Nintendo’s Wii U console finally got a burst of positive momentum in the 2nd half of 2014 with games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U, giving the beleaguered console a much needed sales boost. Now, with a number of major titles scattered throughout the 2015 release calendar, a lot of Nintendo fans are hoping that this is the year that the company fully capitalizes on the Wii U’s untapped potential.
To that end, Nintendo will try to keep things going in the right direction when its first major Wii U title of 2015 hits stores February 20. But the game that will carry the Wii U torch for the rest of the winter won’t feature one of the company’s top tier mascots like Mario, Link, Samus, or even Star Fox. Instead, it’s quite fitting that Nintendo will be officially launching its 2015 Wii U campaign with a character that is just as underappreciated as the console’s current place in the market. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse brings everyone’s favorite pink blob back into the spotlight.
Kirby has his fans for sure, but the character doesn’t seem to spark the same passion among Nintendo enthusiasts as the company’s other flagship franchises. It’s safe to say that most fans are “aware” of Kirby, but don’t have the same encyclopedic knowledge about him as they do with their other favorite Nintendo characters. To that end, we did a little bit of digging to help get Nintendo fans properly primed for Rainbow Curse. Here are some interesting blobs of info (sorry) on Kirby that you might not have known.
Generic Placeholder and the Rainbow Curse
Kirby was created by designer Masahiro Sakurai in 1992. Sakurai was making what would become Kirby’s Dream Land, and he needed a placeholder to take the spot of the main protagonist early on in development because the artwork wasn’t ready yet. Sakurai drew a simple circular ball-like shape and didn’t think much else of it at first. But as development matured, he decided that the simple design fit the game better, and he ended up ditching the finished design for the main character and went back to the circular blob.
Kirby is named after an American Lawyer
During development, the team referred to the circular shape as Popopo. When it came time to pick a name, a group of Nintendo executives got together and picked the name Kirby off of a draft board. Beloved Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto has said that the name was chosen because it reminded them of American lawyer John Kirby, who had represented Nintendo in court during a dispute with Universal City Studios over Donkey Kong. So no, the character wasn’t named after comic book artist Jack Kirby…
Pink from the Start
In Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby was depicted as white in color both in game and in the promotional materials for the title. This has caused some Kirby fans to think that Nintendo changed Kirby’s color in later titles, but this is not the case. Sakurai has stated several times that Kirby was always meant to be pink, but had to be white because there was no color on the original Game Boy. The marketing team followed suit and made Kirby appear white so that he matched his in-game appearance.
We should note that Miyamoto actually wanted Kirby to be yellow, and Nintendo has paid homage to this fact by occasionally giving the character a yellow hue, like in Kirby Air Ride. Officially though, Kirby loves rocking pink.
Meta Knight is a Kirby Clone in Disguise
Meta Knight has popped up in numerous Kirby titles over the years, sometimes to help and sometimes to stand in Kirby’s way. But remove his mask/helmet, and he appears to be a blue version of Kirby. Was this just laziness on the part of the early developers or are they trying to say that Meta Knight is of the same “race” as Kirby? Nintendo had some fun with the comparison in the latest Super Smash Bros., allowing players to give Kirby an alternate palette that makes him look like Meta Knight.
Kirby Is Not Bipolar
If you take a closer look at Kirby’s box art over the years, one stark difference soon becomes obvious between the Japanese and American releases. In the Japanese versions, the box art almost always features Kirby looking cute and happy.
But in some of the North American versions, the marketing materials featured a much grumpier or even angry looking Kirby. Nintendo executives have explained that Kirby’s persona is supposed to be happy and cheerful, but that they felt the darker look played better to Western audiences.
Mario Lives in the Mushroom Kingdom, Link lives in Hyrule, Kirby lives in…
Like Nintendo’s other major mascots, Kirby has a home planet or land that he hails from, although its name isn’t as well known. In keeping with Kirby’s upbeat, cheerful persona, Kirby’s home is called “Planet Pop Star.” Kind of sounds like a bad free-to-play mobile title starring Katy Perry, but nope, the majority of Kirby games are set on this pointed yellow star.
Kirby Diehards Own a Guinness World Record
Using Kirby’s trademark “blowing” as inspiration, Nintendo organized a meet up for Kirby fans at PAX Prime in 2012 with a specific objective: break the world record for most people blowing a bubble with their gum. Yes, really. Nintendo handed out Kirby-themed instructions on how to properly blow bubble gum. The crowd had to hold their bubbles for 30 seconds in order to accomplish the feat.
Kirby Loves Cameos
Seeing Mario pop up in a Zelda title would be weird, but Kirby’s second tier mascot status has allowed Nintendo to insert the character into a number of different games over the years without causing much of a stir. A Kirby-looking enemy made an appearance in Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy. He also appeared in the opening cutscene for the 1992 SNES RPG Arcana. Seems strange, until you realize that Arcana was made by HAL Laboratories, the same company behind Kirby. This is also the reason Kirby made a small appearance in one of HAL’s Pokemon Stadium games.
Kirby Video Games Have Been Greatly Influenced by Anime
After Kirby‘s initial success as a game, a popular anime series starring the character was released in Japan. Its title in English is Kirby: Right Back at Ya. It was eventually brought to the U.S. in 2002. A number of abilities that Kirby has taken on in the games, like Water Kirby, first occurred within the anime series.
Several anime-exclusive characters have made small appearances in later Kirby games. The biggest influence may have been on the official Kirby logo. The font and style of “Kirby’s” in Right Back at Ya has been used in every game since.
Kirby Digs Comics and Manga, Too
Anime isn’t the only Japanese form of entertainment that the pink blob has dabbled in. A wide variety of manga have been released in Japan over the years, many of which tell original stories. The longest-running series was Kirby of the Stars, which was a 25-book series. It was supposed to be translated for a Western release but the plans fell through.