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Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

The only video game system I grew up with was a Game Boy, and the first game I bought for it was Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. I would play through levels looking for secrets when there was no indication that a secret lurked in the level. I knew Super Mario Land 2 inside and out and can probably to this day rely on muscle memory enough to beat it without blinking.

That makes me uniquely qualified to tell you if it's a good game or not.
What made Super Mario Land 2 so great is that the first Super Mario Land was kind of bad. The character animation in the first game was drab, all of the sprites were tiny with no detail whatsoever, and the whole game was kind of weird. It was the kind of game that would convince you that handheld games could never, ever live up to their big console counterparts.

Super Mario Land 2 was a different animal. Mario looked like the same character we knew from Super Mario World. He could do a spin jump. He had several different powerups, like bunny ears. The bosses were cool, and the enemies looked like actual Mario enemies instead of tiny little knockoffs. While the original may have convinced you that handheld games were a waste of time, Super Mario Land 2 gave you hope that someday handheld games could be as good as console games.

It was also great because it was the first appearance of Wario, who was an odd enemy. The entire plot of the game revolves around Mario just trying to take back his castle. No princess to rescue, no world to save, just Mario taking back his stuff from a greedy jerk who would become one of Nintendo's more interesting characters.

Super Mario Land 2 was also a very non-linear game. After the first level, which taught you the basics of gameplay, you were free to go to any of the six worlds. Some had to be reached by weird ways, like getting in to a bubble blown by a hippo. (Long story.) Some had multiple ways to beat the world which could allow you to almost bypass entire worlds. That means there was no rational difficulty curve to speak of, but there was usually a lot of interesting stuff to do that kept the gameplay fresh.

Instead of comparing Super Mario Land 2 to other Mario games, I would compare it instead to Mega Man. In Mega Man, as long as you beat the bosses, it didn't matter what order you beat them in. Ditto with Super Mario Land 2: Get the six coins in order to open up your castle, and it didn't matter what order you got them in. That sort of freedom was incredibly rare for a 2-D Mario game, and still is.

So how does Super Mario Land 2 play? It's pretty good. The first Super Mario Land could be difficult because of the tiny size of Mario and your enemies. Since Mario is so much larger in this game, you won't mistime jumps, you won't find yourself getting hit by enemies with as much frequency, and you won't end up falling off of things that you think you're standing on but actually aren't.

There's also great variety in the choice of worlds. You have a forest world and a space world, but you also have a mini world, a haunted house world, a machinery world and a world that takes place inside a whale, complete with blubber that you can swim through. With 32 levels total, you'll have a lot to find and explore.

I thought Super Mario Land 2 was a great deal when I bought it back in 1992 with the money that I earned from my paper route. I paid $30 for it then. It's $3.99 now. If any of this sounds interesting, pick it up.

Final Grade: B+