Review by 16-BITTER

Reviewed: 03/29/17 | Updated: 02/06/18

A wonderful improvement on the original

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (スーパーマリオランド2・6つの金貨) is the direct follow-up to the Game Boy exclusive Super Mario Land by Nintendo. The first game was okay, but it was little more than a lightweight portable taste of what the Mario franchise is all about. The sequel does much better by the brand, incorporating more elements from the popular console games in the series while still crafting a unique take on the formula and doing it bigger and better: more levels, more variety, better graphics and music, the works.

This time around, instead of rescuing a princess from some alien threat (which was the loose premise of the first one), Mario must reclaim his castle from a hitherto unknown doppelganger enemy called Wario. Where Wario came from, or why Mario has his own castle on an elaborate island is curious, but won't be answered here: the goal is to acquire six Golden coins scattered about Mario Land to unlock the castle door and face Wario himself. Each coin is guarded by the boss of a particular zone in the land, which generally consist of 3-5 thematically linked levels, and each zone can be undertaken in any order you choose. It's a nice touch and a good way to breakaway from the otherwise mostly linear level order of the past games.

The levels themselves are stylized for each zone, similar to the way it was done in Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World. The Tree Zone levels take place in the roots and leaves of a massive tree, complete with ant and beetle enemies, the Pumpkin Zone has haunted-house like enemies such as Boos and other new enemies, the Macro Zone has players shrunk down exploring a gigantic house, etc. Additionally, care was taken to make each level correspond to its relative location on each zone's overworld map, so that each part of the tree looks and feels slightly different, as does each level of the underwater Turtle Zone, and so forth. Even though the levels are still relatively abstract in that Mario Bros. way, this helps give the impression that Mario Land is an actual place, instead of a string of loosely connected levels you're playing in.

The level design and variety is the main highlight of the game, unlike the lazy previous entry, which is why I can't help but keep talking about it! You've got lots of alternate paths, coin and power-up opportunities, secret stages, and plenty of neat gimmicks, like an underwater maze in a sunken submarine and a Balloon Fight-esque auto-scrolling stage in the stars. There are some recycled enemies, but each area generally has its own unique enemies and hazards, so there's plenty of fresh challenges to bear. Sadly, because of the "choose your own path" format, many of the levels are relatively easy compared to the home Mario games (especially the bosses, each of which are quickly disposed of), but it has some tough moments, particularly in the castle's final gauntlet, and there are a lot of levels to play and secrets to find that add some length to the proceedings. All in all, it's likely to take a few hours to see all that Super Mario Land 2 has to offer.

The game looks and plays most closely to Super Mario 3, with the graphical style basically being a black-and-white take on the look of that game, but with a few concessions from the SNES game, namely Mario's spin ability that can break blocks. Starmen and Fire Flowers return, but there's also a new carrot item that enables Mario to jump higher and to gently glide down from a height, essential to finding secrets and collecting coins. Speaking of coins, they work differently in this game. Instead of getting an instant 1-Up, coins can be spent at the bonus hut to try and earn power-ups or 1-ups in bulk. Not that this is the only opportunity to get a head up on your foes: 1-Up hearts can be found liberally placed throughout the stages and can also be earned in special bonus games. Above nearly every exit door is a bonus bell: manage to ring it and you'll play 1 of 2 mini-games that will reward you with power-ups. Great for beginners, but platforming regulars will find that this further cuts challenge out of the title.

Hmm... what else is there to say? The game controls great, like most any Mario title. The momentum feels a little different to me compared to some of the other games, but it's easy to adapt to and quite forgiving overall. The music feels closer to the classic Mario sound (they might have even remixed a few tracks in there, if my ears aren't mistaken) and are much more charming than the lame tunes of the first Mario Land game. It's ultimately still a lightweight version of the console games, but there are enough fun and unique ideas here that Mario fans would be doing themselves a disservice by not playing this game at some point.

Definitely worth a run-through some lazy afternoon.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (US, 11/30/92)

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