Good box art

These boxes are, more or less, the same.  True, there are some minor differences to suit the boxes to each region, but in terms of art, there are no major changes.  It would appear that Kirby is, more or less, now standardized in both places.

Bad box art

This was Kirby’s first appearance.  Notice how he’s pink in the Japanese version, while he’s white in the American one.  There is a small degree of confusion here, as this was a Game Boy game.  The system was incapable of producing colors.  Perhaps because white was seen as a more favorable color than pink, or maybe it was just to make him look more like his in-game character, but either way, Kirby is clearly white on our box.  At first, it’s easy to say that Kirby must be pink since he was pink on the original JP box, but even his Nihongo counterpart had some issues with color.  For starters, Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of the character, envisioned him as pink, while Shigeru Miyamoto, perhaps the single most influential person in all of gaming, wanted him to be yellow.  Obviously, pink won out, but you can still see traces of all three of these colors.  Yellow Kirbys appear pretty frequently in other games, and even the white one exists as a costume choice in the Super Smash Bros. series.  Given all this variation on a fairly simple character, just for fun, let’s examine some of his more noteworthy appearances on the packaging of his games.

This is a huge difference!  The Japanese game depicts a cheerful Kirby frolicking with the Star Rod against a white background, while its American cousin features a determined Kirby, clad in his Fighter garb no less, against an ominous black backdrop with Meta Knight creepily staring at both Kirby and prospective buyers.  Wow.  And this was to be a trend for quite a long time in Kirby games.

Honestly, with the above Kirby’s Adventure boxes, I think we got the better one this time.  But his color is still pretty different between the two version, and that wasn’t the first time there was a color discrepancy either.

Good box art

We’re going to try something a little different for this article.  Take a good look at the above screenshots.  Do you notice anything different between them?  Go on.  Seriously analyze them.  If you answered, “Practically nothing,” you’re absolutely right!  Ok, there’s an enemy in one of them and I screen capped different frames of Kirby’s beam attack, but that’s about it.  Now for the real test!  Can you tell which one is from the American game and which was grabbed from the Japanese?  Nope.  You can’t.  

Then we get a few years of identical box art.  Interestingly, this is a great time to talk about Kirby’s character.  The rotund little puff loves to spend his time eating and playing, but when he has to get serious, he is certainly able to.  It begs the question, which country’s characterization of Kirby is actually correct?  The simple answer is that both of them are.  The Japanese ones focus on his silliness, while the United States cover art shows his fearlessness.

For the last 4 years, the JP and USA artwork has remained in sync.  Of particular note, they now seem to be alternating between the friendly and the fierce Kirby with each release.  What’s the moral of this story?  Solid gameplay, not box art, is what allows a series to remain successful for 24 years.  While some games are better than others, you can count on Kirby to deliver you his own signature brand of fun every time you play one of his games.

Bad box art

After the last two weeks of brutally emotionally heavy content, I needed a change of pace to something much lighter.  I think I found the perfect candidate in the latest donation I received.  Kirby’s Adventure was a gift from Leslie from North Dakota.  Kirby is ideal!  He’s so light, he can fly!

What about the boxes?  That’s much easier.  Aside from the obvious Japanese text on the Japanese box…  There are some key differences in the box arts depending on which side of the Pacific is playing the game.  This is not uncommon.  In fact, we have some legendarily bad box art, at times, compared to the original Japanese.

Uh-oh.  I spoke too soon.  These boxes really aren’t all that different, but there’s still a key distinction.  Notice how in the Japanese version, Kirby is still his happy-go-lucky self.  Now look at the USA box.  He’s upset or uncertain at his circumstances.  And this is only the beginning…

Notice the pattern here?  How can you miss it?  In every one of these cases, the original game continues to show Kirby as fun-loving, while our adaptations offer us combative Kirbys.  Nintendo of America wanted this change in order to appeal to a North American audience.  I’m a bit troubled by what that implies.  Then again, after my last video on Spec Ops:  The Line, there may just be a bit of wisdom in their plan.

These pieces of artwork are different, but still fairly similar.  The most noteworthy change is still in Kirby’s color.  The Japanese ones have him as very, very pink, while the United States counterpart has him as mostly white with a pinkish hue.  This was likely done to slowly transition the character away from his early white incarnation and into his correct pink one.

2011 brought a return of the diverse box art.  Interestingly, the sales figures yield some telling data.  While I was only able to find how many units Nintendo shipped, it’s a decent approximation of units sold.  The top three games are Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby Super Star Ultra, and Kirby’s Dream Land 2, in that order.  On the surface, it seems that showcasing Kirby’s courage and determination is detrimental…  until you include the fourth game, Kirby Squeak Squad.