(Review archived from March 11, 2015)
Super Mario Land is pretty good for a GameBoy platformer, I’m just not entirely convinced it’s a great Mario game. What I mean is that if you swapped out the Mario sprite and animations in this game for any other random platforming hero, this game would be almost unidentifiable as a Mario game. It almost feels like the same sort of sprite work patch over Nintendo pulled with Doki Doki Panic (AKA Super Mario Bros. 2 in the U.S.) … except that it’s not.
If it sounds like I’m being a bit harsh towards this game, it’s not necessarily intentional. It is a pretty solid platformer by GameBoy standards, if not a bit unremarkable. The platforming is fairly sharp and responsive, although it can feel a bit drifty at times. Some of the standard 2D Mario mechanics have been replaced with close, but functionally different ones. Rather than the old standby of Fire Mario, Fire Flowers now give us the ability to throw … uh … baseballs(?) that bounce around the screen. Rather than launching Koopa Shells when you hop on them, they just sit there … and explode. Instead of 4 levels for each World there are 3 (although to be fair this part might be in deference to the limited memory capabilities of the original GameBoy). Instead of rescuing Princess Peach you’re rescuing Daisy … whoever that is, and so on.
Two levels in Super Mario Land swap out the familiar platforming gameplay altogether, for some side scrolling shmup action (featuring a submarine in one level and a spaceship in the final level). Between these levels and the fact that one of the worlds features a prominent Moai theme, one wonders whether this wasn’t some sort of tip of the hat to the folks over at Konami.
One aspect of the game that stood out to me was the nice musical score. While the NES was only capable of mono output, the GameBoy was capable of stereo sound meaning that this little handheld could easily trump the sound and music capabilities of its older console brethren. At any rate the music in this game is catchy, nicely executed, and well suited to the game itself.
Overall this is a fun little platformer that’s over relatively quickly. It’s a nice diversion for the GameBoy although you might want to look elsewhere if you’re after a uniquely ‘Mario’ type experience.