Super Mario Land


The Game Boy. You should’ve been on this blog years ago.

Or maybe it’s that Final Fantasy XV is taking awhile to be completed, so I’m reviewing another retro game in the meantime. Take your pick.

Anyway, when Nintendo decided to expand its empire into the realm of handheld gaming, the pack-in (remember when a console came with a game free of charge) was actually not a Mario game but Tetris. However, Super Mario Land was still an important release for the Game Boy’s first year on the market simply by association with the Mario franchise. Alas, it doesn’t begin to hold up today. Even factoring in the release date and what handheld gaming was like back then, it’s very bland.

Plot: 4 out of 10

This is the rare post-Donkey Kong game in this franchise for the leading female to not be Princess Peach but Daisy, the (what else) Princess of a country called Sarasaland (I often mistook it for “Sarasalad” as a child, which would’ve been a lot funnier). An alien named Tatanga kidnaps Daisy and hypnotizes all the people of Sarasalad. Mario arrives to save the day!

 

A Decoy. Tatanga you magnificent bastard!

So basically, it’s the same story, but with a different supporting cast. So… what was the point of these new people? It should be noted that Daisy has only appeared in spin-offs since and Tatanga has never shown up again, period.

Graphics: 5 out of 10

I get it. This was an early game boy game. That’s a system that couldn’t do colors and is said to have been lambasted by the consumer magazines because of the lack of color compared to the competing Atari Lynx and later, the Sega Game Gear. Just ignore that the Game Boy’s much longer battery life enabled it to overwhelm all competitors despite a lack of power.

Hills created by pairs of lines. Ingenious.

There’s still no excuse for the poor shades of black in white on some characters leaving them looking less authentic. Not everything is drawn badly, though. It’s a mixed bag.

Sound: 6 out of 10

Mostly pedestrian, unmemorable music and sounds. The bosses do yelp out authentic squeals of pain when they are hit, though. That’s pretty impressive for this system.

Yep, it’s the bridge battle from SMB but with a different-looking boss.

Gameplay: 4 out of 10

Actually, the gameplay isn’t literally below average. The classic Super Mario Bros. controls and types of levels are recreated here. Some of the enemies are different and in place of the fireballs is a Super Ball, which is unfortunately a bit harder to use effectively. But the big issue is that this style of play is for a game that went out of date very quickly. Floaty jumps that don’t allow much control once your well above ground did not exactly have a long shelf life, for instance. Neither did disallowing backtracking.

You might think switching to the scrolling shooter genre for a couple levels would be worth a 5, but you’d be wrong. This was a pretty pedestrian, dying genre even in 1989.

Challenge: 5 out of 10

The difficulty isn’t particularly low or unbalanced, but the game lasts only half as long as the original SMB. This pads the point I’ve been making that this is a very dumbed-down version of another game. Say what you will. The new Super Mario Run on your phone is longer and more unique despite disappointing some, and it costs a fraction of what SML originally did.

So Mario CAN drive vehicles as opposed to running and jumping.

Overall: 4 out of 10

If a handheld Mario game comparable in any way to Super Mario Land (the far superior sequel is another story) were to come out now, it would be hated! But in 1989, when short, wire-framey, quick to “burn out” Tiger handhelds, were the standard of the on-the-go video game experience, SML was good enough. Today, though, it’s just not fun to play. It’s not bad, it’s just lifeless, boring, and definitely not “Super!”

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