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Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy) artwork

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy) review

"When Nintendo decided the Game Boy needed a good Mario game, instead of simply a Mario game."

Sometimes after I finish playing a game, various obligations prevent me from producing a review until quite a long time later. A week or two might pass, and I suddenly find I can barely remember relevant details about what I even played. Let's face it: a lot of games might be pretty good (or not so good) but fail to stand apart from the pack. When I wait too long to put my thoughts in writing, I sometimes find those thoughts have dissipated. Then I'm left staring blankly at a computer screen as I try to recollect enough details to put together something resembling a coherent review.

Fortunately, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins doesn't fit into that category. The second Mario game released for the Game Boy, it marked a notable improvement over its predecessor. I have nothing against that older title, which was important and did a lot to make Nintendo's mobile system a success, but it also felt archaic the instant it hit store shelves. It was little more than a chopped-up version of Super Mario Bros., with a couple shooter stages thrown in for variety.

6 Golden Coins is different. The game feels like an original effort that just happens to feature Mario as its protagonist. Some aspects are familiar. You open with an introductory stage littered with Goombas and Koopas, and your power-ups allow you to either shoot fireballs or hover in mid-air, allowing you to jump much, much farther than normal, which at least feels close enough to the Super Leaf to be familiar. Sans fire, you're forced to jump on enemies... if they are the variety that can be squished. Each level also has a time limit, and there are blocks containing coins and power-ups and the like. This is a legitimate handheld Mario game, even if it falls just short of being a classic like those released for the NES and SNES.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins screenshot Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins screenshot

This particular effort wasn't created by Shigeru Miyamoto, though, like all those classic Mario games were. Instead, some dude by the name of Hiroji Kiyotake took the reins. While he's nowhere near as famous as Miyamoto in the grand scheme of things, Kiyotake earned some renown when he created Mario's greedy counterpart, Wario. That now-familiar fellow takes the place of Bowser, serving as this game's villain. A mustachioed giant of a man sporting an omnipresent leer, Wario immediately became a staple of Mario's universe (commandeering this series in the process). His goal is to find riches, followed by more riches.

And here's the neat thing: Mario apparently owns a castle! Or at least, he owned a castle. The game's "plot" is that Wario swiped that abode, forcing Mario to collect six golden coins scattered over the world so he can regain entry to his former home and initiate a winner-take-all battle. There are no princesses to rescue, no dragon-turtles to temporarily subdue... just two obese dudes duking it out over possession of swank digs.

After clearing the introductory level, you gain access to the full world, which consists of a long, circular path leading to the six zones that comprise the bulk of 6 Golden Coins. Each zone has its own theme. In Tree Zone, Mario scales a tree, combating ants and bees as he makes his way to the nest of one very hostile bird. Macro Zone shrinks Mario down while placing him inside a suddenly enormous house. Much of the game's underwater action takes place in Turtle Zone, and Pumpkin Zone replaces all those Boo-haunted houses found throughout most of the franchise. Elsewhere, in Mario Zone, our hero travels through a giant mechanical statue someone built in his honor. Man, a plumber has his own castle and a giant commemorative statue? This game shows a pretty materialistic side of the affable hero!

And then there's Space Zone, which is likely the most memorable of the places simply because you have to work to even enter it. With most of the zones, you simply have to walk up to its location on the map and you're ready to take on a first stage. In contrast, Space Zone offers no automatic path to its stages. Instead, you have to walk up to a giant hippopotamus to take on a short level where you're tasked with riding bubbles emitted by hippos to the top of the screen. There, you find a door to outer space. In space, you deal with decreased gravity (i.e. floaty jumps) and wind up granting Super Mario Land big boss Tatanga a rematch. That confrontation gives this game its single grain of continuity with Mario's first Game Boy romp.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins screenshot Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins screenshot

Most of the worlds mentioned above contain a handful of regular levels, as well as the occasional secret one accessed by exploring certain stages until you've found a secret alternate exit. The extra stages are kind of a letdown, as they tend to be short, often feeling like little more than tricky obstacle courses where one might find a couple 1-ups. Those items aren't even remotely in short supply, though, as long as you have a bit of luck. Although you do collect coins as you progress through the levels, they don't automatically get cashed in for extra lives each time you snag 100 of them. Instead, you visit a casino where you can spend your currency on games of chance. Win big on the most expensive machine and you will walk away with 99 bonus lives. That's just the thing to get through this game's many challenges!

Those challenges include the one you find once you earn the six golden coins and finally face Wario in a grand battle for your castle. You travel through a number of rooms, each with its own challenge to overcome, before engaging in a three-part battle with your new sitcom arch-nemesis. He proves every bit as capable of using Mario's power-ups as the famed plumber is.

The main thing I took away from this game is that it's a legit Mario outing. The characters are large and reasonably detailed and, while I'd never label the Game Boy a graphical powerhouse (what with its tiny screen and lack of an actual color palette), I can't say I felt that I was playing an inferior version of an established series like I did when I tried my hand at the original Super Mario Land. This bigger and better sequel simply feels like the genuine deal, except on a small-screen mobile platform.

6 Golden Coins isn't a be-all, end-all Super Mario game, though. If you missed out on it during the heyday of the Game Boy, that isn't some horrid travesty that needs to be rectified at all costs. Still, it is a very fun game that showed Nintendo had the desire not just to bring Mario to their portable system, but to feature him in games worthy of his name. The adventure delivers multiple, varied worlds, each with its own theme. It does a great job of mixing familiar staples of the NES games with new concepts and foes. The resulting experience might not match the excellence of my favorite titles in the series, but it still proves to be a more-than-suitable diversion.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 18, 2018)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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Masters posted April 18, 2018:

Rob, this is an excellent review. I always wanted to play this game (having played Super Mario Land), but never got around to it.

The intro paragraph is fantastic and pretty much sums up how most of us feel when juggling playing, reviewing and the big one: REAL LIFE. How to get back to that game you just played and convey your thoughts before THE NEXT THING.

I also loved this line:

...just two obese dudes duking it out over possession of swank digs.

But I did find a few typos:

There are no princesses to rescue, no dragon-turtles to temporary subdue...

Should be "temporarily"

Those challenges included the one you find once you earn the six golden coins

Should be "include"

Anyway, this is the best Overdrive review I've read in a long time.

EDIT: But what the hell kind of picture spacing is that?
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overdrive posted April 18, 2018:

Thanks for the praise and the correction-finding. As for the picture spacing, that's what I got when I chose to center them. If there's a way to make them appear farther apart (which there might be; me and html coding aren't exactly a compatible match), I do not know it.

And the time between playing this one and reviewing it was definitely affected by that "real life" crap. A big work project, being a bit under the weather myself, etc. Definitely enough to put a damper on my motivation!
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Masters posted April 18, 2018:

Ha, as spacing goes, I meant between paragraphs.
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EmP posted April 18, 2018:

He's right. You either need to break up the last paragraph block with some more screens, or space what you do have more evenly.

Marc giving good screenshot advise. My word.
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overdrive posted April 18, 2018:

Ah, I understand now! The answer: I was lazy when I inserted them and didn't pay attention to where they went. So I improved upon that a bit.

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