Super Mario Land is a series hallmark for a lot of reasons. It was the first Mario game made by Gunpei Yokoi, the original creator of the Gameboy. It was the first proper Mario handheld game put onto the market (it was released alongside the Gameboy in Japan and North American territories), and it is also one of the best selling Mario games ever, clocking in at over 18 Million copies sold worldwide, just behind Super Mario World (20 Million) and the original Super Mario Bros at 40 Million.
Perhaps though, it was even more memorable to players for the uniqueness and oddity of the game itself. Elements from this Mario title have never been seen again in another Mario game, such as exploding Koopa Troopas, and Flubber-like Fireballs.
Another first: Mario Land wasn't set in the Mushroom Kingdom, but in a new place called Sarasaland. Simple premise really, the Princess of Sarasaland gets nicked (a certain Daisy making her first appearance), and tubby plumber Mario scoots off to rescue her from the claws/webbedhands of Tatanga (there's gotta be another word for 'first', I'll wear it out at this rate).
So, it's a mainline Mario title, you can guess what's in store. Goomba-squatting, platform-hurdling, breaking-your-head-on-QuestionMark-boxes, Lives to lose, Coins to collect, that kinda thing. Mario Land gives the formula a bit of a shake in the test tube though by throwing around some unique ideas. Jump on a Koopa Troopa at your own risk, because it'll blow up in your face a second later. The traditional Regular Mario, Super Mario and Fire Mario remain, although your fireballs now roughly equate to a tennis ball doused in Flubber. A nice few extras to keep you on your toes.
Also of note are the vehicle sections, yet another beginning for a Mario title. There are two in the game, a Plane and a Submarine. Both shoot pellet-things (we'll have no Gun-Bullets in any Mario game, thank you-a very much!), and both function like a prehistoric Gradius, in looks at least.
Speaking of looks, as you can see in that screenshot wedged in that text up there, Super Mario Land held its own in the graphics department. At least until the two sequels came along. It all functions very similarly to the other Mario 2D platformers, and it's all good clean fun.
The Gameboy Brick's speaker wasn't the best of them even at the time, but stick in Super Mario Land, and you'd have a few nostalga moments, in glorious 8-bit sound. The music works well in tandem with the stages too.
Super Mario Land is quite a hefty game. There is no Save or Password function, or two player mode, but the main game should last you a good while, if only for the amount of extremities you'll throw at it. This one ain't easy people.
Chances are you might spot this game in your travels, if you've got a Gameboy, GBA or GBA SP lying around then it's worth a play. I'm betting though that if the DSi store does get downloadable retro handheld titles, this'll be one of the first (that bloomin word again ).