Review by NT220

"Who needs a tagline?"

Every Nintendo system, the disastrous Virtual Boy included, has launched with a game featuring Mario, their mascot. (Yes, Luigi's Mansion is a Mario game, don't argue that with me!) The GameBoy, not an exception, launched with Super Mario Land. SML is a bit of an oddball among the Mario games. Typical Mario enemies are gone. Bowser and Toadstool are not present. The gameplay mechanics are a bit of a throwback to Super Mario Bros. 1, the screen scrolling in just one direction and all. Not long after SML was released, Super Mario Bros. 3 came out for the NES, and the considerably less flashy SML was pretty much forgotten except by the more hardcore gaming fans.

Later, Nintendo decided to release another Mario game on the GameBoy, calling it (surprise!) Super Mario Land 2. Being the creative geniuses they are at naming games, Nintendo added the subtitle 6 Golden Coins to the title. SML2 is considerably more ''normal'' than the first (not that any Mario game can ever truly be considered as ''normal''). It bears a lot more similarities to the Mario games of that time, such as the stereotypical Mario enemies.

Whatever those similarities may be, though, they do not start with the story. In fact, Super Mario Land 2 gives us a remarkably innovative (as in Mario-innovative, not Final Fantasy-innovative) story. It turns out that while Mario was fighting off the aliens in SML (don't ask), his evil childhood friend, Wario, has apparently taken over his castle (no, I didn't know that Mario has a castle, either.) Mario, of course, has to get it back, but the only way to reclaim it is to collect the 6 golden coins that are scatter around the game's world, for the castle doors will only open when all 6 coins are inserted into their proper slots.

The 6 golden coins are acquired by completing the 6 zones in the game. And that's where the levels come in. The 6 zones (think worlds) all have a different theme to them. Turtle Zone, for instance, is a water-themed world, similar to World 3 is SMB3. Space Zone is, so far, Mario's only foray into space, low gravity and all. When you defeat the boss of the zone, you'll gain a golden coin and see a brief ''cinema'' of it being inserted into its rightful slot.

But the thing that sets this game away from the rather tired formula of worlds and levels is that practically the entire game's world is open to you from the very start. After completing a short introductory level, you will arrive in the main map of Super Mario Land 2, and you can go anywhere from that, except the final level. You can complete the levels in any order you wish.

There is a downside to that, however. Because Nintendo cannot count on gamers playing a certain zone before another, ALL of the zones are at the same difficulty, or rather lack of difficulty. There is no level that you will spend agonizing over for weeks, and all bosses are killed with the same stomp-head-three times tactic. Super Mario Land is a frightfully easy game that you can blaze through with no fear of getting a game over, even on your first time. And to insult your intelligence even more, there is even an Easy Mode for those poor souls that can't beat the game on Normal!

The extreme ease in beating this game, however, is made up by the extreme fun in beating it. Levels aren't difficult, but they are pretty long and by no means brainless. Run-and-jump platforming and baddie-bashing are balance perfectly in this game, so the levels are tight even though they are easy. Plus, in perhaps the only difficult thing in the game, there are a number of bonus levels accessed by hidden goals in out-of-way places. Playing a level over and over in search of the hidden levels is in no ways tedious, because of the genius in the level design.

This game also throws in some nice features of its own. Coins no longer automatically give lives: instead, you gamble them away at a casino-like place for power-ups and lives. The saving is also done differently. Instead of giving you a set number of lives whenever you start the game, this game actually saves how many lives and coins you have whenever it saves, which is automatically whenever you exit a level. When you go down to zero lives (which is possibly the biggest challenge in the game, admittedly), your entire save will be deleted and you'll have to start over from the introductory level. I like this system a lot better than the one featured in other Mario games, and frankly I think it's a wonder that more games haven't used it.

But no amount of killer gameplay will work without good controls. This game does not disappoint, however, in that category. The jump can be a bit more precise, but there's no lag between pushing a button and Mario actually doing that move. The button configuration is easy to learn (not a surprise, since there are only four buttons), and all moves are done very easily and quickly.

Players of the GameBoy have long learned that GameBoy graphics and sound are, at best, nonobtrusive. This game's graphics and sound are just that. The visuals are not something you will stand up and take notice at, but they aren't hard on the eyes, and Mario and the enemies are large and crystal-clear. The sounds aren't that noticeable, but for a GameBoy game, that's quite a compliment.

In summation, this may be an astoundingly easy game, but it's also an astoundingly fun one. It doesn't take much time to play through it, but it's difficult to get tired of. You can easily beat it in one sitting, but you can't do it without paying attention. You can play it for 5 minutes while waiting in line, or for 5 hours on a long trip.

And really, what more are you looking for?


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/01, Updated 12/07/01


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