Review by Retro
"The best of both worlds, but a bit short"
After nearly five years of platforming excellence, including the game that pretty much saved the video game industry from doom (Super Mario Bros.), Nintendo released the Game Boy. You just knew that yet another Mario game was going to be made for it right away. Whether it was another weirdo like Super Mario Bros. 2 or just another hop 'n bop rehash of the classic original, gamers didn't care. Either way, we were going to get Super Mario Land and there was almost a 100% chance that the majority of us would like it a lot.
Still the same
The basic characteristics of Super Mario Land's gameplay is just like the original Super Mario Bros. There are still hundreds of coins left and right; your main way of defeating enemies is by jumping on top of their head to squash them flatter than a pancake; mushrooms make you grow faster than a 12-year-old does; Mario can still sink down into pipes like a true plumber as he searches for hidden rooms of coins; life is still played in 2-D side-scrolling fashion. I could go on for a few more lines and make the semicolons tired by overusing them simply by listing more similarities, such as the fact that those lovable question mark blocks and flowers that equip you with firepower are still here to be seen.
Hey, this is a little different
There are enough similarities between Super Mario Land and Super Mario Bros. that one might think that it's a direct port of the original. Believe it or not, there are even more differences in this first attempt at capturing platforming magic on the Game Boy. For one, the storyline is still your everyday rescue the damsel in distress, but you're not on your way to rescuing Princess Toadstool/Peach! Mario still looks the same and moves the same, so it's the real Mario. My guess is that he and Peach broke up for a few days or something, because Daisy is now his new lover. On top of that, neither Bowser nor Wart is anywhere around.
A major welcome sight is that there are tons of new enemies to be seen lurking around the black and white screen as you play Super Mario Land. Of course, the walking mushrooms we know as Goombas, the turtles we call Koopas, and snapping plants that live in pipes are all invading the areas from start to finish. But those are about the only familiar faces you'll see! The Koopas have even been changed a bit. Now, when you bounce off their back trying to kill them, instead of leaving behind a shell that you can kick across the screen, they turn into a bomb that will explode in a few seconds (cool). Among the newbies are hopping flies with ugly ass smirks on their faces, flying turtles that drop arrows, standing dragons that spit fireballs at you, creatures made of stone that 'run' on the ground using their hands, sea horses that jump out of the warm seas every few seconds, robots whose heads literally separate from their body to fly around the screen hoping to catch you alive, adversaries flying around in airplanes that shoot bullets your way, and many more!
The bosses are also different, and there are a lot of them. When you reach the end of the world that is seemingly underground somewhere in Egypt, a few gliding flames come flying toward you. You can't help but to think to yourself at first, ''Hmm, I must be nearing Bowser's hideout.'' But no! It's a terribly overgrown lion that is guarding the entrance to the next world by jumping up and down while spitting fire. A humongous sea horse that is found deep within the ocean world's surface and a weird-looking rocky being that hurls rocks your way are among the others that you'll run in to during this fun quest.
Apart from the legions of new enemies, the bonus levels have been given the most impressive facelift. As mentioned, you can still explore the stinky insides of all the cloggy pipes you wish, and you're always likely to find a nice collection of coins when you do! There are a lot of these to be found, and they're more rewarding and fun than ever. It's especially entertaining to find the ones that hold about fifty coins at the top of the screen. Mario can't jump high enough to simply collect them all, but there's still hope. If you just happen to have the ability to toss fireballs at the time, you can shoot some up into that area, and, any coins that are touched by that fireball will be given to you.
The bonus opportunity that is proposed at the end of the non-boss levels are even better. There are two dark-colored doors, one at the top of the screen and one at the bottom. Go into the bottom one and you'll simply progress to the next stage (BORING!). For more drama, use the lifts, platforms, or whatever is in place to boost yourself up and into the door at the top. Do that and you'll go to a neat little bonus game in which Mario and a ladder are quickly moving up and down. All you have to do is press the button. Depending on your timing, you'll be given either a flower for firepower or 1-3 extra lives. Then it's on to the next stage.
The last noteworthy attribute of Super Mario Land that sets it apart is the fact that, in certain levels, Mario takes the controls of either an airplane or an underwater submarine. While taking it to the skies or to the deep end in either of these vehicles, you'll have unlimited firepower and fuel, but you can still be killed in one or two hits (depending on if you're big or not). This may not sound like much, but for this to be a Mario game, it's pretty neat to take a break from running on foot and jumping everywhere.
With all of these new things to experience in Super Mario Land, why doesn't it get a perfect 10/10??? Well, it's certainly not anything that has to do with the graphics, sounds, or controls. The graphics are pretty basic, but I've always liked them a good bit, myself. From the hieroglyphics that are seen written on the walls in the background of the Egyptian stages, to the clouds and palm trees you'll see while exploring the tree tops, to the characters themselves, the visuals aren't outstanding in any sense, but they're certainly not bad either. The sound effects and music all have that sort of cutesy, yet abundantly catchy Mario sound to them, as expected, with a couple of the musical tracks standing out from the rest. The song that plays when you complete the game is one of my favorite video game tunes of all time. Last but not least, the controls are right on cue, for the most part. You'll have to get used to holding B for extra speed and to leap further than usual; if you don't, you'll have some problems making many of the jumps. As long as you make friends with the B button, you're all set for becoming a pro at this game.
Super Mario Land's only downfalls are that (except for two or three parts) it's a bit on the easy side, and even moreso, it's extremely short. There are only four worlds, and three levels make up a world (4 X 3 = 12 levels in the whole game). But when it all comes down to it, Nintendo did a superb job of combining the old with the new to make a great game for the Game Boy that will be fun to play for the rest of your life.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 04/11/01, Updated 03/18/03
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