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Written by ST Graveyard
January 4, 2018
While some background graphics would have really added the extra punch, Super Stario Land just feels amazingly polished. Mostly due to the super slick scrolling (and oh boy what a difference it is after playing flip screen platformers like The Blues Brothers or Titus the Fox!). Super Stario Land plays like a dream on an Atari STe. The game is colorful enough, the sprites are nicely detailed, but most importantly, this just looks like a Mario game!
After the review was placed online, Richard Davey got in touch with us with the following background information for the game :
I was approached by James Matthews of Top Byte Software, which was effectively the commercial arm of Power PD, to do the graphics for Super Stario Land. I had known James for a while because of his Power Disk Magazine and at that time the ST scene was contracting in size rapidly. He told me he had this great Mario clone he'd been sent, but he couldn't publish it because the graphics had literally been copied, pixel for pixel, from the NES.
He sent me a disk with the graphics on and asked if I could look at changing them enough such that he wouldn't get sued by Nintendo! I fancied the challenge so took it on. I had to draw over the sprites and tiles that already existed, keeping to the exact same sizes and palette. The sprites used two bitplanes, which meant I was restricted to just 4 fixed colours from the palette of 16, and not only that, but it had to be the same 4 colours (based on palette index) that the developer had used. It was because of these technical limitations that the game ran so fast and smoothly, but at the cost of how it looked visually. Only the colourful backdrop, which was just a raster trick, saved it from being too bland.
I drew-over Mario with my own creation based entirely on Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. I then set about redrawing the baddies and lots of the tiles. Wasps, weird little spiked-hat baddies and so on replaced the Goombas from the original. Potion bottles replaced mushrooms and I redraw a good chunk of the tiles as well (although the warp pipes remained.)
The graphics really aren't all that great. With so few colours and to be fair, such little game art experience on my behalf, I'm amazed they didn't look far worse than they eventually did. They have a certain home-brewed charm and I guess I fulfilled the requirement of flying under Nintendo's radar by not looking close enough to Mario! So on that front, they achieved what was required.
Also worth mentioning: the title page image was actually stolen from the game Pacland! I ripped it from the ST version of the game, took a good while removing the logo and other Pacman related items, slapped the credits down onto it and called it a day. Shocking, I know. Perhaps somewhat deservingly, given the ripped source materials, I never actually received a penny from sales of the game. I can only hope that the developer, Adrian, at least did.