In Mario’s first adventure for the Game Boy, Super Mario Land, the plumber finds himself in a different kingdom, fighting a different villain to rescue a different princess. The bad guy this time is Tatanga, an alien from an unknown world who kidnaps Princess Daisy of Sarasaland. When Mario encounters the spaceman, he’s piloting a warship known as the Pagosu, which fires cannonballs.
Mario has to take out the ship with missiles from his airplane, but is often the case with Nintendo villains, this isn’t the end for Tatanga. It’s pretty close to it, though, as his only other appearance is in Super Mario Land 2. This time, he isn’t the main boss but merely Wario’s representative in the Space Zone.
His ship is much weaker and can be defeated simply by jumping on it three times, which suggests Mario destroyed his best equipment in the previous game. After you destroy his ship, Tatanga cries and falls off the screen. Since the plot of the game involves Wario stealing Mario’s castle while the hero is away in Sarasaland, it’s possible that it was Wario who paid off the alien to capture Daisy in the first place. I have to wonder, however, why Wario wouldn’t have chosen a villain who lived closer to do his dirty work. Maybe the two of them came to some kind of mutual agreement.
While the Game Boy graphics don’t really give us too much of an impression as to what Tatanga actually looks like, especially since he’s almost always in a vehicle, official artwork of the character makes him look more comical and cutesy than threatening. As a tiny purple creature with big eyes and ears, he looks like he could have been the model for a children’s toy. Admittedly, looks don’t always count for much, but SML2 reveals him to be somewhat of a crybaby as well. We really know nothing of his background, as suggested in the fact that he’s called “the mysterious spaceman.” Is he typical of his species? Has he invaded other worlds in the past? Is he prone to temper tantrums even on his own world, or is that one of the effects of dealing with a strange new location?
Picture by Pocket-Arsenal
Regardless, considering that Tatanga was a significant player in those first two Game Boy adventures, I have to wonder why we never see him again. This is especially the case now that there are two Mario games set in outer space. You’d really think an opportunity to visit Tatanga’s homeworld, or at least to encounter him somewhere out in space, would be made to order for a Super Mario Galaxy game. No such luck, though. I sort of wonder if it’s because the Game Boy games were created by a different staff from the main Mario games, without the involvement of Shigeru Miyamoto. Daisy and Wario, also veterans of these games, have become mainstays in Mario’s world, but even so they generally only appear in what might be considered auxiliary games. The only exception I can think of is Wario being a playable character in the DS remake of Super Mario 64. So maybe it’s more likely that we’ll see Tatanga reappear as a go-kart racer than a standard antagonist. I don’t know.