Super Mario Land
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 04/21/1989
    • US 07/31/1989
    • UK 09/28/1990
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/28/2013.

Super Mario Land is a side-scrolling platform game and the first Mario game developed for the Game Boy. It was a launch game for the handheld, because it was common back in those days for every Nintendo platform to launch with a Mario game. The idea here is that this is a portable Mario game that you can take with you to school or wherever you want. It was a novel idea at the time. That portability does come at a price, however. The Game Boy wasn't as powerful as a home console, so the games weren't as impressive as their console counterparts. Even though Super Mario Land was a launch title for the Game Boy, it wasn't packaged with the handheld itself. Instead, Tetris was the game packaged with Game Boys sold in North America. Nintendo of America figured that Tetris appealed to a wider audience than Mario did, so that was their reasoning. It looks like they were right, judging by the sales figures. Mario was still considered top dog, of course, and Super Mario Land sold a good amount of copies. Super Mario Land is a lot like the original Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System, only not as good.

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Mario is super, and this is his land. Well, not really. A mysterious space alien named Tatanga kidnaps Princess Daisy from a place that goes by the name of Sarasaland, and Mario decides to save her. Mario is all about saving royal ladies, after all. Apparently, Tatanga wants to make Princess Daisy his bride, despite the differences in their species. I'm guessing the females on his home planet aren't terribly attractive, so he decided to embark on an intergalactic quest to find the hottest girl in the universe. The setup for this story is pretty ridiculous, even by the standards set in Mario games. I would say it's a nice change of pace, but it's not that different from what Mario normally does. Nintendo merely replaced Bowser with an alien and Princess Peach with Princess Daisy. Aliens are pretty cool, though. The real purpose behind the strange story to Super Mario Land is to allow Mario to explore foreign lands with plenty of strange things to encounter. Super Mario Land wants to let players know that this Mario game will try to defy convention a little bit with a few surprising elements that are unfamiliar to the Mario series. Super Mario Land does indeed accomplish that goal with mixed results.

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The general game play mechanics in Super Mario Land are a lot like the mechanics of most Mario games. Mario can jump over pits and stomp onto his foes to defeat them. If players hold down the B button while moving, Mario will run faster and jump much farther, just like in practically every other Mario game. However, running at high speeds is dangerous in Super Mario Land, because it's very easy fall off ledges or run into enemies. It must be used with caution. Power-ups are also present in Super Mario Land, most of which were taken right out of the first Mario game. Mushrooms will make Mario grow big enough to smash bricks with his head and Stars grant Mario temporary invincibility. There is, however, a new power-up introduced in Super Mario Land. In normal Mario games, Fire Flowers would enable Mario to shoot fireballs at his foes as a projectile weapon, but Super Mario Land decides to change the role of the Fire Flower. Super Mario Land's Fire Flowers allow Mario to shoot balls, no joke. These balls will bounce around if they hit any nearby walls or ceilings, which can make them incredibly useful or incredibly useless, depending on the situation. It's a nice deviation from the norm, though it's good that this wasn't kept for future Mario games. Super Mario Land does a good job at providing familiar Mario mechanics while also adding a few new things.

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There are a total of four worlds in Super Mario Land, each world containing three levels. The objective of every level is to get to the end alive, like in any good platform game. There will be platforms to jump on; that much is certain. Mario's greatest enemy is the environment, as is usually the case with Mario games. Pits are plentiful, so avoiding them is top priority. Oddly enough, the first world is a desert, complete with pyramids and ancient Egyptian ruins. It certainly isn't out of the ordinary for a Mario game to have a world like this, but it is weird for such a world to appear first. Nintendo wanted to throw a few curve balls with this game, and this is one way to do it. The other worlds are also pretty weird; there's an alien world with UFO's, a world with lots of Moai statues, and a Chinese themed world. The exotic themes help add flavor to this particular Mario game. At the end of each level, players will have a choice between a difficult-to-reach higher door and an easily accessible lower door. The high door will take Mario to a bonus game that can be used to gain extra lives or power-ups, whereas the bottom door simply completes the level. It's a nice way to reward players who go above and beyond what is necessary to complete a level. The only problem with the levels in Super Mario Land is that there aren't enough of them. This game can easily be completed in 30 minutes, making Super Mario Land one of the shortest Mario games in existence.

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What makes Super Mario Land different from other Mario games are the enemies. A lot of the enemies in this game will betray basic concepts established in the Mario universe, in an attempt to play with the player's knowledge of the previous games. For example, Koopas are turtles that normally retract into their shells when stomped on, opening up the option to kick the shell into other foes. If you're expecting that same thing to happen in this game, then you're in for a rude awakening. Koopas in this game will explode shortly after they are stomped on, and this explosion will harm Mario if he doesn't get out of the way in time. That's right; Koopas were doing suicide bombings way before it became popular. There are plenty of other odd enemies, like giant mosquitoes, robots, and martial artists that sport a mean kick. Super Mario Land has a colorful cast of baddies. After completing two levels in a world, the end of the third level will contain a boss fight. The majority of these bosses are like the Bowser fights from the first Mario game, in that it's all about getting to the other side of the arena alive, where a switch can be pressed to defeat the boss. They're decent enough, but they don't leave much of an impact on the player. The enemies in Super Mario Land have a bit more originality to them than the bosses.

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A few of the levels in the game try to shake things up a bit by breaking away from the typical Mario formula. These levels play similarly to space shooters like Gradius, except you thankfully don't die in one hit. The first shooter level takes place in an underwater area where Mario actually rides inside of a submarine. Is that awesome or what? I think it's awesome. Mario can easily move the sub around and fire missiles to decimate nearby aquatic life. It sure beats swimming. The other level of this sort takes place in the sky, where Mario flies a plane and shoots down aerial foes with spherical bullets. The sky level plays a lot like the underwater level, just with different kinds of enemies. It's a shame there aren't more than two of these shooter levels, because they're pretty nice. Both of these levels have bosses at the end of them, and these bosses are unique when compared to the rest. Instead of pressing switches to defeat these bosses, Mario must evade their attacks and then violently gun them down with his unlimited arsenal. Super Mario Land's final boss is fought in this fashion, and he's one tough challenge. The shooter levels do add a nice amount of variety to the game, so they're a welcome addition.

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Super Mario Land is a decent Mario game, even if it does lack the depth of its peers. It excels in interesting settings, original enemy designs, and good level design. It's also quite fun. However, the game is way too short for its own good, and it doesn't give enough value to the player. If only the game had a couple of extra worlds, it would have been a better deal. Super Mario Land is a good snack, but it doesn't provide any sustenance.

Word Count: 1,488

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