Super Mario Land – A Gameboy Classic

Ahh the Nintendo Gameboy, a sometimes forgotten part of my youth, this small but incredibly important handheld packed an incredible punch in the 80’s and early 90’s.  I fondly remember settling down with my new Gameboy and obsessively playing the title which was packed with it – Super Mario Land.

sphinx

Released in 1989, this was the first Mario game not to have direct involvement with Miyamoto (the creator of the Mario franchise).  This led to some interesting changes from it’s elder brother – Super Mario Brothers on the NES.  Firstly Mario doesn’t navigate around the Mushroom Kingdom but instead around a land called Sarasaland.  This change in location meant that there’s a whole host of different themed levels that were created to provide a new challenge for those familiar with the NES title.    The first level’s boss for example, isn’t Bowser but a giant Sphinx, stomping on turtles turns them into bombs, which after a few seconds explode in your face.  Once familiar power-ups now act in different ways as well, the fire flower now granting the ability for a bouncing ball attack which bounces around the screen if you miss your target.

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Other elements of the game look a little more familiar, there’s the Goombas, Koopas and Piranha Plants to deal with.  There’s still the plumbers need to collect the coins scattered about the level in order to gain an extra life and many of the pipes can be traversed down in order to find hidden rooms full of power-ups and coinage.  You start as a small Mario, grab a Mushroom and become a bigger version of Mario, granting you a hit point as you do so.  The handheld version of your favourite Nintendo character may look different, but playing it feels like coming home.

Something which I love about this game is the variety that it gave handheld gamers.  We weren’t just treated to the traditional platforming elements, but at the end of the levels in the second and fourth worlds, we found ourselves immersed in a side scrolling shoot em up stage.  These worked incredibly well and Mario could blast blocks and collect coins and power-ups, also being able to shoot down the end of level bosses broke the monotony of simply jumping on their heads to beat them.

Super Mario Land was released incredibly early in the Gameboy’s development cycle, by releasing a Mario title, Nintendo quickly legitimised the product.  The characters here are disproportionate and occasionally very tiny, but they were also quite detailed.  The levels at times, were, admittedly very simplistic and a little cut and paste with it’s formulaic platforming style.  What is here, however, is the ability to control Mario on the move and it was engaging if a little on the short side.

Review Score
  • 8/10
    Gameplay - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Graphics - 7/10
  • 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
8/10

Summary

Super Mario Land was released incredibly early in the Gameboy’s development cycle, by releasing a Mario title, Nintendo quickly legitimised the product.  The characters here are disproportionate and occasionally very tiny, but they were also quite detailed.  The levels at times, were, admittedly very simplistic and a little cut and paste with it’s formulaic platforming style.  What is here, however, is the ability to control Mario on the move and it was engaging if a little on the short side.

DrChris

Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for 'The Lang Way Hame' a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the 'Godfather of British comics' Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,

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