Sunday, May 9, 2010

We have moved!

So I have finally thought of a better title for this goofy blog! One that does not imply that I am the only or best gamer ever!

Rhythm Tree!

It might not make any sense, but that's not the point. All new posts will be over there. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why I Love Kraid's Lair

There is a thread over at Talking Time in which members of the forum nominate some of their favorite songs, and then vote for them in pairs to see which one comes out on top. I nominated Kraid's Lair from the original Metroid as my pick without even really giving it any thought. It has been one of my favorite videogame music tracks for as long as I can remember, despite clocking in at approximately 45 seconds.

Today it is up for voting again, and it looks like it is going to win, which makes me happy, obviously. But I've been thinking about why I nominated it - you see, my girlfriend recently played through Katamari Damacy and the soundtrack to that game is one of my favorites in a long, long time, but I still would have gone with Kraid's Lair over, say, Que Sera Sera or Angel Flavor's Present. But... why?

I could start with how Metroid was the very first videogame I ever played. And that would probably be enough to convince me, if it weren't for the fact that until I beat the game for the first time in highschool, I've had an almost religious connection to the game.

You see, the first video game I ever played was my cousin Mikey's copy of Metroid. I was probably 2 or 3 at the time, and he was probably only 9 or 10. He let me start the game and I remember him laughing because I couldn't even get out of the first room. He took over, and proceeded to get the Long Beam, some Missiles, and then the bombs, and then he got to where he had been stuck.

Kraid's Lair.

I remember watching him wander in that labyrinth for what seemed like hours. He had no idea where to go. I remember him telling me how awesome the game was, and how he liked how his little Metroid "guy" was so brave by going into this scary place to try to fight all the "aliens."

And I remember the music. Oh, the music. That droning, oppressive, scary, otherworldy music that was coming out of the TV was so weird, it felt like I really was with "Metroid" in "his" little low-color world. I eventually got my own NES and my own copy of Metroid, and it seemed like my playthroughs would always end in Kraid's Lair for one reason or another - I was too young to fully grasp where to go and the game was so darned obtuse I couldn't figure it out.

So I moved on, and so did Mikey. We would occasionally go back to that weird NES game, but never could get through it and I think we eventually lost our patience with it.

A few years later, when he was 15, my cousin Mikey decided he wanted to get high by huffing some paint in his dad's shed. So he did. He passed out, and ended up choking to death while out cold. It messed our family up something fierce, because he was such a great guy and we all loved him so much and it was heartbreaking to have to see how badly it affected my aunt.

When my mom explained to me how Mikey died, I was still too young to comprehend what he did. To me, it was if he was there, and then all of a sudden for reasons that didn't make any sense to me, he was gone. I remember thinking about all my favorite memories I had with him, and most of them involved us puzzling through videogames.

Including Metroid. I know he never beat it; they had put their NES in the attic a few years before Mikey passed anyway. Shortly after I died, I found myself back in Kraid's Lair, trying to get through it, trying to find that boss and kill him, for Mikey.

I failed. And failed. And failed. I just couldn't figure it out. That whole time, the music played and even now, when I hear it, it still evokes memories of Mikey and I lost in that place, trying to make sense of the weird depths of Kraid's Lair.

When my videogame skills improved in high school, I was finally able to push past Kraid's Lair. The boss himself took a few tries, but I was able to beat him. I was a man on a mission - I had to beat the game now. I pressed on, unable to stop, even though Ridley's Lair gave me no quarter and beat me down so hard I almost gave up. But I pressed on, and finally beat Mother Brain, and escaped Tourian, seeing the end credits for the first time.

I was 15; I cried like a 8 year old when I beat it, alone in my basement, thinking about Mikey. Had he still been alive, he probably wouldn't have cared; but since he was gone, I had all these memories of this game that he couldn't beat, and he seemed like the master of games. Here I had solved the game years later, and I felt like I finally lifted some weird weight off my shoulders. I had beaten the game for Mikey; I hadn't enjoyed playing Metroid much since I was little, and did it because I missed my cousin and wanted to pay tribute to him the only way I could think of.

So when I hear Kraid's Lair today, I have such a strong mix of emotions that I can't help but love the track. It is the perfect atmospheric 8-bit piece, so oppressive and lonely, and I can't help but think of my poor old cousin Mikey whenever I hear it. It's largely a happy track for me, too, now, despite it's somewhat morbid theme throughout my early life; I think this is because it evokes happy memories of falling in love with videogames while watching my big cousin play through them.

So rest in piece, Mikey. I wouldn't have fallen in love with this dumb little pastime if it weren't for you. I couldn't thank you enough.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Pokemon Retrospective

The experience I had with Pokemon Gold in 2000 was revelatory, and is really the reason I keep playing the main series to this day. I want to try to recapture the fun I had while playing it back then.

What did it for me was how there were a very good balance of new and old Pokemon, and how the old ones that were in Johto were some of the better designs from the original games made me think that they were really trying to refine the experience from Red and Blue. And when I beat the Elite Four and found out I could go back to Kanto and beat the original 8 gyms again I was enthralled. There haven't been too many moments like that in videogames for me; realizing that I was only halfway through a game in which I would have been satisfied already was a great feeling.

Thus, I expected bigger and better things when Ruby and Sapphire came out in 2003 for Game Boy Advance. I wasn't really interested in any of the new Pokemon, really. I was interested in how they would change the main game, and I was thoroughly disappointed. They stripped out the additional 8 gyms - you only had the 8 new ones they introduced in Hoenn, the new region. What new Pokemon were there seemed to be repeats of old Pokemon, and really the only thing I liked about those versions were the fairly involved quests to get the legendary Pokemon - they had entire areas devoted to getting them.

I played the FireRed and LeafGreen remakes a few times after Ruby and Sapphire and liked them well enough, but have since largely forgotten them. There was quite a break for me in regards to Pokemon until I bought Diamond in 2007 and delved into that game. This post from 2008 about how much I still loved the game a year after it had been released is basically what I can say about how much I liked Diamond.

So fast forward to 2010. Remakes of my favorite Pokemon games have come out, and I have purchased HeartGold. I didn't think I would be, but the Pokewalker excites me. I don't know what it is - I suppose the fact that I am raising Pokemon while working or rollerblading or whatever really makes me happy or what, but I love that little thing. I already even know how to change the battery in case it dies! As far as the game itself goes, I've only beaten two gyms so far and am playing Etrian Odyssey II much more since I got it last week. I'm not sure why, but I think it's because I'm getting very tired of the core Pokemon game experience. I've just done this same quest so many times (and I mean not just in Johto - all the Kantos, Hoenns, and Sinnohs all bleed together to me) that I just don't really care about beating Gyms any more. At least not right now. I would like to murder Red on top of Mt. Silver, and I probably will. I just think I'm going to play through this Pokemon much slower than I've played through the games in the past.

Strange Journey comes out in three days, but I'm not sure if I'll play that right away or hold off and beat Etrian Odyssey II first, since I've already started it and the games are very similar. I think I might need a SMT break as well, so I'll probably beat EOII and the Edgeworth game before I break open Strange Journey. I guess we'll see! After Strange Journey, it will be a while before I feel the need to buy a game at full price brand new for a long while so that will be nice on my wallet!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SMT: Nocturne, part 1

I am about ten hours into Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne right now, and I'm enjoying it so far. The combat system seems to me to be a mix of Persona 4 and Devil Survivor (which is interesting because both those games came out after this one). This is because you have one human, and the rest of your party is made up of demons as in Devil Survivor. It is not a strategy RPG, of course, though, and battles play out using the "Press Turn" battle system, which was seen in slightly altered form in the Persona games. It is turn based, and places heavy emphasis on enemy weaknesses, and battles can sway from easy to extremely difficult very quickly if you screw up.

Similarities aside, the game does have a few problems, at least so far. What I had heard of the game's story before I played it made it sound amazing and dark; and I suppose it is, but it is presented very simply with very little exposition. You are one of (apparently so far) three or four human survivors of the apocalypse, and the world is being rebooted and the creatures left have to figure out how it will turn out. Since the overwhelming majority of creatures left seem to be demons, who knows how things will turn out?

Sounds like a pretty decent setting for an RPG, right? By and large, it is, but the story is so bare-bones I find I'm not very interested. Right now, I only care about the battle system, and leveling up my main character and demons, which again, works a lot like Devil Survivor.

As an aside, I really like how the SMT series plays with its mechanics. What I mean is, they don't stay the same from game to game, but build upon each other in interesting ways. You've got your live-action Devil Summoner stuff, your strategy RPG Devil Survivor stuff, and your dating-sim-like Persona stuff, all with demon fusing (and a little negotiation) thrown in. It makes the series very cohesive, even if the stories aren't related.

Anyway. March is looking to be like a very busy videogame month. Strange Journey comes out in two weeks, and Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver will be out in just a few days. I'm skipping out on Final Fantasy XIII for now because of these games, and I just ordered Etrian Odyssey II and the Miles Edgeworth games as well, which should both be here next week. Hopefully then I can write about something non-SMT for once this year!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor - Fin

Today, I got the last ending in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. I've gotten them all by now, and other than Yuzu's, I thought they were all pretty awesome. As far as which ending I prefer, I think I like Gin/Haru's or Atsuro's the best, because they seem to be what humans would do in that situation - make the best of things by themselves, without otherworldly interference. Or, at least, that's what I'd do.

One thing I'm disappointed in, though, is my inability to beat Lucifer. I probably could do it, but I never felt like grinding all my characters to 99 (including demons, which take much much longer to level up than humans) just to have a chance at beating him. The thing is a freaking BEAST (which I guess makes sense, seeing as how he's the devil and all) and Megidolaondyne is just unstoppable. Not to mention the fact that I would need a lot of luck to survive being raped by him anyway.

I was able to get all the demons, though, other than Lucifer of course, which is something I've never done in a SMT game. I also cracked all the skills other than Magic Yin, which doubles magic damage done (which would have been useful for Lucifer), but I don't feel like playing through the whole game again just to get that one skill. Maybe someday if I'm bored I'll play through it again but I think after five (!) playthroughs, I think I'm pretty much sick of the game at this point. Decent timing, too, because SMT: Strange Journey comes out in a few weeks, and I'm still fairly RPG hungry.

Oh, and after losing Keisuke during that first playthrough, I never let it happen again. Learned from that mistake, that's for sure! For my final playthrough, I ended with Nate at 99 with maxed Agility and Magic stats, Atsuro at level 99, Keisuke at level 99, and with the following demons at 99: Nyalathotep, Bishamon, Tao Tie, and Koumouku.

I suppose I don't have much else to say at this point about the game. It might be my favorite game of 2009, I'm not sure yet (New Super Mario Bros. Wii was fantastic, too, so who knows).

Monday, February 1, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 4

I finished the game today. It was awesome. I had three choices by endgame: Yuzu's route, Naoya's route, and Gin/Haru's route. I went with the last choice. I couldn't bring myself to go the absolute evil route on my first playthrough, I guess, which is why I went the way I did. We'll see if I'm right, but I think I chose the "correct" route.

But anyway. I could not tell you the last time this has happened, but I am enthralled with this game. I just beat the game and I have not yet had my fill. I am going to play through the whole game again to get the other endings. Whether or not I get them all remains to be seen, but I started up a new game and it's pretty neat the way New Game + works in Devil Survivor.

From what I can gather, the demons I ended the game with are still mine for use - my level 65 Bishamon and Nyarlathotep are usable and are currently in my active party. It's comical, really - I used them in the first battle with my level 2 mains, and had the humans guard while the big demons cast Megido and Maragidyne and did like 10,000 damage to each demon. I'll probably fly through the first four or five days of this game as I am now, with just minimal leveling of the human characters to do.

And I can't wait. This game has easily become my favorite strategy RPG - above Shining Force II, believe it or not! That recommendation doesn't come easy from me, either, because even now I'll admit nostalgia blinds me for Shining Force II. Yet I know I like Devil Survivor more. It is a definite challenge, for one, and yet is breezy and fun to play.

And it has awesome freaking music, too. One of the best videogame soundtracks in a long time, I would argue - there is hardly two or three tracks I don't care for on the entire list, and even those are fairly decent. All on the little DS!

So anyway, I intend on playing through the game again and correcting the most glaring mistake I made during my first playthrough: Keisuke's death. I haven't decided which ending I'm going to go for yet (probably Naoya's, to be honest), but I don't care. Whatever I decide to do, I can't wait to get to the point where I'm fusing demons and trying to puzzle out how to demolish a battle again.

And I can't wait until Atsuro has Deathbound, Pierce, Phys Drain, Phys Jump, and Blitzkrieg again. That man is a freaking machine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 3

God fucking dammit.

You know, for someone who claims to be able to notice subtlety in videogames, I certainly miss it at crucial times.

Here's the deal. It's Day 5. This guy Kaido wants to kill my former teammate Keisuke, but he can't find him. Around the same time, Keisuke and this woman Mari (Kaido's love interest!) are in danger. If Mari has this item in this bag you find, she is able to kill the demon threatening her. You find her bag, and are given a choice: give it to Mari, or keep it and give it to someone else.

The game had been telling me to create some sort of distraction for Kaido so he won't go off and kill Keisuke at 13:00. Stupid me didn't realize that the bag is the distraction! If you give it to Kaido, he'll run off and save Mari, and you'll be able to save Keisuke.

Guess what I did. I gave the bag to Mari because when I originally went to go find it, she told me she needed it to kill the demon. Seemed simple and harmless enough at the time. So I get the bag, get in the battle, save Mari as she kills the demon she wanted to kill, and I'm all "Okay, now to go save Keisuke," and I get there and then watch Kaido kill him.

Since I pretty much save before every battle and since this game has only one save file, I'm screwed if I want to save them both now unless I start over. Which is a stupid idea, I obviously won't. I'm going to ride my stupid decision out and see where it takes me. Maybe I'll go kill God after all, just to spite the freaking bag. Or something. I don't know.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 2

I am in Day 5 of Devil Survivor so far, and from what I gather on the GameSpite boards, I'm slightly overleveled. I'm okay with that though! I'm not doing it to break the game, I'm doing it because I'm having fun. I'm sure the game is slightly easier because of this, but oh well - so far, I feel like the difficulty is just right.

I can tell the game is getting tougher quickly, though. The enemies are starting to get some nasty powers such as Holy Dance (Almighty damage dealt randomly to different party members) and Makajamaon (high chance of Mute on all party members). That last one in particular has been giving me some headaches, that's for sure. It can actually turn the tide of a battle fairly quickly!

One of the things I'm guilty of in this game is not having a very large backup demon roster. I usually fuse the guys I want to use, then go into battle. So if one of them dies, and I summon another guy, he is usually level bullshit and gets demolished by a light breeze. I really need to remember to keep a stable of backup demons just in case. I've gotten screwed over a couple times because I forget, too.

One of the things I love about the SMT series is that now that I have played through a few games, when I see a new demon, I have an idea of what it is capable of. For example: I know when I see Thor to expect a badass thunder-wielding physical powerhouse (and I have gone out of my way to make sure I get him in each game)! This has given me a leg-up on some of the battles in Devil Survivor. Since I typically know what strengths and weaknesses certain demons have, battles are somewhat easier because I can exploit them better. The same goes for spell names, too - I knew what Makajamaon was going to do before it hit me that first time.

I just wish I was getting more powerful spells, though. I don't have access to any -dyne spells (the most powerful elemental spells end in -dyne, such as Agidyne, which is fire) yet and my Mazio, Mabufu, Maragi, and Mazan are getting a little weak (all multi-target spells start with Ma-). From what demons I know I'll be unlocking next, one of them has Agidyne - but it's Magic stat is way to low to be useful, really! Oh well. I'll fuse him with some other guys and spread that -dyne around as much as I can.

Storywise, I'm intrigued to see where this goes - supposedly, I have some big decision to make soon. From what I gather, it is basically do I want to: A. Become the King of the World and rule with my badass demons, B. Kill God and eliminate angels and demons from the world, or C. neutralize both angels and demons and banish the real bad guys from the world. Usually I would choose C in games like these because they are The Good Way, but that B looks mighty fine... I've never killed God in a videogame before. I don't mean, like, a God, either. I mean, GOD. Like Yahweh God.

And even if that means I turn into a heartless murderer, it would make for an awesome ending. And there's always New Game +, which will allow me to play through the game again with all the demons I already had unlocked (amongst other things)! So I can easily go get those other endings.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 1

Until I purchased Persona 3 last year on a whim after hearing about the series on a December 2008 podcast, I had never heard of the Shin Megami Tensei series. I wasn't even sure if I'd like it, as it had been a while since I had enjoyed a really tough RPG, and I had not played anything like Persona 3.

Fast forward to today. I now am on Atlus' e-mail list, something I typically despise, to follow as closely as I can when they release any games in this series. Every one I've played so far has been unique, interesting, and completely unlike any other games out there.

So after I had beat Persona 3 and had just gotten Persona 4, Atlus released a game called "Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor" for the DS. I picked it up, because I know how long Atlus games typically stay on shelves: not very long. The game is a strategy RPG, mostly in the vein of games like Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force. There is a few (okay, a lot) of twists, though. When a unit walks up to an enemy and engages it, you enter a separate screen and actually fight like in a Dragon Quest game. But you only get one (two if you fight well) rounds of attacks before the control goes back to the field as a whole.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. The game is split up into (as far as I can tell) 7 days. Your characters are trapped in a lockdown in Tokyo, and you have no idea why at first. You soon discover that your cousin has given you devices called COMPs, which can summon demons. You then set out to figure out what the hell is going on, and to survive the dangers you encounter.

When I first started playing the game, I got stuck in a late Day 2 battle where I had to protect a bunch of defenseless civilians from demons but also not let any demons leave the playing field through the northeast exit. This is a bitch and a half, and so far has been the most difficult battle for me. It doesn't help that the demons always target the civilians and the civilians always run around stupidly.

But anyway, I hated that battle and put the game down, only returning to it a few days ago because I was craving some difficult RPG action. I had started raising a new character in Etrian Odyssey to explore the last stratum that you find after the main story boss, but that was stupid and boring. So on a whim I decided to work hard on Devil Survivor.

And it has paid off. Rather than try to blow through the game without grinding (I read somewhere, likely on the GameSpite message boards, that you should never have to grind in a Shin Megami Tensei game. As it turns out, I am not an idiot savant like that guy), I have been slowing down and grinding when I need to. And, more importantly, I've shaken off a habit that I think I got from the Pokemon games: that is, I quickly get rid of old demons to upgrade to new ones that are more powerful, rather than try to raise my old ones. It took playing through both Persona games to learn that, and it still sometimes bothers me, but what are you going to do - the game is designed this way.

I'm now at somewhere around 14:00 in Day 3 and I'm loving it so far. I think I have a very tough battle coming at the end of the day, so who knows how frustrating that will be. I hope the game keeps these "protect so-and-so" battles to a minimum - they are annoying as hell and not fun at all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Feel Like Ranting

There are several games that go for upwards of $100 on eBay, and have since the site's inception. I just have one question.

Why don't publishers port the games to current systems?!

It makes no sense to me, when games like Suikoden II are selling for almost $200 used and Konami isn't releasing it anywhere. Not even a downloadable port! This is a Playstation 1 game. How hard can it be to make the thing run on current systems?! Hell, I bought the first Suikoden when it was released on PSN for just $6 just because it didn't cost one million dollars. I would do the same for Suikoden II, Konami! Come on!

I can understand why games like Panzer Dragoon Saga aren't being ported, though - Saturn emulation is incredibly hard to do. That game will probably eternally cost upwards of $200 and only get more expensive as more and more people buy it and then let it sit on their shelves for eternity. Hopefully somebody can figure out how to emulate the freaking Saturn so I can play it!

Earthbound, though. Earthbound! How is it possible that Nintendo has this game just sitting around and they aren't even releasing it on Virtual Console?! I would buy a $35 remake for DS! Hell, I'd pay $50 for a Wii remake! Nintendo says it's just because the game didn't sell well when it was first released here for SNES. NEWSFLASH, Nintendo! RPGs hadn't really taken off in America at the time! And do you remember your ad campaign? You put scratch and sniff fart cards in magazines! I remember thinking as a kid, "Well this game looks stupid. It's about smelling farts and looks like an original Nintendo game!" I was like eight at the time! How can you not sell a game to an eight year old that has farts in it?! You bungled your marketing hardcore, that's how. So how about rereleasing it and giving it another chance? You have a Game Boy Advance sequel that you could release, too, say, as a WiiWare or DSiWare title, also! Can you do that for me?

Can you do that so I don't have to pay eighty stupid dollars for your SNES game on eBay? That could be your money, Nintendo!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"The After Years" and DLC. Also, Castlevania Post-mortem

I've had the first part of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years downloaded to my Wii for quite a few months now. I think I might have even downloaded it on its day of release. I played it for a few hours, then promptly ignored it until a few days ago.

I'm not sure what it was that made me boot it up again. I think I wanted to listen to a podcast or something while playing a videogame, and was sick of Mario at the time (it took me forever to find a coin in a level in World 6 and I was pissed off about it) and so I just booted it up.

Well, that was costly.

I beat the game (well, the first part of it anyway) and have now downloaded the next four parts at three bucks a pop. Luckily, I had some points left over on the Shop Channel. Regardless, I now have beaten two of the four DLC things - Rydia's Tale and Yang's Tale. I'm now playing through Palom's Tale and am probably close to beating it, honestly. They are pretty quick jaunts, about an hour or so each.

And for the most part, I'm enjoying myself. The most glaring problem? The encounter rate is ridiculously high! So high that I sometimes cannot stand playing the game because there have been numerous times where I've moved two spaces and then have to fight another battle!

The other problem is that each chapter is wildly different from the last in terms of party makeup. I hated playing through Rydia's Tale because there's her and her goofy dwarf friend and neither one of them have any healing spells. So I have to grind for cash and then buy a bunch of potions to heal. Then there is the chapter I'm on now: I have two mages in my party, one who can use White Magic, while both can use Black - and that's great! Only problem is, battles take longer because I have to watch the stupid magic animation play out every time, because neither one of them can hit for any damage above like 10, when they're able to hit at all with their physical attacks. It's pretty annoying!

But I really like seeing what happened to all these characters after Final Fantasy IV. Meeting the sons and daughters of characters like Cecil and Rosa is pretty neat (even when they name their kid Ceodore - that has got to be a translation error or something. What a stupid name!). There are a few nice touches, too - when there is a flashback to Final Fantasy IV, the sprites of all the characters revert to the old SNES style - the exact sprites that game used. It's subtle, but appreciated. And the graphics that remain are decent! They remind me a lot of Final Fantasy V, actually - somewhere in between FFIV and FFVI in polish - with slightly larger character sprites. And the music is basically FFIV's soundtrack, which was good. Some remixes would have been nice, though.

At any rate, I'll finish it one of these days.

I also played through and beat Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth today too! Finally figured out how to beat that final form of Dracula. It wasn't that hard and I'm somewhat embarrassed that I died on him as many times as I did that first time. The game took me about an hour to beat, and I discovered that I now have a stage select! Which is great because I'm already sick of the first two stages. Not a whole lot to say about the game that hasn't already been said - it's a solid Castlevania game, one that I'm sure I'll revisit periodically.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I've Been Playing

So I got to the last boss in Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth the other day. I didn't beat him, because I died plenty of times on his final form (the third one) and I had stopped hurting him for some reason so I quit after like 20 tries.

This would have been fine if the game had a quicksave feature, so I could go right to Dracula and try again. It does not, though, so I haven't really played the game since. Someday, I will go back and actually beat it. Overall, it was definitely worth the ten bucks - a brand new Castlevania game in the old style with good level design? Yes please! Not much to say other than what already has been said, unfortunately.

I also beat New Super Mario Bros Wii tonight! That last level is epic. Probably my favorite moment in the game, and probably one of the best experiences I've had in a Mario game ever. I don't want to spoil too much, but it is intense and you have to put all your platforming skills to work. I had heard that the Bowser encounter was great, and it delivered. I would really like to try it with four people, though - would it even be possible?!

It would if you were badass.

Anyway, so now I'm going back through the levels and collecting all the Star Coins so I can play the secret levels. I already unlocked the first and second one, and played through the first, and it was pretty neat. Hopefully the secret levels get more awesome as I unlock more.

I'd also like to point out that certain elements of this game really resemble Yoshi's Island. I don't just mean Kamek messing around with the bosses, either. I mean many of the levels in World 8 seem like they would fit right in Yoshi's Island - from the rolling lava waves to the very tricky, precise, slow platforming found in many of the more difficult levels throughout the game really make the New Super Mario Bros. Wii seem like it builds a lot off of Yoshi's Island. And considering I had already said it builds off Super Mario World, it really has an amazing pedigree.

I have a feeling I'll be playing through this game much more often than New Super Mario Bros. DS. On to collect the Star Coins!