Written by Bad Demoman 13th July 2015

On today of all days, I'm reminded of why I love video games so much, and what drew me to them in the first place. Video games are a special form of media that are capable of making me happy like nothing else. It's a form of escapism, in a way. Video games have helped me through some dark times, and brightened up many a sad day. And so it seems a good idea to me, on this sad day for gamers everywhere, that I look back to a game series that brings me a great deal of happiness: The Kirby Series.

Kirby, as a character, is almost comical to look at. A little pink puff ball with stubby arms and legs. There's no badness to Kirby, he exudes pure happiness (Unless your referring to North American boxarts, where they tried to make a pink ball “badass” by giving him an angry expression!). Kirbys simple design stems from his origin as a placeholder sprite in the game Twinkle Popopo, which later went on to be renamed Kirby's Dreamland. Masahiro Sakurai, Kirby's creator, grew to love the little blob and decided to keep the design we know today. Kirby's Dreamland isn't quite what we expect of a Kirby game today. Given that it was the first game in the series, not everything about Kirby was fully established including what we most associate with Kirby today – his ability to copy the attacks of his enemies. Instead, enemies could only be defeated by inhaling other enemies or blocks and firing them, or by exhaling air at enemies. Compared to later Kirby games this may seem not as exciting, but Sakurai intended Kirby's Dreamland as a simple game suitable for newcomers to videogames and hardened veterans alike. It wouldn't be until Kirby's Adventure on the NES (Which I never got to play, but I mostly know for its excellent remake Nightmare in Dreamland) that Kirby would receive this copy ability. Kirby's Adventure must've been somewhat of a surprise to gamers of the day – Mario had a fair few powerups by the time, as Super Mario Brothers 3 had released, but Kirby's Adventure had 24 different powers for Kirby to use! This shaped what Kirby games would be from this point onward.

Kirby Super Star is probably the most well known game in the series. Introducing changing hats based on Kirby's current ability, it also boasted “8 games in 1!”. This was a tad misleading – Kirby Super Star consists of 7 small sub-games and 2 extra minigames. Among these are a remake of Kirby's Dreamland, Gourmet Race which is infamous among Competitive Smash Bros players for its song and the treasure seeking adventure Great Cave Offensive. Kirby Super Star was also remade on the DS as Kirby Super Star Ultra, adding new sub games including the ability to play as Meta Knight. Super Star is the Kirby game I revisit the most – the multitude of sub games and the small ways that they change how you play the game adds a whole lot of replayability and variety!

While newer games in the franchise have relied solely on interesting new powers to keep the games fresh, as well as new minigames (some of which are quite extensive, such as Kirby Fighters which then became its own game, Kirby Fighters Deluxe!) some of the older games had their own twists on the formula. Kirby's Dream Land 2 and 3 both had animal friends to help you out, while Kirby and the Amazing Mirror was a whole game of Great Cave Offensive-like exploration. In Kirby 64 you could even combine copy abilities! While Kirby 64 seems to be somewhat of a black sheep in the series, this feature makes it one of the most fun Kirby games for me. Experimenting with the combinations and discovering each one is awesome, and the first time I discovered the flaming sword and the double sided laser sword as a kid was an experience I'll never forget.

 Some Kirby games take things a step further, and end up playing completely differently from standard Kirby games! My favourite of these is Kirby Air Ride, which is a racing game in the same vein as Mario Kart. However, I always preferred it over Mario Kart. Kirby rides of various different Stars, and each one excels at different things, while some even control very differently rather than simply having different stats. For example, the Bulk Star can only move after being charged up, while the Swerve Star accelerates to full speed almost immediately but can only change directions after coming to a complete stop. Kirby's Air Ride has some very unique modes in it, one in particular that I've never seen anything quite like since. Air Ride is a standard race against your friends or the AI, while Top Ride is reminiscent of older racing games with its top down perspective. City Trial is by far the more interesting mode of the three though. You start off with the most basic of stars, the Compact Star, in an island city. You can explore this city, and even get off your Star! With a limited time, you must find a better Star and level it up with stat items found in boxes all over the city. You can even go on the offensive and destroy another players Star, leaving them to use the compact star! After your time is up, a random event is selected. These are minigames where some Stars will be more suited than others. A heavier Star will be better at the destruction derby, but won't be as useful in a flight course. It adds a lot of tension and promotes an even distribution of stats – or you could just go all in on one stat and hope for the best! Kirby's Air Ride quickly became on of my most played Gamecube games, and I really wish it got the love that Mario Kart gets. I'd be extremely excited to see a sequel, as unlikely as it is.

Whenever I'm down, the first series I turn to to cheer me up is the Kirby series. While everyone knows the Gourmet Race theme, Kirby has some of the catchiest music in gaming. If I were to ever make one up, Float Islands would make it into my top 10 video game songs ever. The visuals are also always striking. The Kirby series is never afraid to experiment with visuals. Kirby's Dreamland 3 looks like it was drawn in pastel and crayon, while Kirby's Epic Yarn has everything comprised of...well, yarn! Even the most recent entry into the series, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse has a clay aesthetic that even ties into the story! No matter what look Kirby takes on, I can't help but have a smile on my face when I play a Kirby game. So when I saw the quote from Mr. Iwata - "Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone!" - I knew that a retrospective on the Kirby series, a series that Iwata worked closely with, would be the best form of tribute for one of the greatest people to work in the Games Industry. Thank you for everything you did for gaming Iwata. Your efforts shaped the childhoods of many, myself included.

Thank you, and Goodbye.

Written by,

Bad Demoman

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