Super Mario Land is the first portable Mario adventure to be released for the Game Boy and a launch title in North America. Gamers were amazed that a full scale Super Mario experience could be had on a handheld system. Nintendo really nailed the core Mario formula and even added some unique elements to keep fans guessing.
Mario is outside of his comfort zone this time around as the adventure takes place in a land foreign to the series. Sarasaland is the setting for this game, and to be honest, it’s quite refreshing to be somewhere that’s not the Mushroom Kingdom. However, the setting isn’t the only new story element introduced in Super Mario Land. Princess Daisy and the people of Sarasaland are ambushed by an alien monster known as Tatanga. He hypnotizes the people from the four kingdoms in an attempt to conquer Sarasaland, and captures Daisy to be his bride. Mario isn’t having any of this and sets off to save Daisy.
Everything you know and love about Mario returns in full form for the handheld adventure. Mario still jumps and collects power-ups, he’s still stomping the bad guy, etc. Mario’s physics do feel a little heavy, which can make some jumps a bit tough, but for the most part the gameplay is golden. When collecting a fire flower, Mario gains a new unusual power. He gains the ability to shoot bouncy balls! Obviously different than the fire balls that you’d expect, but works very much the same. Its bounce comes in handy when collecting out of reach coins. Starman operates identically to the previous games, except instead of the great theme you’re used to hearing, we get a strange Game Boy version of the Can-can.
New gameplay elements are also introduced in Super Mario Land. Mario takes to both the heights of the sky in an airplane, and the depths of the ocean in a submarine. Both levels play like a shoot-em up, and are actually quite fun! Adding to the flavour of these levels is the fact that you get to fight bosses in your new found vehicle. Speaking of levels, there are four kingdoms in this game with each having just three levels.
Super Mario Land also brings back a few familiar enemies, and adds a lot of new ones. Goombas are here, and even Koopas, except when stomping the Koopas their shells will actually explode! If you’re a Super Mario Land first timer, this could definitely catch you off your guard. Joining our old favourites are newbies such as robots and seahorses and even some spiders. A whole new roster of bosses even joins the fray. Bowser, however, is replaced by Tatanga as the main villain.
For a Game Boy game, the graphics are pretty spectacular. We get some surprisingly detailed sprites in this monochrome game, as well as some decent backgrounds. However, besides gameplay, Super Mario Land’s main strength is its stellar soundtrack. Most of the tunes are completely original and extremely catchy. Its main theme is stellar, and the theme for the second kingdom, Muda Kingdom, is a standout track that will haunt your brain for days.
4/5 D-Pads: Overall, Super Mario Land is a must for any Super Mario fan. It’s a short game with only a meager 12 levels, but there is plenty of substance to be found. A stellar soundtrack, unique gameplay elements, and new story really make this a new experience of an old kind. If you have a Nintendo 3DS, downloading this game would be a great start for your Virtual Console library.