Review by Jerrynsteph4eva
A great portable Mario that blows Mario Land 1 out of the water
When I first played Super Mario Land for the Game Boy, I wasn't impressed. The tiny graphics, lack of content and overall different feel kept me playing long enough to see if it got better, but never made me want to go back and replay it. So when I saw Super Mario Land 2 on sale on my way to pick up Pokemon Yellow, I was apprehensive. But after mulling it over, I decided my Mario fandom overrode my worries and I took it home, ready to see if it was the better of the two. And I'm glad I did.
Super Mario Land 2 takes place almost immediately after Super Mario Land 1. Mario returns home from saving Daisy, only to find that Wario (a character created for the game) has taken it over for himself, having hired the previous villain to distract Mario long enough to do his thing. He manages to install a lock on the door as well, requiring six golden coins, each held by a different boss, in order to unlock the door and confront Wario once and for all.
One thing I was really worried about when I first started the game was the fact that the game was again the project of Gunpei Yokoi, rather than Shigeru Miyamoto. That made me wonder if the game was going to feel as foreign as Mario Land 1, but thankfully it appears as though Mr. Yokoi learned from his mistakes and the game feels much closer to a Mario game this time around. Classic power-ups return, Mario's classic enemies roam the levels, the vehicular stages have been removed entirely and the graphics represent Mario just as well as the console versions.
The first thing you'll notice is the upgraded graphics. Not only are the graphics much larger (so you can see what's going on) but they're detailed enough to be good. Question blocks now resemble their SNES counterpart, Mario now resembles his normal self and even Wario looks pretty decent (though his appearance is starkly different from his current one). It's also nice that the upgraded graphics don't clutter the tiny Gameboy screen, though there are numerous segments where the level continues upwards offscreen (though it's not necessarily bad).
Mario's world is also much larger and features a world map, similar in nature to Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World, allowing you to freely traverse between the six different worlds included within the game. It's especially nice due to the fact that you can beat the worlds in any order you choose rather than having to go in a set order. It's a small touch, but one that's appreciated as non-linear gameplay can be great when done right (and in this instance, it is).
Each of the six worlds features a different theme and some of them are wildly different than normal Mario games. For example, you have Turtle Zone, which is a typical water level but you also have oddities like Space Zone, which introduces Space Mario and lets you float around as high as you want, and Mario Zone, a large robotic mechanical themed level that takes place in a sculpture of Mario's likeness. While the worlds themselves are still somewhat short (ranging from 3 to 5 levels each), it's a huge improvement over Mario Land 1's 12 worlds. Plus some of the worlds contain hidden exits, which will make you want to backtrack (and with the game's new ability to not only return to visited areas but also scroll to the left, you'll be able to).
Like Mario Land, each level contains a special exit and a normal exit. This time, however, the special exit isn't a second door but rather a bell that you ring that's situated high above the door. In most cases, this requires you to hop up a structure to reach it but some require tricky jumps or floats. If you should be lucky enough to hit it, you'll be able to play either a crane game for power-ups or a random wire puzzle for power-ups. It can be a lifesaver sometimes when you exit small and get a Rabbit power-up due to the minigame or some extra lives when you're running low. The levels also contain a mid-level bell, which acts as a checkpoint so you don't have to worry about completing the levels in one run anymore (it's nice when you accidentally fall into a pit and can restart a few seconds behind instead of at the beginning).
Power Ups are a staple of Mario's lineup and this game is no different. Most of the ones in the game are familiar (Mushroom, Fire Flower) while the game introduces a new one that hasn't been brought back since: Rabbit Mario. Whenever Mario collects a carrot, he transforms into Rabbit Mario, who has the ability to gently float around the level (similar to Tanooki Mario but without the ability to fly). While you won't find any award winning new powerups, you'll find classic Mario staples that have stood the test of time.
Another nice feature is the fact that the game features battery backed saves now. While this means that you have to be careful picking up a used copy, in a fully functional state the game is easier to play, as you can beat a couple worlds, save and continue the next day. Though it's a relatively minor feature, it's handy for those of us who don't want to play a game for hours in order to beat it or want to save their progress so far.
One thing that was slightly offputting was the fact that the levels still felt a bit short. Thankfully, there were more of them this time around but it was still somewhat depressing that I could start and beat a level in a minute (though the quality of the levels were much better this time around). Before I knew it, I already had the six golden coins and was facing Wario, which, unlike Mario Land 1, was disappointing because I was thoroughly enjoying the game.
One minor point is that, while the game features secret exits, they're quite few and far between and aren't as significant as those in Super Mario World. It's a relatively minor point to make but if you're expecting new levels or secret switches, you'll likely be disappointed.
All in all, this game truly reversed my opinion on the Mario Land series and Gunpei's team made a great portable Mario this time around. While it was over before I knew it, it still had a decent story, fun levels and a last boss that would become so popular that the next game in the series would star him instead (and later would become one of Nintendo's most iconic game characters). If you're like me and were apprehensive about playing this one because Mario Land 1 left a sour taste in your mouth, leave your worries behind and pick this game up. It's fun, it stays true to Mario and you can take it wherever you go. Even if you haven't played a game in the Mario Land series, you should pick it up and check it out. While it won't be as great as the console versions, it's still a great game in its own right and worth every penny.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (US, 11/30/92)
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