I may have played it first, but Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins never left much of an impact on me in contrast to its predecessor. That game, although under the Mario banner, appeared strange and alien - jump physics were slightly off-kilter and Mario mainstrays such as Bowser and Bloopers were nowhere to be seen, replaced by jogging moai and pan-dimensional fist bumpers. It was a mysterious game!
This one? It's just 'there'. It's never held anything special for me, and on the whole it's pretty forgettable. In fact, I was bought it to keep me occupied over a holiday to Swords, and I ended up getting more mileage out of my brother's game instead, Mario & Yoshi - a game where you drop eggshells on things. If that isn't a comment on the game's "meh" factor, I don't know what is.
That aside, you gotta respect it for some things, so let's try and recognise all that's good about it, shall we?
In the time Mario spent rescuing Daisy (and having to act surprised every time she turned out to be a bouncing squid or something daft), his archnemesis Wario snuck into his castle, totally redecorated it to be evil and spooky, hired a whole bunch of goons to hide the keys to the front door, and then spends the rest of the game pacing up and down the roof gloating like an evil bastard.
The game's antagonist is not an evil lizard bent on kidnapping the monarchy, but a glorified landgrabber. How many game stories are kicked off because someone's squatting in the protagonist's house?
It's hard not to like Wario, especially with a winning smile like that. Evidently the public liked Wario so much he got shoehorned into everything, from dropping bombs on Toad to facing off against Bomberman, even taking the Super Mario Land franchise for himself.
Heck, Wario has the ultimate victory here, what with getting four games under his name on the Game Boy, while Mario had to settle for rehashes of the arcade Donkey Kong and first Super Mario Bros. as his sole starring roles for the rest of the Game Boy's lifespan. Sure, it looks like Wario is chased off at the end of this game, but he had the last laugh!
Think about it. There was a Super Mario Land, but he was really traipsing through Daisy's kingdom. There was a Super Mario World, but that was Dinosaur Land, and clearly not Mario's property. I won't even bother commenting on Super Mario Galaxy, because the man clearly has an ego bigger than his head. Or his head-shaped space station, for that matter.
Also, let's face it, the gossiper in all of us is curious - we've seen him rescue princesses multiple times by now among other activities - but what kind of a house does Mario have? Well, he's got a whole overworld in his name, complete with a stonkin' big castle! Dude's doing well for himself.
Mind you, his choice of population for his kingdom is a bit questionable. I'm not sure what he'd want decorating his pad with a giant man-eating turtle, a haunted house or a hippo that blows bubbles that let you travel into space... but at least they're a little more practical than a lava lamp, that's for sure. I'd take space hippo over a beanbag cushion any day.
What was I just saying about Mario's ego?
It's unknown if the robot actually does anything. It swings its arms and waggles its eyes, but there's no evidence to prove that he uses it to go on weekend rampages across the grasslands. Though that would be pretty awesome.
At the very least, what better way to decorate your kingdom than with a giant metallic shrine to yourself? If it's good enough for Doctor Doom, it's good enough for Mario.
No. No, jeez, no.
That's not a reason to like the game.
I don't care if they're bouncing balls.
No more balls.
The bosses aren't quite as amusing or intriguing as those from the first game - oh, sure, Tatanga makes a surprise reappearance, but none of the bosses have convenient kill switches positioned directly behind them anymore. Where's the fun in that?
So the big giant robot Mario (I should probably start calling it by its proper name by now, but I repeat, where's the fun in that?) has the three little pigs lodging in its head. Um, okay. And apparently they have chosen to interpret Mario as the big bad wolf. But these pigs ain't backin' down. How do they plan to face off against their enemy?
By hurling themselves at him in various ways.
I just love the idiocy of it. Not only have they all unanimously decided to beat the stuffing out of Mario, but they all decided the best way to go about it was to be as spherical as possible and bounce around the room as human projectiles. Er, pig projectiles. Suidae projectiles? I'll stick with porky projectiles.
Do you think the owl from the Tree Zone dared them into doing it, and the pigs made like a ball and rolled with it?
Seriously, though, fat guys being used as projectiles always makes me laugh. It's just so dumb!
Continuing the tradition from the first game, you gain access to a bonus game if you reach the exit from a high altitude - not through a separate door this time, but by ringing a bell. Not quite as amusing as a door floating a mile above the ground, but I'll run with it.
There is now a slim chance of actually not getting anything, but it's a Mario game, it's going to swamp you in power-ups and 1-Ups for the next inconsequential accomplishment you make, like opening a door without stubbing your toe. You're bound to get something for free anyway no matter what you do. But you're given the option of just walking away.
Yes. Fire Flowers, Carrots and 1-Ups are all at your disposal, and you can just walk away. Like, screw that, Mario's too good for complimentary power-ups, and he marches out the door. Like a boss. Not a single fuck was given that day. And et cetera.
While I'm trotting out tired internet phrases, can I vent about how trends are so much more interesting before they're given names?
Like, the fad of ordering an ice cream from a drive-through takeaway, and grabbing it by actual ice cream rather than the cone. Mildly amusing at best. Then you discover it's actually got a name - "coning." Is such a stupid thing widespread enough that people needed to give it a name?
And planking! It's a short, simple word for an unbelievably dumb fad that really could be called "lying down like you don't give a fuck." But giving it a proper name like "planking" or "coning", it ends up feeling "mainstream."
And isn't the point of dumb internet activities to not be mainstream? Otherwise it wouldn't be a dumb internet activity... right? I don't know, I'm just a cranky man who's sick of seeing people planking and wants to see more people lying down like they don't give a fuck.
It's probably not a reason you'd bring up in an argument for why the game is pretty neat, but it's an interesting discussion point. After you beat a boss, you gain a Golden Coin, one of the keys to accessing Wario's castle. If you lose all your lives, you lose all the Golden Coins and need to have to battle the bosses again.
When I first played this game nearly fifteen years ago, this feature infuriated me to no end. I had gotten so far, and now I needed to backpedal and refight all the bosses again? What a drag, man! Childish frustration aside, I do respect the feature.
Ever since save files entered games a lot of them have had difficulty genuinely punishing or hindering the player - recent Mario games seem to burden the player with more extra lives than they could possibly run out of. Super Mario Galaxy resets the lives every time you load your file, but you still get letters from Peach that give you a bunch more anyway. You might have to replay the level you Game Over'd on from the start, or get hurled back to the last save point, but there's rarely anything that makes you fret.
Super Mario Land 2 keeps track of every coin you spend, every level you enter and every life you lose or gain, and auto-saves frequently, so you can't cheat the system. Then again, it is still entirely possible to gain more lives than you could know what to do with, so it's still not a perfect system. Oh well. C'est la vie.
Some Mario games reward the player with a harder difficulty setting after they're completed - the first Super Mario Land did it. It didn't involve much more than faster enemies and some new placement, but it was a nice thought.
Super Mario Land 2 instead chooses to offer the player an Easy setting right from the beginning of the game - or, heck, any time you load your file. You survived the Macro Zone but the boss giving you too much trouble? Well, reset, set it to Easy and dive in!
Incidentally, this is the first ever Mario game with a difficulty setting. That's gotta mean something, right?
... no, not really.
I just thought it was worth noting. :(
I'm quite partial to the original game's cute, itty bitty graphics, but they weren't exactly a work of art. They were practical more than anything, which did mean you got big, open levels onto the Game Boy screen, at the expense of all the characters looking like black smudges.
This instalment uses larger, more legible graphics slightly in the vein of Super Mario Bros. 3 - we can see Mario's cheery ol' face in decent detail, and a lot of enemies, now that they're presented at a larger resolution, actually look like things! The bosses benefit a lot from the scaled up sprites, and give exaggerated wild takes every time the plumber lands on their bonce.
It does result in slower gameplay and a slightly more claustrophobic vibe, mind you. It's almost a pity it's on Game Boy, because at a SNES resolution and some proper colour, the game could look quite decent.
Now it feels like cheating, though, being able to see so much of the screen. I can't win!
They're not as totally wacko as the goons from the first Super Mario Land (it's hard to top the jogging moai), but they're just a different vibe than the usual Mario rogues' gallery. You're still stomping on Koopas, Goombas and Cheep Cheeps, but you're also running into giant ants, item-stealing witches and beasties from Japanese mythology. It's not "what the hell" territory, but it's closer to "oh, that's a bit off, isn't it?" country.
Like, there's a freakin' COW FISH. The Mario series has had plenty of wacky fish, like spiky fish, malevolent heat-seeking fish, giant fish that vomit up their young through their mouth as short-range projectiles and then inhale them again... but a COW FISH? There's a line somewhere, and I do believe it might have been crossed.
If we're going to be pedantic it's actually a bull fish, but cow fish sounds funnier - a bull fish sounds like something that could actually exist. I mean, jeez, do you know how deep the ocean is? I bet there's cow fish down there. And I bet there's a fish that looks like Frankie Boyle. Shit be crazy in the deep sea.
Also, it probably doesn't count, but the boxing shark on the game's cover is pretty awesome looking - he's sporting buckets of attitude, that guy. It's a pity his in-game representation is nowhere near as cool looking. He doesn't even box, for chrissakes.
Man, what a showoff.
That's it! I am completely dry of decent excuses to praise the game. It's a perfectly adequate Mario title, but why settle for adequate when there's good Mario titles? Or, at the very least, zany Mario titles?
In a few years time when I inevitably pressure myself into attempting to entertain whatever internet audience exists, I could offer up fifteen reasons why Mario & Yoshi is worth spending an hour of your life playing. The goal is to metamorphose stacks of miscellaneous wildlife into a single Yoshi, for crying out loud. It's like somebody's nightmare fiction, except in your pocket.