07 January 2010

Super Mario Land - Nintendo Game Boy

I think I was six years old when my father bought me my first game console, the Nintendo Game Boy. While browsing the game store for my very first video game, I was overwhelmed by the huge selection. I chose to play it safe and went with a big name title: Super Mario Land. Maybe this is a phenomenon of every kid’s first video game, but I played this game to death. I must have beaten the game at least a hundred times and I challenge anyone to show me a secret passage or a hidden block that I have not yet uncovered. And after all this, I still find myself occasionally dusting off the old Game Boy Advanced (my original console has since died) to play this classic.
In this 2-D platformer, our lone hero Mario must travel through the four regions of Sarasaland to save Princess Daisy from the evil alien Tatanga. Each region is divided into three parts for a total of twelve levels. After defeating the boss at the end of a region, there is a cutscene where it appears that our hero has rescued Daisy. I was always confused as to why Daisy would then transform into a monster and hop away. I figured out later on that what was actually being depicted was Daisy being kidnapped by the monster. But hey, at that age, storyline took a back seat — I was more concerned about kicking 8-bit minion butt.
One of my favorite things about this game is the distinct flavors of each region in Sarasaland. Mario’s adventures take him to a spider-infested cave and an Egyptian pyramid complete with fire-breathing lions and booby traps. He travels underwater in a submarine and traverses the sky in a plane. One of the more outlandish levels is when Mario goes to Easton which resembles East Asia. The background is pasted with bamboo and the soundtrack is distinctly Chinese. In that level, Mario must face off against vampires, although they are not the vampires that Westerners are familiar with. Instead these are the zombie-like vampires of East Asian folklore that hop around and suck people’s life essences instead of their blood. It’s amazing to me that the developers at the time were able to come up with such eclectic characters and colorful worlds for a monochromatic game.
As technology advances, gamers will be treated to more eye candy and increasingly creative ways to play. But we must remember that gaming is an evolutionary process and today’s bleeding edge titles owe much to their pixelated ancestors. I can tell you that I derived as much, if not more, joy from playing Super Mario Land as I have from playing some of today’s best titles.
By Pei Xiong Liu

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