Review by Joe the Destroyer
"Yep, it's another Mario game..."
...But a good one at that! This was one of the first Gameboy games I purchased: Super Mario Land 2!. I got it with what little B-day money I had left over. I really wanted this game so badly when I saw the commercials. This, along with other games like Metroid 2 and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, actually improved my gaming skill (I really sucked at games when I got this one). After about a week of owning this I eventually finished it. It took me about a week my first time. Nowadays, I can finish this game in one sitting in under an hour. No, I'm not boasting. I'm just... affirming... my... self-esteem... [runs away crying]
Mario has returned from his umpteenth adventure fighting fire-breathing dinosaur/turtle creatures, space aliens, and damn dirty apes. While away, his own private castle was invaded and completely taken over by Mario's childhood rival, Wario. On top of stealing the castle, Wario decided to use some Nintendo logic and seal the door using 6 locatable golden coins, rather than doing something a bit more practical like putting one coin where it cannot be found or using something a bit more intimidating to guard the door. Now, Mario must find the coins to unlock the door and oust Wario once and for all. In terms of Mario storylines, this is a huge breath of fresh air. We aren't saving a maiden from the clutches of Bowser, Donkey Kong, or Tatanga. Instead, we have to battle the then seldom seen Wario to reclaim a castle. However, the Nintendo logic almost kills me on this one.
Most of us have played a Mario game, right? Think of any other 2D Mario game out there and you pretty much have this one in a nutshell. You run through a level avoiding creatures and other obstacles, gaining power-ups to make avoiding both much more simple, finding secret paths and such, and collection coins to gain extra lives. It's no different in this game. This is pretty much a double-edged blade, in a sense. On one hand, you have the ''if it ain't broke, don't fix it'' principle, where you really don't need to try to improve the gameplay that much. The physics work just as good as in any other Mario game, the controls are very lenient in response and not too stiff, and the levels are fairly elaborately designed. On the other hand, you get the sense of ''been there, done that''. One could ponder whether or not this was pretty much just another Mario game in its past life. The only thing that really has changed here is that you can pick up a carrot to become Rabbit Mario, which allows you to slowly float, kind of like Raccoon Mario, except Rabbit Mario can't fly.
Like a typical Mario game, it's broken into several ''worlds'', or ''zones'' as they are called in this one. Each one has a separate theme with its own little amtopshere: Tree Zone, Space Zone, Pumpkin Zone, Turtle Zone, Macro Zone, and Mario Zone. Each one has its own unique enemies, obstacles, and features. Each one has its own set of music. It is in the difference of worlds that one can usually appreciate any Mario game. Every level may seem close to the same in design and convention, but by seeing the great environmental graphics and listening to the music, you really get a sense for the levels. Pumpkin Zone's levels are a great example. The music is fairly dark and macabre, almost spooky at times while each level gives us little grim reminders of death and decay, all of which fitting the horror theme behind Pumpkin Zone. Even the enemies, such as Goomba's wearing hockey masks with a knife in their head (a blatant Friday the 13th reference), not to mention a lot of Boos and other types of typical horror-based enemies. The same goes for every zone. Levels that have an exemplary nature feel (Tree Zone), zero gravity levels (Space Zone), ones that involve a great amount of swimming (Turtle Zone), etc.
As usual, there is a boss waiting at the end of each zone. Instead of making us suffer through the Koopa Kids again, Nintendo went ahead and made some new bosses for us to battle. A few of them are nothing special (giant mouse, giant crow, giant octopus...), while a couple others are somewhat unique in their own way (a witch, Tatanga, and the Three Little Pigs).
At the end of each level, you get the chance to ring a bell. Doing so will give you a chance at one of two bonus games. One of them is a crane game like the type you would see in an arcade (except it has a conveyor belt that has the items on it) or an explosion type game where you can pick a place to jump at to start a fuse that leads to a particular item. In each of these, you can either gain lives or power-ups to help you on your trip (they even threw in the mushroom, so you can be technically downgraded by these games). Collecting coins can also give you access to a mini-game. There is a small cave near the very beginning of the game that can give you access to a huge slot machine. Depending on how many coins you bid, you get better prizes. Bidding 500 can give you a shot to win 99 lives, for example, while the smallest bid will mainly give you power-ups.
The only real major downside to all of this has to be the difficulty. At first, I found myself having a bit of trouble playing this game. Nowadays, I can complete the entire game in one sitting in under an hour without getting a game over. Despite that, the game was good enough to play through many upon many times, even just to hear the fanfare when you defeat a boss and get one of the Golden Coins. Finally, the game just became a pathetic romp through the old folks home, as my brothers put it. With no more challenge, every level completed, and everything in the game done there was no longer anything else to do.
The game becomes less enjoyable the more you play it, and since it's pretty much like most of the other 2D Mario games, the need to revisit the game becomes less and less a necessity. However, the side games and the interesting soundtrack and beautiful environments make the game well worth a few playthroughs for anyone who enjoys a good, old school Mario game. This raises a question as to whether or not Nintendo should have stuck with the formula in this game or try to make something original. In many cases, sticking with a formulaic familiarity hampers a game to where it's too much of a trudge through memory, more so than experiencing something new (see also: Mega Man 2 on Gameboy). It is very difficult for a company to craft a game with a familiar concept and design, but throw in just enough to keep the game fresh (see also: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City). That is pretty much what Nintendo did with Super Mario Land 2.
The graphics were kept very solid in design without the benefit of color. The environments were beautiful and the enemies looked more detailed in this than they did in the first Mario Land outing. The music was alive with atmosphere, and the levels were designed to suit. Everything about this game, with exception to the difficulty and originality, was masterfully crafted. This game has all it takes to please the old school Mario enthusiast, plus it leaves out all the BS of having to save yet another maiden. All in all, the game is highly enjoyable and filled with plenty of action and adventure to keep platform fans satisfied.
Graphics: Solid use of Gameboy's features 10/10
Sounds: Good sounds that set the mood of the game very well 9/10
Controls: Good working controls 9/10
Plot/Storyline: YAAAAY! It's not Mario saving a maiden! Thank God! 8/10
Gameplay: Fun, but too easy 8/10
All Together: 9/10
*Big improvement over the previous Mario Land title
*No saving the maiden!
*A bit of a breath of fresh air in some aspects
*Too easy (and that's without easy mode on)
Anyone looking for a good platformer or who likes Mario games should enjoy this one well enough.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/06/01, Updated 08/28/03
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