Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

We've all come up against that game we just could not beat. You know the one: it's ruined controllers, cost you countless nights of sleep, sat on your shelf, taunting you, daring you to beat it, laughing when you fail. For weeks, months even, this demon acts as a constant reminder of your failure.

But what about 15 years? 15 years ago, Clinton was president, the internet was a stunted infant and the Game Boy was the shit. I remember the first time I encountered a Game Boy - and Super Mario Land 2 - as the defining experience of my childhood. My next-door neighbor/best friend (remember those?!) was the luckiest son of a bitch in the world, as far as I was concerned, because he had a Game Boy and I didn't. So for weeks after I met this wonderful device, all I wanted to do was play Super Mario Land 2 on his Game Boy. Presently, I worked my way up to the last level...

"Oh, don't play that one dude. You're not losing all my lives."

I think I played Wario's Castle once, maybe twice as a kid. I saw Alien for the first time around that time, and that last scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit... And let me tell you, nothing could compare to the stress and terror present in the last level of Super Mario Land 2 at that point in my life. The rest of the game? No sweat. I mean, shit, I could handle it at 6 years old. But Wario's Castle? No fucking way, man. Precision platforming, waves of enemy fire, split-second timing and no checkpoints.... I conceded my friend's point about losing lives and never went back. Years past, and I pretty much forgot about the game until a few weeks ago when I bought an original Game Boy (my first!) and a lot of games. The fact that I recognized the overworld theme (unique, I believe, to SML2) after all these years instantly should speak volumes about the amount of nostalgia packed into this little cart for me.

Now, I'm not the biggest Mario fan in the world. I think the 3D games are tedious, the original is boring, and all the 2D ones they're coming out with these days are just attempt to cash-in on the formula without any real innovation. Sure, they're fun, and they're clearly well-designed games, but they're just variations on a theme that, at this point, has been done to death. But their worst sin, as far as I'm concerned, is that not one game since Super Mario Land 2 has been able to rival its brilliance. Blasphemous, I know, but there's a laundry list of things Super Mario Land 2 did better than any of its sequels.

First of all, Super Mario Land 2 lets you save anywhere. Beat a level? Saved. Checkpoint? Saved that too. Lose a life? You bet your ass Super Mario Land 2 remembers. That's right: Super Mario Land 2 remembers how many lives you have. Not only that, but it also remembers how many coins you had. I was absolutely floored when I loaded up my save game in Super Mario Galaxy only to find that I was back down to 5 lives... But that brings up another point.

Lives actually matter in Super Mario Land 2. In SMG, I could probably play the entire game without ever going out of my way once for an extra life, and never see the game over screen. In fact, I don't even know what the game over screen looks like in that game! Now, I know what you're thinking: "If you get a game over in Super Mario Land 2, you must seriously suck ass." And that's mostly true, but those lives serve one purpose and one purpose only: stomping that castle-stealing bitch Wario into the ground. As far as I'm concerned, SML2 doesn't even start until you find all 6 coins and storm your own castle. I literally died more times on that last level than the rest of the game combined. Super Mario Land 2 has 30 tutorial stages, and the gauntlet bastard of a final level that is Wario's Castle.

Super Mario Land proves that the 1-Up Mushroom, Bullet Bill, Goombas, or, hell, even Miyamoto aren't what makes the games special. Sure, Goombas and Bullet Bill are still here but SML2 also introduces a whole cadre of bizarre enemies, ranging from ants to bees to umbrellas to cowfish. Super Mario Bros 2/Doki Doki Panic catches a lot of flak these days for mixing up the Mario formula with weird enemies, but you know the real reason that game isn't fondly remembered? Because it sucks. The real bread and butter of Mario is tight controls, tight level design and interesting power-ups, and they're all at their peak in Super Mario Land 2. It stands out every bit as strong now as it did all those years ago.

Now, if you've skipped to the end to see if you should play this game... What the hell are you doing?! You've never played Super Mario Land 2? You were deprived a childhood, and it's time you started catching up.

Find Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on ebay | Amazon

Released: 1992-11-01
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EAD


You do realize that if you grab a Bunny Ears before Wario's Castle the level is a piece of cake right? I'm pretty sure I've gotten through it plenty of times without them but still it's there if you want to easy mode the castle. Also, how can you not be a fan of Mario games?

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