Hello This is Mackerel Phones In 1989, a year after Super Mario Bros. 3, but a year before in the United States, Nintendo released the Game Boy It would become a titanic hit But initially, the system was a gallery of simplistic, boring games that seemed to exist almost to prove that a video game could even run on the unlit, green-tinted, black and white, 160×144 pixel, AA-battery-powered handheld A breakout clone Baseball Tetris But one launch game towered over the others in scope and ambition, and that was Super Mario Land I won’t bother making a mainly informational video about the game Without a doubt Jeremy Parish has already made the definitive Super Mario Land video How about instead, I talk about my own Super Mario Land journey? When I was a kid, I avoided Mario almost as a matter of religious principle There was no particular motive besides a vague, undefined disgust I connected to Mario, with his raccoon tails, hordes of mushroom babies, and unendingly powerless women Only as a teenager did I play New Super Mario Bros. on the DS And I thought it was terrible I hated every second But for some reason, that opened the floodgates, and I had to collect as many Mario games as possible The first Mario game I actually enjoyed was the confusingly titled Super Mario 64 DS But the second Mario game that captured my imagination was Super Mario Land An early attempt to make a whole sidescrolling adventure on the exceptionally limited Game Boy hardware was fascinating to me, especially as it so blatantly waved away the typical Super Mario formula, which admittedly hadn’t been set in stone at this point Yes, Mario’s mission was to rescue princess from a tyrant But instead of liberating the Mushroom Kingdom from King Koopa and rescuing Princess Peach, Mario was to liberate the four kingdoms of Sarasaland from the alien invader Tatanga who meant to force Princess Daisy to be his bride A fairytale villain! A monster who kidnaps a fair maiden to force her to become his bride You know, like Bowser Naturally the fair maiden is also royalty, as peasants are not human and beneath our contempt But the fairytale takes a twist for the weirder that Bowser does not, since here the monster is also an alien invader (“Oh! Daisy” plays.) Let’s begin The first kingdom: Birabuto Oh, this music, composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, would haunt me for years Occasionally the melody would appear to overwhelm my conscious thought seemingly at random It always mocked me, reminding old Mackerel Phones that he never beat Super Mario Land Birabuto has an ancient Egyptian theme, judging from the pyramids and palm trees Hieroglyphics, too In the instruction booklet, the enemies are drawn in faded pink and gray Makes them feel dreamlike and somehow dismal The booklet’s cover is also forebodingly austere, minimalistic as the cover of MOTHER All of the enemy names are unchanged from the Japanese Gao, Bunbun, Yuyarin Boo In Japanese, Goombas are called Kuribō Here, they’re Chibibo, “chibi” meaning “little.” The translators could have invented a new pun off “Goomba,” like “Goomsmall” or something, but instead kept “Chichibo.” Whether this decision grew from intention or carelessness, the result is that Sarasaland genuinely feels foreign to what Mario usually knows Look, they don’t even have Fire Flowers Instead, Mario eats these flowers that let him throw superballs! The superballs somehow pick up coins for him, too The local Koopas are Nokobon, suicide bombers How dark Inside this pyramid, I always wondered how to get to those upper ledges, where some coins tease us It turns out a hidden block drops a lift Mario can ride up there Look at him, in front of the time limit and score and life information like they’re just painted on the wall behind him But Mario has always been about secrets, dating back to the Warp Zone in Super Maro Bros This pyramid music’s great… The first boss is King Totomesu I like that he has a voice clip The same as the other bosses, granted, all of whom must have extremely nasally voices (In a supposedly extremely nasally voice) “Prepare to meet your doom, Mario!!” DAISY: Hi I’m Daisy!
And Mario finds Princess Daisy In another subversion, she’ll help Mario track down Tatanga oh, wait, no Dark magic That was really a Fly Not like a woman is good for anything except being a trophy, am i right The second kingdom: Muda Mario seems to have flown here on a flying saucer, presumably stolen from King Totomesu The music remains lovely If Princess Daisy ever has her own video game, which she darn well better, this better be incorporated somewhere Muda is a series of extremely small islands These islands are so tiny I don’t know if this actually counts as an archipelago So Sarasaland must be, in large part, ocean I question how anyone could live in Muda, but then the locals must be the Torion, these fish There are also the Honen According to the instruction booklet, the Honen are the reanimated skeletons of the Torion Tatanga has eaten Hold on The instruction booklet states that Tatanga has “hypnotized the people of all the kingdoms so that he could control them in any way he liked.” This a deeply disturbing violation of autonomy, obviously, but does that mean all the enemies Mario is fighting are the people of Sarasaland? Look at that Bunbun! Mario is unambiguously murdering them! The developers took the time to animate their eyeless corpses plummeting from the air! Mario is ripping their eyes out, their wings off!! He’s stomping the guts out of them!! 😫This is horrifying! And what about the suicide bombing Nokobon? They have no bodily autonomy, Mario! What are you doing?! What about King Totomesu? Did he rule the Birabuto Kingdom before Tatanga’s invasion? Was he a kindhearted sphinx? Tatanga, you monster! You’re eating innocent people! Eating them! This is beyond unforgivable! And yet, it takes two to tango… Did Mario murder a good man? Does Mario realize what has happened in Sarasaland? Will he only understand, after the fact, the enormous amount of innocent blood on his hands? Is that why Mario wears gloves? A symbol of his guilt and shame over the senseless murders these hands have perpetuated? Is Mario a liberator? Or a genocidally reckless madman, charging ahead with brutal violence when another method could be just as viable? The instruction booklet isn’t clear on how much Mario knows about the situation He rushes in with a so-called “liberation” that, in reality, is the worst kind of terrorism These are the hard-hitting moral questions I expect from the Mario series Understandably, most of the series is extremely disappointing If you think I’m moving a little too slowly on these platforming challenges… (Tragic death fanfare plays.) I admit I found Super Mario Land almost maddeningly difficult It’s not quite the hardest video game I’ve ever played, but it’s up there with Ecco the Dolphin and Metroid Prime 2 Never played Dark Souls yet Yet Jeremy Parish calls it “a bit on the short and easy side.” Please! This is white-knuckle, sweaty-palm action Why else do you think I’m hoarding coins and 1-ups? I’ve played Super Mario Bros. 3 The difficulty does not compare. (as a wrong person might remark) In SMB3, Mario can get a warp whistle, and Luigi, Toads, and Princess Peach are there to give a helping hand Here? Mario’s on his own in a hostile, deadly foreign country No shortcuts I did this playthrough a year ago I rolled up my metaphorical sleeves and decided I’d see this thing through My first successful run of Super Mario Land occurred only after I learned through failure and failure, memorizing enemy positions, jumps, and generally sharpening my skills But unlike Super Mario Bros. 3, whose physics always left me feeling less like I could control Mario and Luigi and more like I could vaguely suggest they move a certain direction, I always felt I had Super Mario Land under control I’m not saying Super Mario Land is better than its predecessor It’s basically a step backwards, actually But I do personally get more, if not fun, then intrigue out of it than Super Mario Bros 3 You know… Future video game historians will be really irritated about these titles, I bet you
Come on! Make the jump! No!! Here’s Mario in his submarine, the Marine Pop Yeah, he has a submarine this time around There are actually two shoot-’em-up segments in Super Mario Land Just another way they’re (the shoot-’em-up segments?) very distinct from the main Super Mario Bros. games Oh, the coins spell out Mario’s name Clearly they knew Mario was coming, judging from the barricades Why’d they write out his name? Did they hope this would distract Mario, so known for his greed? And why isn’t Mario bombing their underwater flying saucer fleet? Ah, Dragonzamasu Notably, he is not referred to as a king He’s one of the Yurarin, those seahorse people who have been appearing throughout Muda So they must be the people of this kingdom! The nasally-voiced Dragonzumasu dies of torpedo explosion Okay, *here’s* Princess Daisy, no doubt about to tell Mario of her childhood memories of Dragonzamasu’s kindness no, just kidding, no Fooled you once then— well, I doubt I even fooled you once The third kingdom is Easton This one is desolate, a rocky plain full of moai If I didn’t know better, I’d guess this is from Konami What I remember best about Easton are these pits of spikes and these boulders See, the boulders are called Ganchan Believe it or not, they’re alive See the eyes? The instruction booklet describes Ganchan excellently: “They are terrible if they hit and squash you, but useful because you can jump on one and let it take you for a ride.” I agree Things that hit and squash me are terrible Heh! And they say Shakespeare died in the seventeenth century To ride the Ganchan, Mario needs to time his jumps exactly right And they’re the only path across these fields of deadly spikes Easton is an inhospitable place Oh, and don’t forget the Bill Blasters Although here they pop out of Warp Pipes like Piranha Plants, and they fire Gira instead of Bullet Bills Oh, by the way In Japan, Bullet Bills are called Killers Or Kirā In later rereleases of– (Pause!) –Super Mario Land, Nintendo actually did change some of the names So Girā, which is clearly almost the same as Kirā, was reflected in this new translation as Bullet Biff Which conveys the spirit of the original, I suppose, although something about it feels wrong to me I like that the Easton Kingdom’s soldiers, Tokotoko, are high-speed sprinters, but they’re only heads with arms and sunglasses Presumably their legs are extremely tiny though muscular and not visible at this low resolution Have you noticed that the 1-ups in Super Mario Land are hearts instead of green mushrooms? I assume this is because the Game Boy’s screen, being greyscale and greenish, could not convey their color in a way that would differentiate them from the normal mushrooms In these caverns, Mario encounters lots of spider monsters Called Suu and Kumo, perhaps distant relatives of the Scuttlebugs Eventually, after running whole kilometers, crossing a cave full of waterfalls and giant spiders, Mario discovers who’s been throwing these Ganchan: King Hiyoihoi Who winds the award for most difficult-to-pronounce-name-of-a-Mario-character King Hiyoihoi is the toughest boss of the game, since you need to land on the Ganchan he tosses, then immediately leap off onto the cliff above him to hit the switch Or, alternatively, you just run through him and take a hit I lost a lot of lives to Hiyoihoi Generally, if I couldn’t finish the game, it was because of him Goodbye, King Hiyoihoi Oh! Daisy! (“Oh! Daisy” plays.) At last, Mario reaches the Chai Kingdom, where Tatanga is holding Daisy prisoner Here forests of bamboo grow in what seem to be cramped, tomb-like buildings full of lethal
traps and Chinese vampires I assume Tatanga introduced the lethal traps The vampires though, eh, they probably already lived here Bureaucrats Since Daisy is a princess, who is the king? I have a lot of questions about the Sarasaland government Clearly, if there are four kingdoms, Sarasaland must be some kind of federation Does Daisy’s family rule the four kingdoms as some kind of Holy Roman Emperor situation? Or do they rule only one of them? Does her family hail from one of the kingdoms, and the other kingdoms swear fealty to them? I’d guess Daisy might come from the Chai Kingdom, but clearly it’s themed around a semi-offensive amusement park vision China If that’s the case, though, why does Daisy clearly have European features? I think an Asian princess with lots of moxie would be a great addition to the Mario cast Mario meets no other humans in Sarasaland These Chinese vampires, called Pionpi, may have been human once, but today are long dead In the Mushroom Kingdom, only the ruler, Peach Toadstool, is human Mario and Luigi ended up there after a plumbing mishap in Brooklyn ♫ Found a secret Warp Zone ♫ ♫ WHILE WORKIN ON DA DRAIN ♫ ♫ Give the princess a hand ♫ ♫ IN THE MUSHROOM LAND ♫ ♫ Join the action with the plumbers ♫ ♫ You’ll be hooked on the brothers ♫ And in the kingdoms of Super Mario Bros. 3, the only humans are the Mushroom Kings There’s Rosalina, who seems to come from the same planet that these kingdoms are on But was she a princess before she ended up taking over the Comet Observatory? Have humans gradually left Earth, like Mario, and made themselves into an imperialist ruling class in the Mushroom World? I think the answer is an obvious yes! No wonder the Goombas deserted the Mushroom Kingdom to side with the Koopas! For his many flaws, at least Bowser promises a Mushroom World ruled by the native peoples Mario is well known for its highly political world-building Anyway The Pionpi are extremely irritating enemies, because their hops are long and Mario cannot defeat them Except by running far enough ahead that they go off screen Which is an extremely valuable strategy in Super Mario Land Here Mario meets a Pompon Flower They only appear in this stage That’s one of my favorite elements of Super Mario Land: many enemies only turn up in one or two stages It creates a much stronger sense of visiting distinct locations than the recurring enemies of, for example, Super Mario Bros To be fair, the enemies in Super Mario Bros are all soldiers of the invading Koopa Kingdom, so their greater degree of consistency is perhaps justified I never expected to see Mario in a bamboo forest while gangs of vampires dressed up like Qing Dynasty officials hop in mad pursuit Like Super Mario Bros. 2, there’s something somehow dreamlike about Super Mario Land But the exotic themes would not have been as unexpected back then as they would be for a contemporary Mario game Besides Super Mario Odyssey I mean Super Mario Bros. 2 had a vaguely Arabian Nights theme, and featured lots of magic masks and flying carpets While, in Super Mario Bros. 3, the Mushroom Kings are consistently not kings so much as sultans (Actually, quite a few of them are kings too.) Putting Mario in magical dream Egypt or China seems like a reasonable continuation Finally Mario takes to the skies in his airplane, the Sky Pop I wonder why he hasn’t used this thing since? Come to think of it, I wonder why he didn’t just fly over all these kingdoms in the Sky Pop directly to Tatanga’s lair?! This highlights the senselessness of his slaughter, emphasizing Mario’s morally dubious character Those moving light orbs are called Chikako, and believe it or not, they’re supposed to be robots The resemblance is uncanny Come to think of it, Tatanga seems to have other robots working for him too Whoa, look at those giant hands! That’s kind of freaky! At last, Mario does battle against Tatanga’s lieutenant, Biokinton Rather odd name for a cloud man (In noticeably different audio quality) Ah, but Biokinton is not a cloud man The instruction booklet states that he is extremely shy and hides in a cloud “Up to now nobody has ever seen what he looks like.” Aw I kind of feel bad for this guy When Tantanga descended onto Sarasaland, he emerged from “a huge black cloud.” Presumably Biokinton had some connection to that cloud After Mario bests Biokinton in a dogfight… …Tatanga himself descends inside the “war robot” Pagosu! If I had directed this game instead of Satoru Okada,
I would have had Tatanga give Mario a demoralizing monologue on the nature of evil, broaching the question of who, here, Mario or Tatanga, has genuinely done more harm: Tatanga the slaver, or Mario, he who killed the slaves claiming he was fighting for their liberation Instead, Mario and Tatanga just shoot at each other for a long time Yeah DAISY: Hi I’m Daisy! After the battle, Mario lands the Sky Pop and meets the real Princess Daisy Completely uncritical of his methods, she thanks Mario, and together they fly away in a rocket ship as the credits roll FINALLY! After so many years, after so many years! I found closure on this dreamy, minor piece of my childhood, a loose thread sewn into life’s tapestry at last An ending, a solution, an answer to a Mario game so inexplicable some kids thought it a bootleg Which is frankly an insult to its high quality There are more special thanks than people who actually worked on the game… The ending is open and bittersweet Tatanga has been defeated, but Mario’s war of liberation has left hundreds dead, including the kings of Sarasaland, creating a power vacuum that will quickly result in many more deaths than Tatanga alone could have engineered Moreover, we never learned the secret of Tatanga, where he came from and why— since manual calls him “the mysterious spaceman,” so I assume there was some mystery, right? The real mystery is why the developers thought there was a mystery I would assume the sequel, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, would pick up where the original left off, chronicling Daisy’s grief over her presumably murdered father as she struggles to rebuild and reunify the kingdom, facing extreme censure from the public for siding with Mario, who is widely seen as a war criminal, the sociopath who slaughtered men, women, and children without remorse But then, Sarasaland never appeared in any other Mario game ever Presumably that’s why Daisy lives in the Mushroom Kingdom now Behind her cheery façade, Daisy is tormented over her abandonment of her own kingdom for a lifetime of easy kart racing and tennis Someday she will return, and redeem herself in whatever small way she can for her tacit endorsement of war crimes and abandoning her people when they needed her the most If Mario has blood on his hands, then so too does Daisy I mean, that’s probably what Nintendo was going for, you know Okay, enough joking… For something so basic and simplistic, Super Mario Land captured my imagination back then, drawing so many ideas and thoughts, good and bad, within my firing neurons, and evidently continues to do so Super Mario Land 2 was even weirder Mario climbs around inside a giant robot Mario He also shrinks down to enter a house These are some very creative, unique world themes Compare that to the worlds in New Super Mario Bros SML2 actually does reveal Tatanga’s secret Wario hired him to attack Sarasaland to lure Mario away from the actual place called Mario Land, an island fiefdom Princess Peach gave to Mario after the events of Super Mario Bros. 3 Then Wario took over the island and hypnotized everybody there to hate Mario WARIO: Obey Wario! Destroy Mario! NARRATOR: Don’t fall under Wario’s evil spell in Super Mario Land 2, only on Game Boy!! Tatanga returns as a boss fight on the moon Yeah, Mario travels to so fifteen years before Super Mario Galaxy Then this strange subseries became even weirder again with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 In a perverse reimagining of the Mario formula, Wario is out not to rescue Princess Peach, but steal a golden statue depicting her When pirates beat him to it, Wario embarks on a weirdo adventure to steal it from them instead In this way, the Mario Land series metamorphosed into Wario Land, each installment both goofier and scarier than the last, with increasingly esoteric and unorthodox gameplay revolving around nonlinear level progression, complete invincibility, puzzle solving, and treasure collecting This experimentation makes Wario Land one of Nintendo’s most consistently interesting series Although they haven’t touched it since 2008 Super Mario Land thus is the unlikely origin of Wario himself, and WarioWare The weirdness no doubt derives from its creators in Nintendo R&D1
Nintendo’s main titles come from Shigeru Miyamoto of EAD, while the experimental and usually much more interesting, if not as consistent, games came out of R&D1 For example, Metroid, Kid Icarus, and the Nintendo murder mystery adventure games nobody outside of Japan knows about Super Mario Land’s influence continues to be felt also with a title like Super Mario 3D Land, a handheld-original Mario platformer like Super Mario Land before it I hope the Mario series continues to do weird and surprising things for years to come Maybe even, who knows, genuinely interesting or meaningful things A few years ago, amid a slew of boring, repetitive games, I had no hope for that whatsoever But then Super Mario Odyssey happened And Princess Daisy? Oh! Daisy! She’s playable in Super Mario Run, arguably an installment of the main series, and in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate I might not like Super Smash Bros., but if Daisy finally has put in an appearance, maybe she could get her own game Nintendo is just another company out to make money at any cost— but they haven’t *totally* lost their charm yet This has been Mackerel Phones And Super Mario Land really is so hard, you have no DAISY: Hi I’m Daisy! KURTZ: The horror! The horror!