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‘What happens if Kirby swallows a hot man?’ His directors give answers

Kirby game directors answer our strangest, longest-held questions

Kirby nestled in a field of cake frosting, gazing up with shimmering doe eyes, adorably Image: HAL Laboratory/Nintendo
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Kirby contains so many mysteries inside that adorable pink belly. What happens to the creatures he eats? Does he have a skeleton? Could Kirby fall in love?

Dear reader, these are the questions I so often hear from you in our comments and on social media. Undeterred by the risk of humiliation, I took it upon myself to get some answers when given the rare opportunity to talk with the people who know Kirby best: the directors of his games.

HAL Laboratory executive director Shinya Kumazaki and expert director Tatsuya Kamiyama were in San Francisco to celebrate (one year late) the 30th anniversary of the iconic anthropomorphic orb. After giving a presentation to a massive, packed hall at the Game Developers Conference, Kuamazaki and Kamiyama sat down with me to talk Kirby lore.

We spoke at length about the creative process behind Kirby games, and I will be sharing more of that conversation soon. But since you’ve waited decades to know what happens when a Kirby swallows another Kirby, I didn’t want you to wait another day for an answer.

Simple, wallpaper style artwork of Kirby’s facial features Image: Nintendo

Polygon: Will or could Kirby ever fall in love?

Shinya Kumazaki: I feel like Kirby is a neutral character. It’s really the player’s emotion that gets displayed and realized on the other side of the screen. I think that’s what makes Kirby unique. Because of that, we try not to have Kirby express emotions that might not be felt by the player. Extreme emotions, like anger or crying.

With that said, if within the story there’s a sequence where the player might feel like they’re falling in love with someone — if that’s the experience we design — then I don’t think it’s impossible to have Kirby’s eyes turn into hearts. Or maybe Kirby is blushing. I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibility.

With that said, we haven’t had a title in the series that focused on falling in love. For me, personally, I hope Kirby remains the kind of character who takes things as they come.

Tatsuya Kamiyama: But what I can say is what Kirby does love is delicious food!

If you cut open Kirby, what would the inside look like?

Kumazaki: Dreams. Filled with dreams. Of course, we want to keep a mysterious side to Kirby. So I’ll say we will keep it a mystery.

Kirby’s Adventure box art Image: HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

What happens if a Kirby swallows another Kirby?

Kumazaki: Kirby’s ability is to swallow and copy an object’s ability. In past games, there would be times when a yellow Kirby got swallowed by a pink Kirby. Pink Kirby would spit it out. So really nothing would happen. In terms of game design, we haven’t created anything special reaction associated with that.

But given Kirby’s ability is to copy, and it swallows a Kirby with the same ability, nothing would change. Though I do think it would be funny if it made two Kirby.

What happens to the creatures Kirby swallows and where do they go?

Kumazaki: Because the base world is a fantasy world, it’s not like they get swallowed and digested inside of Kirby. Because that might be jarring, and because we made the game to be approachable, having that kind of extreme or violent expression might negate making the game so approachable.

Instead, we have this comical, funny depiction where the enemies poof. When an enemy or creature gets swallowed by Kirby, they may disappear but they do resurface somewhere else in the world.

Kirby imagines a superhero that would inspire him in his adventures. The image is from a panel at GDC 2023. Image: HAL Laboratories

At GDC, you showed superheroes with Kirby. Are those personified versions of Kirby? Or are they superheroes inspired by Kirby?

Kumazaki: That was for the audience to understand what type of hero Kirby thinks of, when he thinks of a hero. So it’s not personified.

A former co-worker (Wired’s Megan Farokhmanesh) attended the GDC panel with me and was struck by the superhero Kirby. She raised an important question: If Kirby swallowed a hot man, would he turn into a hot man?

Kumazaki: I think your friend might have noticed the muscles and power the images depicted. I think Kirby’s ability would be in line with that. And he’d probably have a hat associated with it. But his face would not turn into hot Kirby.

Not sharp angles.

Kumazaki: Still round.

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