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).
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.
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 examples in any media are in VHS tapes distributed to stores in Japan for advertising specific games in-store, in particular 1993 promotional videos for Kirby's Adventure (for which Kirby appears throughout the tape and is fully voiced whenever on screen) and Kirby's Pinball Land (for which Kirby voices the entire tape and makes a voiced appearance at the end of the included TV commercial).
The earliest example of Kirby being given a proper voice in a work for public sale is an unofficial Kirby's Adventure drama CD released in 1994, with his voice provided by Taeko Kawata. Another early work where Kirby is given a voice is the Mario Kirby Masterpiece Video, an educational VHS from 1995, where he is voiced by Mayumi Tanaka. From the beginning, Kirby's Japanese voice was consistently portrayed as childlike with immature speech patterns. 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.
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 creator 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. Notably, when he collects a Red Star, he shouts "Yatta!", which is a Japanese exclamation of joy.|
|Super Smash Bros. Melee||2001||Kirby's voice is redone in this game, becoming even more infantile and high-pitched.|
|Kirby: Right Back at Ya!||2001 - 2003||The anime series has Kirby speaking only in babble consisting mainly of the word "poyo". It follows a similar inflection 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 fully voiced, 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.|
|Kirby Mass Attack||2011||While otherwise a minor entry in the Kirby series, this is notably the only handheld title between Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble and Kirby: Triple Deluxe to feature a fully-voiced Kirby. These voice clips feature the same "poyo" speech as Kirby's depiction in the anime, with some clips appearing to have been reused directly from the show.|
|Kirby: Triple Deluxe||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. The developers noted that they added a variety of voice clips for Kirby getting damaged in various ways, such as getting burned or squashed, giving him more character than before. These voice clips were reused, and expanded upon, in all later Kirby games up to Kirby Fighters 2. A similar style of voice is also featured in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.|
|Kirby and the Forgotten Land||2022||Kirby's voice was completely redone for Kirby and the Forgotten Land; no previous clips were reused. Reflecting the 8 years that have passed since Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Kirby's voice has become slightly deeper, and more voice clips feature a "guttural" quality that was not present before. This style of voice continues to be featured in recent titles, such as Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe.|
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
- Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (uncredited)
- Kirby & The Amazing Mirror (uncredited)
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl
- Kirby's Epic Yarn
- Kirby Mass Attack
- Kirby's Return to Dream Land
- Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition (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
- Kirby Fighters 2
- Kirby and the Forgotten Land
- Kirby's Dream Buffet
- Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe
The second Mike voice from Kirby Super Star, which sounds similar to Kirby's current voice.
The third Mike voice from Kirby Super Star; this is Masahiro Sakurai saying "Chesto!", a Japanese battle cry.
An unused Kirby voice clip from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Kirby's voice when he gets burned in Kirby: Triple Deluxe.
Kirby's voice when he gets squashed in Kirby: Triple Deluxe.
- In Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby & The Amazing Mirror, Kirby is voiced by Makiko Ohmoto in an uncredited role. Only five unique voice clips are used: two for getting hit, and three for using Mike. According to Masahiro Sakurai, he limited the amount of voice clips Kirby had in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land because he felt that having a pixelated Kirby speaking clearly would be "unnatural".
- Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby Mass Attack and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse are the only games in the Kirby series where Kirby can be heard unambiguously shouting "poyo".
- 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 3D 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.
- Mike Kirby's "chesto" bellow was originally voiced by Masahiro Sakurai in Kirby Super Star, but since Kirby Super Star Ultra has been performed by Shinya Kumazaki.
- Niconico uploads exist of the tapes for Kirby's Adventure and Kirby's Pinball Land. Kirby's voice actor in both tapes is uncredited, and does not resemble any later credited voice work for Kirby.
- "Now, did you notice that Kirby's voice is a lot more varied in Kirby: Triple Deluxe? There's more to hear besides his usual happy “hi!” or his regular yells when he takes damage. For example, he yelps like he's been scorched when he comes into contact with flames, and when squashed flat he sounds suitably deflated." –Shinya Kumazaki (Kirby: Triple Deluxe Behind the Scenes on Miiverse)
- "Nintendo Dream" interview, translated by shmuplations.com
- "By the way, in recent titles, the bellow you hear when Kirby hits full volume using the Mike ability is voiced be[sic] me. Well, when I say "recent", I mean ever since Kirby Super Star Ultra, eight years ago. Time really flies, doesn't it? Ah...that takes me back!" –Shinya Kumazaki (Kirby: Planet Robobot Behind the Scenes on Miiverse)