Review by ImperialScrolls
Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World get all the attention. Sure, they're literally the two greatest platformers of all time, but ya know what, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is up there too. Easily one of the finest Game Boy releases, I'd argue that it may be the third best overall Mario title as well.
6 Golden Coins hit the scene in 1992, about a year and a half after Super Mario World. Much like its handheld predecessor, the original Super Mario Land, Nintendo finely tuned this game specifically for the Game Boy hardware, taking careful consideration of all the system's strengths and limitations. Contrast this to the other big names - Sega, Atari, Tiger - who attempted to fill their beastly bricks with compromised downgraded ports; results were mixed, to say the least.
Once again, the plot of this one is separate from, but tenuously related to, the mainline console titles. Apparently while Mario was away in Sarasa Land battling evil alien forces, his old nemesis Wario swooped into Mario Land (apparently Mario has his own kingdom), took over Mario's castle, and scattered the six key-coins across the landscape. Yeah, it's goofy and rudimentary stuff, but Wario is a great villain. Too comical and charming to truly play the role of "bad guy," Wario would soon star in his own games and transition from antagonist to antihero to outright lovable dude. Everybody likes Wario.
Gameplay is heavily reminiscent of the both Mario 3 and World. Six "worlds" - each consisting of several themed levels - must be completed before Mario can attempt to reclaim his throne. In a twist, the worlds here can be tackled in any order, and no advantages can be gained by exploring specific areas first. This also means that the game was constructed with a specific static difficulty in mind. The final level of each world concludes with a boss battle (bop it three times!) and the acquisition of a golden coin. This nonlinearity, though arguably unnecessary, works to enhance replay value. I know I approach the game a bit differently with each subsequent playthrough.
One place Super Mario World dropped the ball - the cohesiveness of its own worlds (what's the deal with "Chocolate Island" anyway...? It's just kinda brown). 6 Golden Coins remedies this problem, featuring individual stages that are taut and meticulously designed for on-the-go play, clustered into unified thematic worlds. Take the Turtle Zone, for instance. It begins in a seaside area where Mario has the option of staying above or below the waterline, transitions into a subterranean submarine labyrinth, and concludes within the pulsating and spiky belly of a whale. The other Zones are equally as impressive. For those who enjoy the haunted house stages of other Mario installments, but hate the tedious "puzzles," there's a Pumpkin Zone here, complete with spooky gothic architecture and an outdoor cemetery. Rounding out the set are a Space Zone (with mandatory floaty "moon jumping"), a Macro Zone where Mario becomes micro, an ascending Tree Zone that concludes with a battle inside a bird's nest, and a "Mario Zone" which literally takes place inside of a giant Mario statue replete shifting gears, pulleys, and ball bearings. I guess Mario Land needs a Mario statue, after all. Individual stages are fast-paced and bite-sized, with a background auto-save occurring after each one is completed.
There are secrets to be found. Like World, these are handled cleverly. Instead of warp zones and hackneyed "bonus rounds," 6 Golden Coins showcases several stages with hidden exits, these serve as gateways to optional secret levels. To experience the entire game one must find all of these. It isn't an incredibly daunting task. Unfortunately the file select screen doesn't indicate how much of the game world has been explored, as the (seemingly arbitrary) number of stages beaten is displayed rather than a percentage.
The game flows like a "typical" 2D Mario title. There are mushrooms, fire flowers (no more weird bouncy ball), and hearts stand in for 1-ups once again. The spin jump from World is present, though it feels shoehorned into the mix and is a bit awkward to execute (pressing down while jumping). Flying is back, but instead of a leaf or feather Mario can now grab a carrot that grants him bunny ear-wings. It's not proper "flying" per se; instead the power-up grants a sort of extended glide ability. It also arguably breaks the game, as vast stretches of land can be soared over. This brings me to my one possible point of contention. 6 Golden Coins is incredibly easy. Coins no longer grant 1-ups upon a 100-count, but can instead be hoarded and exchanged for massive quantities of extra lives. Stages can be revisited to grab coins and collect items. And an additional item bonus is offered up as every stage concludes, assuming you can ring the easy-to-reach bell that hangs upon the exit sign. I finished my latest and greatest playthrough with a cache of 69 (hehe) lives and I wasn't even tryin'.
Visually, this looks like a bridge between 3 and World. Sprites are nice and big, and plenty of negative space is utilized to make the game playable on an old lightless Game Boy. Enemies are a pleasing mix of old and new foes; humorously the supreme villain of the first Land has now been relegated to a conventional boss. Kazumi Totaka's soundtrack is sweet and chipper, with plenty of nods to the classic NES tunes.
I can't find anything particularly negative to say about this one. It certainly lacks difficulty, and of course can't quite measure up to its home console brethren. But is is, along with Link's Awakening, a "perfect" Game Boy game. Don't skip it. You'll make Wario cry.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (US, 11/30/92)
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