Canon is a term used to designate indisputable facts that are consistent within a single story and 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 series' storyline. Unlike a more traditional narrative, the Kirby series' canon is not completely consistent from one game to the next. HAL Laboratory has explained they do not consider the Kirby series to have one definitive canon, and that they instead focus on "...providing new surprises while avoiding the establishment of immutable facts and settings that would constrain Kirby," but still retain basic unchanging ideas like Kirby and King Dedede's rivalry to keep the story grounded in familiarity.
Canonicity within a title
Canonicity within a single title usually relies on a concept referred to as diegesis, which distinguishes elements that exist within the setting the characters inhabit from elements that exist outside of the universe for the audience's benefit. For example, music that exists in the story (such as a song playing on a radio that the characters interact with) is "diegetic" sound, while background music that the audience hears but the characters do not is "non-diegetic" sound.
In the context of the Kirby series, when considering the storyline of a title, it is generally understood that events played out differently to the actual characters compared to what the player has Kirby doing during gameplay. In-game items such as Food and collectibles like Energy Spheres can be considered diegetic and thus canon, but extra lives and score are not canon, and only serve as non-diegetic gameplay elements. By extension, any part of the game that breaks the fourth wall is also not considered canon. While the player may control Kirby in a Goal Game that grants him extra lives and rewards like Keychains or Picture Pieces, this did not necessarily happen in the story. Other side activities within the main story, like Sub-Games, follow a similar principle; while they may be internally consistent, they do not fit in with the events of the narrative.
Canonicity of alternate game modes
Unless otherwise specified by HAL, the events of the Story Mode (or Main Mode) in any given title are what "officially" happened, and any Extra Modes are alternative scenarios. This has been confirmed at least regarding Kirby: Planet Robobot, and is presumably the case in other games of the series as well.
|“||[...] 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.
— Miiverse posts made during Kirby: Planet Robobot Ask-a-thon Round 2 regarding canonicity of Meta Knightmare Returns and The True Arena; exchange between an interviewer and Shinya Kumazaki
Extra Modes can generally be split between time attack or "what if" scenarios (such as Meta Knightmare, Meta Knightmare Ultra, Dededetour!, Meta Knightmare Returns, Guest Star ???? Star Allies Go!, and most Boss Endurance modes), and scenarios that unambiguously follow the events of the main narrative (such as Heroes in Another Dimension, Isolated Isles: Forgo Dreams, the Colosseum, and Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler).
However, the events of the "what if" scenarios are not necessarily non-canon. Many of the elements that are revealed exclusively in these Extra Modes, such as Queen Sectonia being corrupted by the Dimension Mirror, are affirmed as canon in subsequent installments. Because the Kirby series does not have a single timeline, it is entirely possible that the events of the "what if" scenarios could have occurred in alternate timelines. This possibility was mentioned by the developers regarding Merry Magoland; because it exists in another time and space, yet Kirby and friends are able to travel freely between it and the main story, it demonstrates that the flow of time in the Kirby universe is fluid.
Canonicity between titles
Series director Shinya Kumazaki has explained that there is no definitive timeline for the Kirby series. However, the events in the games can nonetheless be connected to each other, as demonstrated by certain character relationships carrying over from previous titles, such as Magolor's redemption after the end of Kirby's Return to Dream Land, or Kirby and King Dedede consistently recognizing each other. As such, the chronology of the series is not entirely clear, but it is generally safe to assume that events in earlier games come before later ones. The developers prefer to keep the specific timeline vague; for example, the beginning of Kirby: Triple Deluxe is designed to imply that it could continue from the ending of Kirby Super Star, but does not directly acknowledge that game's events.
Additionally, the Kirby series is split between the main series and spin-offs. Spin-offs usually have less narrative connection to each other than main series games do.
Main series Kirby titles are the ones that contain the words Kirby of the Stars in their Japanese, Chinese, and Korean titles (星のカービィ / 星之卡比 / 별의 커비), and feature typical platforming gameplay with Kirby's inhale and (starting with Kirby's Adventure) Copy Ability powers. The developers consider these to be the equivalent to numbered sequels.
- 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's Return to Dream Land Deluxe
- Kirby: Triple Deluxe
- Kirby: Planet Robobot
- Kirby Star Allies
- Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Remakes are generally considered to be the same story as the original continuity-wise, though the developers have mentioned with regards to Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe that they could also be seen as alternate universes, as there is not one single timeline in the Kirby series. Additionally, whether remakes count in the overall numbering of the series seems to vary. The developers stated in a Miiverse post that they consider Kirby: Triple Deluxe the tenth mainline Kirby game, which would exclude the two previous remakes. Furthermore, when it was decided that Kirby Star Allies would include one Dream Friend from each mainline game, remakes were excluded. However, the internal codename of Kirby and the Forgotten Land is "Kirby15", which counts the two prior remakes (as it would be the 13th mainline game otherwise).
These games are marked as separate from the main series, and typically feature different gameplay as well.
- Kirby's Pinball Land
- Kirby's Dream Course
- Kirby's Avalanche
- Kirby's Block Ball
- Kirby's Star Stacker (Game Boy) / Kirby's Star Stacker (Super Famicom)
- 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
- Kirby's Dream Buffet
While spin-offs are not necessarily canon, they have been acknowledged within the main series, and it can be argued that, like with Extra Modes, they may contain canon aspects or have occurred in alternate universes. Team Kirby Clash Deluxe and Super Kirby Clash in particular take place in the Dream Kingdom located within a parallel dimension, thus being separate from the main universe altogether. The two universes are linked by the ending of Magolor Epilogue: The Interdimensional Traveler in Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe; after being banished to another dimension in the main story and subsequently atoning for his misdeeds, Magolor crosses into the parallel dimension and becomes a shopkeeper in the Dream Kingdom.
Canonicity with adaptations
Generally speaking, while elements from adaptations of the series can influence design choices in the game series, and vice-versa, they are not considered canon to the main Kirby game series. This includes licensed manga, the novels by Mie Takase, and the Kirby: Right Back at Ya! anime. In addition, the English localization of the anime (and all subsequent localizations based upon it) is likely not in the same canon as the original Japanese version, as numerous character names, storyline elements, and other details are different between them.
Canonicity of miscellaneous content
Promotional material, such as illustrations, merchandise, videos, and even pre-release gameplay footage, is 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 backstory and additional information about the setting, characters, etc., this information can be considered canon if it is released as part of an official statement from a developer such as HAL, but such information can potentially 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 since Kirby: Planet Robobot, they have been shown to be yellow, just like when the mask is on. Shinya Kumazaki believes that Meta Knight's eyes were originally white because technical limitations on sprite colors in Kirby's Adventure may have made yellow eyes harder to distinguish. Much later, when modeling a mask-less Meta Knight for Kirby: Planet Robobot, the team felt that giving him white eyes did not look quite right.
|“||Now for a question about the main character Meta Knight - specifically, about the color of his eyes. In the moment that Mecha Knight+'s mask cracks, the player gets a glimpse of Meta Knight's eyes, which appear to be yellow. Were they always this way? I was sure they were white before...
That's quite a thing to spot. In Kirby's Adventure on the Famicom (NES), Meta Knight's eyes are indeed white. At the time, there was a limit to the number of colors you could use, so I think that white was chosen because it stood out more.
They were also white in Kirby Super Star (EU: Kirby's Fun Pak), but when we created the 3D model for this game, giving him white eyes somehow didn't feel right. And besides, his eyes have always shone with a yellow glow from behind his mask. We were worried about how old-school fans might react to this, but for the purposes of the design, we settled on yellow eyes.
— Miiverse posts made during Kirby: Planet Robobot Ask-a-thon Round 3 regarding the color of Meta Knight's eyes; exchange between an interviewer and Shinya Kumazaki
- Washington Post interview with the developers of Kirby and the Forgotten Land
- Nintendo DREAM May 2023 interview (translation)
- "There were other characters that we wanted to make special guest appearances, like Drawcia, Elline, Shadow Kirby, Galacta Knight, and so on. But we established a certain rule for our selection process. The rule was to select one character from each title in the main action games over the years, the so-called core Kirby games, the equivalent to numbered sequels." –Shinya Kumazaki (Kotaku interview)
- "By the way, have you ever wondered how we came up with the game title?
Well, we started with a variety of ideas. One was a title that would reflect the game's theme of an adventure through floating islands. Another idea was to use the letter "X", since this is the tenth traditional Kirby platformer.
We also wanted to find a title that reflects the game's full use of Nintendo 3DS features, such as the 3D function, motion sensors and StreetPass. Something short and catchy that we could use all around the world. That's how we came up with the title "3DX" - in other words, "Triple Deluxe"!" –Shinya Kumazaki (Miiverse)