Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Director: Hiroji Kiyotake & Takehiko Hosokawa
Producer: Gunpei Yokoi
As another Game Boy Game developed under the watchful eye of the late great Gunpei Yokoi at Nintendo R&D1, Super Mario Land 2 is, in many ways, a massive improvement on the original Super Mario Land, introducing a new world in the Mario series, as well as a new objective. It was also the first time gamers were introduced to the character of Wario, giving the Mario universe a new and more stable villain than Tatanga from the previous Mario Land game. After having first played this game only very recently, I can say it is definitely a must-have for anyone with a Game Boy, or a 3DS, since it is also on the Virtual Console.
One of the most noticeable improvements is most definitely in the visuals. Whilst settings and character sprites may take up more of the of the screen than they did in the original game, that sacrifice is most definitely worth it, since not only does everything in the game look in far more detail, but unlike in Metroid 2, there is a very even balance between graphical detail, and how much of the screen is taken up by this, not causing as much of a hindrance as many people have cited about the second outing of Samus Aran for the Game Boy. Also, whilst the game’s soundtrack may not be as stellar as the original Super Mario Land, one noteworthy thing is that Kazumi Totaka composed it, and the fabled Totaka’s Song Easter egg can indeed be found within the game. On the game over screen, wait for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and it will play.
Although the visuals have been drastically improved, and the adequate level of variety in setting design has been very much adhered to, the most significant improvement to me, is the gameplay. Playing out less like the classic Super Mario Bros game, and offering a gameplay experience more akin to Super Mario World, it offers greater variety in gameplay as well as the ability to finish it in any order the player so desires. Indeed, 6 Golden Coins was actually one of the largest games ever developed on the Game Boy at a whopping 4 megabits. It may seem like a very small amount by today’s standards, but at the time that was a big deal; especially for a handheld monochromatic system. As well as that, the same amount of stern challenge is also present as it was in the original game.
The only gripe I had with the control scheme in the original Super Mario Land was that the controls could be somewhat unresponsive at time, and that it could cause a bit of pretty unnecessary frustration. Thankfully, however, the developers didn’t repeat the same mistake with this title, and there are fortunately no issues to address.
Another improvement made was to the lifespan. The original Super Mario Land could be completed in a time of merely half an hour, but the second game can be to last closer to 2 hours. Whilst that isn’t really that significant an improvement, especially compared to Super Mario World itself, the thing to bear in mind is that a Game Boy cartridge could only hold so much memory, and it would still be a fair few years before advancement in cartridge technology would allow for significantly bigger open worlds and even more gameplay, like that which would be seen in the Pokémon games.
Aside from the gameplay being an improvement, there is also a slight positive deviation from the regular story of Mario having to travel a land to save a princess in the form of something quite different. In this title, Mario must retake his castle, which has been stolen by a new villain named Wario. To do this, he must travel the land in order to find the 6 golden coins needed to regain access to the castle, and thereby entering to defeat Wario.
With a new world, a new villain, and even a couple of new power-ups thrown in for good measure, I’d say that the second Super Mario Land game keeps the series a fraction fresher than the original game did. The difference being is that more things that were introduced to the franchise in the second game would go on to become stables of the series, which was good in the way that that, in itself, would lead to Nintendo taking the character to greater heights of success in the future, with the likes of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.
In summation, 6 Golden Coins is a thoroughly enjoyable Mario game, and I would recommend it to anyone else that may not have played it yet, or have been sat on the fence about trying it out. It may be a considerably aged game, especially compared to the many Mario games that have come out on other handhelds since, but it plays out just as well; if not better.