Nintendo managed to squeeze quite a bit of the Super Mario experience into the original Super Mario Land, but many gamers felt like the game was a bit too scaled down to feel like a true adventure from the series. Nintendo obviously sensed this when they sat down to create Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, as this title basically took everything that was great about the original and made it bigger and better. The end result was a much more well-rounded Super Mario game and one that further proved that the Game Boy could offer up a home console-quality gaming experience when done correctly. Of course this title is also well known for introducing the gaming world to Wario, a character that would soon have a game series of his own.
The story in Super Mario Land 2 revolves around a new nemesis for Mario. The evil and greedy Wario has taken control of Mario's Castle and now it's up to everyone's favourite plumber to unlock the seal that Wario has put on the castle door itself. This means that you'll have to play through six different areas in order to collect the hidden coin in each. These areas range from the haunted Pumpkin Zone to the mechanically-themed Mario Zone. Each features four levels for you to play through with a boss located at the end of the fourth stage - if you can take out the boss, you will then be rewarded with a coin. Collecting all six coins will then allow you to unlock Wario's Castle and take the greedy one down once and for all.
You'll still spend the majority of your time running and jumping from ledge to ledge, but this time around Mario has a few new tricks up his sleeve. While Mario can still grab the Power Flower, this time around his trusty fireball is back instead of the silly bouncing ball from Super Mario Land. He can also grab a new Magic Carrot power-up that will supply him with a cute little set of rabbit ears. With these rabbit ears he can temporarily fly through the air, which can make traversing some of the trickier areas much easier, not to mention a couple of the nastier boss fights.
As you traverse each level there will be certain times when a secret exit can be found that will take you to various bonus levels hidden throughout the world map. Also at the end of each level you'll find an exit door along with a tiny bell up near the top of the screen. If you can ring the bell, you'll get to play a bonus mini-game that can earn you special power-ups and free lives, but you can still finish the level by using the standard door if you somehow miss the bell and can no longer reach it.
The play control in Super Mario Land 2 feels quite a bit more refined than that of the original release, in many respects more on par with the home console releases. It has a much tighter feel to it that tends to make some of the more pinpoint platforming sections more manageable and playable. The levels themselves are also longer and more intricate in design, which adds to the title's heightened sense of playability. It's clear that the developers at Nintendo wanted to smooth out some of the rough edges from the original release and they clearly went above and beyond the call of duty with this amazing package. There was even the addition of a save feature, with three separate profiles available. Combine that with the 3DS Virtual console suspend state and restore point functionality, and you have plenty of ways to manage your progress. In gameplay and thoughtful design, the end result is a much higher quality gaming experience than the first entry in the series.
As if these improvements weren’t enough, Nintendo also cranked up the visual quality for this sequel. Not only are the backgrounds much more detailed, the individual character and enemy sprites are also much larger and better animated as well. There's a wider range of contrasting shades of black this time around, which could make the action a bit difficult to follow on the original non-backlit Game Boy models. Of course this isn’t an issue on the 3DS, and the step up in visual quality is really staggering, a solid indicator of just how quickly the developers were gaining a handle on how to make use of the Game Boy's hardware capabilities.
In keeping with the theme of improvement, the musical score and sound effects also got a boost for this sequel. Not only are many of the sound effects much more familiar-sounding, but they're also of a higher quality. Even the musical score itself is quite a bit better than the one found in the original release. There's greater diversity between the various tunes, with many of them fitting in perfectly with the theme of the area in which they're featured. Even considering that Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins was still a fairly early Game Boy title, you certainly wouldn't know it from the quality of the music the developers were able to harness from the system's limited sound capabilities. It's one of the better Game Boy musical scores and yet another good example of Nintendo's diligence in making this sequel that much better than the previous release.
The original Super Mario Land was a solid start for the series on Nintendo's Game Boy system, but nothing could prepare gamers for what the developers were able to do with this sequel. They managed to improve every aspect of the game and even made the adventure a much longer and more rewarding experience this time around. The difficulty is perhaps a bit on the easy side, but it's still one of the best Game Boy titles ever released and a testament to just how capable a game system the Game Boy truly was, and still is for that matter. If you're a Super Mario fan with a 3DS, you absolutely must take the opportunity to own this game; if you're not, this legendary release is good enough to make you one.