|“||Kirby can swim with the best of them, and he can float on water with an inner tube. Your abilities are limited while underwater, but your Water Gun ability will help you in a pinch.||”|
— "About Kirby" pause description while in water, Kirby: Triple Deluxe
Swimming is a basic move used by Kirby and other playable characters, allowing them to travel underwater. Swimming has taken on various forms and functions throughout the Kirby series, with the main distinction from above-water travel being the inability to use most regular techniques and moves.
The mechanics of swimming have changed several times over the course of the series history. Commonalities include having the characters able to move about freely, using a limited move-set or the Water Gun to attack, and having scuba gear on while underwater. When holding still, Kirby will slowly drift to the bottom. The main limitation comes from Kirby's inability to Inhale unaided while underwater (though one exception exists). Swimming characters are not at risk of drowning (again, with one exception), and can remain underwater indefinitely. Some enemies are capable of surviving in water, but most will immediately drown and burst upon contact with it.
In most games, Kirby gains a pair of goggles when he is underwater (with some also giving him a snorkel). Starting with Kirby's Return to Dream Land, whenever Kirby paddles on the surface of water, he obtains an inner tube. However, in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby doesn't gain a pair of goggles when he goes in the water due to him paddling on the surface of water. Instead, he's mostly seen in his inner tube every time he goes in the water, thus making Kirby and the Forgotten Land the first mainline Kirby game where Kirby doesn't gain a pair of goggles when swimming since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.
Kirby first had to traverse bodies of water in Kirby's Dream Land. In this title, the only action Kirby can perform in the water is his jump, and jumping repeatedly is how he swims. As such, he has no defensive abilities in the water whatsoever.
Kirby's Adventure was the first game which gave Kirby the Water Gun, in addition to being able to use some abilities like Sword and Hammer underwater. This title also gave him rudimentary swimming ability, though he can still rapidly approach the water's surface by jumping repeatedly.
In Kirby's Dream Land 2 and Kirby's Dream Land 3, swimming functions largely the same as it does in Kirby's Adventure. Most of Kirby's Animal Friends have limited movement while underwater, but Kine, being a creature that resembles a sunfish, naturally moves much more smoothly. Kirby can even inhale and use all of his copy abilities underwater when he is paired with Kine.
Kirby Super Star was the first game in the series to give Kirby a scuba mask whenever he enters water, appearing on his face whenever he takes a plunge. While Kirby is still mainly limited to a few options while swimming, his Helpers can perform their usual retinue of actions while underwater (including Burning Leo's Fire breath). This style of swimming carries over to Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and subsequent main-series games through Kirby Super Star Ultra.
In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Kirby is able to Inhale while underwater, being the only game in the series where he can do this without the help of Kine. As such, he has largely the same moves underwater as on land, though much slower-paced.
In Kirby's Epic Yarn (and Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn), Kirby and Prince Fluff transform into a Submarine form automatically whenever they enter water. While in this form, they propel themselves by means of a rotor in the back, controlled by steering with the + Control Pad or Circle Pad. The 2/A button can be repeatedly pressed to spin the submarine's rotor to move faster, and the Yarn Whip can still be used as normal. The Dolphin Metamortex affords Kirby and Prince Fluff much faster and smoother control, allowing the player to move fluidly with the + Control Pad or Circle Pad, while trading the Yarn Whip for a dash attack.
Kirby Mass Attack is the only game in the series where it is possible for Kirby to drown, as he is given an air meter with a capacity dependent on the number of Kirbys together. Air can be replenished by catching air bubbles, and if it runs out, the Kirbys all perish.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land changed swimming primarily by adding the ability to float. While on the surface of water, Kirby and his friends gain an inner tube and can paddle left or right, or jump out. Kirby: Triple Deluxe added to these mechanics; instead of bringing him to the surface, the jump button makes Kirby perform a hard stroke in the direction he is facing to pick up speed, in addition to the modest swimming pace by simply holding a direction. This style of swimming has remained largely unchanged in all subsequent 2D games.
In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby can only paddle on the surface of the water. However, this means he can inhale while swimming. Besides this, the controls are much the same as when Kirby is on dry land. Underwater sections were completely cut from the game due to worries that such sections would be difficult to control in 3D, which would go against the goal of the developers to create a 3D action game that is easy to play.
- The only games where a playable character other than Kirby can be seen wearing goggles when swimming are Kirby's Return to Dream Land and its remake.
- In Kirby Star Allies, added Power Effects will be disabled while swimming. The only exception is The Three Mage-Sisters, where due to already having existing elemental effects, they are able to retain said elemental properties underwater.
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