Friday, November 2, 2007
Super Mario Land (Gameboy, 1989)
The Gameboy really shook the videogaming world back in the early 90's, didn't it? It's interesting to note that, for one reason or another, it managed to beat two superior competitors (at least in the hardware department), the Sega Game-Gear and the Atari Lynx. Quite why it beat them is a story best examined another time, but I'll just say that the Game-Gear and Lynx were both more expensive and power hungry. I'm just mentioning this to underline that the philosophy behind the Gameboy was "simpler and better".
And so it is with Super Mario Land, one of the classic titles released for the machine. You might be surprised by the very high rating, but there is a reason for that. This is the quintessential videogame. It's the game that's going to convert the most unlikely person to the gaming habit. It's the game that your girlfriend is going to play and love it. The simple "jump and run" formula is executed brilliantly, and the game has a special atmosphere, despite the limitations of the hardware. The simplistic black and white graphics convey the sense of a quest in a splendid way, and the tunes are super catchy retro-videogame style.
There is no need to deal with the plot or read any manuals or anything like that. Mario's damsel in distress, Princess Daisy, is in trouble again and you must go and save her. That's it. What matters is that the moment you get on with this, you're hooked. There have been so many platformers, yet the charm of this back-to-basics game is something else. Oh sure, they perfected the formula with the elaborate Super Mario World for the SNES, but like i said in the beginning, sometimes simpler is better, and also immortal.
And to end with an anecdote, I was in highschool when this was released back in the day, and one classmate was among the first to get a Gameboy and also this game. It wasn't long before he brought it in school to brag about it. Alas, he made the terrible mistake of sharing it. Pretty soon, every guy was waiting for his turn to play. In class during lessons that is! Well, eventually the teacher found out and seized the machine. Now that's an unnecessary complication. -)