I felt utterly compelled to write about Super Mario LAND 2: 6 Golden Coins this month more than any other game. I can’t get through August without playing through it—every year I try and somehow fail. Last year I woke up in the middle of the night with it bleeping and blooping in my hands; this year I went to the doctor for my physical, and as I bit down on the end of the table and prepared to become one with a man who apparently got his PhD in icy fingers, he went inside like a gravedigger on X and pulled out a Game Boy loaded with Super Mario Land 2.
Along with this review.
For a relatively minor mention in Super Mario‘s long, long list of history-making titles, Super Mario Land 2 has a lot of unique distinctions. First of all, up until 2006’s New Super Mario Bros., this was the last arguably canonical 2D adventure starring Mario. Second is the bizarro storyline, taking place in some alternate dimension where Gunpei Yokoi is the game director, Kazumi Totaka (you know, the other main Nintendo composer, who handles all the Team B Nintendo games and throws in a shitty leitmotif somewhere really obscure) is the conductor, and Mario is not in the Mushroom Kingdom but in MARIO Land, where he is now the king after rescuing alternate princess Daisy. Third is the very first appearance of another element of bizarro-synchronous creativity: The infamous WARIO.
Yes, here is where the dimension splits in twain, Serge. This is where the universe divides and continues to live and breathe as its own entity, until it matures to the point where the dimensions cross in the form of countless Mario parties and sports activities. Between those points in time, WARIO became the Usurper to Mario’s arbiter, taking the mantle of Nintendo’s go-to guy whenever it needs to push out a 2D platformer to please critics and sell systems.
It all starts here.
Sadly, the game itself doesn’t quite hold up to the level of dimensional-historical intensity it unwillingly created. Like a good Mario game, State Farm is there…
Sorry, let me try that again.
Like a good Mario game, Super Mario Land 2 has roughly half-a-dozen unique worlds with their own levels, amounting to about 32 levels overall, in addition to many minigames, secrets, rewards, power-ups and, of course, its own unique roster of enemies and bosses. In fact, you’ll notice that this game resembles and plays a bit like Super Mario WORLD, which isn’t bad for a game highly inferior in its technology. But a major issue, irrelevant but still needing to be said, is that this game is a Mario game on PAPER only.
What’s missing is a lot of what makes Mario Mario. That certain layer of magic that really defines Nintendo’s, nay, videogaming’s trademark character. There is no magic, and, more importantly, there is no depth. It’s weird that Mario wouldn’t take up the 2D handle from where he was originally (here) until the New Super Mario Bros., of which I have roughly the same opinion. Small wonder, yes?
Part of the problem is an eye-opening lack of difficulty. Holy shit like Jesus’ bedpan. It’s so damn easy that a speed run of the game would just be silly. You can beat each of the six extremely rudimentary bosses in less than a minute—no, quicker than that. Some, like the crow, and the octopus, and the rat, and the three little pigs, are so infuriatingly basic that they make Super Mario Bros. (as in 1985 NES Super Mario Bros.) bosses look complicated by comparison. It isn’t until you try to take back the castle that you’re actually given a chance to die.
More depressing still is the fact that, in addition to the above, the game also has an EASY MODE.
The other part of the problem is none other than Gunpei Yokoi. Gunpei is a genius, unfathomably and unquestionably so, as evidenced by the Metroid series and the Game Boy itself to start, but he just can’t substitute Miyamoto. The proof is in the programming. It looks like Mario, it plays like Mario, but it’s just not enough Mario. It feels closed in, noncannonical, and only appetizing whereas a proper console Mario is so much more. I think it’s just the fact that it’s portable and simply isn’t designed to give the player real tug and depth if he only turns it on while on the bus to and from school.
For what it’s worth, though, Super Mario Land 2 is still a fun game without a single technical flaw in its design (aside from its difficulty). The level design is simply delicious and damn near some of the best in Mario’s whole catalog. Each level is remarkably unique, moreso than even Super Mario Bros. 3, and there is no end in sight to the amount of (shallow) creativity and design. The most fun is the Toy Zone or whatever it’s called. The tunes are catchy, too, particularly one trance-worthy theme in the space level. Deep though this game is not, it’s so damn charming it’s adorable. Any particular reason this game has sold millions of copies? Because it goes down like candy and lasts just as long. I myself have three copies, mostly because I can’t figure out what happened to the other two.
Ultimately, this game can be a cute, fun, creative time-waster when you need to take your mind off something, like the fact that the doctor wrote down his phone number on your bill and “promised” you a rebate and you’re actually considering it so you can pay for school, but, as a Mario game, this title’s only real relevance is giving the world WARIO and everything that was to come after that.
So here’re the numbers; enjoy them.