It’s a nice little slice of Mario to have in your back pocket

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (1993)

There’s a bit of a verbal phenomenon that I need to tell you about. This could be a global one or merely just an Irish one, I’m not entirely sure, but I can tell you that “little” is one of the most devastating words in the English language, especially if it’s directed your way by a woman. And I don’t mean if she’s being direct about the size of your organ – after all, not every organ plays in a cathedral – I’m talking about the patronising use of “little”.

Case in point, say you’ve got a particularly socially unacceptable hobby, Dungeons and Dragons perhaps, or rugby. Obviously you’re meticulous about hiding this unfortunate fact when necessary, but it’s a tough charade to maintain. Eventually, you’ll be careless for only a few seconds and suddenly, somehow, a girl finds out about your hopeless indiscretion. Being nice and genuine and friendly as she is, she asks you about your hobby. “Oh, you’re into little Dungeons and Dragons, aren’t you?”

It could have been the most genuine, getting-to-know-you question in the world, but the presence of that word ‘little’ will be like nails on a chalkboard to you, the loudest record needle scratch in the world, or maybe a seizing gearbox as all the cogs in your head shudder to a halt.

That one word transforms your fun hobby into the most shameful secret ever. Suddenly you have something to defend, something small and trivial, that nonetheless needs explaining to your polite company. It threatens to make you small and trivial by association, and if you can’t smooth it over adequately enough, your whole social house of cards could come crumbling down and it’s a life full of unwashed nerds for you.

But little doesn’t have to be used in a negative way. you know. Little can be good. Well, if we go back to your organ, or a man’s height or your bank balance, ‘little’ is what you want to avoid. But what about a little cat, a little nest egg, a little daisy? A little bit on the side, a little off the top, a cheeky little number? Or you can use it as the perfect description for Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, a top selling game on that little wondermachine called the Game Boy.

The main man makes his debut appearance here, and I am of course referring to Wario. You may not know this, you not being a Mario expertista like myself, but Wario was originally planned to be German. You got that? That means the Italians are the good guys and the Germans are the baddies. The latter half of that statement, I don’t think there’s any problems with, but the first half… let’s just say that the Italians became known during wartime for being the only army in the world with sunburnt armpits.

Wario’s ethnicity was as earth-shattering to me as Steiner’s non-existent tank divison was to Hitler when he found out about it. It was around this time I learnt that actually, Wario never said “Doh, I missed!” when he got blown away in Mario Party. He actually said “So ein mist”, which is probably not what Himmler said when the British army got hold of him.

Getting away from the Nazis for one second, Wario wastes no time at all in making his mark on the Mario series by stealing Mario’s castle and booting him out onto the streets. I wasn’t aware that Mario even owned a castle – not exactly the preserve of a breadlined plumber, I’d have thought only tax cheats like Bowser indulged in castles. A gift from the Mushroom Kingdom perhaps?

Anyway, I say he got lashed out onto the streets but that’s not strictly speaking true, he got lashed out onto a SMB3 / SMW styled overworld, and that’s one of the many major improvements this game holds over the first Super Mario Land game,. You just can’t beat a fun Mario overworld, and that’s even before you get onto the far superior graphics, the ability to save your progress, the much larger number and variety of levels and bosses, and the fact that Mario can now properly go into space, and not with the need for a piddly spaceship either.

There’s more tunes in the soundtrack and I think it’s a better collection of beep-boops as well. The graphics are the most obvious improvement from the first Super Mario Land game, a game that looked like the LCD panel on your home alarm system turning sentient and playing the Can-Can.

You can move about the overworld freely and tackle the worlds in any order you like, which offers even more freedom than the aforementioned console Mario titles, and with six worlds of 32 levels to offer across many different themes, along with one of my favourite features of a platforming game in secret exits, this game has got a huge amount of juice crammed onto one of those delightful little grey Game Boy carts.

It’s just a shame that this item only comes in grey, because Super Mario Land 2 really needed a colour (or is that Color?) update, and it didn’t get one. It was no help to those of us stuck in the early 90s, but years later the basement boffins came to the rescue here with a hacked version of the game which added colour.

If you’re willing to shoulder the risk of pirating a 30-year-old Game Boy game, and pervert it for your own devious whims, then I’d definitely go against the collectors’ code and recommend that one to you, because the makers did an excellent job. You can even play as Luigi, which is very important to the story; you can actually believe that he’d had a massive property to defend.

Every new Mario game seems to bring about its own one-off powerups, and the powerup du jour in SML2 is a carrot, which turns Mario into a rabbit, giving him the ability to jump higher and glide like he does with a cape or raccoon tail. It’s just a pity that the carrot was ‘wasted’ on an old Game Boy game like this – I’m sure there’s a few of you out there, not naming any names, who’d have liked to see this rabbit suit powerup in Super Mario 3D World for example, where Peach and Rosalina, and I suppose I better mention Toad, are playable. It would have added a bit of spice to that Bowsette phase, shall we say.

The difficulty of the game is just right as well, though it noticeably spikes when you go to run that pesky Wario out of your enormous gaffe, so get ready for that one. When you’ve turfed him out of your luxury pad though, you’ll have enjoyed a nice 5-10 hour stint, and it’s almost certain that you’ll want to go back and replay it many more times in the future. What more can I say about Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins than that it’s a nice little game? And that’s what makes it worthwhile. It’s cute, it does its job well, and it’s just about impossible to dislike. You won’t need to be embarrassed about this one.

3 September 2021

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