Saturday, September 19, 2015

Old School Lane's Mario Tribute: Super Mario Land

It was the tail end of the 80's and Nintendo was at the top of the world with the 3 Super Mario games being one of the most popular ever made. Around 1989, Nintendo released their first handheld console: the Game Boy. The Game Boy revolutionized the gaming industry by having great quality games that kids could play anywhere: on a car, on a school bus, during recess, at a friend's house, and more. It was decided that the one of the first launch titles for the Game Boy would be a Mario game. However, the first portable Mario game would NOT have Shigeru Miyamoto on the helm, but Satoru Okada, Gunpei Yokoi, and the R&D1 team, the same team that created Metroid and Kid Icarus. Also, Koji Kondo, the composer of the Mario games would NOT compose the soundtrack for the game, but Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka, the composer behind Metroid, Kid Icarus, Tetris, and Dr. Mario. With that said, Super Mario Land debuted on April 21, 1989 in Japan and August of the same year in North America bundled with the Game Boy.


The game takes place in a new location named Sarasaland where Mario has to rescue Princess Daisy from danger. The game has 4 levels with 3 stages ranging from the typical outside levels, the caves, underwater, and the sky. The sky levels and underwater levels had a bit of a twist with Mario riding a submarine and airplane taking down the enemies. The powerups remained the same with the mushroom, fire flower, and star, but the fire flower bounced around and the star's music was changed to the Can-Can song. There was a 1-Up in the game, but it was the shape of a heart to differentiate from the mushroom. Since the original Game Boy didn't have color back then, they had to change the shape of the 1-Up, which makes sense. The designs of the worlds are a bit different than previous Mario games with pyramids, decorative hieroglyphs on the walls of the underground caves, Easter Island heads, and more.

The game became one the best selling games on the Game Boy and one of the best selling Mario games of all time selling 18 million copies. It even beat the sales of Super Mario Bros. 3. However, the game received positive reviews saying about how the game was able to capture the simplicity charm of the console Mario games on a handheld to how it was great that a game that fun could be convenient to take on the go. However, other critics had mixed reactions saying that the game was too short, easy, and the screen was tired and cramped after playing a few minutes in. Yes, there are some flaws in the game with the very loose controls, floaty jumping mechanics, strange looking levels, and the fact that it took me only 35 minutes to beat it. But there are some positives in this game: some of the levels are memorable, the submarine and airplane levels are very unique and something you don't see in Mario games, and the soundtrack is amazing. With this being one of the first games ever made for the Game Boy, the developers didn't know how far they could push the Game Boy when creating it. Other games later on would utilize the Game Boy's limited space to create other more complex games, one of which we'll discuss another time.

Overall, the game has some problems, but it's still a good game that I would recommend checking out. That's all for now. Tune in next time as we'll be jumping into 16 bit with Super Mario World.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Old School Lane Casual Chats Episode 46: Tiny Toon Adventures

In this episode of Casual Chats, Patricia and Kevin start the 90's Spielberg cartoons podcast retrospective with Tiny Toon Adventures, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. They discuss about the show, their favorite characters, their favorite episodes, their favorite brand of merchandise, and the TV movie Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Old School Lane Presents: Mushroom Kingdom Mix

In honor of the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES celebrating its 30th anniversary, Patricia showcases some of the most well known songs from the Mario franchise.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Old School Lane's Mario Tribute: Super Mario Bros. 3

The next installment of the Mario franchise took about 2 years with 10 people working on it with Shigeru Miyamoto as the director. Eventually around 1988, Super Mario Bros. 3 debuted in Japan.

The game features Mario grabbing scepters from Bowser's children known as the Koopalings which was used to transform seven kings into animals. Then eventually, Bowser kidnapped Princess Toadstool and held her hostage at his fortress. It's up to Mario to travel to the eight worlds to save the day by defeating Bowser and the Koopalings, turning the kings back to normal, and saving the Princess.

Super Mario Bros. 3 had taken everything that was great about the first two games and expanded it to something never seen before on the NES. There were 8 new worlds to explore each with a theme such as the desert level, the pipe level, the giant level, and leading up to Bowser's fortress. It also featured numerous ways of playing through the levels such as secret paths that would lead to the flutes that made you skip the worlds, scrolling levels, horizontal levels, vertical levels, and bounce pads that lead you to a level filled with coins to collect. There were a lot more powerups introduced in the game such as the raccoon suit gaining Mario the ability to fly, the frog suit letting Mario swim more easier, the Hammer Bros. suit that makes Mario throws hammers, the tanooki suit that makes Mario fly similar to the raccoon suit as well as transforms him into a stone statue, and the return of the fire flower, mushroom, and star.

On the overworlds, there were mushroom houses where Toad would have 3 boxes and choosing one would grant you a different powerup. There were music notes where Toad would have a minigame where you had to match three pieces to make one powerup to gain 1-Ups while there were moving. Then there were Hammer Bros that had to be defeated where you would be rewarded with a powerup such as music to place the other Hammer Bros. to sleep while traveling the overworld, a P-Wing that'll grant Mario to fly for much longer, and a cloud that'll let you skip a level. Also there's a match game in which flipping two cards that matched will grant you either a powerup, a 1-Up, or coins.

Shigeru Miyamoto had given creative freedom to his developers when making Super Mario Bros. 3. One developer created the Boo enemy based on his wife who would be shy in real life, but when least suspected, she would have a nasty temper. Miyamoto created the Chain Chomp enemy based on a dog held back on a chain that scared him as a child. The Koopalings were based on seven of the developers, but were named after the employees of Nintendo of America after musicians. Even the levels were designed in a way that made it look like it was a staged play from the cardboard bushes casting shadows, the platforms with screws showing, the levels ending with a black background, and opening of the game was a curtain lifting up. Miyamoto mentioned in an interview that he sees Mario and the other characters as a troupe of actors that can be put in numerous situations. In one game, they would be playing sports or driving carts. In another game, they would be in a platforming game.

Of course we cannot discuss about Super Mario Bros. 3 without bringing up the movie The Wizard that debuted in 1989. Despite the movie with a plot involving a gamer kid named Jimmy who wants to go to California alongside with his brother and friend, everyone remembers the scene where Super Mario Bros. 3 was revealed in the video game tournament that Jimmy competed in. It was the first time that Americans were introduced to the game since it had not been released yet until a year later.

When it finally came out to the U.S. in 1990, it received critical acclaim from critics and gamers saying it was not only the best Mario game released at that point, but it was the best NES game ever made. Even still to this day, people regard Super Mario Bros. 3 as the best in the series and as one of the greatest games ever made. In my opinion, it certainly is an amazing game. It was the first Mario game I've ever played and I have had fond memories of it trying my hardest to pass through the levels. It was also a very influential game that would be a benchmark for the entire series. The inclusion of the overworld layout, the multiple powerups, the new enemies introduced, the minigames, the different themed levels, the music, and more makes this game very well regarded as a major step up from Super Mario Bros. 2. While it's certainly not my favorite Mario game, it's up there on the top 5. It's still a very fun game to play if you haven't checked it out yet.

That's all for now. Tune in next time as we take a break from the console games and towards Nintendo's first handheld, the Game Boy, to review Super Mario Land.


Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.