Back on the Right Track – Nintendo Gameboy – Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins – 1992

Game Boy
(c) 1992
Genre: Action Platformer

If I admit something here, I hope no one holds it against me: I reviewed Super Mario Land mostly so I could get to its sequel and review it. That might be harsh, but my memories of Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins is much more pleasant and vivid than that of the original. Sometimes, though, heroes don’t always stand up to the test of time, as we’ve seen with a few other games of old in posts past. What does that say for this little gem?

This game picks up right where the last one left off. After defeating Tatanga and rescuing Princess Daisy, Mario finds out that Tatanga was hired by a nefarious ‘man-child’ named Wario who hired Tatanga to kidnap Daisy and distract the plumber while he overtook Mario Land and turned it into ‘Wario Land’. Hypnotizing the denizens of the lands, he reigns supreme over what once was yours. Traveling through six different zones, Mario must find the golden coins that will let him back into his castle so he can defeat Wario and take back his claim. Weird canon, but somehow for Mario, this is kind of tame. Oh yeah, and as a side fact, this is the second Mario game to have a ‘save’ feature, the first being Super Mario World.

We aim to educate and entertain here.

This game does mark the first appearance of everyone’s favorite red nosed rival, Wario, as well as more of a non-linear gameplay option. There are six zones that you need to conquer, but you can conquer them in any order you want to. For example, there’s a Space Zone, Turtle Zone, and Pumpkin Zone (my personal favorite) among the list, and should you decide that you don’t want to do swimming levels, you can skip the Turtle Zone to head off to the Space Zone, or if you don’t want to float about carelessly, you can head off to the Pumpkin Zone. It gives a level of freedom that is almost reminiscent of Super Mario World.
Just like the original Super Mario Land, though, this one takes a few conventions and flips them onto their head. For one, you still collect coins, but rather than receiving an extra life for 100 of them, you collect up to 999 and then use them in games of chance to try and get special items or lives- dependent on how much you spend, of course. When you kill 100 enemies, which is tallied on the bottom of the screen along with coins and whatnot, you get a star which makes you invincible. If you grew up expecting the same thing from the original games in this one, you’d probably be really confused. At this juncture in time, though, it’s nice to see a little bit of a change, even if it’s only for the portable Mario fans.

One last thing to add, but there is a power up that joins the fray, and it’s probably my favorite one in memory: the carrot. The carrot allows you to turn into ‘Bunny Mario’, which allows you to float by flapping your ears. While this is fairly similar to the cape in Super Mario World, I find the bunny suit to be much more fun, if not more for novelty’s sake that anything else. Another side note: the fire flower you had come to know and love that was tweaked for the original Super Mario Land is now back to it’s flame-y goodness.

All right. The lowdown on this game is that it’s ultimately better than Super Mario Land. Let me clarify that this is only in certain areas. For instance, it’s a much longer game. In fact, compared to the size of the original, this one is supposedly double the size. It shows in everything from the graphics to the music and even to the length of the game itself. For the most part, it’s a great game on the front end. Not only that, but the game is so different from the rest of the games in the series, you can’t help but want to check it out. Not to mention that the game does bring to life one of the most prolific villains in Mario history. A lot of ideas came out of this game, and many are used today still.

So where does the game falter?

Sadly, this is where we get into the front end of things. Gameplay is great, but the game itself is just- well, remember how I said that Super Mario Land was kind of ugly? Well, at least it was trying. Think of this entry as the pretty and lazy sister of the original. Yeah, it looks nice, but when I pick up a shell, I expect to be holding it over my head in triumph, not balancing it on my head while I run as I always have. Also, Wario is super malformed, and I’m not sure if it’s the artist’s fault or the capacity of the game. They are little things compared to the awesome background details in some levels and the fact that things look bright and vivid again, as compared to the original. It’s the little details that make this game feel a bit like it was a cash cow more than a work of art.
The sound is nice. The basic sound effects are familiar and make as much sense as in any Mario game. The music falters and flourishes on the same note, however. I mean that literally. The same theme plays throughout most of the game, but in different variations. While it’s neat to hear it all spaced out or kind of spooked up, it’s another piece that kind of comes off as lazy, and certainly not as memorable as the original’s score. One bit of interest that I found while I was looking this up was that a song called ‘Totaka’s Song’ is placed somewhere in the game, which is a big game conspiracy that I looked into. I suggest that any other hardcore game fans also look it up, as it’s super interesting.

Now, the moment of truth is before us. This game certainly does not falter in the face of time’s test. It’s crisp, clean, and fun, even by today’s standards. Does that make it a great game? Certainly. Does this reviewer prefer it over the original? That’s something even I’m trying to suss out. On the one hand, it’s prettier and much more drawn out, leaving me feeling more like I’ve actually played through a game. On the other hand, I feel like hard work actually went into the first one and produced a more overall enjoyable experience. Maybe it was space limitations, maybe it was just a hangover day at the Nintendo offices, but something about Super Mario Land 2: The Golden Coins was incredible fun but made me feel like something was missing. Whatever the case, I strongly recommend that if you are a Mario fan and have not played this game yet, you should turn in your Nintendo Club card until you actually do. This one, whatever my personal feelings may be, is a classic.

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