Review: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

To celebrate the release of Super Mario 3D World, I thought I would share my review of one of my favorite Mario games, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins for the Game Boy. This pocket classic offers one of the most unique Mario experiences to date, a short but fun romp that captures the charm and quality of its console brethren in a form perfect for taking in a level or two at a time when you have a couple minutes to spare.

Mario Land 2 steps away from series convention almost immediately with its new story and freeform layout. Rather than fight Bowser to save Peach, Mario is fighting to reclaim his own castle from Wario. Instead of progressing through a linear sequence of worlds,  players can visit any of the 6 worlds at any time. Levels are short enough to play in a sitting, but long enough to satisfy and the game saves after each one is completed so you won’t have to fret over losing progress. It’s a nearly optimal conversion of the Mario experience to the handheld environment given the hardware limits of the time.

Each of the six areas in Mario Land 2 is a distinct experience unto itself, with a fully-realized theme and unique enemies to face. These lands include an underwater region, a giant tree, an oversized house, a spooky Halloween area, a giant clockwork toy of Mario himself, and even the moon– complete with floaty low gravity and new spacesuit sprites for our hero. The variety within these areas is even more astounding, with many levels having specific settings and special gimmicks like bouncing balls or sap you can float in. The creativity and passion behind this game are remarkable, and it shows in the final product.

Super Mario Land 2 offers some of the best visual work on the Game Boy with large, detailed sprites reminiscent of those in Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World. Characters and environments are created with a remarkable level of detail, with backgrounds and animations that bring the game to life. Even the audio, with repetitive but catchy music and fitting sound effects, represent a genuine effort to put a full console experience in player’s hands.

If any complaints were to be soundly leveled against Super Mario Land 2, probably the strongest would be its length. Each area has only a handful of levels, and the full sum of these can be beaten in only a few hours total due to a relatively low difficulty level. Yet, it’s because if the short length that each level can be a unique and special experience. Even if the end of a land comes as an abrupt surprise, the game as a whole feels like a complete and well-rounded adventure, and it’s one tailor-made to fit in your pocket.

Super Mario Land 2 may be an older game, but it stands up well against today’s competition. It’s a strange and beautiful game, and at only $4 on the Virtual Console, it’s a bargain. Any Nintendo fan with an eye for platformers should at least consider giving Super Mario Land 3 a place in his or her collection.

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