I picked up NBA Jam on Sega, Super Mario Land on Gameboy and a box for New Super Mario Land DS to put my game pak inside so I can set it next to the other DS games I own.
Super Mario Land Is a Strange Mario Game
Super Mario Land was one of the launch titles when the Gameboy hit the market in 1989. I remember it fondly because my brother bought a Gameboy and Super Mario Land was one of the first games he had. If you are familiar with Mario games, Super Mario Land is very similar but contains some strange elements that haven't been repeated in modern Mario games. First off the traditional fire Mario super ability is replaced with a super ball variant. Mario shoots the superball and if it doesn't hit an enemy it bounces off walls until it hits an enemy or gives out. This allows you to collect coins in hard to reach areas and occasionally you can bounce a shot to hit a bad guy but most of the time it's just weird. I like that they tried something different and it's possible the super ball power was easier to program back then but I prefer the traditional fire flower power as it's easier to rely on and time the shots of.
Super Mario Land contains the same tight platforming of nearly any Mario game except, at times, I missed certain jumps by falling through a platform. It's rare but since i've never seen it in a Mario game, when I happened I was surprised. Again, I imagine this is due to the early nature of this Gameboy title and it's lack of horsepower even compared to the NES but it's something I noticed.
Super Mario Land keeps up the strangeness in that it also contains auto scrolling levels. You can control Mario in a Submarine and Airplane and beyond the levels being a bit easy they are also pretty fun. Auto-scrollers aren't something you see in a Mario game and having them here is so odd it feels like some kind of extra bonus game.
Even though Super Mario Land contains some gameplay elements not seen in any other Mario game the strangest part of all is the story written in the game manual.
"Once upon a time, there was a peaceful world called Sarasaland. In this world there were 4 kingdoms named Birabuto, Muda, Easton and Chai. One day, the skies of Sarasaland were suddenly covered by a huge black cloud. From a crack in this cloud, the unknown space monster Tatanga emerged to try to conquer Sarasaland. Tatanga hypnotized the people of all the kingdoms so that he could control them in any way he liked. In this way he took over Sarasaland. Now, he wants to marry Princess Daisy of Sarasaland and make her his queen. Mario came to know of these events, and he has started on a journey to the Chai Kingdom where Princess Daisy is held captive, in order to restore peace to Sarasaland. Can Mario defeat Tatanga, release people from his interstellar hypnosis, and rescue Princess Daisy? It's all up to you and Mario's skill. Go for it Mario!"
I picked up the Super Mario Land game manual at this years Portland Retro Game Expo and laughed as I read the games backstory. At the time I did wonder why Bowser and Princess Peach weren't in the game but I figured Mario went on other adventures and maybe this happened while Mario was on vacation? The story seems so arbitrary and whipped up it borders on parody but as someone that loves campy stuff, I also love it.
Super Mario Land is a really unique entry in the Mario-verse and one I don't mind coming back to. I think my most beloved Mario games are some of the strangest and i'd put Super Mario Land up there with Mario 2 as some of the ones I enjoy coming back to reliving over again.