First you draw a circle,
Then you dot the eyes.
Add a great big smile,
and presto - it's Kirby!
- opening screen of Kirby's Adventure
In 1991 Nintendo's Masahiro Sakurai (one of gamemaster Shigeru Miyamoto's staff members) was tasked with creating a new Game Boy game with only one objective: beginning gamers should have little trouble finishing it. Sakurai game up with the levels to the game first and, unable to decide on a hero, stuck in a little round blobby ghost until he could come up with a suitable character to play the lead. Originally named Popopo, the character seemed to strike a chord with the other staff at Nintendo and HAL Laboratories and the decision was made to leave the little guy in the game. Kirby was born!
Kirby's primary offensive move is to suck up baddies, vaccuum style, and swallow them. Like any good platformer hero Kirby can also run, jump, float, slide, and pull off many other different moves and maneuvers.
The game that Sakurai was working on became Kirby's Dream Land. Released in 1992, this was Kirby's debut performance and quickly became a best-seller. Because the character began life on the monochrome Game Boy, nobody could decide which color Kirby should be. The staff chose pink, but Nintendo feared that a pink hero wouldn't sell well to boys in the USA. When Kirby returned in the NES's Kirby's Adventure he had become pink (thanks to some internal debate spearheaded by Shigeru Miyamoto), the color that he still takes today.
In Kirby's Adventure our hero picked up the ability to swallow enemies and absorb their abilities. Now beginners could still enjoy the game while more advanced players had to strategize on which power to use at which time. The game also introduced a map screen to the Kirby universe and added bonus rounds and other diversions to the primary mission to stop King Dedede's reign of terror. This is the last game that Nintendo produced for the aging system and it is believed to have maximized the machine's abilities.
Kirby returned to the Game Boy (and Super Game Boy) in 1993's Kirby's Dream Land 2, the game that introduced the first of Kirby's friends to the series. Rick the Hamster, Kine the Fish, and Coo the Owl could team up with Kirby to perform new moves (based on absorbed powers) and help the pink puffball access hidden rooms.
The first Kirby spinoff, Kirby's Pinball Land took conventional pinball and turned it on its ear as Kirby replaced the ball. Bumpers and obstacles on the pinball table included items and enemies from Kirby's past adventures. There were three seperate tables each with multiple screens for Kirby to explore, and occassionally he'd be pulled into a bonus room or boss encounter.
In 1994 Kirby reached the Super NES in Kirby's Dream Course as our hero took on the game of miniature golf. Again Kirby serves as the ball and by hitting the various enemies on the course he can picked up their abilities. The last enemy left standing becomes the hole. This is the first Kirby game to support multiplayer play as two players can alternate in special 2-player courses.
Kirby's Avalanche was the Americanization of Puyo Puyo and featured the now-classic Kirby characters in a mainly decorative role. Kirby and friends do not play a direct role in the game. Kirby made the leap back to the Game Boy in Kirby's Star Stacker, another puzzle game that featured Kirby characters as window dressing and this game was given a Japan-only sequel in Kirby Super Star Stacker.
The Super NES game Kirby Super Star brought Kirby back to his side-scrolling roots. A collection of short platformers is the focus on this cartridge as Kirby journeys through several different games that make up a larger plot. The game also includes several mini games that test reaction time, speed, and endurance. Also, don't miss the "Spring Breeze" game - it's a port of the original Kirby's Dream Land!
Kirby's Dream Land 3, also for the Super NES, featured Kirby drawn in a pastel setting. The artwork on the game was really something for its time and faired quite well despite its somewhat limited release. Every level of the game included a secret objective that, if completed, gave players the better ending at the conclusion of the game.
Kirby made appearances as a skilled fighter in Nintendo's two fighters, Super Smash Bros. (for Nintendo 64) and Super Smash Bros. Melee (for Nintendo GameCube). Kirby's signature suck-and-absorb move allowed him to steal the powers of his Nintendo opponents, which led to our hero wearing the hats of legends Mario, Link, and Samus Aran. Quite a sight to see!
Kirby 64 was Kirby's only side-scrolling adventure on the Nintendo 64. The game was billed as a 2 1/2-D game as the external camera would turn from time to time, giving a multidimensional view to the game without actually becoming 3D. He was supposed to star in Kirby's Air Ride for the Nintendo 64, but the game was canceled before completion.
Kirby's Tilt 'n Tumble was Kirby's sole Game Boy Color appearance and was yet another puzzle game, however the cartridge included the unique ability to allow the player to control the action by tilting and turning the GBC itself.
Kirby will return in the 2002 Game Boy Advance release Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland which is a graphically-enhanced port of Kirby's Adventure
Not one to stick to his own games, Kirby has made several cameo appearances in other games over the years. He appears on a billboard in Stunt Race FX and as an enemy(!) in Link's Awakening and Link's Awakening DX. He also turns up in the background in Pokemon Stadium 2 and Nintendo Picross 3.
In Japan Kirby is extremely popular and as such there's a massive amount of merchandise sporting his face. Kirby can be found on keychains, toys, posters, costumes(!), backpacks, pillows, coloring books, temporary tattoos, and much much more. With Kirby's immense popularity it's doubtful that he'll fade into the sunset anytime soon. A solo Nintendo GameCube game is rumored to be in the works, and our hero recently joined the Nintendo tradition of starring in his own cartoon show, Kirby: Right Back At Ya!. When it comes to the pink puffball, saying that Kirby sucks is a compliment!
I've played most all of these games over the years.
http://www.classicgaming.com/kirby/index2.html is a must for Kirby fans.