- This article is about internal storyline continuity, and should not be confused with Cannon.
Canon is a term used to designate events, objects, or characters that are indisputably part of a fictional narrative, and congruent with other stories in that narrative. In terms of the Kirby series, the term would be used to describe anything that has definitively occurred in the storyline of the main series.
Canonicity within a title
A quick example of what is considered "canon" can be gleamed in the events of Kirby's Adventure (and Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land by extension). For instance, it can be said that Kirby ventured through several distinct areas on Popstar, fought seven foes in a specific order to obtain the shattered pieces of the Star Rod, then used the rod to battle Nightmare at the end of his journey, but it cannot be said that Kirby was whisked away to a Goal Game where he trampolined onto various cloud levels to gain points at the end of every stage, or that he used doors to enter each area of the land, despite that being what the player has Kirby doing during gameplay.
An example of what is not canon, though, is easily found in Kirby's Avalanche. In this game, Kirby consistently trash-talks his opponents before a round of Avalanche. In canon games, Kirby is almost entirely silent; when he does speak, he says one-word quotes like "Hi!", or, in the case of the anime, "Poyo!". He is virtually never seen rude in the games as well. The reason for this drastic change in tone is that the game is a localized port of Puyo Puyo, with Kirby inheriting protagonist Arle Nadja's sassy personality. As such, it is definitely not canon, and obviously does not reflect Kirby's personality in any way.
In film and other narrative mediums, the term "diegesis" exists to describe elements that exist within the narrative as opposed to ones that exist outside of it, and is closely related to canon in this manner. For example, music that exists in the game universe (such as a radio that the characters can interact with) would be "diegetic" sound, while background music that the player hears but the characters do not would be "non-diegetic" sound. For a more basic example, in-game items such as Food and collectibles like Energy Spheres can be considered diegetic and thus canon, but collectible points, stars, or 1-Ups are not canon, and only serve as non-diegetic gameplay elements.
Beyond this basic distinction, Sub-Games, other side activities, and spin-off entries might be internally congruent, but fail to fit anywhere in the main narrative, and as such, officially never occur in the story. An example of this would be the optional Bonus Chances that can be played after defeating a boss in Kirby's Dream Land 2.
Canonicity of alternate game modes
Unless otherwise specified by HAL, the events of the Main Game in any given title are canonically what happened. As such, it can be presumed that all Extra Games (including the Meta Knightmares, Dededetour! and Guest Star ???? Star Allies Go!), Arenas and True Arenas are not considered canon (Heroes in Another Dimension is an exception). However, that is not to say that certain elements appearing exclusively in Extra Games don't exist in some capacity in the Kirby universe.
Canonicity between titles
It is sometimes difficult to determine which entries in the Kirby series are canon and which are not. Before its re-branding, the Kirby 25th Anniversary site listed each main series game, as opposed to spin-off titles in a chronology, but also included Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition, which may have only suggested that the games included in said collection were part of the main series. When it comes to spin-off titles, a few can be seen as being part of the overall storyline, but none have been confirmed by HAL to be so.
Despite this confusion, it is generally understood that any Kirby game which contains the words '星のカービィ' (Kirby of the Stars) in its Japanese title is a main series game.
The following is a list of every main series title (remakes are considered to be the same story as the original):
- Kirby's Dream Land
- Kirby's Adventure/Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land
- Kirby's Dream Land 2
- Kirby Super Star/Kirby Super Star Ultra
- Kirby's Dream Land 3
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Kirby & The Amazing Mirror
- Kirby: Squeak Squad
- Kirby's Return to Dream Land
- Kirby: Triple Deluxe
- Kirby: Planet Robobot
- Kirby Star Allies
The chronology of the series is never clarified, but it is generally safe to assume that earlier games come before later ones. There are very few instances of games being directly tied to previous events. The developers prefer to keep the specific timeline vague; for example, the beginning of Kirby: Triple Deluxe is designed to imply that it continues from the ending of Kirby Super Star, but does not directly acknowledge the game's events.
While some of these games have an argument for being included in the overall storyline, they are marked as separate from the main series:
- Kirby's Pinball Land
- Kirby's Dream Course
- Kirby's Avalanche
- Kirby's Block Ball
- Kirby's Star Stacker (Game Boy)
- Kirby's Toy Box
- Kirby's Star Stacker (SNES)
- Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble
- Kirby Air Ride
- Kirby: Canvas Curse
- Kirby's Epic Yarn / Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn
- Kirby Mass Attack
- Kirby Fighters Deluxe
- Dedede's Drum Dash Deluxe
- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
- Team Kirby Clash Deluxe
- Kirby's Blowout Blast
- Kirby Battle Royale
- Super Kirby Clash
- Kirby Fighters 2
Canonicity with Kirby: Right Back at Ya!
Generally speaking, while elements from the anime can influence design choices in the game series, and vice-versa, the anime - Kirby: Right Back at Ya! - is not considered to be in canon with the main Kirby game series. In addition, the original Japanese version of the anime - 星のカービィ (Kirby of the Stars) - is not considered to be in canon with the English localization, as several plot points are changed, along with the names of some of the characters.
Canonicity of extra-game content
Promotional material, such as illustrations, merchandise, videos, and even pre-release gameplay footage are not considered part of the canon. A game in development, therefore, cannot be considered canon until it is released.
When it comes to developer commentary on back-story and side information about the setting or characters, this information can be considered tentatively canon if it is released as part of an official statement from HAL, but such information can easily be overruled by in-game events (both for current titles and future ones) that contradict the statements. As such, gameplay narrative always takes precedence over any commentary outside the games.
In some cases, details that were prominent in earlier entries of the Kirby series will not match up with newer titles, as changes are made either to the main narrative itself, or to details of certain characters/objects/events. In every case where this happens (referred to as retroactive continuity, or ret-con for short), the newer change is considered to be the current canon, and applied retroactively to the story as the way it always was.
An example of this is the color of Meta Knight's eyes. In earlier games, his eyes were white under the mask, but starting with Kirby: Planet Robobot, they are shown to be yellow, just like when the mask is on. This change was made in part because technical limitations on sprite colors in older games didn't allow Meta Knight to have yellow eyes under the mask.
Speaking of Meta Knight, here's a question about Meta Knightmare Returns. Is there any connection plotwise between this mode and the main game's Story Mode?
It's basically an alternate storyline. Meta Knightmare Returns is a kind of bonus mode that you unlock after finishing the main game, but that alone doesn't hold much appeal for a player so we made it into a "what if" scenario.
While we're on the topic of Meta Knightmare Returns, Galacta Knight was supposed to be sealed away in a crystal, but he broke that seal and showed up again in The True Arena. Are Meta Knightmare Returns and The True Arena connected at all in relation to the story?
The True Arena is like another "what if" scenario, so you can't really consider everything to be connected. Furthermore, the extra-dimensional road that opens up when Galacta Knight appears transcends space-time, so it's difficult to give it a concrete place in the timeline. But if you consider the stages in which Galacta Knight appeared in the past three games, I think that will give you some food for thought. " - https://miiverse.nintendo.net/posts/AYMHAAADAAB2V0e2W0rUBw (Miiverse posts made during Planet Robobot Ask-a-thon #2 regarding canonicity of Meta Knightmare Returns and The True Arena; exchange between an interviewer and Shinya Kumazaki)