Bimblesnaff Rants

Meta Knight: Why We Loved Him, Why I Hate Him

This is a concept that is rather difficult to explain. Meta Knight is, by all rights, the coolest character in the Kirby series. He was meant to be, engineered from the start to be mysterious, intriging, and oozing with mystique. This is the same thing that now makes me utterly despise him!

In order to explain this opinion, I have to go back. Way back. Back to the time when Meta Knight first appeared: Kirby's Adventure. Not Nightmare in Dream Land but the original, and it has to be the original. Not only do we have to time travel for this occasion, but the scene needs set up.

This was the early-mid '90s. Video games were nothing like they are now. Everything was different. For starters, you didn't know everything about a game three months before it came out. This was largely due to the internet not existing. Now, I know it was around, but not near any practical sense as it is today. It wasn't easily accessible to the public and certainly didn't have the revealing insight on debuting NES games.

Now, when a new video game came out, here is all you knew about it: what the back of the box told you and what little info was in the instruction booklet. That was it. There were no directories of information, sprite galleries, and news sites to learn what all the levels were. Sure, there were guides and magazines like Nintendo Power, but they were highly abbreviated by comparison and easily goofed things like names and other details.

With the stage set, I take you back to a distant year, 1993. The 8-bit era is waning in light of the new super breed of games, but one final title wanted to stake its claim in the elder system, Kirby's Adventure. Skipping forward through a would-be game review, you work your way to level six, Orange Ocean. Your handy instruction booklet at your side, you know who waits for you at the end of this level: Meta Knight.

At this point, you only know two things: he sics his army of warriors against you before fleeing or he chucks candy at you. The one thing that you are certain of is this: he is gonna be hard. How could he not be? He's been getting built up since the early levels of the game. With the worst expected, as with most boss battles, you ready yourself. You get full life and trek back levels to find your best power. You have no idea what will happen in the fight, but you want that ace up your sleeve.

You scour the stages, you ready yourself, and you burst through that door. You have a pretty good idea of what to expect. All of the boss battles follow the same general formula, and have even in the previous title. Title, singular. Only the second. Still, the boss will make a grand entrance, the life bar will fill, and they'll throw things at Kirby who spits it back. It's a tried and true system. Why would anything else possibly be assumed? Well, you know what they say about assuming? Yeah...

Expecting the ticking sound of a life bar filling, you are greeted only with silence. Your high anticipation is wasted. There is no action, there is no combat, not even the slightest motion. There is only a high ledge with a guy up on it and a sword stuck in the ground. A large, flashing message blinks over it and reads, "Get It!"


None of the other bosses came anything close to this. Every boss, from the first Dream Land's minibosses to the big bosses faced in the five levels prior, followed the same format: spit stuff at them. Even though Kaboola didn't have anything sucked up, the big blimp was at least hit with projectiles. Here, now, you are being told to grab a sword, and that battle ain't starting until you do.

This wasn't so much a problem because you wouldn't be able to use your killer ability. Oh, my no. It was a problem since it was Sword. This was back in the day when close range powers meant close range. There were no blade beams or sizeable slashes that flung from your edge. No. When you swung that sword, you swung the sword. No plummeting plunges, no furious fencing, and, certainly, no Final Cutter. You could slash, and that was it. And, here, they wanted you to use just that against a boss.

After cursing and yelling at the screen, you reluctantly pick up your weapon and begin the dual. Afterwards, you shortly die. Yes, you died. You had no choice. It had to happen at least once. You're used to trees that sit at one side of the screen and drop apples or folks who pause, slowly move forward, and pause again. Meta Knight was not one of these bosses. He crashes down at you, slices you up, and turns into a tornado. A tornado, people. The only thing most bosses up to this point turned into was dead meat.

The following scirmishes go a bit easier. The whole freak out factor fades off after a while, and you begin to get a feel for what his tactics are. That, or you just blindly hack away and hope to deal more damage than you receive. Regardless, his life bar eventually fades. You think it's over. What you'd expect is something along the lines of Meta Knight exploding and his Star Rod piece popping out of his remains. Five cases of it happening before, following suit of the battle's end from Dream Land. This is not what you get. Not at all.

Now, keep in mind, this is the 8-bit era. Sprites are clunky at best. Most of what you see is pieced together from what you think it is. There are no pictures of Meta Knight at this point since official artwork has limited distribution State-side, and, even if there were, you wouldn't draw the coming conclusion. Nowadays, you can't see a picture of Meta Knight without instantly knowing the truth. Back then, he might as well been some sort of crazy monkey thing. The fact that he was wearing armor could have been debated. There was no way to foresee this happening:

He falls back instead of bursting. His mask splits in half. It falls off. There you have Kirby staring right into the face of his exact double. Still overwhelmed by the entire concept of the battle itself, this bewildering finish just disorients you further. You may be coherent enough to see the darker twin wrap himself in a cloak and bound away, but you were more likely occupied by lifting your jaw from off the floor.

You have no idea what this game even is anymore. Up is down, right is some sort of fish, Kirby gives enemies cookies to defeat them. It's pandemonium, I tells ya. This is one of those experiences that can never be recreated as nowadays it can be seen a mile away. It's like learning that Darth Vader is Luke's father, that Samus Aran was actually a woman, or some other grand moment that's much less cliché since those two have been exhausted. Over time, it and these impacts become diluted, and people start off with the knowledge already. It's no longer a surprise; it's no longer significant.

Now we go ahead a few years, 1996. Super Star comes out and features a whole sub-game dedicated to the fan favorite. It's his only use in the whole game, discluding The Arena. It further establishes him as a total bad ass, giving him a full armada, a giant, flying battleship, and positively sinister bat wings. It takes him to a whole new level and sets him up to rival the great King Dedede as the series' lead villain. The king, after all, is just your typical greedy buerocrate. He's more a jerk than a real enemy. Meta Knight, on the other hand, was declaring war on a land of candy and rainbows.

And then fate took a dump named Hoshii no Kaabii, or Kirby of the Stars. Yes, I refer to none other than the animated series, "Kirby: Right Back At Ya". This was solely the headsman who dealt the final blow to what was a promising career for Meta Knight. You see, it's a common marketing practice that, when you bridge mediums, you must borrow elements from one another. Now, it's obvious that the animated series would take its wealth of references from the game series. However, in this barter system, when they export things, they need to import from their fledgling creation as well.

For some unknown, awful reason, this mysterious swordsman, this rival and opponent of Kirby was transformed into some sort of father figure. He was wise, learned, and fought for justice and good in the universe. Um... where did this come from? Up until this point, the games' Meta Knight was just a friend of King Dedede, since all under that flag were entrusted with Star Rod pieces in Kirby's Adventure. Really, any association with that greedy glutton is shady enough. He then planned a full military assault on Dream Land. Be it to conquer or end their haphazard way of living, he was out for total domination and required Kirby to hault his scheme. What part of that, where in there resonates, "Meta Knight = good guy"?

Guess what? I'll answer that for ya: No where. Up until this point in time, Meta Knight was bad, bad to the bones that may or may not be within his spongy, round body. There's really no way around it, but, you know what? That's not the route they went in the animated series. Never mind all the other stunts they pulled in that atrocity that I could rant equally long upon. Meta Knight's character was changed from being a warring traitor to a mentor.

The ax was raised by the animated series and took no time to fall, spilling out and wasting gallons of what could have been great Kirby game plots. King Dedede was on his way out. He was established more as a reluctant companion to Kirby than a threat in the last few titles. Dark Matter had already been defeated enough times. What would be more fitting than Meta Knight, a Dream Lander himself, taking the role as head antagonist? He wasn't some otherworldly force of darkness. He was just bad, a real, honest to goodness villain. Not evil, not unholy or abysmal, just bad. How great was that? Well, too bad, he's good now due to the show.

The thing that really gets to me, too, is that this was not always the planned case. The pilot for the animated series originally featured, among other changes, a horde of bad guys being summoned against Kirby and King Dedede, leading to the once enemies joining forces. On the side of Nightmare? Meta Knight, complete with straight edged sword and bat wings. Of course, I could go on indefinitely about what that five minute, wordless pilot did better than a full hundred episodes, so I'll stop with it there.

Since Meta Knight was good in the animated series, that meant he'd have to start being good in the game series. So, the next new title from this point in time, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, had to, of course, feature the fan favorite in the role of trying to save the day. It's a good wonder why since he never did that before. The same thing happened in Squeak Squad. In order to prevent evil, Meta Knight takes a stand. He tries to keep the chest of the dark lord from being opened.

Does he not want the competition? He was trying to conquer Dream Land for himself, and suddenly he goes Born Again and starts acting goodie two-shoes? If you ignore the animated series, which I so dearly try to do, this change in motive comes as a complete surprise. It honestly jumps from battleship Halberd to battling the Mirror and the evil forces within. I guess he went through a lot of changes in those seven years without being in a new game.

There's another crack in the formula: remakes. They help to demonstrate just how drastic a change the character underwent. If one were to look at titles as they are released, completely ignoring when they were originally released, things don't add up. Nightmare in Dream Land came out right along with the cartoon which had to puzzle more than one fan of the show who couldn't figure out why they were fighting Meta Knight.

Then, years later, after a decade of mostly good actions, Super Star Ultra whips out Revenge of Meta Knight and again confuses fans with the sudden wicked-bad badness displayed by their favorite "Star Warrior". They don't really get that, for when the game first came out, that was perfectly appropriate behavior. He wasn't a hero nor a righteous crusader. He was dark, grim, and evil.

As if he wasn't made enough of an attention spongue, Meta Knight had to go and get his own Meta Knight, Galacta Knight. While not technically an exact replica of his relationship with the actual protagonist of the game series, he's about what a mirror of the Doppelganger would come out as. Pink rather than blue, angel wings over bat, and even more over the top in design.

Now, the fact that Meta changed from heel to face doesn't bother me as much as it seems. It's really okay. The character still works in this role. Standing back and taking in all the situations as a whole, you can ration and make sense out of a lot of it. I know I've had to, and there's some real stretches. Regardless, addressing each one individually doesn't come out nearly as clean cut. What doesn't fly as smoothly is why folks adore him. Meta Knight has legions of... fan girls? Who adore him for his bad Spanish accent, his lack-of-cute cuteness, and giving names to all of Kirby's skills, I guess? It is truely horrendous.

The lines between the two Meta Knights have blurred. Galaxia is wielded in the games, or at least a better designed or similar version of it. Meta Knight's arms are longer and possess elbows. Striped down, his body's frame would look nothing like Kirby's, which it has clearly been shown to be time and again. He has bat wings and darkness affiliated attacks, yet he still fights for good. He has lost his way and his reason. He's become the cliché anti-hero character who soaks up all the admiration in the game series rather than the lead star. He's turned into a Marty Stu, no better than any lame fan character found out there by the barrel full.

Meta Knight was great. There was no need for him to change. He was the negative, the inverse of Kirby. These make for the greatest rivals, which is exactly what Meta Knight was. He struggled to prove himself better than Kirby, always choosing to battle him in a fair fight, throwing down a sword with which they could duel. Even still, he follows in the same footsteps as the pink puff to experience his adventures. Now, he's left floating in a limbo of uncertainty, neither fully good nor truly bad, and the fans cry for him nonetheless.

Well, I've stopped. That wasn't the Meta Knight I knew. It wasn't the Meta Knight I had to beat down with a sword fifteen years ago only to find I was fighting myself. It's not the Meta Knight I stopped from taking over Dream Land. It wasn't the Meta Knight I once adored, the Meta Knight shattered by that first word spoken in Spanish accent. Overhyped, oversold, and over staying his welcome. I wish he would follow the example set by the likes of Mr. Shine & Mr. Bright. They had some good games, but time moved on as did they. At least the sun and moon never sold out. They stayed tried and true through it all. I have no bad memories of them.

I wish I could say the same for Meta Knight.

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Last Updated - September 17th, 2008