Thursday, April 9, 2015

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins Review

I try not to be blinded by nostalgia.  A game that held up back when there were few games that even tried what it did can very well be total crap now thanks to developers having a much stronger grasp on what they’re doing.

But it’s hard not to be blinded by nostalgia for Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.  It was one of the big games of my childhood I had on the original Game Boy alongside The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and the Game Boy version of Donkey Kong.  Of the three, I only beat Link’s Awakening and they were all lost to the cruel forces of time and ignorance.

Now a grown man who’s beaten the Viewtiful Joe games on V-rated mode, I felt there was unfinished business with these games.  Now that Super Mario Land 2 is on the 3DS virtual console, I sought to finally close that chapter on my childhood and see how the game held up after all these years.

The story is almost nonexistent, but clear with its goal and antagonist.  While Mario rescued Princess Daisy of Sarasaland in the first Super Mario Land, his castle back in Mario Land (this was the early days of the franchise before the story cemented his position in the Mushroom Kingdom) was taken over by his greedy, nasty counterpart Wario.  This game marks Wario’s first appearance before he became a Nintendo mainstay.

It's just like the REAL Bryon Beaubien except more subtle.

In order to open the door to get back into his castle and defeat Wario, Mario must collect the titular six golden coins, each found in a different area of Mario Land and guarded by one of Wario’s baddies.
A simple key wouldn’t be as fancy.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that my grade school self was almost completely unaware of the story, as I only had the cartridge without the manual the story was told in.  I figured out that I needed to get the six golden coins, but I never knew about Wario or that the castle in the middle of the overworld map was supposed to be Mario’s.  I just knew there were bad guys that needed to be jumped on, which, even as a stickler for writing, is fine because the game is still as excellent to play as it was back in the day.

Super Mario Land 2 is distinctly different from the rather stale Mario games that come out today.  It has the classic Mario gameplay, but the aesthetic takes a different turn.  The levels the game takes place in aren’t the standard desert, volcano and ice world.  Mario travels into a horror land full of ghosts, a giant house, space and a huge mechanized Mario.  Each one has its own distinct designs appropriate to it, such as shifting gears in the mecha Mario, low gravity in space and the plumbing system of the giant house.  Each level in these zones are distinct from each other rather than a series of recycled assets, so the game never drags on.

This does result in a shorter game, but also a much more satisfying one that doesn’t overstay its welcome.  The controls for the running and jumping are so smooth you can run through a lot of them like Sonic the Hedgehog if you’re good, and thanks to this game’s exclusive bunny ears powerup, you can float over a good chunk of the harder parts, which may also contribute to its short length.

Through all of Super Mario Land 2 you run, jump, shoot fireballs and flap your ears from one area to the next without a dull moment.  It’s tightly designed and consistently fun thanks to a solid difficulty that’s challenging, but not frustrating.  Even in the Game Boy’s monochromatic colors, the graphics are almost Super Nintendo quality and there’s enough detail in the levels to portray where you’re supposed to be and make you feel like you’re running in a submarine or on treetops.

The same effort went into the soundtrack.  It is pure, unfiltered Mario music you will never forget.

Super Mario Land 2 is the same Mario classic I remember, and the Virtual Console’s ability to create restore points is extremely helpful once you reach the marathon level that is Wario’s castle.  It’s worth a few dollars of your money and a few blocks of your 3DS memory space.  Yes, the game has been far surpassed by now, but there was never a time when I wasn’t having fun.  Part of that may be because of my fond history with the game clouding my judgement, but even looking at it objectively, it does everything right.

I give Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins a 7 out of 10.

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