As a kid, I was a somewhat late adopter of the Game Boy, despite being an avid gamer from age 2, when my older cousin taught me how to play games on the Sega Genesis and SNES. My only previous experience with the Game Boy was playing Baseball and Tetris on my uncle’s system during car trips with my cousin.
I even had a Game Gear before Nintendo’s much more affordable and kid-friendly handheld. That all changed one fateful Christmas in 1998, when due to some sort of miscommunication, I recieve BOTH a Game Boy Pocket, from my aunt, and the brand new Game Boy Color, from my parents.
With the systems, I received Pokemon Red, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, Pocket Bomberman, and Wario Land II. With these games and the battery life of TWO Game Boys, I finally had experienced true, untethered, handheld gaming.
As I slowly, but surely worked my way through the games in my fledgling collection, I noticed there was a glaring hole in my Game Boy library: I did not have a Mario game! To temporarily fill this void, I borrowed a game from my friend, that game was Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
6 Golden Coins borrows its visual style from its contemporary console counterpart, Super Mario World, thus greatly improving upon the graphics of its prequel, Super Mario Land.
The sprite work in the game is large and highly detailed, with much more impressive animation than the previous entry in the series. Despite the increased sprite size, Super Mario Land 2’s gameplay remains unaffected, even when taking into account the small size of the Game Boy’s screen.
The sprite work is enhanced by varied environments that make the adventure both visually pleasing and thematically unique compared to other Mario games. A desolate space zone, a Halloween themed zone, and the innards of a mechanical facsimile of the mustachioed protagonist, construct a world that stands head and shoulders above many environs from the Super Mario Series in concept.
In execution however, the visuals are not without their flaws; the level of background detail is lackluster at times, preventing the game from reaching its full visual potential. These occasionally dull backgrounds subtract from the impressive sprite work and excellent zone themes, but rarely interfere with actual gameplay.
Overall, the graphics in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, display the astounding leap forward that was occurring in Game Boy programming in the early 90s, but are still somewhat flawed with regards to background detail.
The sound effects in this game are the excellent, and absolutely legendary Mario sound effects the world has come to know and love. These lovely noises are so recognizable that even casual players and non-gamers could likely identify them.
That is where the sound quality ends, however, because the music is utterly lifeless and unimaginative. I honestly cannot remember any tune from the game off the top of my head, with the exception of the bonus level music. This is an obvious low point of the game.
The controls in this game are vast improvement over the previous Super Mario Land game. While the previous game’s controls feel almost unnatural to Super Mario fans, this game makes a valiant attempt to correct the previous game’s weird physics.
This reparation sadly produced better, but still mediocre results. The physics are way to floaty, which in most of the basic levels isn’t a big deal, but in the endgame these faults can rear their ugly head.
A positive is the inclusion of the spin jump from Super Mario World, which can be used to break blocks beneath Mario’s feet, but the mechanic only offers access to a few secrets, rather than being a completely incorporated into the level design.
Overall, the controls leave alot to be desired, but are still a vast improvement over the previous Mario Land entry.
Conceptually, this game is incredible. Following a single intro stage, the player has complete freedom in traversing the over world map, allowing them to tackle the zones in any order. This gives a level of freedom that was rarely seen in platformers outside of a Mega Man game, let alone on a handheld system.
Each level within the zones are variations on the usual run right formula, with overly simplistic platforming that makes this game incredibly easy. I am not saying this in the usual internet “I am the best at video games, ergo this game is easy” way, but rather I am saying an orangutan could likely finish a few of these levels without without breaking a sweat.
Luckily, these generally simple levels are abbreviated with the much maligned water levels, which I have always been a fan of, and new zero gravity levels that really add a little spice to the generally linear play areas. These alternate mechanics provide a welcome change of pace, requiring a bit more focused attention than most of the game’s other levels.
There are also a small number of alternate paths in some levels; but the player must temper their expectations, they are no where near as numerous or as inconspicuous as the secret exits in Super Mario World. These secret pathways do, however, offer the player a little more substance, especially when compared to the brief, and linear, Super Mario Land.
Super Mario Land 2 also offers the power-ups that one would come to expect in a Mario game. In this case the Fire Flower makes a return, with an alternate feathered hat Mario sprite to compensate for the monochromatic nature of the Game Boy. It serves its usual purpose of roasting baddies from a distance and retains its usual level of usefulness.
The obligatory flying power-up in this game, the Carrot, is a Super Mario Land 2 exclusive, and has never appeared in another game. This is likely because it is the most overpowered flying power ever created. After eating the Carrot, Mario dons a pair of bunny ears and is able to fly nearly infinitely by continuously pressing B after jumping. In a few cases, I cleared levels without ever setting foot on the ground after my initial jump.
Overall, the power ups in this game are what have come to be expected in the series.
After clearing all of the game’s zones, discovering the secret goals and collecting the 6 golden coins, Mario is granted access to Wario’s Castle. In Wario’s gaming debut, he immortalizes himself, by having one of the most dastardly and memorable gauntlets in the series. The difficulty and level design in the castle are a vast improvement over the rest of the game, with a challenging layout and interesting multi-round boss fight.
In perhaps one of the most abrupt difficulty curves in handheld history, the game goes from being child’s play, to being a moderate, and welcomed challenge. The difficulty is further amplified by the floaty and below average physics, that really tests the player’s mastery of this entry. Wario’s castle is truly the highlight of the game and is incredibly satisfying to complete, rather than being an entertaining time waster like much of the other levels.
The simple difficulty is a bit of a disappointment, but it is hard to say that the game isn’t fun. I have played through this game multiple times, most recently on the 3DS Virtual Console and have never been truly disappointed; except by the fact that the 3DS forces use of B and A, rather than the much more desirable Y and B button combination.
Overall, most of the game is just a relaxing and genuinely entertaining stroll … followed by the sprint into the brick wall that is the endgame.
- Easy Mode: Press Select at the Save Screen with the Warp Pipes. Honestly, not worth it.
- Control Mario During the Demo Movies:
- Turtle Zone 1: Hold Up and B, Press Select
- Hippo Zone: Hold Up and A, press Select
- Macro Zone 1: Hold Up, A, and B, press Select
- Mushroom Zone 1: Hold Up, Press Select
- Debut of Wario, one of my favorite Nintendo characters
- Only appearance of the Carrot as a power up in the Super Mario Series as of 2018
- This game was created by Hiroji Kiyotake, NOT Shigeru Miyamoto
- The Sequel to this game Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, essentially created the Wario series and is one of the best platformers on the Game Boy, in my opinion.