Review by Jotun
"One of my favorite Mario games"
The huge success of the ''advanced'' Mario games such as Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES and Super Mario World on the SNES convinced Nintendo to attempt a similar concept for their portable jewel. Nothing more spontaneous than trying it as the sequel of Mario's first appearance on the Game Boy screen, Super Mario Land, a game which met a good amount of success but left many players unsatisfied, as they felt that this fun but primitive game just didn't live up the standards of any NES Mario game. I really enjoyed Super Mario Land (and I still do), but to be honest, I have to agree with this faction to some extent: even for an early Game Boy release, the graphics of that cart were amazingly poor and microscopic, and the sound was far from memorable. Someone at Nintendo must have listened to this grumbling few, as the second chapter in Mario's portable saga was an UNBELIEVABLE improvement from the first. Game corporations, THIS is how sequels should be made!
While Mario was busy freeing Princess Daisy in Sarasaland in the first SML, the now famous Wario made his debut by taking over Mario Land, a peaceful island where Mario probably rests between one game and another in his own castle. Wario, who has an obsession for castles, took over Mario's domain and set himself in the castle, putting a spell on Mario Land's inhabitants to force them to serve his purposes. He them scattered the six golden coins needed to enter the castle among six of his fellows, which are waiting in the six main zones of Mario Land. Mario has come back and discovered this mess... and so the story begins.
In one word: WOW!! Is this really the same system where we playe the first SML?!? Well, forget everything about that game now: actually, the best comparison can be made with the graphics of Super Mario World, or Super Mario Bros. 3, if you prefer. The point is that this game took the Game Boy graphic standard to a level nobody had ever imagined before, and to this day remains one of the best looking games ever released on this system.
Mario'ls layout seems to have been taken right out of Super Mario World,like his animations; however, he's no longer the over-pixelated dark spot we saw in SML, now he can be easily made out as the gaming history's most famous plumber. The enemies look great too, and much different from one another.
The backgrounds are simply amazing: each zone has its own characteristics and every one of them just boasts details unseen before. This was an amazing improvement, as SML was considerably lacking background-wise... it hardly had anything which could be labeled as background, for crying out loud! Anyway, not only did SML2 get rid of all the graphical flaws of the first chapter, but took the sheer beauty of the visuals to new extremes. Outstanding.
Following the path of Super Mario World, this game presents a kind of main them which gets remixed / rearranged in different ways to fit with the mod of the various stages. For example, you get a gloomy version in the dark levels, an upbeat version during boss battles and a more relaxed version during the space level. You even get a remix of the music of the underground pipe rooms from the first SML in the church level of the Pumpkin Zone!
The sounds are your average Game Boy sounds, but show a good deal of variety. Considering the system's notorious limitations here, the job done on the audio section is not to be easily underrated.
Simply put, Mario as his best! Controlling our heroic plumber has NEVER been so easy! Jumping, running and using the special powers is as comfortable as it can be on a system with very few buttons such as the Game Boy! I also noticed that Mario doesn't tend to slide along platforms as muc as he does in most of his games, which is a welcome feature.
This game introduced Nintendo's triumphant ''map system'', which already appeared in Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 3 and would later be featured in the Donkey Kong Country / Land and Wario Land series. What does this mean? Well, instead of having to mindlessly complete one level after another like in most platformers, you enter the levels by selecting them on a map of the game's world, and you can even replay levels you've cleared before (it sounds stupid but it does have its purpose). However, SML2 retains a somewhat unique approach to this idea: in this game you can choose the order of the main areas (or ''zones'') to play. Each of the zones has at least three levels to complete, including a boss stage: by defeating a boss you'll gain of the six golden coins you need to enter the castle and kick Wario out. This means that this game has A LOT of levels, so a game save feature was included, but beware: if you lose all your lives and the game is over, you'll restart where you left but all the coins you had collected before will return to the bosses whom you'll have to fight again! There are also levels which feature hidden exits to hidden levels, like in Super Mario World, which make the game last longer.
On his quest Mario can rely on his classic Mushrooms and Fire Flowers to gain new powers, and he'll also have a new ability: by finding a Carrot, he'll become Bunny Mario, and will thus be able to jump higher and float slowly towards the ground by flapping his rabbit ears!
The levels themselves have a nice amount of variety: as you explore the various zones, you'll be traveling underwater, in open space, up a giant tree (and inside a huge beehive!), not to mention inside an enormous Mario robot statue and a ''huge'' house, as the size of the house is normal but Mario will be shrunk so he'll have to make his way through enormous books, huge flower pots and climb safely up a chimney which now has turned to a fiery pit!
LASTABILITY / REPLAY VALUE: 7
There are lots of levels to play, and hidden ones to find too... nevertheless, this game doesn't take long to finish. It's a bit easy, even without the easy mode turned on, although some of the levels (especially Wario's Castle) can be very challenging. However, you'll replay this often, because it's a great game which offers loads of fun!
One of the best Game Boy games and one of the greatest Mario games. A must have.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/12/03, Updated 06/12/03
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