TBT REVIEW: Super Mario Land 1 & 2

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Super Mario Land 1 & 2 | Featured
Title Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
Developer Nintendo R&D1
Publisher Nintendo
Original Release Date SML1:
NA: July 31, 1989
EU: September 28, 1990
NA: November 2, 1992
EU: January 28, 1993
Genre Platformer
Platform Game Boy, Nintendo eShop (3DS)
Age Rating Everyone

Recently struggling to find time to game and missing it, nostalgia can be an especially powerful motivator. Remembering certain titles from my youth and how much I enjoyed them, as well as recalling that jovial ability to just play while shutting myself off to the world around me, finally got me to pick something up and play. It didn’t matter how popular or niche, nor how long or short the games were, I enjoyed them as a kid and hoped I would do so again. And so, I revisited two well-known classics, Super Mario Land and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, pleasantly humbled for how much enjoyment I received from two short, yet particularly charming games from my youth, and now, as I write this, trying to be as objective as I can through my waves of nostalgia.

Super Mario Land | Classic Platforming

These Game Boy titles were pure, classic platforming

So, classic Mario is save the princess right? Sort of. We all know how lax the Mario developers can be regarding stories, yet we are, gratefully, provided a bit of setup with these two titles, providing just enough reason for Mario to do what he does best. In Super Mario Land (SML1), Mario treks through Sarasaland in order to find and rescue a princess. But not Peach, groundbreaking, I know. It’s Daisy. Daisy has been abducted by an alien and they, along with four other unique bosses, are terrorizing Sarasaland. In Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (SML2), a jealous rival of Mario’s past, Wario, manages to take over Mario’s island during his time saving Daisy. As to how Mario acquires or owns an island, furnished with his own castle, as a supposed humble plumber will forever nag me. I mean, did Peach just give him an island? Or did he buy it? With what money then? And did he build the castle, or hire help? Really, did Peach just finance the whole thing? Anyway, upon his return to a now spellbound island, he must recover 6 coins to re-enter his now captured castle to oust the jealous squatter, break the spell, and return his island back to its once peaceful tranquility.

Super Mario Land | Secrets

Both games have plenty of secrets to discover

Needless to say, no one is playing these titles for the blurbs included in the instruction booklets. No, we’re here for classic Mario, which is to put our platforming skills to the test, while dealing with suspiciously well placed enemies and enticing us with discoverables along the way. SML1 offers a decent, though short, challenge reminiscent of its original NES counterpart. Four worlds with three levels each, this is mostly classic platforming with a variety of enemies thrown in, and with the difficulty naturally increasing as we progress. The platforming has its moments of cleverness in its design, necessitating speed, good timing, and a daring jump or two. There are also hidden extras for those on the lookout, in the forms of pipes that lead to rooms full of coins, or invisible blocks and lifts that may also lead to coins or 1UPs. They surely help in an otherwise strictly side-scrolling style of gameplay. And then there are the two shooter-style levels, of which I wish there were more. They welcomely break up the monotony of the platforming, and only add to the fun. Fighting the final boss of the game in this style is also a pleasant departure from the norm. I feel the game would have only benefitted from more of these levels, as the strict platforming can feel one-dimensional. But let’s face it, more levels in any form would have been a boon, for it’s over all too soon. And yes, even with an expert mode to tackle after completing a full run, the experience is overall sweet, yet too short.

Super Mario Land | Shooter style Levels

Only 2 levels like this was nowhere near enough

Then there’s SML2, which improves upon gameplay in nearly every aspect by adding a variety of different environments, adding new abilities, and bringing tons of creativity to its platforming. Perhaps the most notable aspect of gameplay is the emphasis of vertical platforming. We’re no longer constrained to a left-to-right course that simply has gaps or minimal climbing within a fixed vertical axis, but rather most levels feature ascending and dropping to their main and hidden paths. Platforming only gets better by the use of an assortment of moving platforms and the need to push abilities to their limit. The magic carrot, for instance, which gives Mario rabbit ears and the ability of slow descent, opens up the platforming by pushing the degree of challenge and making for some novel ways to reach hidden areas. And lastly, many of the more challenging platforming sequences require you to bounce off enemies. A well timed bounce may allow you to reach a seemingly out of reach area, or, paired with the rabbit ears, extend a long descent enough to reach a secret path.

As for criticisms, the only real complaint I have is that SML2 skimps on the levels that drastically alter the platforming. The Space Zone, for example, only offers two levels, plus a hidden third. I would have loved more, as Mario’s speed and jumps are affected by the different gravity levels of the moon and star courses. I find the altered gravity a clever way to change up the platforming, and so I wish we could have had more. Also, the level to reach the Space Zone, in which you need to navigate the course while floating in a bubble, and the familiar yet few underwater levels all offer variety in gameplay, and so I wish we could have had more. Honestly, not enough of the good things is, again, my complaint here, as SML2 is an absolute gem and always a fun experience.

Check out more classic Mario on page 2 ->

About Drew D.

Drew has been an avid gamer most of his life, favoring single-player campaigns. For him, a worthwhile game is one that immerses you; it envelops you and draws out an array of emotions that produce those memorable moments we live for as gamers.

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