With over 30 years of experience under his plumber’s tool belt, Mario has remained one of the most consistent Video game heroes of all time. From his humble beginnings as “Jump Man” back in 1981’s arcade hit “Donkey Kong” Mario has fulfilled many roles outside of his platforming origins. We’ve seen him race Karts, play Tennis, Football, Golf and even face up his rival Sonic in a series of Olympic games. Mario has been pitted against other Nintendo superstars in the “Smash Bros” series, donned a stethoscope for the “Dr Mario” puzzle games and has even starred in his own animated TV series and live-action movie of which we do not speak!
For today’s review we will be brushing his later escapades aside and ripping it back to basics with a review of the excellent handheld title for the original Nintendo Gameboy, “Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden coins”.
Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger
Released as a sequel to Mario’s first ever handheld outing, Super Mario Land. Super Mario Land 2 set out to improve on the original in every conceivable way. By pulling over popular features of the NES version of “Super Mario Bros 3” such as an interactive world map and a range of new power-ups, Nintendo aimed to port as much Mario magic onto a handheld as they could possibly manage. And boy did they pull it off!
The original “Super Mario Land” released for the Gameboy back in 1989 as a launch title alongside “Tetris” was limited to 12 linear levels and somewhat basic gameplay. It’s sequel, however, laid out a massive 32 courses dotted around a world map that the player could explore and tackle in any order they wished. With Six unique worlds each housing one of the titular “Six Golden coins”, Mario is tasked with overcoming a selection of courses before facing an area boss who guards the coin.
Featuring larger sprites and a wider range of enemies, traps and features, there are plenty of novel touches to keep players interested throughout the journey. The Space world is a gem in the crown with Mario donning an astronaut suit and tackling low gravity platforming situations and even an extra-terrestrial boss encounter!
New power-ups have been introduced with the never-before-seen Bunny ears featured on the cover really serving to steal the Limelight. Picking up a carrot power-up will grant Mario the ability to hover for a brief period by tapping the jump button and can be a god-send in a spike pit situation! Returning power-ups include the obligatory Power-up Mushrooms that grant Mario an extra hit point by making him grow (We all know this bit by now). The Fire flower which allows Mario to send out Fiery projectiles at his enemies and some breakable blocks, also returning is the power star which causes Mario to become invincible for a short while and able to destroy enemies on impact. If Mario destroys 5 enemies in a row whilst under the influence of a Power star, he will gain an extra life.
As a twist in the tale, Mario is taking a break from rescuing a princess this time around! Instead, he has been kicked out of his castle (When did he buy a castle?) by the nefarious Wario in his first ever appearance. The crafty git has sealed the doorway and can only be reached by visiting each of the six themed worlds and regaining the six golden coins.
Seasoned players will immediately notice a big drop in difficulty from Mario’s other outings as hazards are few and far between, mostly easy to avoid and extra lives are in abundance. The game even offers an optional “Easy” mode for those who wish to drop the challenge level even further. On the flip-side, this simplicity makes “Super Mario Land 2” an ideal starting point for younger gamers or those new to the series.
There are also little extra touches to add to the longevity of the game with standard gold coins no longer granting Mario an additional life upon the collection of 100. Instead these coins can be traded in for access to a slot-machine like mini-game which can grant additional lives and coins. Similarly, to the original “Super Mario Land” courses also feature a bell positioned high above the exit door which, if reached via a platforming challenge, will allow access to another Item-granting mini game featuring wire-chewing mice.
In addition to these features, several levels also feature “Secret exits” akin to the ones featured in “Super Mario World” on the SNES. Upon reaching these exits, players will be granted access to a secret stage on the map that will usually be decked out in extra lives and power-ups along with an additional challenge to overcome.
Star Struck Gaming Rating
With a whole host of exciting gameplay features, this really is the epitome of classic portable Super Mario platforming. The Graphics are crisp and bulky with an appealing cartoony feel that will appeal to fans of all ages. The soundtrack, whilst not quite up to the usual lofty standards of some other entries in the series, does make good use of the hardware and features some catchy tunes.
Those looking to play through this game from start to finish won’t find much challenge in completing all the main courses and stomping Wario, but the secret stages do add a bit of bulk to the completion time. Players will usually be able to max out their game file in the space of 3-4 hours gameplay when playing at a leisurely pace.
Whilst the game is also readily available on the Nintendo 3DS store as a digital download, purists searching for the game on the original format may have to break the bank a little bit depending on how fussy they want to be. Cartridges start from around £8 and complete boxed copies usually go for around £30 – That’s some pricey cardboard!
Established fans of the series, Gameboy collectors and newcomers alike would do well not to miss out on this platforming treasure. Despite it’s low level of challenge, there’s a great deal of fun on-the-go to be had here and it would be a real shame to miss it.