Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gamer's Corner: Kirby Is My Homeboy

I said a while ago that I wanted to go back to my gaming roots and discuss some of my favorite video games. I did it earlier celebrating the 20th anniversary of Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog. Now I'm gonna take yall down Memory Lane with one of my favorite video game characters, Kirby.

I remember when I got Kirby's Dream Land on Game Boy for my 8th birthday and Mom surprised me with a party at school with my friends. It was weirdly original because every video game character was either an animal or a human. Kirby was a.....cream puff? A cream puff with a super high metabolism who never gained weight despite having Hoover vacuum lungs. It was unlike any character I saw but I spent many hours playing that game.

Kirby's lungs were his only weapon as he fought back by inhaling somebody and spitting back out. You'd think that'd make for a stupid game but the right combination of challenging opponents, cool music and extra powers made it actually cool. The best weapon was the Mint Leaf and it came at the end of Level 3 when you fought the boss.

King DeDeDe was the main boss but for a final boss, he definitely sucked compared to Bowser or Dr. Robotnik. He could inhale just like Kirby, wielded a powerful hammer and jumped around like House of Pain. He got some great upgrades later in the series.

To this day, Level 3 (Float Islands) still has one of the best level music I've ever heard in a Nintendo game. It fit the beachy theme of the level and it's only fitting that for Kirby's Dream Land 2, they brought it back.

If you beat the game, you got a secret code to play a harder level and as soon as I found out, I played it all the time. The enemies were harder and more aggressive and the bosses were even crazier. Even the mini-bosses had attitude (Poppy Bros. Sr. in Level 1 bum rushing you after throwing bombs).

I challenged myself with Nintendo's challenge. First, beat the game on the harder level (DONE). Then beat the regular game without getting hit (After playing the hard level regularly, this was easy as pie.). Finally, beat the harder level without getting hit. That took months to do and a lot of enemy memory but I remember the day I finally did it. Felt like mini Johnny Drama calling out VICTORY!!!!

The franchise got a much needed upgrade on NES with Kirby's Adventure and it gave Kirby the ability to steal powers by swallowing what he inhaled. Kirby could swing a sword, become a fireball, put guys on ice or even better, do wrestling moves on guys he'd inhale. The coolest weapon? Easily the UFO. I'd play those levels over and over just to keep the UFO power because you couldn't take it with you to another stage.

I tried to draw Kirby for years after watching the intro. Add in the bright graphics and cool minigames, especially the quick draw shootout, and it became one of my favorite NES games and one of the last classics of the console. He made dudes not ashamed to support a pink cream puff.

Plus there was a treat for old KDL fans with Level 7-6 taking it back to the Black-and-White. The music got an upgrade, especially Level 5 which also made the KDL2 cut. Level 4 and Level 7 were almost dreamlike and could lull you to sleep. But nothing beats the ending music, which I used to deliberately let run for about 5 mins while I celebrated the end of the game

It's only a shame the franchise never got a cartoon until most of us who grew up on him left cartoons behind (it also failed because the cartoon looked as corny as Iowa.) Kirby may not be Sonic or Mario but he's just as iconic on a smaller level to millions of gamers as you fans of Super Smash Bros can see. And Dream Land is still one of the best games ever made for Game Boy.

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