REVIEW: Super Mario World – Mario & Yoshi’s Adventure Land (1991)

An Anime OVA which was originally made for use with Bandai’s Terebikko system

With all of the buzz (both good and bad) surrounding the release of the new Super Mario Brothers film trailer, I figured it would be a great chance to go back and seek out some obscure Mario media and see how the franchise was handled in the past. While I could look at (and I’m not saying I won’t) the U.S.-based animated TV shows going all the way back to the Captain Lou Albano helmed, Super mario Bros. Super Show, most everyone has seen those if they are of a certain age, and you all know I prefer weird stuff. Today, we are looking at a VHS Mario Brothers anime called Super Mario World – Mario & Yoshi’s Adventure Land, which was designed to be used in conjunction with a weird interactive telephone toy. Despite this, it is perhaps one of the best Mario cartoons I’ve ever seen!

“Super Mario World: Mario to Yoshi no Bouken Land is an interactive anime video based on the game Super Mario World. It is designed for use with Bandai’s Terebikko system, which utilizes a telephone-shaped microphone to “interact” with the video. It asks the viewer multiple choice questions, such as what will hatch from Yoshi’s egg.”

So, about that toy I was talking about – Bandai’s Terebikko System.

According to Wikipedia: “This system has the shape of a toy phone, and is connected to the TV’s audio output jack. It has four large main buttons numbered 1 to 4, each with a different color (red, blue, green, yellow). Throughout the video, the viewer receives calls from characters on-screen, and answers questions using the telephone. The phone uses signals from the video (inaudible through the built-in speaker), to interact with the viewer, as such for giving bad or good answers. Titles released included a wide variety of known franchises, such as Super Mario World, Dragon Ball Z, and many more. The system was also released in the U.S. as the See ‘n Say Video Phone by Mattel in 1989.”

I honestly don’t recall ever seeing this when i was a kid, but then again I lived in rural Kansas at the time and did not have a VCR, so this would have been outside of my radar entirely. It’s a cool concept, and I like seeing some of these weird contraptions they made to create interactive experiences through your VCR. I have played board games that use a VHS tape as a game component, and even had a weird toy called Captain Power that involved shooting a light at the screen while watching a movie. Weird times all around.

Super Mario World – Mario & Yoshi’s Adventure Land is basically like a Mario-themed episode of Dora the Explorer. The viewer would watch part of the show, then get asked a simple question as this was obviously for small children. This would occur when one of the characters would “call you” on a phone asking for help.

These puzzles range from counting different things on the screen, solving a maze, deciding who is hatching from an egg, looking for differences in a picture, and more. It’s the sort of stuff one would see in a children’s coloring and activity book from a gas station, just in an interactive way. These little asides are not too annoying in the raw video, and despite them being there, one can still watch the film without too much disruption. Speaking of that, I will post this full video down below.

Despite its nature as a component for a toy telephone, this short animated film is actually one of the truest versions of a Mario game that I think has been committed to screen. It’s pretty damn watchable, and honestly way better than it has any right to be. Not only does it capture, in somewhat laborious detail, pretty much every aspect of the game (albeit in a simplified manner), it has the same music, the same tone, and even shows small details that many seasoned Mario fans will love. There’s even little segments where we see Mario progressing through a world map as He and his friends complete little tasks.

Generally, in animated films like this, there is a tendency for the production studio to scrap what made the game what it was and to adapt a game into something a little more palatable for general audiences. This generally ends up adding tons of extra story, weird side plots, and other things that are somewhat unnecessary. I recall, very distinctly, that there was an episode of the Super Mario Brothers 3 cartoon that featured an appearance from the president and first lady at the time, George H.W. and Barbara Bush. There’s none of this here, and I appreciate it because at the very strictest sense it shows that you can make a Mario animated film without all the fluff that generally comes with that.

Some other details that I particularly enjoyed was the inclusion of more Yoshis than just the famous green one, which is one of the main game play components from Super Mario World that has pretty much never made it into any of the cartoons. If I recall correctly you had two goals in that game – 1) saving the princess, and 2) rescuing all of the Yoshis. It’s crazy how much that gets ignored. Throughout this film, Mario and Luigi are trying to help the Green Yoshi gather of all of his friends just like in the game, and there are some great scenes that it generates. My personal favorite is one where Mario is riding on the Green Yoshi and Luigi on The Red Yoshi as they dive into action. Another cool addition is the early inclusion of Luigi being terrified of ghosts, a plot point that eventually has pawned it’s own Mario sub-franchise. I’m not sure where that started, but it’s cool to see it here.

There are a few weird things in the film that were not so great, including a segment where Luigi gets mad at Mario for laughing at him and basically runs away to which Mario looks at the screen and pretty much says “Nobody cares about Luigi anyway” or something. This seemed out of place and kind of made Mario look like a jerk. It also kind of teaches kids that you can be a bully and people will still come back and help you – weird stuff.

I know there are multiple other Mario anime films from Japan that I have yet to see. I hope that this is something I can rectify at some point, but until then I really hope that whatever studio made this did more than just this one episode. The quality of the animation, the voice acting, sound effects, and music etc. are all very well done and it would be a shame if the entire thing was wasted on just a single episode.

I am really happy I found this, and will try to seek out more of these little random former VHS releases Nintendo did throughout the years. I’m sure some are pretty terrible, but they can’t get worse than what we had over here, which were still very fun at the time. To me, it’s crazy to see some of the weird technology we had in the past, seeing that most everything is on a mobile device anymore. The ingenuity to come up with a VHS tape-based device for answering questions through a phone is almost absurd with how crazy it sounds. I’m glad somebody has made it possible to watch this little weird bit of history, a piece of anime ephemera that could have easily disappeared forever.

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