Super Mario Land: Final Thoughts

Rescuing Princess Daisy required just one more solid thumbwrecking play session. I managed to get most of the way through World 4 in the same game that I encountered it for the first time, but needed two continues to pass the two-stage end boss. “Continues” in this game are earned with points, and, when used, restart you at the beginning of your current level with three lives. Since I couldn’t beat the final boss with more than ten lives left on the initial sally, I was rather surprised at pulling through in the continues. But ideally each death teaches you a little more about what to avoid.

World 4 has one of the best bonus rooms ever. It’s a screen that fits the usual parameters of the Super Mario Brothers-style bonus room, but is otherwise completely filled with coins. This isn’t really all that impressive as a reward — it takes 100 coins to earn an extra life, and if you could collect all those coins, they’d be worth two lives and some change. You can get more than that from the bonus game between levels. But the bonus game isn’t nearly as delightful as suddenly finding yourself completely surrounded by coins.

It strikes me that part of the genius behind the early platform games was using motion to create an impression of a continuous, fluid world in spite of the system’s graphical limitations, compensating for low spatial resolution by taking advantage of the high resolution in time. A still image of Mario looks blocky and pixellated, but his trajectory looks like a smooth, graceful parabolic arc. Sonic the Hedgehog would later employ the same principle in a different way, emphasizing both speed and speed differences.

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