Super Mario Land (Video Game Review)

Video Game Review
Super Mario Land
Nintendo Game Boy
Developed by: Nintendo
Published by: Nintendo

It feels like it is near-impossible for Nintendo to make a bad traditional Mario platformer. Even though Super Mario Land for the original Game Boy looks extremely primitive, it is still one of the best in the series. It might be a bit rough around the edges and looks and handles differently than most Mario games, but it provides one of the best platforming experiences on any system.

Unlike most of Mario’s adventures, this does not take place in the Mushroom Kingdom. It takes place in Sarasaland. Instead of Bowser we have Tatanga, an evil space alien. Peach/Toadstool’s part has been filled by Princess Daisy. Tatanga kidnaps Daisy with the intention of conquering Sarasaland. Mario takes off after Tatanga to save Daisy and her world.

Super Mario Land controls like most of the 2D Mario titles prior to New Super Mario Bros. on the DS. Mario’s primary actions are jumping, running, and shooting fireballs (when he has the appropriate power-up). The jumping part takes a little getting used to as Mario in this game doesn’t jump like he does in other Mario titles. He sort of goes up and then sinks like a stone. It makes some of the later platforming stages more challenging than they should be but it doesn’t come close to being a dealbreaker; it’s just something that one has to get used to.

There are few power-ups to speak of in this game. It’s exactly like the original Super Mario Bros. game in that there is a Super Mushroom which makes Mario bigger, a Fire Flower which makes him shoot fireball projectiles, a Super Star which makes Mario invincible for a short period of time, and a 1-Up Mushroom which gives Mario an extra life. This game was  developed after the Japanese release of Super Mario Bros. 3 so there isn’t a big excuse for the lack of power-ups.

However, instead of a large assortment of power-ups, we are treated to some shoot-‘em-up stages in this game. They are small but are very fun. In fact, they’re so enjoyable, it almost feels like Nintendo was holding out on us by only having a couple of shooting levels in there. Still, it does a great job at diversifying the gameplay without it feeling like a cheap gimmick.

The graphics are very rudimentary. They are barely better than a Game and Watch title. While Mario and the enemies are discernable from one another, they generally only make up a few pixels. The backgrounds are quite nice though and were a signs of things to come on the system. It’s weird how some of the backgrounds are quite extensively detailed yet Mario looks like a couple of dots put together. It’s definitely a strange contrast.

The musical score of this game is great as there are many earworms to be had here. There really isn’t a bad tune in the bunch. Surprisingly enough, despite the low-end hardware compared to games of today, this title still has some of the best and most memorable music out of all the Mario titles. The sound effects sound good too and are almost identical to the NES games.

Even though it may not look like it, the game is incredibly fun. It can be quite challenging for those who haven’t played the game before and even experienced gamers will see the game over screen a few times before they’re able to beat the game. The difficulty curve is perfect as it never feels like the game is doing something wrong; the player is the one making the mistakes that’s sending Mario to an unsavoury death. In addition to that, the game never feels too punishing which makes players want to keep playing despite it getting harder towards the end.

There are some drawbacks to this game. First, it almost doesn’t seem long enough. Even though it’s a pocket game and one of the first games for the Game Boy, it only has 12 levels (compared to 32 with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES). While some of the later levels can take a few minutes to beat, it’s a game that can be beaten in less than an hour. It makes sense considering that few Game Boy games at the time had battery backup and the concept of the system was to be played on the go.

The other problem with the game (and this is a minor nitpick) is that even though the game is very fun to play through multiple times, it would have been nice to have battery backup to keep the score. The inclusion of a time attack mode would have given this game even a longer life inside a Game Boy slot.

Nintendo’s Super Mario Land for the original Game Boy is an incredibly fun experience that ends way too early. It almost feels like they should have called Diet Super Mario Land. Thankfully, it’s a great game to play over and over again. It is one of the best titles in the Game Boy lineup. If you have any Nintendo device that plays this game and you haven’t ever tried it, you need to do yourself a favour and do so immediately.



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