The Curious Case of Differentiating Kirby Box Art

North American Kirby box art vs. Japanese Kirby box art. Values dissonance or cultural dissonance? Whatever you want to refer to it as, Kirby Triple Deluxe director Shinya Kumazaki has explained why the Japanese box arts for Kirby games vary so greatly from the North American box arts:

“For the Japanese versions we are, at [Kirby series developer] HAL, involved in everything throughout development, including the package design. The most powerful image of Kirby is that cute image, we think that’s the one that appeals to the widest audience,” explained Kumazaki in an interview with GameSpot.

“While it does start cute,” Kumazaki continues, “we know there is a serious side to Kirby as well, and throughout the gameplay we see more and more of that, and the games themselves have quite a bit of depth. That being said, we recognise that Kirby’s cuteness is his biggest draw in [the Japanese] market.”

In short, it is believed that the Japanese consumers will find a cute Kirby more attractive whereas American consumers will find a more aggressive Kirby appealing. A TV Tropes article sums up this value dissonance very well:

“Japanese culture in general is very accepting of cuteness pretty much anyplace, and will take it in stride. American culture, on the other hand, often views cuteness as a sign of childish and immiturity, and thus has a strong aversion to it in any media that’s not explicitly kid-oriented. “Cutesy” is a loaded term synonymous with “wussy” or “kiddie” to most Americans, who often feel that, if a game or movie is to be taken seriously, then it must have a serious, or at least adult, tone.”

However, it is not always the case. Take the box art for Kirby’s Epic Yarn. In both American and Japanese markets Kirby is presented as cute and welcoming – it would be contradictory if he wasn’t, given the yarn theme. The game sold well in North America, even though the box art did not feature the aggressive Kirby which has been marketed to the West for so long.