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Level 1
Super Mario Land (Level 1)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 24, 2011   |   Episode 15 (Show Archive)  


Welcome to Level 1. Every week we look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for -- we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! Forget magic potions, guns and a protective suit, the only thing you're going to need to need this week is blood axe. This is Super Mario Land, one of the first Game Boy games to be released on the Nintendo 3DS. The game may not drop until May, but that's not going to stop us from picking apart this seminal release. It may be black and white, but I guarantee that this will be another mostly solid episode of Level 1!

Super Mario Land (Nintendo)
[ Release: 1989 - Console: Game Boy ]
Super Mario Land (Game Boy)
Super Mario Land (Game Boy)
By 1989, Mario had already captured the hearts and minds of gamers all across the world. His first two games (not including Donkey Kong) were smash hits and Super Mario Bros. 3 was easily the most hyped game of the ear. Mario was huge! Due to his success there was only one place this big superstar could go -- the small screen of the Game Boy!

Super Mario Land was a first-generation Game Boy game. It's also Nintendo's first stab at making a real portable Mario game. Oh sure, we saw him cameo in Game & Watch titles, but none of them were as ambitious as Super Mario Land. This Game Boy release led into several other portable outings, though Mario's made-up nemesis, Wario, would eventually take over the franchise. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Right now it's time to get comfortable, because I'm about to press start. The box suggests that this is Mario's "best adventure yet" ... let's hope that's true!

Level 1-1: I appear next to a large pipe in the desert. Behind me is a pair of pyramids, one significantly larger than the other. I get up and look around; there must be something here that will jog my memory. I see a Goomba, but his color is all weird. There's a turtle
Super Mario Land - Level 1-1
Super Mario Land - Level 1-1!
and floating blocks, just like back home. But this isn't the Mushroom Kingdom I know. This is a weird world that is really hot and low on colors. It's like when Ben turned the donkey wheel and was teleported to the middle of the desert. Does that mean that Mario is the chosen one? Are we about to fight the smoke monster? Did I mention that the Mushroom Kingdom just started airing reruns of Lost?

But I digress. I decide to press on; there must be a reason I'm in the middle of a desert. I smash my head against the first floating question mark block I see, because, y'know, that's what I do. Out comes
Super Mario Land - Level 1-1!
Super Mario Land - Level 1-1!
a coin, which I'm sure will be useful later (probably). As I run through the level I start to get my groove back. Jumping on the Goomba squishes them, while smacking a turtle results in a bomb going off. It's probably for the best I just skip right by those guys.

I rush through the level picking up coins and avoiding enemies, just like I would back home. I know the princess is counting on me ... I just don't remember which one. Wait, let me figure this out. So I know I've already rescued Princess Peach, and I'm pretty sure I dealt with Pauline. Hmm. Maybe it's Rosalina. No, that's not right, that's when I was in space. And besides, she didn't need my help. Clearly I have too many girlfriends to keep track of. I'm just going to call her Princess Daisy. Yeah, that's the ticket. This adventure is for Princess Daisy (or whatever her name is).

Bonus Game: As I near the end of the level I'm given the choice between two doors. At this point I don't care which one I take, I just want to get out of this killer heat. As I enter the room I'm met with bright lights and loud music. Apparently I won! An announcer comes over a rudimentary
Super Mario Land - Bonus Game!
Super Mario Land - Bonus Game!
intercom and informs me that this is one of many bonus stages found in Super Mario Land. It looks like I have the choice of four items -- there's a power-up, 1-up, 2-up and the coveted 3-up! It's a win-win no matter what I get, but I'm definitely shooting for the 3-up.

Unfortunately choosing an item is easier said than done. I find myself jumping from one layer to the next, trying to line myself up for the power-up. Once I start walking forward I can't turn back, so I need to be precise. There's a moving ladder that is making this stage
Super Mario Land - Level 1-2!
Super Mario Land - Level 1-2!
even more challenging. After watching the pattern, I decide to commit and walk towards the goal. Unfortunately I only pick up a 2-up, but that's better than the power-up they were offering. I'm just happy to be in a nice air conditioned room. I'm not looking forward to going back into the staggering heat.

Level 1-2: I exit the bonus stage door prepared for the worst. Sure enough, the oppressive heat is enough to ruin my day. I'm way up above the pyramids, so at least I get to see the ancient architecture from a different point of view.. Sadly I don't have enough time to
Super Mario Land - Level 1-2!
Super Mario Land - Level 1-2!
really enjoy the scenery as I'm expected to jump from one poorly developed platform to the next. These platforms aren't being held up by much, sometimes it's only one column keeping them safe. I quickly make my way over these precarious platforms without falling in.

Even though none of this looks familiar, I was delighted to see that the magic mushroom, fire plant and invincibility star were all here in full effect. Even though I'm towering over pyramids and fighting explosive turtles, at least there's a little something from home to keep me going. Still, I'm perplexed by the fire plant. Oh sure, I can pick it up
Super Mario Land - Level 1-3!
Super Mario Land - Level 1-2!
and throw things from my hands, but it's not the same. For one thing, the fire has been replaced by a ball. On the other hand, I can now pick up coins by throwing my ball at them. That seems awfully convenient, but I don't understand the science behind it. I go with it, knowing that if I don't save Princess Daisy (or whatever her name is) I'll probably be using this power to teach Phys. Ed.

Level 1-3: I enter a dark cave with spooky hieroglyphics on the walls and rocks falling from the ceiling. I can't make out any of the writing, but I know it spells certain doom. This is clearly where the boss lives; I can hear his breathing from here. This cave may be dark and scary, but it's a nice change of pace from the hot, hot heat. Plus, there's something
Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti - Boss - King Totomesu
Super Mario Land - Level 1-3!
familiar about my surroundings. On second thought, the whole thing reminds me of the four-toed foot that Jacob lives in. You know, the guy who lives in a giant statue creating beautiful rugs and sweaters? And then Evil Locke had Ben hill Jacob. What a dick. Again, why did it take them so long to start airing Lost in the Mushroom Kingdom?

The deeper I get into this cave, the more I start to see what's going on. Gone are the falling rocks and rudimentary structures, it's all been replaced by professionally laid bricks. Clearly this is the work of a contractor. The snarl of the end boss is getting louder, which gives me hope going the right direction. This is a bosses lair, I remember it from back when I had my spat with Bowser. After ducking and dodging, I finally make my way to the gate. I must be close!

The Boss - King Totomesu: Holy hot sauce, it's a giant fire-breathing Sphinx!! On second thought, I've seen bigger. Not to demean the guy, but just outside there's this huge statue that towers over me. At best, this guy is
Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti - Boss - The Devil Doll
Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti - Boss - King Totomesu
maybe twice my size. Let's face it, that's a small Sphinx. Plus, he's confined to a small section, so he's really not that menacing. Granted, he does throw fire at my face, but that's not going to help him when I have the power of bouncy balls.

He takes a few swipes at me, but I'm not having any of that. His weak attacks and wimpy jumps aren't going to help him here. I easily bypass him and go to save the Princess. There she is -- my beautiful Daisy
Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti - Boss - The Devil Doll
You'll never guess which one is Luigi!
(or whatever her name is). She thanks me, but when I start getting close a terrible thing happens: She turns into a plant and hops away! Not again!! WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN?!? I'm disappointed, but at least it gives me some more time to remember who this girl is.

What Have We Learned Today: Apparently we learned that Lost is a shot-for-shot retelling of Super Mario Land. It felt like if we played any further into the game we would have stumbled across polar bears, time travel, smoke monsters, cursed numbers and the Man in Black. Then again, maybe
There are plenty more ghouls in the sea!
There's something about this river that doesn't look safe!
at the end of Super Mario Land we finally learn where the island came from, why Walt is special and why Charlie had to die in vain. Seriously, I have some questions about that ending. Perhaps finishing Super Mario Land is the answer.

What Did We Miss: By not completing the rest of the game we missed out on a few tropical locations and zombie fish. Oh, and we missed our chance pilot our own flying machine! That's right; Super Mario Land gives us the opportunity to take charge of two different vehicles, both
Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti - Level 2
But can Toad do this?
resulting in fun (albeit instantly forgettable) 2D shoot-em-up stages. We also missed out on several more encounters with King Totomesu, all of them as easy as the first. I know you're disappointed we didn't get to the cool content, but remember that this show isn't called Level 3.

What Ethan Hunt from Mission: Impossible Says: "Forget Mario, the most fascinating character in the game appears to be that tricky plant monster at the end. I don't know how they do it, but he was able to transform into an identical duplicate of Princess Daisy. How good was the copy? It certainly fooled Mario, if that says anything. I have the power to put a mask over my face and look like somebody else, but there's no way I would be able to transform myself as quickly as this flower creature. He turned into a completely different body type in front of our eyes. Speaking of which, doesn't Toad have the exact same ability? Does anybody know how to get a hold of this Mr. Toad? I have an exciting job opportunity for him!"


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