in adventures with his sweetie, the pink ball Lala. I LOVED the Adventures of Lolo games on the NES when I was a kid, though I don’t think I have the patience for those kinds of games now. I thought it was cool how in the first few Kirby games, Lolo and Lala made an appearance. Heck, they’re even in the Kirby Saturday morning cartoon! Except in the cartoon they can fly. I wish they could’ve done that in their games, would’ve made things a whole lot easier!

But anyway, because of games like Kirby and Lolo, I’ve gained a LOT of respect for HAL Laboratories. They also did the Super Smash Bros. games. In fact, I don’t think HAL has ever made a bad game. Well, actually there’s a very obscure NES game they did called Day Dreamin’ Davey that’s pretty bad, but that’s it. But other than that, name me one bad HAL game. Bet you can’t do it. Did you know the former president of HAL is now the president of Nintendo? I honestly can’t think of anyone more deserving of that position.

Anyway, I’ve compiled a short list of every Kirby game, and my experiences with them. Let’s rock!

Kirby’s Dream Land
This was the very first Kirby game, on the original black and white Game Boy. I never got this game because I borrowed it from a friend once and beat both easy and hard modes…combined…in less than an hour. So HAL certainly succeeded in making an easy 2-D platformer that young players could enjoy. But aside from that, this still was a quality product. Great graphics and sound, plus tight control. And even though Kirby didn’t have his trademark copying ability, and could only just suck in and spit out enemies, you could really tell by playing that the gears were turning in HAL Labs’ heads and if they kept at it, the best was yet to come.

Kirby’s Adventure
This was Kirby’s outing on the NES, and a drastic improvement over the first game. Kirby could now copy certain enemies’ abilities, and there were tons of skills. This was one of Nintendo’s last NES games and it shows. They really pushed the NES hardware to the limit with this one. It’s a shame it came out so late in the NES’ life that it didn’t get as much recognition as say, Super Mario 3. Luckily you can play it on the Wii VC or on the GBA as an enhanced version called Nightmare in Dreamland. Most Kirby games since then have kind of used the first NES game as a palette.

Kirby’s Pinball Land
It’s a Game Boy video pinball game, and Kirby’s the ball. I LOVE this game and could play it forever. HAL actually has a history of making really good pinball games. They made the first NES Pin Ball, another fun Game Boy pinball game called Revenge of the Gator, a later NES pinball game called Rollerball, and they made the first Pokemon Pinball game. I don’t think they made the GBA Pokemon Pinball sequel, but you can tell that it was modeled after HAL’s first efforts. So yeah, HAL’s definitely proven they can make good video pinball.

Kirby’s Avalanche
It’s Puyo Puyo on the SNES. Sega did it on the Genesis, too, with Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. In Europe or somewhere it’s called Kirby’s Ghost Trap. Huh? You can really tell this was a port of Puyo Puyo. Instead of Carbuncle the yellow bunny thing bouncing around the screen, it’s Kirby. And the background on the title screen says Puyo Puyo in tiny letters. There’s some crazy voices in this game.

Kirby’s Dream Course
First time early SNES owners may have remembered seeing an ad for a 3-D isometric mini golf game called Special Tee Shot. Well that game ended up being Kirby’s Dream Course, a really weird combination of mini golf and bumper pool. This game is FANTASTIC. You have so much control over Kirby the ball. And like in other games, if you hit certain enemies, you can gain their powers, which if used correctly, can get you to the hole faster. You can download this game on the Wii VC now, and I highly recommend it.

Kirby’s Dream Land 2
The first Game Boy sequel was a lot like Kirby’s Adventure on the NES. You had less skills to copy in the GB game, but now Kirby had new animal friends to hitch a ride on: a hamster, an owl, and a fish. Using one of Kirby’s skills while riding on an animal made a new combined skill, so there were lots of ways to mix and match Kirby’s skills and animals for different attacks. For instance, using the electric power while riding the fish, Kirby could make the fish have a lightbulb stick out of his mouth to light up dark places. Yeah, Kirby games have always been a little weird. This game was also the first to let you fight a secret final boss enemy: Dark Matter, if you collected all the rainbow drops. Dark Matter is pretty scary for Kirby games, and usually pretty tough, too!

Kirby’s Block Ball
This is probably my least favorite Kirby game. It’s not a BAD game per se, but just the one I like the least. It’s Break Out on the Game Boy and Kirby’s the ball. Kirby can still get skills to break blocks easier, and you can use the paddles like a trampoline to make Kirby bounce bigger and break more blocks. You can have paddles on each side of the screen in some levels, and there are bosses and enemies to contend with, too. The two reasons why I don’t like this game much are: One, it’s kind of hard and I suck at Break Out style games. And two, there’s a game design flaw that won’t let you carry over extra lives to new levels. It makes those last few levels pretty tough. I found this game for ten bucks before going on vacation, and it did at least keep me from being bored while on the trip.

Kirby Super Star
Many would probably consider this SNES masterpiece to be the Kirby magnum opus. And in many ways, they’d be right. This 2-D platformer used a special chip to give the game’s graphics an almost 32-bit like quality in places. The game was split up into a few mini-adventures and fun mini-games. You could even have a second player pick up a controller and play along, too. Because of this, I don’t ever play Kirby Super Star alone. I liked some of the bosses, one was a parody of menu based RPGs! Like Kirby’s Adventure, most Kirby games since Super Star use it as kind of a template for future games. This game is so popular that most of the characters and settings in the Kirby cartoon are based off Super Star. If this game ever comes to the Wii VC, I’ll have to get a second classic controller!

Kirby’s Star Stacker and Super Star Stacker
This original puzzler was on the Game Boy. It played a lot like the NES puzzler Yoshi except you can clear lines horizontally and vertically and do chain reactions. It was pretty fun from what I remember. At the very first E3 I went to, they were showing off a few SNES stragglers, and one of them was a version of Star Stacker (called Kirby’s Super Star Stacker), but I guess it never came out in the US. Oh well.

Kirby’s Dream Land 3
While I consider Kirby Super Star to be the best two player Kirby game, Dream Land 3 is a better single player experience. This one came out on the SNES late in its life. Like in Dream Land 2, Kirby has fewer copy abilities, but he makes three more animal friends (a cat, a bird, and an octopus), for six animal friends total and even more copy ability combinations. A second player CAN join in as a blob character, but it’s not near as fun as Super Star. This game used crayon style graphics, but it doesn’t look near as good as they do in Yoshi’s Island. My favorite thing is that in each level was a special task that you could complete to get a bonus heart (collect them all to fight Dark Matter again), and getting some of the hearts let you meet up with other classic Nintendo characters. In one stage, you find pieces of ROB the Robot to put together for Professor Hector. And in another level, kill Metroids for Samus the way you think you’d kill them: freeze them with Kirby’s ice skill! I really hope this one comes out on the Wii VC, too. Sooner rather than later!

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
This debuts on the Wii VC this week. Kirby’s N64 outing had horrible 3-D graphics, but it was still a 2-D platformer. And pretty fun, too. The neat gimmick in this one was you could combine two skills to make a new one. Some of my favorites include: when you mix electricity with fire, Kirby rubs his head to gather static electricity, but then he rubs too hard and his head catches on fire and he runs around! Or when you combine electricity with ice, Kirby turns into a refrigerator and spits out food. Kirby had some helper friends in this one, like Adelene the painter girl and King Dedede himself. Dark Matter is really scary in this game!

Kirby Tilt N Tumble
I think Nintendo was experimenting with motion controls long before the Wii remote. Because in this Game Boy Color game, you hold the GB flat and tilt it to roll Kirby on screen through mazes and obstacles. It was pretty innovative, if not a bit flawed in places. When Tilt N Tumble came out, I was writing lots of game reviews for a major newspaper, and Nintendo sent me a really cool Kirby kickball. It’s one of my favorite video game related collectable trinkets. I think a Wii sequel to Tilt N Tumble would be great.

Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
I was kind of disappointed with Kirby’s first GBA outing because instead of being a brand new adventure, it was just an update of the NES Kirby’s Adventure game, which I had played to death already. But it’s still pretty fun. I loved the TV commercial to this game because they sang the jingle to the tune of “Secret Agent Man.” “He may be pink, but he’s really dangerous!”

Kirby Air Ride
Kirby’s GameCube character based racing game turned the whole genre on its ear. Kirby rides a star that is constantly accelerating around the track, and you only press a button to brake so you can go around corners. It was totally different, and all the innovative game play modes and unlockables made me like Kirby Air Ride better than the other big GC character racer: Mario Kart Double Dash. After playing the awful yet similar game Sonic Riders, I had to play Kirby Air Ride soon after to cleanse my palate.

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
Finally, Kirby got a new portable GBA adventure, not an update of an older title. Amazing Mirror was more of the same, really, except this time the game had a Metroid feel to it, with connected mazelike levels with secrets to find if you backtracked with new skills. Of course it wasn’t as good as Metroid, though.

Kirby Canvas Curse
Kirby’s first DS adventure was pretty innovative. Draw lines on screen for Kirby to roll around on to avoid obstacles and beat the level. Strangely enough, I didn’t like this game as much as most people did. It was a great game, sure, but there was just a lot of other Kirby games I liked better.

Kirby Squeak Squad
Kirby’s other DS adventure is a more traditional 2-D platformer, though. The storyline is really silly. The Squeak Squad, a band of mouse thieves, steals Kirby’s strawberry shortcake and Kirby sets off to get it back and finds all their other stolen treasures, too. The Squeak Squad really gave this game a new sense of urgency in some places. When you found that treasure and the alarm went off, you knew there would be a high speed mouse chase coming up!

And that’s all the Kirby games. I hope Nintendo makes more of ’em because I love ’em! Kirby’s had lots of cameos in other games, like Zelda, and his Saturday morning cartoon theme song is playable in Donkey Konga. But his most famous role outside his own games is as a playable fighter in the Super Smash Bros. games, also by HAL. In fact, in the first SSB game on the N64, Kirby was the best character to use. It’s almost as if HAL said, “he’s our character so we’ll make him the best.” Luckily they toned him down for Melee, but he’s still my favorite character to use besides Princess Zelda and Mr. Game & Watch. I can’t wait to be Kirby in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I wanna suck up Solid Snake and see what kind of ability Kirby gets!

Like I said a few times in my blog already, a couple of years ago, Kirby even had his own Saturday morning cartoon. It wasn’t the best thing in the world, and it was full of kiddy anime ‘monster of the day’ stereotypes. But I still thought it was cute and a perfect example of what a Saturday morning cartoon should be. Simple, fun, and you don’t have to think too hard about it while eating your third bowl of Cocoa Puffs (Hey, maybe they should make an all pink Kirby cereal!). I loved the voice work in the cartoon. Whoever did the voice of King Dedede deserves a raise. (King Dedede is my favorite Kirby character, by the way). And the theme song was catchy, too!

The best thing about Kirby games is that HAL’s original mission still stands true. A younger player can play through most Kirby games with little trouble, but more experienced players can challenge themselves by finding all the hidden secrets. That’s the mark of a great game series, to me. In fact, I know it’s hard to believe, but I like Kirby games better than most Mario titles. Kirby sucks and blows, and he really rocks!

What are YOUR favorite Kirby games?

5 Responses to “Think Pink!”

  1. While I’ve never actually owned a Kirby game( just rented) I really enjoyed Kirby 64. That game is part of the reason why I played Super Smash Bros in the first place.

  2. Well if you have a Wii, you can download the full version of Kirby 64 on the Virtual Console. I hope Kirby’s Dream Land 3 is next. I hear there’s going to be a DS version of Kirby Super Star, too. –Cary

  3. I agree with that Shae but i dont agree with u Cary.

  4. KIRBY IS PINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. What exactly did you disagree on, Shawn? –Cary

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