Mario Monday - Super Mario Land

Monday, May 11, 2009

This week in Mario Monday we take a look at the first full Mario adventure to be offered in a portable format. Nintendo's release of the Game Boy had to have a game, besides Tetris, that every owner would want. It was clear that with the success of Super Mario Brothers on the NES that Mario had to make a jump to the portable black and white (or a shade of green if you will) screen. Enter Super Mario Land.

Super Mario Land was the first solely single player Mario game in the series and offered some unique game play that has not been seen since the game's release. For the first and only time in a Mario game Mario would maneuver a submarine and fly an airplane in automatically side scrolling stages. Fireballs were replaced with super-balls. While the actually game play is reminiscent of the original Super Mario Brothers there are some differences.

Familiar enemies such as Goombas have been renamed to their original Japanese names in most instances. Goombas were now called Chibibos for example. The traditional Koopa Troopas were replaced with Nokobons, which were black Koopa-like creatures who would explode after being stomped. The reason for the new breed of Koopa Troopas was due to the limitations of the Game Boy's hardware. In NES versions of Super Mario Brothers (and future generations of course) the Koopa's shell could be kicked and take out enemies in its path. The Game Boy was not capable of such animation at the time, thus the programmers came up with the idea for the shell to explode like a Bob-omb. Pirhana Plants were also named Pakkun Flowers, although they acted the same way as in NES versions.

The plot of the game is familiar yet vastly different. Essentially an evil minded creature has taken the princess captive and it is up to Mario to save the day. But there is no Bowser and no Princess Peach and no Mushroom Kingdom. Instead Mario finds himself in Sarasaland where a purple alien by the name of Tatanga has taken the new Princess Daisy captive and brainwashed the inhabitants of the land. In a future game we actually learn that Wario had instructed Tatanga to carry out this devilish plot, but that is another story for another time.

Princess Daisy, who has appeared in many Mario games since this release, was a virtual clone of Princess Peach. At the end of each level Mario spoke with what appeared to be Daisy, only to discover that she was a fake as she transformed into an enemy in the game and escaped. This was reminiscent of Mario defeating Bowser at the end of a level only to have Toad exclaim those famous words about Peach being in another castle.

Daisy was originally designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who was Shigeru Miyamoto's mentor (Miyamoto is the mastermind behind Mario, Zelda, Star Fox and many more icons in the Nintendo world). Yokoi passed away eight years after the release of Super Mario Land and Daisy's inclusion in the Mario Party series and a variety of other Mario games is speculated to be a tribute to Yokoi. Among Yokoi's achievement with Nintendo include the successful Game & Watch series, the D-pad, and the Game Boy.

Super Mario Land consisted of four levels, each with three stages. The most notable stages include the submarine level and the final stage, the airplane level. The submarine was used in stage 2-3 and allowed Mario to shoot torpedoes at the evil sea creatures, including the boss of the level. The Marine Pop, as it was called, was probably the best underwater Mario form ever, and I am including the Frog Mario form.

In the final stage of the game Mario takes to the Sky Pop. The Sky Pop worked in a very similar fashion to the Marine Pop and also allowed Mario to shoot an unlimited amount of missiles at his opponents. While flying Mario had to combat chickens, opposing airplanes that could shoot missiles, clouds, and of course Tatanga.

When all was said and done Mario would save the day and fly off with Daisy. There would be more fun to be had with Mario on the original Game Boy and things would look vastly different when that time came around. Still to this day though Super Mario Land remains one of the classics of its time. Super Mario Land helped the success of the Game Boy, selling over 18 million copies of the game. It is the third most sold game in the Mario franchise and fourth highest selling game on the Game Boy.

I remember playing this game an awful lot, until sadly it was stolen from me my freshman year in college. What are some of your thoughts on Super Mario Land? Did you take it on road trips like I did, never growing old of the game? If the Game Boy ever finds its way to the Virtual Console I will be inclined to make this a must have on the Wii. What about you?

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