Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB, 3DS VC) Retro Review

Last week a new Virtual Console game was released in North America and Europe for $3.99. It was none other than Mario's second portable outing in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Here we are introduced to the tyrant known as Wario. How does Mario's attempt to take back his castle hold up so many years later? Why don't you pull up a chair and find out? This review won't bite. Promise.

Mario's 6th Sense

Mario has had many adventures across a plethora of platforms. From the early days where he was leaping over barrels thrown by a mad ape to his more popular side-scrolling ventures on the Nintendo Entertainment System or Famicom, Mario is a busy plumber-- and that's without even unclogging sinks or bathtubs! Just imagine his backlog of plumbing work! Regardless, his very first title on the original Game Boy was quite unlike anything seen before. There was no Bowser, no Princess Toadstool, just a space alien named Tatanga who captured Princess Daisy. Through four worlds of challenging platforming and miniature monochrome sprites, Mario persevered and saved the day. Now comes his second adventure with larger sprites and a more traditional game in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Is it worth the $3.99 asking price?

While Mario was away saving Princess Daisy from her possessor, a new rival in the form of the nefarious Wario took up residence in Mario's castle. He locked the door and scattered the keys to the gate, the six golden coins across the land. If Mario wants to reclaim his castle and throne, he'll have to overcome the odds, journey through six worlds, beat bosses, and gather all six golden coins to open the fortress door, battle Wario, and kick his sorry bum out. It's all in a day's work for our favorite portly plumber. There's no story besides this to be had. Players are immediately thrust into the game as soon as they choose one of three save slots.

Mario's knee-high to a grasshopper,
or whatever that thing is.

Super Mario Land 2 works much differently from the original Mario Land. Mario can choose which of the six worlds he wishes to visit and tackle levels accordingly. By marching around a world map, he explores the worlds, enters levels (each world has 2-5 levels), and in each final level of the worlds, battles a boss to regain one of his lost and precious golden coins. Each world has its own theme from the underwater escapades of the Turtle Zone to the meta world of the Mario Zone to the everything-is-enormous-but-Mario Macro Zone. Additionally there's the haunted Pumpkin Zone, forest-filled Tree Zone, and Super Mario Galaxy-esque Moon Zone where no plumber has gone before.

Mario goes meta in this zone.

Levels are usually linear. Some do, however, possess secret exits leading to hidden levels. These are more for show than anything as they do not unlock anything in particular. What's the point, really? That's what I asked myself. Perhaps the fun of discovery these secret exits is the true gift to be had. Each level is chock full of obstacles, enemies, and traps. Sometimes Mario will be forced to ride on bombs set to explode at a given interval while on other occasions he'll be in an auto-side-scrolling level where dodging stars is the aim of the game.

Each level ends one of two ways. Mario can either enter the regular goal, or he can aim to hit a bell hanging over the goal. It's usually in a hard-to-reach spot accessible only through some tricky platforming skills. Ringing the bell transports Mario to a bonus mini-game of sorts. There's two varieties. One is a claw mini-game where a button press lowers the claw into an assembly line of items from fire flowers to 3ups. The other is a game where Mario chooses one of four buttons. The circuit flows from the button into one of four items at the top of the screen. Which ever item is selected, Mario wins. Additionally there's a dome where our red and blue clad hero can spend his hard-earned coins on extra lives. Except for Wario's Castle, these aren't really needed, but it is cool to have some extra insurance in hand.

Apart from the traditional Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Cheep-Cheeps, the cast of villains is entirely new. There's skullfish, sharks with boxing gloves (though they never show their pugilistic powers), ants which retract spikes in and out of their bodies, vampires that spawn infinite supplies of bats, a Halloween mask with a sword through it that saunters around much like a Goomba, owls that are used as platforms to carry Mario across bottomless pits, and many more creatures both harmful and helpful.

The ability to carry and throw Koopa
shells returns in 6 Golden Coins.

Speaking of enemies, each world concludes with a boss. Whether they're three pigs that either roll, jump in a precise pattern, or bounce around the room, a rat that scampers through pipes, a witch that conjures up fire to shoot at our mustachioed hero, a bird protecting its egg, or an ornery octopus, they all go down with three hits. Easy is an understatement when it comes to 6 Golden Coins, and it's made even more hilarious by the fact that there's an easy mode that can be selected. The only truly challenging portion of the game is Wario's Castle where if a player dies, they must restart at the beginning.

Mario isn't all to his own thankfully. He has power-ups which come into play to even the odds. From Power Mushrooms that grow Mario to full-size to Fire Flowers that allow Mario to shoot off fireballs to scorch baddies in his path to a one-and-done Bunny suit that only appears in this game, Mario has plenty of tools in his arsenal to take down fiendish foes and navigate through the perilous levels.

Super Mario Land 2 isn't a lengthy game. My first run through of the title without having played it in about a decade was just under an hour and thirty minutes. Of course, games like this beg to be replayed constantly for the fun factor alone, but still, it's a fairly brief adventure. It feels like it's over before it really gets off the ground which is unfortunate. Add in that aforementioned simplistic difficulty, and you have a journey that most gamers will make short work of.

In space, no one can here you squeal with delight.

Casting aside the small sprites of Super Mario Land, the sprites in 6 Golden Coins are much larger and take up a sizable portion of the screen. Don't get confused though. You can always see what's coming ahead at any given point in time, so there's little in the way of cheap deaths. The detail and variety in environments is immensely appealing with some levels made up of LEGO-like blocks, nestled within gigantic trees, and placed inside the bowels of a whale. Moby Dick has nothing on this game. The soundtrack by Nintendo veteran composer Kazumi Totaka is extremely catchy with tunes that will infest your mind and linger for days on end while you perform your daily duties. It's infectious to say the least.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins might not be as abnormal a Mario game as the O.G. Super Mario Land, but it has its own share of uniqueness to it. It's unlike any other Mario game to date. it may be on the short side, but the ride players experience along the way is worth the meager asking price in this reviewer's humble opinion. The bounty of secret exits, the joy in replaying levels, and the constant desire to pummel Wario to a pulp all make for an entertaining game. If you have some dollars left over in your eShop account, you really can't go wrong with Super Mario Land 2. It's one of the best Virtual Console games currently available on the service. It's as simple as that.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]

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