Kirby – HAL’s happy little accident – inhales 30 candles today

When we think Nintendo, most of us think Mario. And for a good reason. The multiple felony-committing plumber has been the face of the Japanese tech giant for ages. But some of us might also link Nintendo to Kirby, the pink, gluttonous, multi-talented sword-wielder. Because he’s been around for ages as well. Thirty years, to be exact. So whaddya say we celebrate his legacy today. There’s no cake, unfortunately.

So, what is there to say about our main man Kirby? Plenty, as it turns out. To start with his birth, thirty years ago. Kirby was – as we like to call it – a happy little accident. One that developer HAL doesn’t mind, in retrospect. Kirby wasn’t supposed to be Kirby, neither was he supposed to be this pink, round “thing”.

In fact, his original name was Popopo, starring in a game called Harukaze Popopo, which eventually got renamed Twinkle Popopo. Why Popopo? I have nonono clue. But I’m kinda glad that name never stuck.

Then there was Kirby’s shape, which was meant to be a placeholder. For developer HAL, keeping it simple until they had time to actually develop a detailed model was the way to go. Since a circle is as simple as a shape can be, a circle they chose. But the team got so attached to this placeholder that they decide to keep it that way.

With the final shape decided, the name Popopo got revised. For the Asian market, Popopo probably would’ve worked out just fine, but Nintendo was also tapping into the Western market. And that’s where Nintendo of America’s lawyer – John Kirby – came into play. This guy singlehandedly helped Nintendo out of a tight spot after being sued by Universtal Studios for the use of the name Donkey Kong. Universal believed that Nintendo’s Donkey Kong and their King Kong shared too many similarities, and therefore sued Nintendo for copyright infringement.

It was John Kirby that eventually saved Nintendo’s ass. As a big ‘thank you’, Nintendo gifted him a sailboat named Donkey Kong and they decided to name Popopo after him. From that day, Kirby was officially the character as we know him today.

So there you have it. A brief lesson in the history of Kirby. And might I say, Kirby is looking mighty chipper for a 30-year-old omnivore.