Super Mario Land was one of the original Game Boy’s launch games, so it’s only fitting that it was the first Virtual Console title on the 3DS. So how does it hold up more than twenty years later?
So if you’re familiar with Mario’s NES outings, you’ll probably be familiar with Super Mario Land to a degree. Run to the right from the start of the level to the…door at the end? Stomp on a Koopa Troopa and…it explodes beneath your feet? Plunge into the ocean and wipe out enemies…in a submarine?
Okay, so the formula was tweaked a little for the first portable Mario game, but it’s still Mario. He’s just in a different kingdom (Sarasaland) trying to rescue a different princess (Daisy) from a different villain (Tatanga). Got it? Good.
Sarasaland consists of four worlds with three stages each. In each third stage, Mario is forced to fight a boss. You can either step on the axe behind it to defeat it (ala Super Mario Bros.), or you can shoot them to death with Super Balls…Super Balls, you say? Well, the Fire Flower in the Super Mario Land doesn’t give you fireballs, it gives you Super Balls. You can only shoot one at a time, but they bounce off walls and can collect coins for you.
Cutting edge graphics, circa 1989.
The exceptions to the “traditional” Mario games are levels 2-3 and 4-3. In 2-3, he’s in the Marine Pop (a submarine) and in 4-3, he’s in the Sky Pop (an airplane). The screens scroll automatically, and Mario can move all over the screen to get coins, shoot baddies or collect power-ups. Basically, a platformer becomes a SHMUP. Not a bad thing, but it throws you for a loop the first time you see it.
If you can clear the game once, you open up hard mode: same levels, but different enemy placement that makes it more difficult. If clear hard mode, you gain the ability to choose whatever stage you want. Even though there are no warp zones, beating the game twice through should only take an hour or so.
The controls are what you would expect. Move Mario with the d-pad, hold B to run and press A to jump. Press B to shoot a Super Ball (if you have the power to do so). When Mario is in Sky Pop and Marine Pop, shoot by pressing A or B. Mario controls a bit floatier than he traditionally does, but you’ll get used to it.
Graphically, don’t expect a masterpiece since the 3DS only allows the original color palette. Still, the visuals do what they need to in only a few colors. Everything moves fluidly, though some enemies are a little too tough to see. The increased resolution of the 3DS sort of fixes that problem.
The music is decent for 1989. It’s not the Game Boy’s best, but for a launch title, it’s fantastic. You’ll find yourself humming some of Mario’s melodies in no time.
I think Mario's steering a yellow submarine...
The bottom line is that for $3.99, you get a game that’s not too long, but is a lot of fun to play. Download it and enjoy this odd piece of Mario history.