KIRBY'S DREAMLAND 2 / Nintendo / Game Boy
The Kirby series is one of those that has a very confusing chronology thanks to rapid hopping back and forth between platforms and name changes right from the start. The first game was Dream Land for the Game Boy, then Adventure for the NES was the direct sequel, before moving back to the Game Boy for Dream Land 2 (which is actually mainline game number three). Got all that?
It was also confusing because it took Nintendo these first three games to sort exactly what Kirby's move set and the game's central design conventions were going to be. Adventure for the NES was actually the first one where he could absorb enemy powers, and shifted him from flying to fluttering. This game introduced the various animal buddies, who are crucial to getting through certain parts of the levels.
However, it's similar to the previous games in that it's easier than the typical mainline Mario game (aimed primarily at younger kids) but is still polished and very well-made. The levels tend to not be a big deal to blow through, the real challenge is in finding the hidden rainbow drop in each world needed to unlock the final boss. The first two are fairly obvious, but after that they can be fairly diabolical to find without looking up on the internet. The game is also more tight-fisted with extra lives than Mario games usually are.
It's a very solid platformer with that standard Nintendo internal team level of polish, and it's amazing how far developers came on the Game Boy when you compare this (which is basically a really good 1990s NES game in monochrome) to the initial games like the first Super Mario Land. This isn't one of my favs of the Kirby series, though, and the main problem is fussy backtracking. Obtaining the hidden drops usually requires some specific combination of animal buddy + power, and backtracking to get those in a way that you can still clear the level can get really obnoxious sometimes.
The length might have been questionable at $50 retail new back in the day, but these days you're likely getting it as a sub-$10 digital download and it's easily worth that price if you are partial to the pink puffball's adventures.
* Gameplay Video