Nintendo‘s Kirby series is officially 30 years old today (April 27).
HAL Laboratory‘s much-loved platformer star made his debut on this day in 1992, when Kirby’s Dream Land was released on the Game Boy in Japan.
Kirby was born out of a fortunate accident, in that he wasn’t originally supposed to look anything like the way he does now.
Initially called Popopo, his debut game was originally going to be called Harukaze Popopo (Popopo of the Spring Breeze) before HAL renamed it Twinkle Popopo.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land - VGC review
Because the character design wasn’t yet final, the development team at HAL used a simple round blob as a placeholder until they had time to make something more detailed.
However, as development progressed, they grew fond of the blob, and decided he looked fine the way he was.
Nintendo and HAL decided to change Popopo’s name to make him appeal to western audiences. As confirmed by Shigeru Miyamoto in a Japanese interview from 1993, Kirby was named after a Nintendo of America lawyer.
John Kirby, who passed away in 2019, successfully defended Nintendo when it was sued by Universal Studios, who claimed that Donkey Kong infringed on its copyright for King Kong.
To thank him for helping it win the lawsuit, Nintendo named the Kirby character after him and gave him a $30,000 sailboat named Donkey Kong, along with the exclusive worldwide rights to use the Donkey Kong name for boats.
Kirby continues to be a much-loved character three decades on, as proven by the recently released Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
The game enjoyed the best opening week for any Kirby game in Japan, and was also the biggest launch in the history of the franchise in the UK.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land has received widespread critical acclaim, with a current score of 85 on review aggregation site Metacritic.
VGC’s Kirby and the Forgotten Land review calls it “another accomplished charmer from HAL’s inhalatory hero,” adding: “The platforming won’t give Mario any restless nights, but the exuberant creativity around it makes for a bold, buoyant adventure.”