Friday, April 27, 2012
Kirby's 20th Birthday
In the year of 1991, 19-year-old Masahiro Sakurai was asked to design a game wherein beginner gamers and young children could easily start playing. While designing the game, Sakurai drew a dummy sprite — a smiling, happy blob. At first, this sprite was to be replaced later as more code and better graphics began to appear. But as time went on, the developers began to become fond of the dummy, and thus made him the main character of the game. He gave the little boy stubby arms, round feet, and blushes on his cheek, as well as the ability to inhale his enemies and spit them back out as projectiles. Though he was to be named Popopo and the game Twinkle Popopo, his name was changed to Kirby for a reason that to this day eludes his creator; some believe it was to honor John Kirby who won a case regarding copyright issues over Donkey Kong and Hong Kong, and others believe it was a stab at the Kirby brand of vacuum cleaners. In any case, one of Nintendo's most cherished characters was born on Monday, April 27, 1992 when the Gameboy title Kirby's Dream Land was released for Japan.
The next year, Kirby's Adventure was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES; North America, Europe) and Famicom (Japan-only). It was the first game in which the creampuff could copy an enemy's powers and use it against them — every ability from fire, sword, stone, beam, and many others (over one-hundred now). Kirby's Dream Land 2 and several handheld spin-offs were released for the Gameboy before one of the most popular SNES titles was available for purchase amongst the Nintendo fans: Kirby's Super Star. This game boasted eight games in one, each with its own unique take on Kirby's Copy Ability system. A year later, Kirby's Dream Land 3 was released.
Kirby was made a playable character in Super Smash Bros., a fighting game for the Nintendo 64 created by Masahiro Sakurai himself where Nintendo characters could duke it out in several arenas. This was also the first time the Kirby fans heard their favorite character's voice (beside the Japanese educational video which had hired a different voice actor for the little boy). In 2000, Kirby & the Crystal Shards for the Nintendo 64 was released and a year later Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (a remake of Kirby's Adventure) was released for the Gameboy Advance.
In 2002, Kirby fans rejoiced: an animé had been announced. It was to star Kirby as well as new characters. Though different from the games in almost every way, it continues to received positive attention from some of the fans — the official dub was a different story: it was dubbed by 4Kids, the same company who dubbed Pokémon. Considering the changes the studio tends to make in its dubs, the show was not well-received in North America.
Then in 2003, the Nintendo 64 racing title Kirby's Air Ride was released with all-new graphics, sound, music, and gameplay for the GameCube. Despite the mediocre reviews, it still remains to have a sense of charm and potential. However, this glory was not to last. Days after the release of the racing game, Kirby's creator quit Hal Laboratory on the grounds of lacking creative freedom thereof. Many fans were disturbed by this news. What would happen to the franchise? Would there continue to be new games? Would Kirby slink into the unknown and only return in Smash Bros.? The answers seemed dirge until the next year when Kirby & the Amazing Mirror was released for the Gameboy Advance. It was positively received, and despite the poor ally AI, the game continues to be a favorite amongst Nintendo fans.
At E3 2005, fans rejoiced at Kirby's first main GameCube title. It displayed gameplay similar to Kirby's Super Star with a stacking feature that was well-received. No known release date was given, but fans were sure it was to be released the following year. However, no such game was released. The years followed as three Nintendo DS titles were released: Kirby's Canvas Curse, Kirby: Squeak Squad, and Kirby Super Star Ultra (a remake of the original SNES title). Fans were beginning to lose hope that they would ever see their GameCube game; few even began calling it Kirby Forever, a reference to the Duke Nukem game of a similar title that was rarely heard for ten years.
Nintendo soon released the Nintendo Wii, which offered a unique form of input: motion controls via a vertically-designed controller. Many fans begin thinking of ways motion controls could contribute to the game; Nintendo continued to place the untitled Kirby game as in production. At E3 2010, Nintendo revealed the Wii title fans had been waiting for so long: Kirby's Epic Yarn. However, it featured completely different gameplay and visuals than from the GameCube title. Essentially, it was not the same game as before. Its presentation won various awards and was praised for having superb graphics. It was released that autumn.
For the fans, it was a hit-or-miss. Some fans praised it as a tribute to Kirby's first game Kirby's Dream Land while others denounced it for its gameplay not being similar to the franchise's conventions. Indeed, it was not to be a Kirby at first but instead an original intellectual property. However, Nintendo suggested for it to be a Kirby game due to the design similarities between Prince Fluff and Kirby, and it was made a Kirby game shortly thereafter.
Later, Nintendo released information regarding a new DS title: Atsumete! Kirby (literally Gather! Kirby). Instead of controlling Kirby directly, the touch screen will be used to control a large group of Kirbies. According to reports, Kirby was vacationing on Popopo Islands, but was attacked by a villian; he was struck by the antagonist's wand and split into a group of Kirbies. In January of 2011, a Nintendo financial conference revealed a new game for the Wii: a title similar in appearance to the GameCube title, but with the stacking system and Helper features removed. Instead, Kirby has intensified abilities that have the capability to destroy all instances on the field.
For the past twenty years, Kirby has entertained the younger audience with his happy-go-lucky demeanor, his cute and simple appearance, and his signature ability to inhale enemies and copy their powers. Kirby has been in over twenty titles, has had numerous cameos in other Nintendo games (including Super Mario and Mother), and even his own animé show, which gained attention across the Japanese islands.
Kirby has shown that even in the face of mature titles like Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, and the like, fun and simple games can still sell very well in the video game industry. With the release of Kirby Wii and Atsumete! Kirby,