Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 48 ~Grape Garden~ (Kirby's Adventure)

Origin: Kirby's Adventure
Plays In: Various levels in Grape Garden and Rainbow Resort
Status: Composition

Composed By: Hirokazu Ando, Jun Ishikawa

It's Kirby's 25th Anniversary!!! Well, in Japan, anyway, but it's not like we can't join the fun a little early.

Back in 2002, I couldn't get over what a coincidence it was that I'd gotten into Kirby not only on his tenth anniversary, but on the cusp of his upcoming popularity. The anime was coming out to America, a new game was releasing for Game Boy Advance, and best of all, a fall media blitz was scheduled to turn Kirby into the next Pikachu! How lucky I was, I thought, to join this fandom just as he was about to hit the big time.

As we all know, things didn't exactly pan out like that. The Kirby: Right Back At Ya! cartoon debuted to minor success (and was dubbed to dubious quality by 4Kids), the media "blitz" only amounted to a Wendy's fast-food toy promotional a year later, and Nintendo of America sorta forgot to tell consumers Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land was a remake of 1993's Kirby's Adventure. Woops.

And yet, that 10-year-old me realized it the summer before release made my connection to Kirby all the more personal. When I discovered Kirby's Adventure in the wintry depths of December 2001, it was stunning how it felt tailor-made just for me. Whereas Mario and Sonic's 2D adventures felt too difficult, Kirby hit a delicious sweet spot of never being too patronizing, but never being too tough.

To this day, while Kirby's never afraid to get difficult when it needs to be, the philosophy of "anyone can reach the ending" still beats at its core. Haven't you ever stopped to think how delightful it is how so many of our favorite game franchises are still around? The likes of Mario and Zelda being alive and well in 2002 may've been something I took for granted, but now we've passed their 30th anniversaries, and it's all thanks to just how much Nintendo nurtured and preserved their values from day one.

Aside from being irresistibly cute, it's that exact design philosophy for why Kirby is still around 25 years later. Somewhere out there, right now, there's a kid in awe how he can beat Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot without any help from his parents or siblings. He and his friends all regularly gather to play Team Kirby Clash Deluxe and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U; naturally, his character of choice for the latter is Kirby.

But what he cherishes most isn't how fun they are; it's how every time he enters the first level of Nutty Noon in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, his heart swells at the Sky Waltz music and the sight of ribbon-like sky patterns floating across Dream Land. It's the same gooey euphoria he encountered in Kirby's Dream Collection, where the tinny chiptune songs of Kirby's Adventure, the hypnotic, beautiful backgrounds of Kirby Super Star and the Bubbly Clouds remix of the main menu swallowed him whole with love.

He has become a young romantic, cherishing not merely the fun mined from the series but from the magic that has set his heart and mind aflame. It's a secret he keeps close to his heart: a young child discovering the nostalgia he's heard whispers of. He can do nothing but sigh at the thought of mysterious island house from Kirby's Dream Land 3 and grin with joy at the Butter Building remix in Kirby 64's sky level.

Was nostalgia really the right word? It had to be; after all, it was salvaging murky memories long lost. The forests of Spring Breeze recalled the mysterious, abandoned playhouse just around the corner from his cousin's house. Grape Garden's music and Rainbow Resort's setting reminding him of sleepy car rides when he was very young, where warm Christmas lights decorated the streets. The silent cheering of Kirby's Adventure's arenas unearthing the hazy, mute mornings as a 4-year-old when no one else was awake in the house. The credits of Milky Way Wishes recalling his just looking out the window and into the skies and clouds beyond.

"Did the kids who played this back in 1996 do this?", he wondered.

Yes, little boy. Yes they did.

But it wasn't just 1996, either.

So long as anyone can reach the ending, this gooey nostalgia will make Kirby live forever.

Final Thoughts: Actually, Grape Garden was one of the songs in the Kirby's Adventure medley at the Kirby 25th Anniversary Orchestra Concert. Augh, I need a CD release so bad it hurts!

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