maanantai 23. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Super Mario Land (1989)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1989
Available on: GB
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

On the 21st of February, 1989, Nintendo introduced the world to the most technologically advanced handheld console ever seen at that point in time, the Nintendo Game Boy. On that same day, Super Mario Land arrived to the Game Boy as a launch title. Mario debuted on a handheld console in a game very reminiscent of his 1985 adventure Super Mario Bros., but thematically different platformer. Due to his Super Mario World and A Link to the Past projects among others, Shigeru Miyamoto passed design and production duties over to his mentor and close friend Gunpei Yokoi. To this day, Super Mario Land has remained a cult favourite despite being somewhat of an oddball among early, traditional Mario platformers.

Aliens vs. Mario

An alien warlord by the name of Tatanga invades the peaceful Sarasaland and kidnaps Princess Daisy to force her hand in marriage. Mario sets out on a journey through Sarasaland to confront Tatanga in the kingdom of Chai and rescue Daisy.

Graphically, the game is like Super Mario Bros. in black and white. The design turns out very different, though. It's like Super Mario Bros. injected with huge doses of mythology and science fiction. The music is composed by Hip Tanaka instead of Koji Kondo, and only an extremely modified version of the Overworld theme from Super Mario Bros. remains, as the background tune for the couple of automatically scrolling shooting stages. The music is OK, even if it's a bit weird that even the Starman theme was changed.

The pyramid of Birabuto.
There are only four worlds in the game - the four kingdoms of Sarasaland: Birabuto, Muda, Easton and Chai, which are all influenced by some mythology in design. They all have three stages each. Unlike in Super Mario Bros., there is no particular order to the stage types. Stages 2-3 and 4-3 are in fact entertaining side-scrolling shooting stages, in which Mario takes control of a sub or a Sky Pop ship and blasts everything in sight, including brick walls to avoid getting crushed by getting stuck between them and the invisible wall in the back. The bosses in these stages are also fought by using the ship. Normal stages have two different exits. Making it to the top exit by managing certain obstacles always results in a simple bonus game, in which you can earn power-ups or extra lives. The bonus game is a reward for defeating each boss, as well.

The power-ups are the same as in Super Mario Bros., but there are a couple of changes. First, the 1-Up Mushroom is replaced with a simple heart icon. Second, the Fire Flower enables Mario to ricochet fireballs off walls to gather coins that are out of his reach, and to tactically dispose of enemies. As you progress, power-ups become very scarce and that makes getting one in a bonus game that much more practical. Extra lives are handed to you in large amounts, via the bonus games and huge coin rooms traditionally entered via pipes.

The boss fights also work the same way, even if they're really different in every other way; if you have the Fire Flower power-up, you can defeat the bosses with your fireballs, or just make your way to the lever in the back of the room to blast 'em into oblivion. In the vintage, slightly modified Super Mario Bros. style, upon conquering the first three kingdoms in the game, a monster disguised as Princess Daisy will thank you before ditching the charade and leading you to another stage.

The shooting stages are
surprisingly fun.
The regular enemies, as well as the bosses, really differ from standard Mario enemies. Goombas are the only enemies carried over from the previous games in their classic form. There are turtles which resemble Koopa Troopas, but they're the kind that explode once you jump on them. The Piranha Plants and Bullet Bills are also quite different than their counterparts in the bigger games. The rest of the enemy cavalcade consists of animals, insects, Easton cultists and crazy Japanese folk. Seriously.

Super Mario Land is a fun little platformer, and it has strong cult value in the Mario universe. However, the controls aren't up to par with the Mario standard. The game's downgraded by a disappointing lot once you get to the final stages and are forced to face long sequences involving moving platforms. Mario's jumping ability is very weak, and the distance in particular is very random at its worst. Invisible walls are all around, and in the final stages there are a lot of narrow platforms, in which a certain lack of traction comes into play. Until World 4, I hadn't really broken a sweat with the game and I had about 20 lives or something like that - within five minutes, I had lost over a half of my lives solely due to the invisible walls in the air and my inability to keep Mario from running into chasms like a retard.

Despite the somewhat frustrating controls and scarce power-ups, Super Mario Land really ain't that hard. The stages are extremely long, but they're mostly stitched together from just a few different screens and situations. On top of all there are so many checkpoints and extra lives possible to obtain, that I really can't see anyone, who's ever played a Mario game before, failing the game. Beating the whole thing shouldn't take more than an hour. So, it's a little frustrating, but easy in the long run. Good, light entertainment as long as it lasts.

Graphics : 8.0
Sound : 8.2
Playability : 8.0
Challenge : 7.0
Overall : 8.0


GameRankings: 75.42%

The first Mario production without Shigeru Miyamoto's involvement.

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