last year for the 25th anniversary of the Kirby series, comic writer/artist gigi d.g. made a very beautiful comic that, in addition to being warm and lovely on its own, prompted lots of people on twitter to offer their own fond memories of the magical little puffball. here are some of mine.
Kirby’s Dream Land was the first game boy game that i got to pick out all on my own (instead of collaborating with my siblings), and was the first videogame i completed without help from anyone else. i picked it because i’ve always loved cute, soft things, but aside from that one of the things that’s made it so special to me is the way it helped me understand how videogames work. I distinctly remember my 7-year-old brain being completely vaporized by the first boss fight, Whispy Woods.
Whispy Woods was the first boss fight i had ever played myself, and the first time i ever understand the role patterns and systems play in videogames. i’ve been obsessed with games for literally as long as i can remember, but until Whispy Woods they remained a kind of wondrous mystery to me. i used to watch my siblings and uncle play Super Mario Bros. at my grandma’s house (because that’s where the NES lived) and feeling equal parts fascinated and frustrated. it was always too difficult for me to play, and the Bowser fights were particularly baffling, as they always seemed impossible or too easy, depending on if you had a fire flower. i never realized that everything operated according to a pattern, and it always felt as if my own uncoordinated movements would never best the precision and skill demonstrated by the game (there’s probably some sort of Lacanian millennial mirror stage analysis to be made of this human/computer interaction but i don’t feel like exploring it).
in contrast to all those games that mystified me, i only died once before i figured out the pattern to Whispy Woods (spit the apples at him!), but more than that, this was the first time i figured out there even was a pattern. all of a sudden i understood how games worked. the Whispy Woods fight made videogames intelligible to me in a way no other game had, and once i finished Kirby’s Dream Land i found i was able to easily play games i had previously given up on as impossible (the two main ones being Super Mario Land and Tiny Toon Adventures: Bab’s Big Break). so in a very basic sense, Kirby taught me how to play videogames.
there’s another detail of the Whispy Woods fight that always stayed with me, and it’s what happens when you defeat him. at the end of the fight, you don’t kill Whispy Woods, you just make him cry.
i cried easily/a lot as a child and it was a huge deal to me to be put in the position of making someone else (a magical tree) cry. it complicated my understanding good v. bad, hero v. villain, etc, and even though it’s necessary to finish the game and i thought Kirby had the moral high ground in this case, the little bit of nuance offered by those handful of frames played a big part in my emotional development. for that reason alone Kirby will always hold a special place in my heart.
tl; dr: Kirby is great 🙂