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Super Stario Land

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Written by ST Graveyard

January 4, 2018

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During the second half of the 90s, with the complete demise of Atari, I moved my precious 1040 STe from my desk to the cupboard, and I became a PC gamer. In all, I think my Atari STe languished in the cupboard for about 3 years tops. Around 1999, when studying my first year of Computer Sciences, I got it out and put it back on my desk. At college, we had this big library filled with PCs, and after class, we went there to browse the internet. Back then we still used dial-up connection and spending time online was quite costly, so the school library was perfect. On one rainy evening I stumbled upon a very pretty website called 'The Little Green Desktop'. It's considered these days to be the mother of all ST sites, but I had no idea at the time. I loved it! Browsing through the games, using the forum to talk about ST games, leaving comments. It was all new to me and I soon rediscovered the most interesting homecomputer ever to grace this planet. I started using emulators (WinSTon!) and soon after, the ST was moved back from the cupboard and onto my desk.

Why am I telling you this? Well, the creator of the website that started it all again for me was Richard Davey. So you can imagine my surprise to see his name grace the screen when booting up this astonishing Mario clone. It seems that Mr Davey was also into ST game creation at one point in his life. More so, Top Byte (the company responsible for this game) had released quite a bit of amazing games during the final years of the ST's commercial lifespan. I guess that is also why they got away with a commercial release of Super Stario Land. Since the ST was going the way of the dodo, I think Nintendo didn't care anymore.

Ever since Nintendo released Mario Bros in 1985, every single console and homecomputer system needed to have their own mascot and Mario clone. On the ST, we already had The Great Giana Sisters. Super Stario Land however is even more true to the original. This game is based on the first mario game released on Nintendo's Game Boy, Super Mario Land. A lot of Mario fans disliked this game in the franchise, I however, loved every bit of it. I must have completed it a dozen times. I remember a girl from class back in 1992 bragging to me how she was able to complete this game (I never met any Game Boy owners who weren't able to complete SML). Everybody wanted to play this game, even people who didn't like video games. That was the strength of Nintendo (and that is why we have so many amazing game experts in the retro Nintendo scene these days *huhum*). Needles to say, I was excited when I saw the first glimps of this game in an issue of ST Format. I even recognized some of the level design just by looking at the shots.

With the commercial release of Stario, Davey had to change the look a little bit, compared to the ST Format preview that was released earlier on. The look of Stario was changed drastically, to minimize the resemblance of that famous Italian plumber, the bricks now displayed an Atari Fuji, and the enemy sprites were all replaced by random animals. Luckily, gameplay and overall level design remained untouched.

Graphics

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!

Sound

The game starts with a nicely enhanced intro tune. After that, at first glance, it seems we are treated with very few in game sound effects only. Is it just me, or do the sound effects ring a bell? I could swear some of them are ripped from the game Thundercats! They are nothing special, but they do the job. But wait, you are one button press away from pure sonic gold. If you press the F9 key, you switch to in-game music. The tracks by Big Alec are simply amazing and really show what can be done with that little YM chip. I love them all, from the catchy tunes of the first levels to the eerie cave theme. There is one real drawback. You can not have music and sound effects on simultaniously. Still, it's top notch stuff!

Gameplay

Since Super Stario Land plays exactly like a Mario game, explaining the gameplay would be kinda boring. Everything is there, the mushrooms are replaced by magic potions, you need to break bricks to collect coins and there is even a carrot bonus which can make Stario fly (sort of) by jumping up to 3 times.

More interesting however is the fact that the levels are randomly generated (or so I read). And it does look that way. The advantage is that you are never playing the exact same game. Enemies are never put on the same spot and platforming is always a bit different. The drawback however is the actual level design. Because of this generated world, the levels sometimes feel a bit ... boring ... especially compared to the original. It feels as if certain screens apear in the same level up to 3 times. It is not all that bad, I just miss a bit of punch from time to time (Oh, not this jump, AGAIN!).

As mentioned above, the scrolling is just perfect and the controls are spot on. If you ever played the game on the Game Boy, well, you don't really need to get used to anything, it is that well made! Stario does suffer from the typical sliding effect and because the level design is just more difficult than the original, with a lot more pits and cliffs to fall to your death, this little handicap really gets frustrating from time to time, but I guess that just needs to be part of the game.

The famous pipes from the original are here as well. Sadly though, I did not find a single one which led me to a hidden bonus room or similar as in the original game. So I guess they are just there for show. Most of the baddies are easy to kill by jumping on them ... but don't get me started on those damn flying fish that you will encounter later on in the game. These are just a pain in the b*tt. Practice makes perfect. I also did not encounter a boss during my time playing this game.

Conclusion

If you are a Super Mario Land fan but think the original is a bit too easy and aren't afraid of a challenge, than you are in for a treat with this game. Super Stario Land truely is a hidden gem on the Atari ST. Technically, this game is just perfect, level design could use a little bit work. But don't let this hold you back.

Getting older, not only my hair is growing thinner, but also my patience for these kinds of games. Super Stario Land sometimes is a bit too frustrating for a guy like me. I prefer the original, because it is more forgiving. That being said, Super Stario Land really is a good game and definitely one of the better platformers on the Atari ST.

Well done team!


Score
  • Graphics: 7
  • Sound: 8
  • Gameplay: 8
  • Overall: 7

Review Comments

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mwaawm
This game was an utterly amazing release in the STs twilight years.....proper scrolling that should have been incorporated into all ST games back in the day.
February 22, 2021

Son Shu Shi

March 21, 2021 by ST Graveyard

What an accomplishment this game is. Created with such a small team, the result is really amazing. The game oozes creative passion. While the gameplay is really well balanced, it is a tough cookie, very hard from time to time with its moments of sheer frustration. As of level 3, timing becomes key. You will need to practice and learn the levels to complete this game, there are so many bad guys on screen it sometimes gets a bit hard to take.

Blood Money

April 4, 2020 by Morcar

Graphically, it's also nice on the eyes with well-defined graphics and animation. You really get the feeling that the developers put some thought and love into the game. Remember what I said about the large levels? Well these are wonderful and are very different to each other, they also scroll fairly smooth in all four directions.

Cybernoid - The Fighting Machine

March 28, 2020 by Morcar

When you boot up the game you’re presented with a fantastic loading picture of your ship. It's detailed with bold colours and it tells you This is 16-bit, bitch. Then you get the wonderful rendition of the Cybernoid theme that's on all the 8-bit versions. It's not exact but the changes still make it noticeable to anyone who knows it.

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