Sunday, 1 March 2015

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB)

Super Mario Land 2 title screen
Developer:Nintendo|Release Date:1992 (JP)|Systems:Game Boy

Today on Super Adventures I'm playing the final game of my Mario Marathon Month, finishing off the first decade (or so) of Mario's big platformer games. So if you were hoping to see Hotel Mario or Mario is Missing show up then I'm afraid your princess is in another castle, so to speak.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is also the final game in the Mario Land series before the villain hijacked it and turned it into the Wario Land series (like how Yoshi stole the Super Mario Bros. series and turned it into Yoshi's Island after the fourth game). Don't feel bad for Mario though, he had things like Super Mario Kart, Super Mario RPG and Super Mario 64 to keep him busy through the mid-nineties (when he wasn't playing Go Fish in Mario's Game Gallery.)

Most of the other Mario games I've played so far I've been very familiar with, but this one's a big question mark (block) for me. I've only seen about 10 seconds of gameplay and I don't even know how others rate it, so I get to go in entirely blind for once! As usual I'll give it an hour or two, share my first impressions, maybe a few second impressions, then find something about it to nitpick afterwards.



After choosing my Super Mario World-style save slot I was dumped here in front of a mushroom, with no story, no intro, and no colour. No toilet either by the look of how Mario's dancing around there.

This Stage 1 music is catchy enough, but it's kind of a let down after the other Marios I've been playing: youtube link. I mean even Super Mario Land's 1-1 theme was good enough to make it into the top ten on the UK Singles Chart: another youtube link. This on the other hand sounds like it'd more at home at a circus. It's clown music.

Anyway this is definitely still a Mario game; maybe not quite as slick as Super Mario World and I'm sure his legs are going double speed there, but it's got all the [?] blocks, spinning coins, Super Mushrooms and gormless Goombas you could want. Though everything's so zoomed in and massive this time! This is like the opposite of Super Mario Land.

You can see here on my beautifully constructed animated comparison that Super Mario Land puts far more of the level on screen at once than the average console Mario game by using 8x8 pixel blocks instead of 16x16. Super Mario Land 2 on the other hand uses the typical scale for its art, but can only fit a fraction of it on the tiny Game Boy screen.

Oh, there's another thing I've noticed while comparing them all directly like this: Super Mario Land 2 doesn't have a score, but it does keep track of how many enemies I've killed. Weird.

Whoa, the bonus rooms are on the same stage this time! Even Super Mario World cuts to a new area to show these places, but Mario Land 2 finally has seamless pipe transitions.

Hang on, did I just do a Mario World spin there? How did I do that? It can't be a button, as the Game Boy only has two of them (for run and jump in this case). Oh I see, I just press down while in the air. And pressing up while jumping gives me extra height, that's new.

Ah, I thought there'd be an extra door above the exit like in Super Mario Land, but there's actually bell up there. With eyes on it.

So that means that at this point the games have established you're constantly being watched by:
  • The clouds.
  • The bushes.
  • A giant box of Super Mario Bros. 3 branded rice seasoning.
  • The trees.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Power-ups.
  • Bird face doors.
  • Turnips.
  • Bullets.
  • Hills.
  • The evil Sun.
  • Blocks.
  • About a thousand things that want to kill you.
  • A bell.
Basically, whatever you do in these games, it doesn't matter whether you do it high in the clouds or the darkest underground cave, someone or something is going to be staring at you the whole time in total silence. And they're going to be judging you.

Ah, I see how it works: ring the bell, get a free bonus from the claw machine. Three extra lives will do nicely I think, though now I'm curious about the carrot. What's that going to do, let me see in the dark?

Completing the first stage has let me through the mushroom to the world map proper, and it seems I've got a bit of freedom where to go here. Up turns out to be the wrong way though, as that just leads to Castle Wario and the 'Mario Land 2' nightmare door, apparently constructed from the remains of all the the bosses he's slain. Okay, now I'm suddenly curious about what the plot to this game is.
While I was away crusading against the mystery alien Tatanga in Sarasa Land, an evil creep took over my castle and put the people of Mario Land under his control with a magic spell. The intruder goes by the name of Wario. He has been jealous of my popularity ever since we were boys, and has tried to steal my castle many times. It seems he has succeeded this time. Wario has scattered the 6 Golden Coins from my castle all over Mario Land. These Golden Coins are guarded by those under Wario's spell. Without these coins, we can't get into the castle to deal with Wario. We must collect the 6 coins, attack Wario in the castle, and save everybody!
Huh? So Mario and Wario have been enemies since childhood, and Wario's been trying to steal his castle all this time? Since when has Mario had a castle? Since when has Mario had a land? Did he buy it with the money he made as a doctor? Is Wario from Brooklyn too? I have so many questions!

Super Mario Land 2 world map
Okay I can't go to the castle and fight the last boss yet, so what are my other options?

Seems like I've got a few actually, as I can go absolutely anywhere on the world map right from the start. Definitely a much better map than Super Mario Land 1 had, as the game even didn't have one. I've seven different levels to pick from here, but this is a platformer so I should do this properly and start with...

... the forest stage.

I haven't checked what other worlds there are yet, but maybe I can find a Sewer Zone and a Warehouse Zone to visit next (perhaps even a Slippery Ice Level Zone). Anyway there's only five levels here and one of them's optional, so this shouldn't take long.


TREE ZONE - STAGE 1.


I've got my proper fireballs back! In Super Mario Land Fire Flowers actually give you the power to shoot off one singular superball at a time, which bounces around the screen for a while hitting enemies and collecting coins (or more likely bouncing straight off into the sky). I can't accumulate wealth with regular fireballs, but they're more effective as a weapon. The designers even realised that Fire Mario looks a whole lot like Regular Mario in black and white this time, and have given him a little feather for his cap.

I'm glad that this is following Super Mario Land's lead in giving me lots of new enemy types though, even if I can't figure out what that first creature's deal was.

What even ARE you? It looks like a cross between platypus in a giant conker shell, and Blanka from Street Fighter 2, and has the same flickering electricity attack.

Actually, I just found one that turns into a ball and rolls around while he's flashing. I think... he's meant to be a hedgehog! Awesome, I'm one step closer to figuring this place out.

Huh, different bonus stage this time around. This one's a lot more luck based: a construction of fuse wire and explosives, infested withfloating, teleporting, wire-nibbling mice. Fortunately I got exactly what I wanted out of it; seems that I'm finally going to find what that carrot does (besides turn him into a Plumber Bunny).


TREE ZONE - STAGE 2.


A... cow fish... swimming in tree sap. Fascinating.

Wait, forget that, I just noticed something far more interesting: Mario's trousers get a grey outline when he's standing against black, so that his legs don't disappear into the background like they do sometimes in Super Mario Bros. 3. Well I thought it was interesting anyway. Okay, so what do these bunny ears let me do then?

Well... that could've ended worse!

I'm a bit surprised to see the game brings back the regular Super Mario Bros. turtles with their skidding shells as well as the exploding bomb turtles that replaced them Super Mario Land. We've got some turtle diversity here.

Also now I know that Bunny ears let me fly! Well, hover anyway. Holding the button lets me descend slower and tapping it slows my descent even further. Well, it did anyway, before I got a spike up the ass and returned to being Super Mario. At least I didn't go right back to being regular-sized tiny Mario, like I would've done in most of the older games.

I'm liking the variety in these levels; the designers seemed to have loved throwing in new ideas to keep things interesting, and after playing a ton of Mario games in a row I definitely appreciate that.

I mean seriously, I have played a lot of Mario games this month, and it's amazing to me that I'm not entirely sick of the things yet. I guess they must be pretty good.

Mario's got another new set of sprites for this game, with a bit more of a forward lean and some huge boots. Well okay they're only a pixel or two longer, but that's a a lot when you're only 15 pixels wide!

These Marios sure do have some weird 3-frame walk cycles. By the time of Super Mario Land 2 his head looks in danger of wobbling off, and he's even worse when he's tiny regular-sized Mario.

SHE CANNAE TAKE ANY MORE CAPTAIN, SHE'S COMING APART!


TREE ZONE - STAGE 3.


Ah, crap. These levels have a bit more height to them than I'm used to in a Mario game, with some zig-zagging around on occasion. Even though Mario 3 and Mario World feature proper smooth multi-directional scrolling they tend to avoid using it, keeping the camera vertically locked for as long as it makes sense to. Mario Land 2 on the other hand doesn't really have the screen space to get away with that, so it's more like a typical platformer in the way the camera follows the player on every jump. It also compensates by keeping Mario horizontally off-centre to give players more space to see what's coming up in front of them.


TREE ZONE - BOSS.


A month of Mario games and I still just got destroyed by this bird. It's downright implausible how bad I still am at boss fights, especially while I'm playing with the floatiest and most forgiving Mario physics yet.

Kind of annoying that I have replay half the stage to get back here too, assuming I managed to hit the checkpoint bell halfway through. Actually I can't be bothered to learn how to fight this guy right now, so I'm going to take the path of least resistance and see what the other zones are like.

Uh... this doesn't look like the inside of a giant turtle. Oh, I see what's happened here.

I'm not sure where 'getting eaten by a Koopa and having to take the rear entrance to get out' sits on the list of Mario's worst nightmares, but he can't be too happy about how his day's been going. Still, no kidnapped princesses so far, fingers crossed.


TURTLE ZONE - STAGE 2.


The game hasn't given me many opportunities for turtle throwing, so it's nice that the Turtle Zone has a few around for me to pick up and throw (at a shark). Though I was less impressed when I tried throwing a shell mid-jump and ended up knocking Mario out instead... he collided with the shell as it was still leaving his hand!

Anyway forget that for a second... was that shark wearing boxing gloves? That makes no sense at all, with that kind of reach he'd struggle to punch past his own nose! Plus sharks don't have arms.

Seems that all the sharks down here are wearing gloves. And the other fish are wearing nothing at all, because the sharks have eaten them and left only the bones.

I cunningly cut a few seconds of this corridor out due to reasons of boredom and file size, but I think it gets the point across. I've accidentally gone the wrong way and found a secret stage! Found, but not unlocked, as whenever I want to play it again I'll have to reach this star exit again first. On the plus side: it turns out that I can replay levels, like in Super Mario World!


A WHILE LATER.


My undersea adventures have left me wealthy, which is a bit weird as Mario games tend to give you an extra life every hundred coins and reset the counter. This time though the cash is actually used as money which seems fundamentally wrong for this universe. It reminds me of the time I played that Castlevania game where hearts give you health.

Not that I spend the money, no the money is purely used for gambling (a bit like in Super Mario Bros. 2). The higher value pipes have a chance of giving out a huge amount of lives, while the cheap pipe is for power ups.


THE, UH, GIANT HIPPO ZONE?


Mario, dude, don't climb into a hippo's snot bubble.

Can you spot the point where the gif loops? Maybe 'loop' is too strong a word in this case.

The bubble looks like it's easy to steer in this animation, but that's mostly because it is. It's been kind of a low stress game in general so far in fact; low on frustration and challenge, high on... well the designers must have been high on something.

The hippo snot balloon ride took me to the Turkish Flag Zone?

Oh wait, I'm in space! Mario's empire is so vast that he even owns the Moon and at least one star! I always thought it was a bit weird how a plumber was so friendly with the Mushroom Kingdom royal family, but it makes more since now I know that he's the Prince of Space. Well was, until Wario stole the heavens from him.

Add 'The Moon and stars' to the list of things that are constantly staring at you in this place.

Man, this is giving me flashbacks to James Pond 3, which managed to get an entire game out of Mario Land 2's single moon level.

Two things I notice here: first, Mario still needs a space suit to survive in space at this point (with bunny ears sticking out of the helmet), and second, it doesn't matter how much he flaps them, his bunny hovering powers don't work outside of an atmosphere! I'm not sure why that makes me happy, but it does. I respect scientific accuracy in my Mario games.


LATER.


Spooky Zone!

Seems that this game is having a bit more fun with its themed worlds than the earlier games did. I mean in all the time I played Super Mario World, I didn't even find one single doughnut in the Donut Plains, but I guarantee you that I'm going to see some generic horror enemies in this place (other than Boos).


PUMPKIN ZONE - STAGE 1.


Is that... a Goomba in a Jason Voorhees hockey mask? Poor guy, I just missed posting this on Friday the 13th by a couple of weeks. Also I crushed the guy to death with my feet, that kind of sucked for him too.

Damn disappearing bricks! What happened here is exactly the kind of thing that the other Mario designers may have locked the vertical scrolling to avoid. You can't fall onto an enemy that's just scrolled off the bottom of the screen if the screen doesn't scroll up in the first place.

By the way, you may have noticed that I've accumulated a massive 20 lives at this point, but that's not because I haven't been throwing the things away, the game's just really generous with them. In fact it's perfectly within my abilities to lose any one of these stages, and Mario still only has a maximum of three hit points at the best of times.

It's not taking me all that many retries to make progress though. It's a definite 'when' rather than 'if' game with regards to reaching level exits. Moreso even than in Super Mario Land 1, because as easy as that game can be, you still have to finish it without any saves or the option to grind for 1UPs.


SOON.


"Hey it's Dracula!" I said for the 13th time, as I leapt over his head and fell past right the bonus bell yet again. Fortunately I can fast forward the gif so you don't have to share my pain as I climb back up to take another shot at it.


EVENTUALLY.


Okay, what the fuck Mario?

Why does our hero have a giant mechanical statue of himself and why does it have a secret door in the crotch?


MARIO ZONE - STAGE 4.


Okay here's another question: why is it full of LEGO bricks? It's also gotten a nasty case of the Goombas here, but that's easily solved.

It's pretty amazing to me how the artists managed to do so much in this game with just four shades of grey. I mean I'd rather it wasn't in black and white, but considering the hardware limitations this is a fine looking Game Boy game with very readable sprites and tons of character. Plus tons of slowdown on occasion, but I can forgive them considering how much more advanced this looks compared to Super Mario Land 1.

Little pig, little pig... why is there a Three Little Pigs reference up inside Mecha-Mario's wallpapered head? And more importantly, why am I still so bad at jumping on things? There's three pigs and they need three hits each, so it's not an overly tricky boss fight, just a little longer than most. And yet I keep screwing it up.

I've pretty much ran out of regular levels at this point though, so if I give up on trying to beat these creatures there's really no point in playing any more.


A FEW TRIES LATER.


There you go, that's how it's done! The trick turned out to be patience and perseverance... so simple that I wonder why I hadn't tried it yet.

Beating the bosses earned me my first coin, which immediately flew off to Castle Wario's creepy front door before I was even able to gamble it away. This seems like a pretty reasonable place to turn it off (I mean I was only supposed to be playing the game for an hour or two), but if I can beat this guy, the others can't be so hard can they?


THREE BOSS FIGHTS LATER.


My new technique worked! I've been experimenting with different tactics and I think this time I really have figured out the secret to beating these bosses: use Fire Mario. Nothing stands a chance against fireballs and it's easier to shoot at something than land on them.

Still, I can't believe I really beat him on my first try without taking a hit. Though he came bloody close at the end there; I wasn't expected him to suddenly fall from the ceiling like that. Wow, I just realised that I've only one more boss fight to go now before I'll be able to step inside Castle Wario and finish this.


ONE BOSS FIGHT LATER, INSIDE CASTLE WARIO.


Wario's Castle isn't fucking around! And this is just the hallway, I don't even want to know what the bathrooms are like.

Though the way these turrets are able to fire at me when I'm standing next to them is clearly breaking one of the oldest rules of Mario games.

Crap, I should've slowed down a little and checked what I was about to jump into. Then again, if I'd hung around on that island another second longer I'd have got a swinging hurt-ball in the ass. This isn't just me being bad at games by the way, there is a real noticeable step up in difficulty here.

Shiiit that was close that time. They haven't given me much margin for error here. Not all that shocking considering it is the last dungeon, but the second to last dungeon was a total cakewalk by comparison. I got to choose what order to play the zones in, but none of them ramped up even close to this level of challenge.

Well... crap. Back to the fire spitting piranha statues then. There's no checkpoints in the castle by the way, You've got to finish the whole thing and then kill Wario all in one go or else it's back to the very start of the castle. Again, not all that shocking for a castle in a Mario game, but the step up in difficulty is really jarring and now that I've lost my momentum the spell has worn off and I've remembered that I wasn't supposed to be finishing this anyway.

Sorry Mario, but Wario's going to be keeping your castle, at least for today. Go crash at Peach's house maybe, it's not like she hasn't got a spare bedroom. In fact, I don't remember Mario living in a mansion in Super Mario RPG or Superstar Saga, so I'm just going to consider my failure here to be canon.


CONCLUSION

I didn't love Super Mario Land 2, but I found it very easy to like. Not surprising really considering how the developers went out of their way to make it appeal to me, with the big open world map, the replayable stages, the reappearance of my beloved Fire Flowers, and the way it saves after every level. It's perhaps a little too easy to make progress in it, but I've no complaints about the way you don't lose progress for screwing up. And it even saves your lives count!

The levels are a bit more open than the older Mario games I've been playing this month and that, combined with the more forgiving physics, conventional scrolling and less abstract level art, gives it a bit of a different feel. That plus the way it's in black and white and zoomed in close enough for you to see Mario's nose hairs I guess. At the core it's as mechanically sound as any of them though and they remembered to make the platforming fun. They also remembered not to turn levels into a maze and force players to collect 30 Mario Tokens to open the exit, or some bullshit like that, which I will always appreciate.

One thing that I can see putting people off though is the length of it. It's not a long game, especially considering how easy it can be, and I nearly made it through the whole thing accidentally. There's a half dozen secret levels to find and you can replay any stage, but there's not much to gain from doing that besides getting some extra lives and finding secret exits to make the number on your save game go up. Though I guess it does give you an excuse to do something else before tackling... Wario's Castle. Whether the rest of the game's too easy or the last level's far too challenging is a matter of opinion, but either way players are going to find that a significant piece of this game isn't going to suit their skill level.

It does have an Easy difficulty I suppose (activated by pressing 'Select' on the save slot select screen), but unless it also adds a checkpoint or two I'm not all that keen to try it out. Anyway the game's good, it can have a Gold Star, happy ending.


That's it, Mario Month is over, no more cartoony Nintendo platformers for a while I'm afraid. Next month I'm going to be switching gears and playing... whatever I feel like. In fact from now on I'll mostly be working through my Steam backlog and my epic game suggestions list and trying to get some stuff ticked off.



The comments box though... the comments box never changes. You're welcome to give me your opinions on Super Mario Land 2 and the Mario games in general, you can give me feedback on my site or let me know whether a monthful of Mario was a smart idea, and if you're really bored you can even guess what the next game will be.

8 comments:

  1. Wario's Castle isn't fucking around!

    Yes, the difficulty curve is a bit odd in this one. Most of the game is quite forgiving but then Castle Wario is more along the lines of the other Mario games and can come as a bit of a shock. Still aside from that it's quite well designed and is fun to play, so the lack of challenge never becomes boring. I prefer it to the first game.

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  2. Ah the next review pic gives out too many details :D

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    1. Yes! Is it commander Keen?

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    2. Sorry, it was just Wolfenstein 3D. Though I did play a Commander Keen game a while back, so that'll be buried in the site somewhere, a couple of clicks away.

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  3. I beat this in a few hours time, great Mario game and I loved the Space and Pumpkin zones!

    Good review and that list btw.

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    1. Thanks man, it's always nice when my lists are appreciated.

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  4. Wow I forgot about this game, I used to love it as a kid. I think I'll have to pick this one up on my 3DS and play through it again, looks like it holds up pretty well!

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    1. It is pretty great for a Game Boy platformer. Though I reckon it'd hold up a lot better if Nintendo put the effort in and gave the poor game a Super Mario Advance-style remake already, with SNES looking visuals and resolution. I realise it'd be expensive, but they could save a bit of cash by leaving out the Charles Martinet dialogue this time. I think people could learn to live without him yelling "wahoo" every time they jumped.

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