Everything’s bigger when you’re young. That’s probably why I had Super Mario Land figured for a big game when I was a little girl. Then I played it again as an adult and twenty minutes later I said “Oh. Well.”
Though I have nothing but the utmost respect for late Game Boy / game designer Gunpei Yokoi, Super Mario Land felt kind of counterfeit to me when I was young. Part of the issue was sour grapes: Though I received a Game Boy in 1990 (and I imagine that only happened because my mother wanted to play Tetris) , what I truly wanted was an NES and its triad of Super Mario coolness.
Super Mario Land was as close as I could get for a long time, and as fans of the game know, it’s … different. Sarasaland feels like some kind of alternate world that evolved after the Mushroom Kingdom suddenly tilted on its axis. There are mushroom enemies, but they’re not Goombas. There are bad turtles, but they have bombs on their backs, not rebounding shells. There are pyramids and lions, and a little spaceman has taken over Bowser’s job as king bad guy.
Nothing against Tatanga, mind you. He’s kind of adorable, and I’d love to see him appear in another Mario game. You kind of have to be careful what you wish for when it comes to Nintendo, though. “Oh, you want the Koopa Kids to come back? HERE. HERE’S YOUR KOOPA KIDS.” (Opens door, Koopa Kids spring out into the world a la the Super Mario Bros 3 cartoon intro).
Even though Super Mario Land didn’t enthrall me like its NES cousins, I enjoyed it. I also loved its soundtrack, particularly the ending theme. The Game Boy’s sound chip was a little work horse.
I wonder what Mario’s conversation with Daisy is like as they fly through the empty, empty sky. “Hey, I have this brother. He’s kind of a sad sack, but–“