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On the off-chance you're still working on this, I have a suggestion: kill the momentum. In games like Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, etc., you move at top walking speed as soon as you push forward; those are responsive controls. Here, it takes a moment to start moving and another moment to slide to a stop, making the controls slippery. 

Plus, when I got the "50 coins = 1up" message, the game didn't pause, so the momentum carried me into the path of an enemy before I closed the message. In fact, why not remove the lives system entirely and let the player continue from the last save point? Having to redo what we've already done just to get back to where we died is not challenging; it's tedious. This is on top of the fact that the knockback and short invulnerability means an enemy can damage you twice in a row before you can do anything.

Well, you're right, I'm not really working on this anymore...BUT. I'm considering re-doing it as an actual GameBoy Color game, and I'll happily take your suggestion!