Kirby is still going strong after nearly 20 years, even overcoming the innate distrust that hardcore gamers have of cute things.
Kirby, the ever-so-spherical puffball with the enormous appetite is pretty adorable. Even among Nintendo’s family friendly stable of franchises, Kirby stands out as being cute. Ordinarily, this cuteness, combined with the series’ low difficulty, would make the games a pretty hard sell to “core” gamers, and yet the character – and the series – has thrived. In Issue 302 of The Escapist, Tim Latshaw examines the many ways that the Kirby games have made a special place in our hearts.
The Kirby franchise itself has always trumpeted its low difficulty and aesthetic choices. Creator Masahiro Sakurai chose the simplistic style of his character – who actually first served as a placeholder in early designs and insisted on its signature pink color. Japan embraced Kirby’s aesthetic, with commercials featuring happy songs and bright colors. Kirby’s portrayal on the other side of the world, however, certainly implies a fear of those “cute” and “easy” specters. The ways in which North America has advertised Kirby through his history are masculinizing and arguably overcompensating.[But] for all the supposed hand-wringing over proving Kirby to audiences as a viable character, the audiences picked up on his potential right off the bat. Flying under the highly popular and family-friendly banner of Nintendo at the time likely helped, but perhaps, once players cracked the shell of expectations around Kirby games, they discovered the games were very, very good for what they truly are.
Kirby was – and still is – the right character in the right game on the right platform, and has both inspired and delighted fans for years. You can read more about Kirby’s rise to fame in Latshaw’s article, “The Perfect Puffball.”