Developer – Nintendo R&D 1
Publisher – Nintendo
Director – Satoru Okada
Producer – Gunpei Yokoi
Super Mario Land is one of the most outstanding Game Boy game to me for a number of reasons. Developed by Nintendo R&D 1 and produced by the late great Gunpei Yokoi. Super Mario Land for me, definitely earns its place as one of the more fairly memorable instalments in the illustrious Super Mario franchise.
Graphics – 9/10
Carrying on from Super Mario 3, Super Mario Land present players with a pretty decent level of variety in level design, with courses ranging from being influenced by Egyptian and Chinese cultures, as well as other courses having the more classic Super Mario feel to them. The variety in level design compensates for the initial lack of colour on the Game Boy’s screen nicely. But what I absolutely love about this game, and the biggest source of childhood memory for me personally, is it’s stellar soundtrack. Composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, the theme for the first level in particular has had a huge nostalgic impact on the gaming community, and does a flawless job of setting the happy-go-lucky tone of the entire game.
Gameplay – 9/10
Whilst Super Mario Land pretty much plays out like any other typical Mario game before it, and many other future Mario games afterwards, what stand out about Super Mario Land for me is its surprising level of challenge compared to that of previous instalments in the series. Though Super Mario Land is short, many level do require a bit of lateral thinking to get through I find. Even after over 20 years, there were parts of game that I struggled with when I played it to finalize my review. Another standout feature that came with Super Mario Land, which had never been seen before in any other Mario game before, and few since, is the rail-shooting aspect of gameplay. Inspired by Gunpei Yokoi’s Kid Icarus series, Super Mario Land presents players with the challenge of guiding Mario through level on either a place or in a submarine, with guns attached to them to shoot enemies along the way, which made for a very nice change of direction in terms of gameplay; one of many examples of Yokoi’s philosophy of lateral thinking with withered technology.
Controls – 9.5/10
Compared to other instalments in the series prior, Super Mario Land’s controls seem a little bit unresponsive. Mario sometimes may not jump when the appropriate button is pressed, which can cause some mild frustration. But other wise, the entire formula works as it was intended, which, as it had been long since perfected in the video games industry, was to be expected.
Lifespan – 3/10
For me, this is the aspect whereby the game falls short of the most, as it can be completed inside half an hour. Whilst the game is extremely enjoyable to play, like most titles in the franchise’s history, it still feels like far too fleeting an experience, given how short a time it can be made to last. Beginners will spend quite some time losing lives, but for experienced players, it can be completed in less than twenty minutes, which even for a Mario game at the game, was just far too short.
Storyline – 6.5/10
The story of Super Mario Land follows Mario’s adventure to rescue a character new to the franchise at the time, Princess Daisy, from the mysterious alien Tatanga, who plans to force her into marriage. Whilst the basic premise is identical to any typical Super Mario game, it is fractionally different from other prior entries in the series, and did introduce a few new characters who would later become much more stable in years to come, and incorporates a new villain to the Mario series as opposed to simply bringing back Bowser again. But overall, the game’s story is not exactly what one would call a blockbuster; especially as this game was designed in a time before video games were officially considered to be a valid form of artistic expression.
Originality – 7/10
Although Super Mario Land does ultimately play out like most other Super Mario instalments, it was kept fresh enough with the introduction of new gameplay elements as well as new characters and scenery to go with it. I think it’s pretty regrettable that the rail-shooting aspect of gameplay has appeared in no other mainstream Super Mario title since, as it was a good idea, and it kept gameplay intense as well as challenging.
In summation, Super Mario Land is a must have for old and new fans of the series. For me personally, it doesn’t get any more nostalgic than this, and will keep newcomers to the series for the short time it lasts, and present them with a fairly stern challenge along the way.