While the Game Boy was released in 1989 to near-instant popularity, it would take developers a few years to actually come to grips with the little grey brick’s eccentricities. Early games on the handheld tended to be either single screen puzzle or arcade games, and attempts at porting the gameplay of existing NES licenses. This resulted in games like Castlevania: The Adventure and Super Mario Land, which were reasonable attempts at emulating the gameplay of console predecessors, but were generally considered lacking in comparison. 1991 would start seeing the release of games like Operation C and Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, which were much truer to their roots.
In 1992, it was time for Mario to take another crack at the portable format, and the result was Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. It was notable for the introduction of Wario, initially an antagonist who would go on to become absolutely awesome in his own games. It was one of the first games featuring composer, Kazumi Totaka. It also was kind of weird, and, like its predecessor, didn’t include much input from series creator, Shigeru Miyamoto.
GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!
After the events of Super Mario Land, Mario returns from his adventure to find that Wario has taken over his private island and convinced all the inhabitants to attack Mario. For some reason, gaining access to his old mansion requires Mario to find six golden coins, because apparently his front door functions like a vending machine.
Gameplay is a bit similar to Super Mario Bros. 3’s take on the hop-and-bop formula. You’re given a selection of six
Super Mario Land was a pretty weird game to begin with. It played like a fangame for the original Super Mario Bros., featuring much of the gameplay but with everything being a bit… off. There was a weird sense of style that didn’t gel with the rest of the series, and the level design didn’t feature the well tuned challenge of its console brethren.
Super Mario Land 2 continues this trend. It’s closer to Super Mario Bros. 3, with its world map and its art style, but it too feels slightly off. For starters, the level design is just all over the place, but not in the sense that it features a lot of variety. Instead, each stage features a bizarre lack of cohesion. A lot of the stages feel flat, and since you can play any world in whatever order you please, there isn’t a consistent difficulty curve. Instead, the game is pretty simple all around until you get to the last level, at which point the challenge spikes substantially.
To its credit, there’s at least a decent amount of visual variety in the stages. Themes are rarely carried over from one level to the next, making them all, at the very least, look different. There are stages made of Lego, ones filled with gears, and even one where you get to wear a space suit. This sometimes ties into their central mechanics as well, providing some interesting, though often fleeting, diversity.
Each of the worlds ends with a battle against the most strictly rule-of-three bosses I’ve encountered in a long time. Each one is a variation of “jump on its head three times to defeat it,” and the creativity on display with them is… nearly non-existent.
IT’S-A ME, WARIO!
I’ve maybe hinted at this, but the game is staggeringly short. That’s not necessarily surprising, considering it’s a Game Boy game, but chances are the game will run out of content before your batteries do.
Every world has somewhere between two and five levels, and unless you’re going to plumb them for every coin they may have hidden within, you’ll likely fly through them. This is partly due to the flat difficulty curve noted above. A lot of my time spent with the game was all due to the last level, which I became stuck on while I continuously made stupid mistakes. If you’re not prone to stupid mistakes, you might have the game done even quicker, and that’s kind of worrying. It’s not, like, Kirby’s Dreamland’s level of short and simple, but it’s pretty anemic, regardless.
A HOUSE ON THE HILL
If you know what you’re getting into, Super Mario Land 2 isn’t a bad time. It’s Mario, after all, the great granddaddy of hop-n-bop. At the same time, it kind of just feels like one of those old flash based Mario fangames that grasp the basics while completely missing out on the subtleties. You can have fun with it, but you’re constantly reminded that this is the second-tier version of the franchise.
After Super Mario Land 2, the series swapped protagonists and began focusing on Wario. It’s at this point that the weirdities that underline the Mario Land series stops being so intrusive. With the Wario Land games, the series finally gains its own identity and stops living in the shadow of its console predecessor.
This review was conducted on a Game Boy Color using a cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.