Kirby, that tiny little pink ball of fluff, stars in yet another adventure as Kirby: Planet Robobot recently hit shelves. If you're anything like me, it probably seems like just yesterday you were on your way down to Blockbuster to rent The Crystal Shards yet again and play with all the different combinations the game had to offer. Which means it likely comes as a surprise that Planet Robobot is the 25th game featuring this intriguing little creature. More surprising because Kirby himself is just... odd.
Unlike Nintendo's other iconic figures, Kirby, well, no one quite knows what Kirby is — and that lack of definition actually makes him one of the most memorable figures in gaming. Not to mention, the enemies he faces? Some of them are pretty weird, too. None of this has stopped the adorable (and deadly) puffball from becoming a lovable icon, though, and today we're celebrating everything Kirby! Where'd this guy come from and what makes him so unique?
Kirby started out on the Game Boy.
Believe it or not, Kirby's first adventure was on the Game Boy in Kirby's Dream Land. While the game was relatively simple and only featured a handful of levels, it still embodied everything that makes Kirby what he is. Kirby could puff up his cheeks to float upward, he could inhale enemies, and he could... fight trees? Yup, the first boss players would ever fight in the Kirby series would be a tree.
Fun fact: Kirby's original design was intended as a placeholder, hence the spherical simplicity. Kirby's creator, Masahiro Sakurai, liked the placeholder design so much for the character that he decided to keep it. Oh, and the white Kirby on the American version of the box? It was to match the in-game version which couldn't have color, despite the vision of Kirby as a pink character. This white character design is nodded to in games like the Super Smash Brothers series, where players can choose black and white as a skin.
Kirby would go on to star in quite a few Game Boy games, including a pinball adventure (1993), a sequel (1995) to the original Dream Land, a new spin (1996) on an old classic, and a Tetris clone (1997).
Kirby's console games really upped the strangeness.
Kirby's second game was also his first foray into console gaming. Kirby's Adventure debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1993. This time, pink Kirby was able to appear in all markets. Who else appeared? The infamous Meta Knight.
Although Meta Knight first appeared as a boss, he has never been a true villain; rather, he serves as a rival to Kirby and sometimes even as an ally. Part of what makes Meta Knight so intriguing is his status as an enigma. He looks a lot like Kirby but still wields a sword and instead of inhaling air, uses wings to fly.
What did Kirby appear as in his first Super Nintendo adventure? A princess-rescuer? An armored fighter? A brave adventurer?
If you guessed any of those, I'd like to tell you that you were close... I'd like to, but I can't. Kirby's Dream Course (1994) featured Nintendo's weirdest creature as a golf ball.
Yes, a golf ball.
It wasn't until Kirby Super Star in 1996 that players would see Kirby on the Super Nintendo in all his platforming glory and not long after that again in Kirby's Dream Land 3.
Ah, The Crystal Shards. Kirby may have only starred in one game on the Nintendo 64, but that's all it took for me to fall in love with Dream Land. Released in 2000, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards actually is considered a sequel to Kirby's Dream Land 3.
What made Kirby 64 so fun was the fact that enemies all had different elements that defined them. Players could absorb enemies from burning, stone, ice, needle, bomb, spark, and cutter "schools" to gain their powers. But that wasn't the best part — all of these could be combined with each other to create fun, deadly combinations. The Kirby wikia has a nice summary of all the combinations but in case you missed it, yes, one of the objects Kirby could turn into was a refrigerator.
...Because why not?
Kirby rolled, raced, and roared in the early 2000s
What other bizarre scenarios could Nintendo put Kirby in? How about a pinball-meets-Super Monkey Ball adventure for the Game Boy Color? That's essentially what Kirby's Tilt 'n' Tumble (2001) was. Was there an explanation as to why Kirby could suddenly only roll around? Not really. But there didn't need to be, either. Kirby is Kirby and if he wants to spend his time rolling around, he'll do just that!
Over the next several years, fans would never go long without a Kirby game. In 2002, Kirby's Adventure was remade on the Game Boy Advanced as Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land to celebrate the character's 10th anniversary. One year later, Kirby would star in his only GameCube title, Kirby Air Ride, which brought with it something many Smash Bros. fans may be familiar with: the Dragoon.
Fun fact 2: Kirby Air Ride was originally in development for the Nintendo 64 before getting scrapped until its development for the GameCube.
But the Kirby adventure wasn't over. 2004 brought us Kirby and the Amazing Mirror for the Game Boy Advanced while 2005 and 2006 brought Kirby: Canvas Curse and Kirby: Squeak Squad, the first two Kirby games for the DS. Canvas Curse once again shook up the Kirby formula by giving players the control of Kirby only via the stylus. Kirby could still gain enemies' abilities but not by inhaling them — Kirby remained a rolling ball throughout the game.
Adding to the DS's roster, Kirby Super Star Ultra (a remake of the SNES title) in 2008 and Kirby Mass Attack in 2011. Mass Attack was special in that players controlled not one... not two... but as many as ten Kirbys at once! Similar to Canvas Curse, the player did not directly control the Kirbys but instead guided them with the stylus.
It wasn't until four years into the Nintendo Wii's life cycle that we would see Kirby but when he resurfaced, he came back as an adorable ball...of yarn! Proving just how versatile the character was, Epic Yarn actually rendered Kirby's inhalation useless as part of the plot. How did Kirby compensate? But turning into a parachute, a submarine, a train, and much more. Oh, did I mention? The game also had dinosaurs made of yarn.
Kirby's Epic Yarn (2010) was the first Kirby title for the Wii but would later be followed by Kirby's Return to Dream Land (2011) and Kirby's Dream Collection (2012). The latter of the two was actually a compilation of the platforming Kirby games with some added features for die-hard fans.
Fun fact 3: Kirby's Return to Dream Land went through multiple iterations and more than a decade of development time. At one point, the platformer was even going to be an open-world game.
Kirby continues to be a unique spot in gaming
And finally, we're nearing the end of our list. Kirby took a short break in 2013 but came back with premiere titles on both the 3DS and Wii U with Kirby: Triple Deluxe (2014) and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (2015). Have you ever wanted to fight a tree as a puffball-turned-Rhinoceros-beetle? Yup, Triple Deluxe let you do exactly that.
Rainbow Curse, meanwhile, carried over the gameplay from Canvas Curse and showed players just what a high-definition Kirby game could look like. Turns out, it looks adorably weird, as Kirby can once again transform into a variety of vehicles to trounce his enemies.
That just leaves us with the newest title, Kirby: Planet Robobot. It's hard to believe it, but Robobot now marks the 25th game starring Kirby — and that's not even included spin-off games like the Smash Bros. series. It's especially hard to believe considering just how odd Kirby is when you think about it. But maybe that nondescript nature is what makes Kirby so versatile; Nintendo can take his character in pretty much any direction and make it work. They're sure to churn out more games in the coming years and Kirby is sure to take on newer and newer forms.
Despite all those games, it's not hard for me to pick a favorite. Kirby 64 will always hold a special place in my heart. How about you, though? What Kirby game is your favorite from the pink puffball's impressive array of games?