Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 10/21/1992
    • US 11/02/1992
    • UK 01/28/1993
Score: 85%

This review was published on 05/22/2013.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game released for the Game Boy. It's the second game in the Super Mario Land series, which were a series of games that were all about recreating Mario's jumping exploits on a portable system. The first Super Mario Land was more or less a trimmed down version of the original Super Mario Bros. on a handheld, but Super Mario Land 2 is a much more ambitious creation. Packing a whopping 4 megabits of data in its cartridge, Super Mario Land 2 was one of the largest Game Boy games of the time. It takes some inspiration from the successful Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo and does its own thing on a smaller scale. This is one of the few Mario games in the series that wasn't created by Shigeru Miyamoto himself. It's at this point that a lot of you die-hard Miyamoto fans have already stopped reading. I'm also a fan of the man myself, though, so try not to judge a book by its creator. Believe it or not, Super Mario Land 2 is a very good portable Mario game that stands up to Miyamoto's other creations.

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Having saved the world several times over, Mario now has a castle entirely to himself. He even has a whole land to call his own, hence the title of the game. It seems Mario is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The luxury doesn't last long, because a nasty fellow by the name of Wario steals Mario's castle. I'm not sure how one goes about stealing a castle like that, but I'll bite. Wario uses some strange magic to put a seal on the castle that prevents entry by strangers, so Mario is unable to get into his own regal real estate. In order to break the seal, Mario must collect 6 golden coins, the very same ones mentioned in the game's title. The big thing to note here is that this game marks Wario's first appearance. It's interesting that such a throwaway villain would later go on to spawn his own series. He's basically a greedier version of Mario. That's why his name is spelled Wario; it's the M flipped upside down. Those designers were so clever. Super Mario Land 2's story earns bonus points for introducing players to what became one of the most expressive Mario characters ever.

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Mario games tend to contain a lot of jumping, and Super Mario Land 2 is no different. Mario can run, jump and even do both of those things at the same time. What madness! He can stomp on his foes like usual, so this game takes no inspiration from Super Mario Bros. 2. That's probably for the best. A nice feature is that you can pick up and hold onto turtle shells much like in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, allowing you to throw the shell into a barrage of terrified enemies. It's never really necessary to do this, but it's very entertaining. Inspiration from Super Mario World can also be seen in the spin jump, which is a move Mario can perform while big if down is pressed on the control pad mid-jump. The spin jump can break through certain blocks from above. It's sort of like the ground pound of future Mario games, but more elegant. Super Mario Land 2 improves some of the momentum issues present in the first game, so you won't have nearly as many cases of Mario running off cliffs. The controls are tight yet flexible, and the mechanics are full of depth.

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A Mario game just isn't a Mario game without power-ups. It's a good thing Super Mario Land 2 has some good ones. The classic mushroom and Fire Flower are both here and function almost exactly as they always have. Mushrooms make Mario big and allow him to take an extra hit, whereas the Fire Flower lets him shoot fireballs from his nose. A new thing the Fire Flower can do is break certain special blocks. That's just super. Power-ups stack in this game, so getting hit while having a Fire Flower will reduce Mario to his mushroom state, and getting hit in such a state shrinks him down to size. Size counts in Mario games, because getting damaged while small will end your life. Because the Game Boy isn't able to show color, Mario wears a feather in his cap to denote he has a Fire Flower. It's kind of cute. The main attraction this time is the carrot power-up. This carrot will give Mario a pair of bunny ears on his head. This power-up probably inspired the wing cap in Super Mario 64. You can make these cute bunny ears flap to slow down Mario's descent by either rapidly tapping or holding down the jump button. It's really not that different from the raccoon tail from Super Mario Bros. 3 or the cape from Super Mario World, except you can't fly with this one. Not being able to fly is kind of a bummer, but for the most part, Super Mario Land 2 has some cool power-ups.

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Super Mario World had a large, interconnected world map in which all of its levels could be accessed. Super Mario Land 2 takes some heavy inspiration from that, because it also has its own world map. The world map isn't as sophisticated as what's seen in Super Mario World, but it is similarly nonlinear. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Super Mario Land 2 is even more nonlinear than Super Mario World. The reason for this is because you can tackle the worlds in any order you please in Super Mario Land 2. That's something that even Super Mario World didn't let you do unless you had access to the secret world. In Super Mario Land 2, you can choose at your own leisure right from the get go. Well, you do have to finish a Mega Man style intro stage first, but you're completely free after that. There are even a couple of optional levels that can be accessed by finding alternate exits, just like in Super Mario World. Those kinds of levels are in short supply in Super Mario Land 2, but they are there nonetheless. The choose-your-own path thing in Super Mario Land 2 is really cool, and I wish more Mario games did this.

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Something that has always stood out about the Super Mario Land series is the pleasant amount of variation in the level themes. That's particularly true about Super Mario Land 2. Each world has a cool theme, many of which don't show up in other Mario games. The varied themes almost feel like a theme park. How many more times can I write theme before this paragraph ends? We're about to find out. The most interesting of these themes are the horror themed world, the toy themed world, the macro world, and the moon. Yep, Mario goes to the moon in this game. If that's not awesome, then I don't know what is. The toy themed world has Mario exploring a giant mechanical doll made in his image. I find that a little unsettling. I guess that's what happens when you're famous enough to have a whole land named after you. The macro world consists of a mouse-sized Mario exploring a giant house environment. It's a bit cliche, but I like it. Cool themes aren't just present in worlds, but in individual levels, as well. The water world consists of only three levels, but each of those levels explores a different theme. These sub-themes, if you will, consist of a sunken submarine and a whale. While exploring sunken submarines is cool, running around inside a whale is even cooler. This level has a very Pinocchio feel to it, and that's probably what the designers were going for. Many of these themes haven't returned in other Mario games, which makes Super Mario Land 2 thematically unique.

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The 6 golden coins of legend are being held by 6 not-so-golden bosses. Mario must journey to the end of each world and defeat the world's boss in order to acquire each of the coins. The boss fights are all pretty varied, but they tend to be overly simplistic. You fight a giant bird, a giant rat, a witch, a space alien, and other crazy creatures. There's just something appealing about fighting witches and aliens, you know? When it comes right down to it, every boss is defeated by stomping on their heads three times. Three is the magic number in Mario games. Another way to harm bosses is by shooting fireballs at their faces. It takes more fireballs to beat a boss than stomping, but it's the safer option. The foot is mightier than the fireball. I think my favorite of the boss fights is the one with the alien, because of the effect of the moon's gravity. The strange gravity changes the typical dynamics of a boss fight, and that makes this fight particularly fun. Super Mario Land 2's bosses might be a bit on the simple side, but they're fun enough for that to not be a problem.

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Okay, so I'm about to say something negative about this game. You should brace yourself for this one. An issue with the bosses is what happens when you lose all your lives and get a Game Over. You don't start at the beginning of the game, thankfully, since this is one of the Game Boy games with a handy save feature, but you are still punished for a Game Over. The punishment is that you lose all the coins you've acquired and you are required to beat all the bosses all over again. You don't have to beat all the levels again, but you do have to beat the stages each boss resides in again, along with beating the boss itself. This is a pretty big waste of time, so getting a Game Over is actually fairly punishing. I understand what they were going for here, though I can't say I agree with it. I will say that this is a unique solution to an old problem, but that doesn't mean the solution is a good one. These kinds of things could cause players to quit the game at crucial moments, and you don't really want that as a game designer. The bosses in Super Mario Land 2 are fun enough as they are, but having to fight them again if you suck at the game sucks.

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I want to make special mention of the last level in the game. After collecting all 6 golden coins and breaking the seal to the castle, Mario is finally able to enter the palace and attempt to put a stop to Wario. The palace has been transformed by Wario's dark magic, so it now includes all kinds of crazy hazards. This is, without a doubt, the hardest level in the game. That makes sense, since this is the final level, but that's not the point I want to make here. What's strange about this final level is that it could very well be one of the most difficult levels in any Mario game ever, and perhaps in almost any game ever. It's ridiculously hard. Don't be surprised if your stockpile of 99 lives goes down to 0 in this level, because it's that bad. I, like anyone, understand that a final level should be hard, but I think the designers went a bit too far with this one. What primarily makes this level difficult is that it's insanely long and has zero checkpoints. In addition to that, you fight like 3 mini-bosses and a 3 form final boss at the end, all back-to-back. If you die at any point during those boss battles, then it's right back to the beginning of the whole level for you. You're not given any mercy here. The difficulty balance of the game doesn't feel right, because the rest of the game is insanely easy, to the point where it's not at all hard to stockpile the aforementioned 99 lives. On the one hand, it's cool to finally get some challenge out of a Mario game, but this strikes me as going too far.

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Super Mario Land 2 is one of the best games on the Game Boy with ease. That may not be saying much, but it's pretty unique when compared to the console Mario games. A lot of the things that appear in this game don't appear anywhere else in the Mario series, which makes this one of the Italian plumber's more memorable adventures. Its only faults is that it has the hardest final level in the history of video games, and getting a Game Over forces you into the tedium of reliving all of the boss battles. If you can get past those things, then Super Mario Land 2 is worth a try.

Word Count: 2,148

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