Jamicom #2: Kirby 25 Anniversary

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Kirby is one of my favorite long-running game series. It may not carry the gravitas of some of Nintendo’s A-listers, but its core platformers are consistently fluffy fun, and the weird spin-offs are often great and always interesting. The Kirby series has also produced tons of wonderful music over the years, and not just the energetic sugar-pop you’d expect. So, in honor of the pink puff’s big birthday, here’s a few of my favorite tunes from throughout the main series.

Vegetable Valley 3- Kirby’s Adventure

Also sometimes called “Underground Stage” or “Forest Area” in other appearances, this track is mostly used for dark and somewhat spooky environments in Kirby’s Adventure such as deep forests or unlit castle corridors. The bassline especially gives this track a delightfully cheeky and mischievous vibe. It’s not malicious, but it’ll definitely steal your candy. Nothing else quite feels the same as this track, in Adventure or the series at large, and it has always stood out to me for that reason. The Kirby series has two main composers, Hirokazu Ando and Jun Ishikawa, and the series is huge enough that these two have basically made their careers writing Kirby music. Adventure was Ando’s first Kirby soundtrack, and his second soundtrack overall after HAL’s Super Nintendo RPG Arcana. You can tell that Kirby’s Adventure is a game released late enough in the lifespan of the NES that the SNES was already out: Not only is it visually gorgeous, but the music is some of the most complex and full you’ll find on the console.

 

King Dedede’s Theme- Kirby Super Star

Now here’s an iconic track! King Dedede is the final boss of the original Kirby’s Dreamland, and the doofus penguin has appeared in nearly every game in the series along with his theme music. Dedede’s typical boss arena is a wrestling ring surrounded by a cheering crowd, and the drum and bass especially do a great job of delivering the spectacular nature of the scene. It’s so driving and bombastic without actually crossing over into something that sounds legitimately menacing. It perfectly fits an antagonist who is more of a selfish, self aggrandizing bully than a full-on villain. I picked the version from Kirby Super Star because it feels to me like one of the most ‘pure’ versions of this constantly-remixed track, while also being a bit more full than the Game Boy original.

 

Crystal Field and Mystery Paradise- Kirby Super Star

This is another Super Star track, and a remix at that. Composer Jun Ishikawa took the peppy and playful Green Greens theme from Dreamland and transformed it into a grand and adventurous orchestral piece to suit the Great Cave Offensive subgame. I love seeing such a well-known melody turned into something with a completely different feeling to it, while still being recognisable. This style of music is really well suited to the Super Nintendo’s sample-centric sound chip, and in the right hands it can produce breathtaking work like the Actraiser soundtrack. On the other hand, you also have a plethora of lesser SNES games blaring farty trumpets at you. Still, when you compare that sound capability to the grungy FM synthesis on the Genesis, I think you find one reason why the SNES had way more high fantasy RPGs. This is the second track used in Great Cave Offensive, and both of them go a long way to establish the game’s adventurous treasure-hunting atmosphere.

 

Factory Inspection- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Not as cheery as the rest, huh? Factory Inspection shows up late in Kirby 64, in the final level of the penultimate planet, Shiver Star. The first half of Shiver Star features the kind of winter wonderland settings you might expect, before transitioning into urban/industrial environments. Factory Inspection plays while you are in, yes, a factory of some kind, running across conveyor belts and past vats occupied by strange creatures. It’s a classic video game environment, but not one you might expect in a Kirby game. There are some interesting theories about the true nature of Shiver Star, but whatever the case it certainly makes an impression. As for the track itself, the constant mechanical whirring adds so much character to it, and its faster rhythm creates a sort of dissonance with the measured and imposing melody. To me it suggests an unfeeling Industry threatening to overshadow the world. The piano at the end of the loop is a jarring and ominous conclusion to the track, I feel like you can easily imagine the pianist just slamming their fists on the keys, Together with the stage itself, this track really tells a story to me, and it’s one without a happy ending. So cool for a happy lil’ Kirby adventure!

 

Sand Canyon 1- Kirby’s Dreamland 3

This I think is one of the best examples of what people imagine when they think of “Kirby music.” It’s got everything: a cheerful melody with playful flutes and woodwinds on the first loop and goofily bombastic trumpet on the second, hyperactive percussion throughout, and a cheeky little “beep!” to close things out. Make sure you listen to the bass guitar as well, it really gets going as the track reaches its full momentum before coming to its sudden amusing halt. I have to be honest, a lot of of my affection for this track comes from the fact that it was a popular choice for that late 00’s Youtube meme of cutting together a character voices and sound clips to go along with various video game music. I’m pretty sure some other Kirby track was used for this a lot, but I can’t seem to think of it right now…

 

There are a lot of other Kirby tracks I’d love to talk about, such as the gentle piano soundtrack to Kirby’s Epic Yarn or the hilariously hardcore theme of Galacta Knight. This is definitely a series that Jamicom will visit again!