Today is Kirby’s birthday as his series is officially 30 years old.
Kirby was originally created by Masahiro Sakurai when he was working at HAL Laboratory to be an easy to pick up but difficult to master platforming game. Kirby has since appeared in every instalment of Sakurai’s crossover fighting series, Super Smash Bros. as well as over 20 games of his own including his first-ever jump to the third dimension with this year’s Kirby And The Forgotten Land. That game, Forgotten Land, received an 85 on Metacritic, with many critics calling it a successful transition to the use of a Z-axis on the Nintendo Switch for the adorable pink puffball.
Kirby was originally created because of a fortunate accident, and he wasn’t even supposed to look like he does now. Initially called Popopo, his first game was originally going to be called Harukaze Popopo, or Popopo of the Spring Breeze before HAL renamed it Twinkle Popopo. The character design wasn’t final yet so the developer used a simple round blob as a placeholder until they had time to make some changes. However, the team at HAL grew to like the blob, so they kept it. Later, Nintendo and HAL decided to change Popopo’s name to make him more appealing to western audiences.
The name we know him as today, Kirby, was inspired by a Nintendo of America lawyer because he successfully defended them against Universal Studios’ claim that Donkey Kong infringed on their copyright of another giant ape, King Kong. To thank him for winning the lawsuit, Nintendo named the Kirby character after John Kirby and gave him a $30,000 sailboat named Donkey Kong as well as the exclusive worldwide rights to use the Donkey Kong name for his boats. John Kirby, unfortunately, passed away in 2019 before he could see the next innovation for the series.
Kirby And The Forgotten Land still did very well though, as the game enjoyed the best opening week for any Kirby game in Japan and has also sold over 110,00 units according to Famitsu as of April 7.
With the Nintendo Switch and Kirby’s current success, the future is looking bright for the series. One thing is for sure, fans will always be waiting eagerly for whatever this pink puffball does next. Whether it’s racing at breakneck speeds in Kirby Air Ride, fighting in his own version of Smash Bros. in Kirby Fighters 2, or copying the abilities of an entire car in Kirby And The Forgotten Land, one could say Kirby has seen and done it all, and we have the creativity of Sakurai to thank for that.