Throughout the Kirby series, Kirby's voice has undergone many changes and adjustments. In the early games in the series, Kirby was not properly voiced, only vocalizing using chirping noises when getting hit or using the Mike ability. Early non-canon materials occasionally gave him full voice acting. Kirby was first voiced in-game by Makiko Ohmoto in Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, and has been voiced by her ever since. Despite his vocalizations, Kirby is classified as a silent protagonist, since he does not speak in audible full sentences or in text boxes to any other characters (barring Kirby's Avalanche).
Prior to the series giving Kirby a consistent voice actress, Kirby was voiced in various non-canon materials by a variety of voice artists. The earliest example of Kirby being given a proper voice is the Mario Kirby Meisaku Video, an educational VHS from 1993, where he is voiced by Mayumi Tanaka. Another early work where Kirby is given a voice is an unofficial Kirby's Adventure drama CD released in 1994, with his voice provided by Taeko Kawata. From the beginning, Kirby's Japanese voice was consistently portrayed as childlike; he is able to speak in full sentences, but they are generally spoken with immature mannerisms. Makiko Ohmoto's performance as Kirby starting in Super Smash Bros. follows the model of these examples, though with a more limited capacity for speech. Outside of Japan, however, Kirby was rarely given voice acting in this early period. At most, international promotional material opted for simple grunts and vocalizations, such as in the American commercials for Kirby's Pinball Land and Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble, before adopting Ohmoto's voice worldwide.
As portrayed by Ohmoto, Kirby's voice is high-pitched with inflections similar to that of a toddler first learning to speak. This reflects his often infantile nature, and supports the idea that Kirby may be a juvenile of his species (an idea which is implemented in the anime). As such, Kirby does not use very many words in his vocalizations, though it is implied that - much like Mario and Link - Kirby is indeed capable of complex speech, though the player is not privy to what Kirby says to other characters. All the player hears instead are Kirby's grunts, cheers, and inflections, peppered only with occasional words such as his signature elongated "Hi!" In the anime, Kirby is known for spouting the babble-word "poyo" repeatedly in place of speech which, unlike the games, is what other characters hear instead of actual speech. He also occasionally repeats words that he hears other characters say, which is more apparent in the Japanese version. When Kirby gains a Copy Ability, he will also gain the ability to shout whichever words may be associated with the move he has copied, which is evident in both the anime and in the Super Smash Bros. series when he copies his opponents. The most notorious example of this is when Kirby copies Captain Falcon, allowing Kirby to shout "Falcon Punch!" when using the move.
History of Kirby's voice
Though iconic to his character, Kirby did not initially have a voice, nor was he properly voiced in every game after its introduction. The following table illustrates notable games (and other media) which Kirby was voiced in, including notes where appropriate discussing how his voice was changed or updated.
|Notable examples of Kirby's voice|
|Kirby's Dream Land||1992||The only vocalization Kirby makes in his debut game is the iconic screech when he uses the Mike. This screech is shared by King Dedede when he is defeated.|
|Kirby Super Star||1996||Kirby is given a 'voice' of sorts in this title, as every time he is hit, he makes a chirping sound. Additionally, the Mike ability uses - in addition to the iconic screech - a couple other vocal oddities, the last of which was done by Kirby series director Masahiro Sakurai himself. A chirping sound would also be used for Kirby when he is hit in Kirby's Dream Land 3.|
|Super Smash Bros.||1999||Makiko Ohmoto debuts as the voice of Kirby in this game. This performance set the initial standard for Kirby's voice, with its high pitch, elongated 'Hi!' as a taunt, and shouting other moves where appropriate.|
|Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards||2000||While largely carrying over from Super Smash Bros., this marks Kirby's first voiced iteration in an actual Kirby game.|
|Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble||2000||Kirby is voiced via sampled 8-bit clips of Makiko Ohmoto's performance from Super Smash Bros., similarly to Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow.|
|Super Smash Bros. Melee||2001||Kirby's voice is redone in this game, becoming even higher-pitched and infantile.|
|Kirby: Right Back At Ya!||2001 - 2003||The anime series has Kirby speaking only in babble consisting mainly of the word 'poyo'. It follows on inflection similar to Melee Kirby, but is often exaggerated further.|
|Super Smash Bros. Brawl||2008||This game would see Kirby fully voiced again after a long period of titles without full voice-work for him. While largely the same as in Melee, Kirby gains a number of new voice clips in this title.|
|Kirby's Epic Yarn||2010||This was the first Kirby game in nearly 10 years to have Kirby voiced in it, though he only uses a small number of shouts. These clips would carry over - and be expanded upon - in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and start to shape the current standard of Kirby's inflection used in modern titles.|
|Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U||2014||Kirby can be said to have gained his modern inflection style in this game, as his voice became noticeably clearer and human-like than in previous titles, while still retaining its high pitch and infantile nature. This style of voice was carried over to subsequent games in the Kirby series, topping off at Kirby Star Allies, and has been shown to be largely the same in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (barring a few additions).|
Chronological list of games where Kirby is fully voiced
- Super Smash Bros.
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble
- Super Smash Bros. Melee
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl
- Kirby's Epic Yarn
- Kirby Mass Attack
- Kirby's Return to Dream Land
- Kirby's Dream Collection (New Challenge Stages and a few other places)
- Kirby: Triple Deluxe
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U
- Kirby Fighters Deluxe
- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
- Kirby: Planet Robobot
- Team Kirby Clash Deluxe
- Kirby's Blowout Blast
- Kirby Battle Royale
- Kirby Star Allies
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn
- Super Kirby Clash
- In Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, Kirby's vocalizations when using Mike and getting hit appear to be based on Makiko Ohmoto's voice clips, but they are ambiguous and difficult to discern, and she is not credited for voicing Kirby in this game.
- Kirby Mass Attack is the only game in the Kirby series where Kirby can be heard unambiguously shouting 'poyo'. It can be argued that some of the voice clips in Kirby's Epic Yarn and Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn sound like 'poyo', but these are much less clear.
- Because of Kirby's ability to copy his opponents in the Super Smash Bros. games, Kirby always has more voice clips in these games than any other individual fighter, and often rivals the announcer for number of voice clips.
- Despite seeing release well after the debut of Makiko Ohmoto as Kirby's voice and being on a high-fidelity console, Kirby Air Ride is the only 3-D game in the series which features a silent Kirby.
- Additionally, the last game that would feature a (mostly) silent Kirby would be Kirby Super Star Ultra.