Kirby is described in his games as a young male pink ball, who is a denizen of Dream Land (プププランド Pupupuland) on the planet Pop Star. In the main game, he almost always has the same abilities; he can walk, run, jump, float, and inhale, spit out or devour his enemies. Most of Kirby's games adhere to the same basic idea; that this is a series for beginners and children. As such, his games can be beaten by a player of nearly any age, but offer deeper challenges for more experienced gamers.
Kirby often journeys across the planet Pop Star, defeating antagonistic forces such as the greedy King Dedede or the ominous Dark Matter. On other occasions, he encounters the enigmatic Meta Knight. To defeat his foes, he uses his signature ability of inhaling large objects and spitting them out with great force. From Kirby's Adventure onward, Kirby was able to gain the abilities of the enemies he swallowed, aptly known as Copy Abilities. In several games in the series, he obtains a mystical weapon during the climax of the battle against his enemy; this weapon is usually required to defeat the final boss.
Kirby was originally named Popopo, and his model was created as a blob placeholder sprite during the development of what would be the first Kirby game, originally titled 'Twinkle Popopo' instead of the current Hoshi no Kābī (translated as 'Kirby of the Stars'). After a while, creator Masahiro Sakurai started to prefer Kirby's placeholder design over the original conception. He later stated that he envisioned Kirby as a 'game for beginners'.
As Kirby's first appearance was on the monochrome screen of the Nintendo Game Boy, his "true" color could not be represented in-game. Sakurai intended Kirby to be pink. However, Shigeru Miyamoto had envisioned him as yellow. Because of this ambiguity, Nintendo of America was left with some confusion when the game was ported to the West. The American box art, cartridge label, instruction booklet, and even the television commercial for Kirby's Dream Land features Kirby entirely white in color. The Japanese box art, however, depicts Kirby as pink.
There is a good deal of debate on the origins of Kirby's name. One widespread view is that Kirby adopted his Western name from the Kirby Corporation, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, which would best describe Kirby's abilities. The other possible explanation is that Kirby was named in honor of Nintendo's legal counsel, John Kirby of Latham & Watkins LLP, who represented them in the courtroom during a copyright infringement lawsuit over Donkey Kong filed by Universal Studios. However, Masahiro Sakurai has been quoted as saying he does not remember how Kirby got his name.
Kirby is a small, pink, spherical creature with large red feet (or shoes), stubby arms and trademark pink cheek-blushes. His body is soft and flexible, allowing him to be flattened. He is said to be 20 centimeters (8 inches) tall, and his weight is unknown, although several parts of the anime and the Super Smash Bros. series suggest that he is light enough to be carried. He hails from the planet Pop Star, where he lives in a dome-shaped house in Dream Land. His appearance has changed subtly over the years, becoming more rounded and defined, mainly in his face and larger eyes. The new design has been used in all subsequent games.
Kirby is cheerful and innocent. He loves to eat and sleep, especially during the day. His favorite food is tomatoes, hence the Maxim Tomatoes in the games which fully restore his health (although in the anime, his favorite food appears to be watermelon). He is said to dislike caterpillars. His other hobbies include singing, although he is tone-deaf. He sometimes acts in an impulsive nature, such as when he accuses Dedede of interfering with the Fountain of Dreams in Kirby's Adventure, and then leaves to retrieve the pieces of the shattered Star Rod without even letting Dedede explain himself.
The same personality and nature is presented in the Super Smash Bros. titles. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, his trophy profile states that he is an "extremely skilled technician". Kirby, Meta Knight and King Dedede play a large role in the Subspace Emissary mode as well.
Although (or perhaps because) he appears cute and innocent, many commercials and ads have showcased this as a contrast to his extreme fighting skills when he takes on the weaponry of an enemy.
Kirby is a character of few words and rarely speaks in-game. His dialogue is largely limited to appearances in some games' instruction manuals, and brief comments such as 'Hi' in games including Super Smash Bros. and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. The only exception is in Kirby's Avalanche, where he is depicted as rude and smart-alecky. This game, however, is an American-made spin-off of the Puyo Puyo games (similar to the Sonic title Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine) and was never released in Japan. Despite his lack of dialogue, Kirby narrates the functions of certain Copy Abilities on the pause menu in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, and Kirby: Squeak Squad. In Kirby no Kirakira Kizzu, Kirby gives short descriptions of various menu options when they are highlighted. Most of the in game talking Kirby does is in Kirby's Star Stacker, where Kirby explains the game's rules, along with brief gameplay descriptions (if it isn't done by Dedede). The concept of Kirby being mostly mute is supported by Masahiro Sakurai's insistence that Kirby not speak in the anime series. Though occasionally in the anime he does say the names of his special attacks, certain foods and sometimes does repeat other words that he hears such as yuki (snow) or suika (watermelon). In the Super Smash Bros. series, When Kirby copies a foe's abilitiy, Kirby says the name of some attacks, such as Captain Falcon's "Falcon Punch" (See: Kirby Anime Development)
Kirby's main attack is inhaling enemies (both his mouth and body expand to allow him to inhale things much larger than himself) and swallowing them. He can also attack others by spitting enemies out as stars. Certain enemies, when swallowed, grant Kirby new powers called Copy Abilities.
In most early games, an ability does not change Kirby's appearance drastically, aside from his colour changing to orange or cyan in Kirby's Adventure, or wielding a weapon for abilities like Sword or Hammer. However, beginning with Kirby Super Star, Kirby gains a unique hat for each ability, such as a burning headdress for Fire, a frozen crown for Ice, or a backwards baseball cap for Yoyo and Wheel. While this would be overlooked in later games not designed by Masahiro Sakurai, such as Kirby's Dream Land 3 and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, the hats have become a staple of the series.
In Kirby Super Star, Kirby could sacrifice an ability to create a 'Helper', an allied version of the enemy he had devoured. The new Helper would be controlled by the game or a second player. This feature has not yet been included in later Kirby games, although it was included in Kirby Super Star's remake, Kirby Super Star Ultra.
Kirby also uses his powers to attain food or other special items like lollipops that grant him beneficial effects such as healing or temporary invincibility. Kirby Super Star and recent games contain a feature where Kirby can share his food with the second player in a motion that resembles kissing. It became a popular topic to parody in the Japanese manga series.
Kirby can suck in air and make himself more buoyant, flying slowly by flapping his arms. He can attack enemies by quickly exhaling a puff of air. This technique is known as the air gun. Whilst in most games he can float indefinitely, this ability is limited in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Super Smash Bros. (series). Other games have developed his powers even further, such as allowing him to block attacks in Kirby Super Star. As a whole, however, his basic moves have remained the same, although more Copy Abilities are added in each new game. In a future game announced for the Wii, Kirby is again given the ability to release his absorbed enemy as an ally. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kirby displays an ability called "Cook Kirby", that was taken from Kirby Super Star, as his Final Smash Attack. For this power, Kirby acquires a chef's hat, cooking utensils, and a boiling pot. All objects, including Assist Trophies, Pokémon, and Players within a limited range are sucked into the pot. Various items rain from above into the pot, and players fly out.
In general, members of the species all look similar, but sometimes have different colored skin, eyes, and shoes. They are commonly referred to as Kirbys, just as 'Yoshi' in the Mario series is the name of both the species and character. As a name, however, 'Kirby' refers to only one character. Terms like creampuffs or puffballs are also used to describe the species, referring to their soft, round appearance. In the English manual of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, the term Kirbys is used at points, to illustrate the feature of having four differently colored versions of Kirby active in the game simultaneously. Another common term is Dream Landers, a term used in the instruction manual for Kirby's Adventure. This term, however, also refers to anyone who lives in Dream Land, including characters like King Dedede. The Super Smash Bros. Brawl bio says Kirby is a citizen of Dream Land.
Kirby's race is not called Star Warrior, Warpstar Knight or any variation thereof. Star Warrior is a term used in the anime series to describe a group of legendary warriors from many races. The terms Warpstar Knight and Warpstar Warrior have only ever been used in advertisements, and have never appeared in any game or the anime.
In Kirby's Dream Land 3, mysterious characters appear called Batamon. They resemble Kirby aside from a more flattened shape and different face, and are unique in that the player can never directly come in contact with them. They are always seen walking past walls or ceilings beyond Kirby's reach, with the exception of a single stage in Cloudy Park, where Kirby can continue past the exit and come into contact with one.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kirby makes a return appearance alongside his rivals King Dedede and Meta Knight, who are introduced as playable characters in Brawl. Other abilities include Sword Kirby, Hammer Kirby, Yo-yo Kirby (for his running headspin attack), and Stone/Spike Kirby Kirby plays a significant part in the plot of Brawl's sidescrolling adventure mode, the "Subspace Emissary," in which he is the first available playable character, alongside Mario. Kirby's (as well as Ness's and Lucas's) significant roles in the storyline could possibly be attributed to the fact that their creator is the creator of the Super Smash Bros. series.
Kirby stars in an anime titled Kirby: Right Back at Ya! (Hoshi no Kābī in Japanese, named after the title of the game series). It is currently licensed in North America by 4Kids Entertainment and the Canadian company Nelvana, and was produced by Nintendo and HAL Laboratory. It aired on 4Kids TV, via Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting (since 2001 which has done 100 episodes). Kirby was also in a short, still-animated educational video that was only released in Japan, designed to teach kanji to young children. In it, he helps a lost puppy find its mother.
Kirby's image in the animated series is similar to his in-game image. He has the same light-hearted persona and huge appetite; the two main differences are his age and origins, and his preference for watermelon over tomatoes. His feet are a deeper shade of red than in the games, although most anime-related merchandise does not reflect this change. Though Sakurai said Kirby was not to speak, he allowed him to use a small vocabulary. He will often shout his ability and attack names, or say a few favorite words like 'suika' (Japanese for watermelon). While Kirby is fully capable of speaking, he is simply too young to know much. In addition, nearly all of his lines are removed in the 4Kids dub except for his trademark 'poyo poyo.' Some fans believe he's saying the Spanish word for chicken, pollo (pronounced poyo), but the spelling difference would indicate it's just baby gibberish. However, 'poyopoyo' is the Japanese sound symbol for a young child walking around uneasily (the Western equivalent is "toddling"), which may be a reference to Kirby's immaturity and young age. He is described as kind-hearted, sometimes to the point that it is considered a weakness. He often shows a strong, almost maternal caring side for younger and weaker people. He is also fearless, though other characters comment that it is only because he is cheerfully oblivious.
Only in the anime series is Kirby's background given any significance. On the show, he is a legendary Star Warrior who according to legend is fated to save Pop Star from destruction. No such legends are ever referred to in the games. It is also implied early in the series that he was a creation of an ancient evil entity called Nightmare, though some fans think this could be Meta Knight. It is also said that Kirby was meant to sleep for 200 years, but was awoken too early by mistake, which is why he has baby-like qualities. Because of his age, he depends even more on the help of his friends to pull through tough situations.
Unlike the games, the anime contains darker themes such as war, blood, violence and death,(although not in the english version), though it still maintains most of the cheerful and surreal themes from the games. Kirby's creator, Masahiro Sakurai, was greatly involved in its creation, so it did not stray far from his vision of how Kirby should be.
Kirby also stars in several manga series, none of which have been released in a language other than Japanese. The longest running series is titled Kirby of the Stars: The Story of Dedede Who Lives In Pupupu, and was written by Hirokazu Hikawa (ひかわ 博一 Hikawa Hirokazu). Other Kirby manga are typically one-shot comedy 4koma based on the games, and have multiple artists. They usually have recurring themes and running gags, despite having different creators.
A few German comics feature Kirby as a detective and King Dedede as his friend. Kirby is also friends with a blue fish, an informant who works at the Blue Fish Bar with fellow blue fish. His animal friends appear in the German comics as pets of a female Kirby look-alike with red glass slippers, ostensibly one of Kirby's girlfriends. In one comic, he meets Lololo, Lalala, and Lola,the stars of the Adventures of Lolo series. These comics were meant to let German Kirby fans know of Kirby games that would be released there.