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Super Mario Land (Game Boy) artwork

Super Mario Land (Game Boy) review

"Besides not having color, one of the main reasons why I didn’t care for the Game Boy was because of its games. It had some solid titles, such as Bionic Commando, Castlevania, and Kirby’s Dream Land, but they were all watered-down ports of NES games. In the end most of the crap that came out for the Game Boy either sucked or was a port. This wasn’t the case with every game though. Two of the Game Boy’s few unique games were the well-known puzzler Tetris, and Super Mario Land, Mario’s first..."

Besides not having color, one of the main reasons why I didn’t care for the Game Boy was because of its games. It had some solid titles, such as Bionic Commando, Castlevania, and Kirby’s Dream Land, but they were all watered-down ports of NES games. In the end most of the crap that came out for the Game Boy either sucked or was a port. This wasn’t the case with every game though. Two of the Game Boy’s few unique games were the well-known puzzler Tetris, and Super Mario Land, Mario’s first appearance on Nintendo’s handheld system.

Although is a completely different game, Super Mario Land’s basic gameplay mechanics are the same as the NES classic. Mario still collects coins, obtains powerups (the same ones in the matter of fact), goes down pipes, and much more. Super Mario Land has never achieved the legendary status that Super Mario Bros has, but it is equally as good. It’s just different.

The plot resembles those seen in past Mario games. You’re still trying to save the Princess, but Super Mario Land handles it a bit differently. This time the princess you’re trying to save is Daisy, a sluttier-looking version of Toadstool/Peach/whatever the hell Nintendo calls her now. She’s the princess of Sarasaland, and was captured by a space alien named Tatanga, who wants to make her his queen. The basic premise is similar to the Bowser/Peach scenario that we’re more familiar with; move from level to level until the end, kill the bastard that kidnapped the Princess, and restore peace and safety to the land.

Luckily Sarassland is much different than the Mushroom Kingdom – and a lot more exciting. The brilliance found in some of the levels is just as great or greater than that of any platformer during the time period. Instead of following Super Mario Bros and repeating the same types of levels over and over again, Super Mario Land gives you a new challenge loaded with new enemies and environments every stage.

The game actually starts off pretty basic. The first two levels are pretty bland and contain nothing that you haven’t seen or done before in past Mario games. But that’s okay, because their purpose is to introduce you to the game, and they do a great job at that. After the first two levels this all changes pretty quickly. The third level puts Mario inside of a pyramid, where he has to dodge falling bricks and fight fire-blowing sphinxes. Afterwards you fight a giant sphinx that attacks similar to Bowser (but is much cooler), and then you find who you think is Daisy, but really some monster in disguise. Wow, that was totally unexpected.


Now Mario travels to Muda, a water world with tons of platforms to hop to and from (thankfully no pain in the ass swimming levels are included). You will fight fire-spitting dragons, robots that attack you with their heads, fossilized fish that jump out of the water separating the platforms and many other foes. After two levels of that cool shit Mario travels underwater, but this time in a submarine! Now the game plays like a horizontal shooter, which makes this one of the game’s best moments. Mario must make his way through the water while shooting and/or dodging fish that charge at your ship, sea urchins that try to attack you, jellyfish that explode when you shoot them, and bricks that stand in your way. The engine isn’t as advanced as Gradius or any other well-known shooter, but having this level thrown into the game is awesome.

After that the game doesn’t slow down. During the remainder of Mario’s journey you will encounter a shit load of new obstacles and enemies, including a mountainous stage, boulders that you must ride on to get across spikes, a bunch of donut blocks that you must hop across (you know, the blocks that fall if you stand on them for more than a half-second), ninjas that just don’t die, and gigantic spiders that will try to jump on or hop into Mario. There is even another horizontal shooting level, but this time Mario enters the sky to fight flying chickens (or maybe really fat and ugly birds, whatever). So basically Mario’s adventure is full of places that the Mushroom Kingdom and pretty much any other world dreams of having. This pisses me off that Bowser favors Peach over Daisy, as I would much rather stay in Sarassland than Mushroom Kingdom any day.

Super Mario Land’s bosses are also awesome. Each of Super Mario Land’s four stages concludes with a boss fight, but this time you’re not fighting the same damn monster over and over again. There’s a new and unique boss battle that concludes every one of the game’s four stages. Although the first stage ends with the mediocre sphinx boss, the rest of the bosses after that rule. One appears in the kickass underwater level I already mentioned. It is a giant sea horse that moves up and down while shooting bullets at you. There is also a giant orb floating around the room that you must dodge while firing back at the boss. Another is the boss of Easton, which throws rocks at you. To defeat him you must hop from rock to rock that he throws to an elevated platform, so you can jump over him and hit the famous “button”. But it’s trickier than you think; one false move and Mario will fall to his death. Not of the bosses are really hard, but they are all unique and a lot of fun.

Super Mario Land also has a couple of neat features that keeps the Mario formula fresh. Mario still has access to flower powerups that allow him to shoot fireballs, but this time they don’t shoot as far. To make up for that they can ricochet off of walls and grab out of reach coins. These ricochet tactics can also be used against enemies unaware of your presence. So lets say there’s a spider hanging from the ceiling, waiting to jump down on you. Instead of risking a life by charging through or trying to “lure” the spider down, with a nice placed bullet you can pick off the poor fucker before it has a chance to do anything to you. Pretty cool, huh? Another cool aspect is the bonus round. At the end of every level there are two doors. One is the normal door that’s you would normally access, and the other is above it and harder to reach. If you complete the challenge required to get there, which is usually something such as jumping from moving platforms or hopping across donut blocks you will enter a bonus round, in which you can earn 1-3 extra lives or a flower. These can make up for any lives that you’ve lost during the level.

Unfortunately, the bonus rounds often more than make up for your mistakes. They are impossible to lose at; even if you don’t get any extra lives you will still get at least a flower. But you still have a ¾ chance of earning anywhere between one and three lives. These lives add up, and even if you die often it isn’t uncommon to have 12 extra lives stockpiled. This is also the game’s only reward, so if you choose to skip them you’ll feel like you aren’t getting much out of the game. Another setback is the game’s length. Super Mario Land is made up of 4 worlds with 3 levels each, which is a total of 12 levels. That might not sound too bad, but check this out. The original Mario Bros has a total of 32 levels, which is almost 3x as many as Super Mario Land. The twelve levels are also pretty short, and once you know what you’re doing the game can be beaten in as little as 30 minutes. Even if you’re clueless it shouldn’t take too much longer.

These setbacks prevent Super Mario Land from being the next epic platformer, but don’t prevent it from being a damn good game. It is a fresh experience that fans of Super Mario Bros will definitely enjoy and most fans of the genre will get a kick out of. Even with its faults, it is one of the best, if not the best games available for Game Boy, which is a reason alone to buy it. But is it better than the NES classic? That all depends on your personal preferences. Super Mario Land features a more diverse quest, more interesting enemies and bosses, and the awesome bonus round, but on the other hand Super Mario Bros is longer, deeper, and more challenging. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the latter more than the former, Super Mario Land is still a must play.

Halon's avatar
Community review by Halon (November 28, 2007)

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