day five

BioShock 2

First Hour Review
Bioshock 2 Cover

In 2008, I played the first hour of BioShock and loved it. Last year, I beat it and declared BioShock as one of the best games I played all year. That's when I started reading up on the already announced BioShock 2 though. I honestly didn't see the point. BioShock was a perfectly contained game: the good guys won, the bad guys lost, and Rapture was left to crumble. Sequels are usually an easy sell, BioShock 2 was not.

I wanted to give it a chance though, I never like to judge a game without playing it. But I will admit, things are a bit stacked against it. The original development team has moved on to something new, handing the reins to 2K Marin. While they worked on the PlayStation 3 port of BioShock, this is their first new game. You also play as a Big Daddy in BioShock 2, to me, this just screams one giant hand-holding game as you move from body to body with a Little Sister. Talk about one of the worst scenarios a game designer can put the player in.

But let's have some hope here, this is BioShock. It features the same engine and the same world (the single best environment ever to appear in a video game), it's going to take a lot to mess this one up. So here we go, the first hour of BioShock 2 and our glorious return to Rapture. I'll be playing a review copy provided by 2K Games on the Xbox 360.

Odin Sphere

First Hour Review
Odin Sphere Cover

If there’s ever a time to start completing your PlayStation 2 collection, now is that time. A bunch of solid PS2 titles are still being sold in the numerous brick and mortar businesses that like to hock videogames. Each one will most likely cost less than $20.00, and given the number of games filling bargain bins to the brim, there’s good reasoning to dig around.

For example, Odin Sphere. A stylized, 2D action RPG based on Norse mythology from Atlus, it won’t win any "games as art" debates, but it could probably put up a decent fight for "games with great art." How will it play though? Let’s give it an hour.

Mass Effect 2

First Hour Review
Mass Effect 2 Cover

Mass Effect 2. It is only the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. It is only the biggest release so far in 2010, and might be for the entire year. It is only... Mass Effect 2.

All right, I'll come back down to earth for a bit. I will admit, I am very excited for this game. I haven't been this hyped for a game since Majora's Mask. But I will try not to let it interfere with my duty as an amateur video game reviewer to answer the burning question: Would I keep playing? (spoilers: YES!)

Mass Effect 2 is the latest science fiction action/shooter/RPG hybrid from BioWare. The game picks up a few years after the first Mass Effect closed with Commander Shepard still in the starring role. The original galaxy threat is still at large, but is taking a backseat to a much more pressing and immediate menace. One of the game's big features is the ability to import your Shepard from save files from the first game. This is one of the reasons I beat the original six different times with four different Shepards. Maybe a bit excessive, but I was just preparing myself for the full experience come January 26, 2010.

So here we go, the first hour of Mass Effect 2. I will be creating a brand new character for the experience. If you're interested in checking out all of our other Mass Effect series content, we've got a ton of it.

Final Fantasy IV

First Hour Review
Final Fantasy 4 Cover

Square's Final Fantasy IV was originally released in Japan on the Super Famicom in 1991 and was localized in the US as Final Fantasy II, since the previous two games weren't released in America.

Final Fantasy IV changed the face of RPGs and set the standard for the name final Fantasy for years to come. The storytelling was unparalleled in video games and the amount of detail lavished on the game was staggering.

For the 20th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series, Square-Enix remade FFIV in full 3D and released it on the DS in 2008, this time with the proper number in the title.

I've never played the original Super NES version, so this will be my first encounter with Final Fantasy IV. Can it hold up in this day and age?

Note: I considered reviewing this as a Half-Hour Handheld, but since it was originally released as a console game, I will go ahead and play it for the full hour.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

First Hour Review
Mario Luigi Bowsers Inside Story Cover

The Mario & Luigi series has become one of the more interesting handheld exclusive franchises. Although heavily inspired by the console Mario RPG games, it has managed to make a name for itself with its unique battle system and comical dialogue. The series debuted on the Game Boy Advance with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and continued on the DS with Partners in Time, which many regarded as inferior to the previous title. Developer AlphaDream brings us another entry with an off the wall premise and putting Bowser in the role of co-protagonist. First hour of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story incoming:

Batman: Arkham Asylum

First Hour Review
Batman Arkham Asylum Cover

Before tonight, the only Batman video game I had ever played was Batman Forever, a seriously awful "game" that left me tossing my Super Nintendo controller across the room in disgust. You begin the game in a room where the only way out is up, and after pressing every imaginable button on the controller, you simply can not escape.(well, you can, press the Select button and then Up on the D-pad. Yeah Batman Forever, I hate you too).

So fast forward 15 years and memories of that travesty are all but forgotten and Batman: Arkham Asylum is in my Xbox 360. Everyone's been gushing on this game since its release in August 2009 so I've finally decided to give it a whirl. While I've enjoyed the recent films and filled my afternoons with Batman: The Animated Series, I know nothing about the comic world that the game is based off of. Arkham Asylum, from a non-reader's perspective, appears to be the ultimate love letter to all those Batman comic fans who have been waiting patiently for something... awesome.

But things are also a bit off for me: the Joker is different, the Commissioner is different, and even Batman is different. But Arkham Asylum is a stealth-action beat 'em up, a genre mash-up I felt worked brilliantly for a game like Beyond Good and Evil. So will the first hour of the game inspire me to keep playing, or will the stealth-based gameplay or unfamiliar world cause me to put it down for good? Let's find out on the Xbox 360.

Overlord

First Hour Review
Overlord Cover

Overlord is a third-person action-adventure/RTS published by Codemasters. It takes the idea laid down by Pikmin and Battalion Wars and brings them to their evil conclusion.

The concept is that you are an evil Overlord, with minions to do your dirty work. Will we have a good time playing as the bad guy, or is there a good reason most games have you control the hero?

Phantasy Star Zero

First Hour Review
Phantasy Star Zero Cover

Phantasy Star is back with Phantasy Star 0, the sequel to the console based Phantasy Star Online series. However, this time Sega managed to pack in a complete online experience on the Nintendo DS, allowing four players to connect together and fight in its science fiction/fantasy setting. Phantasy Star 0 was released in November and features not only a full fledged online game, but also an offline story mode for when your friends aren't around.

Grant has chosen to keep his first hour review limited to the offline mode, it is probably a toss up whether a new player will play online or offline anyway.

Greg's note: In high school, I had a few friends who were obsessed with Phantasy Star Online on the GameCube. They would come over to my house and just sit on a television all night playing it, though never online. It was the oddest thing and I always wondered why they would play a game called Phantasy Star Online exclusively off. Either way, it was entertaining watching them get wiped out by a boss but mostly everyone was just bored to tears as they discussed drop rates and their latest swords. One of my friends who did play online actually bought the giant GameCube controller keyboard, where a typical controller was mutilated and had 108 keys stuck between the thumstick and buttons. Awkward

Here's Grant's first hour review of Phantasy Star 0 (or Phantasy Star Zero for you 0/O impaired readers like me).

Dragon Age: Origins

First Hour Review
Dragon Age Origins Cover

BioWare has been on a roll the last ten years, kicking the decade off with Baldur's Gate II, delivering more Forgotten Realms fun with Neverwinter Nights, revolutionizing console RPGs with Knights of the Old Republic, revolutionizing themselves with Jade Empire, and of course, introducing the world to Mass Effect, one of my favorite games of all time. BioWare decides to close out the decade similar to how they started it, with a fantasy epic: Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age: Origins was released in early November on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. It has seen some pretty great success, and is one of the notable games released this holiday season that does not necessarily compete directly with the behemoth that is Modern Warfare 2. While I've never played Baldur's Gate, I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series and am excited to give BioWare's fantasy genre a spin.

This is by no means the first Dragon Age content we've featured on the First Hour, Grant reviewed the first hour of Dragon Age Journeys, a flash-based web game set in the Dragon Age universe. In October I read Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the first novel set in BioWare's world, though it is not a novelization of the game. Dragon Age: The Calling, the second book in the series is out and is on my to-read list. Definitely check these other forms of media out if you're a big fan of Dragon Age. And on that note, here's the first hour of Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360.

Fallout 3

First Hour Review
Fallout 3 Cover

Last year, I played the first hour of the original Fallout, and I will admit, it didn't go so well. I made the comment that one hour just wasn't enough for a game like that, but I wasn't interested enough to keep going. Well, Fallout 3 has been out for some time now and the series has taken a gigantic leap into the modern, pre-apocalyptic age. I guess the game could be considered an action RPG first-person shooter with the option of being third-person, but whatever the genre is, this is not our father's isometric Fallout.

Times have changed though, and with Bethesda taking over the Fallout license, it seemed like the logical step was "Oblivion with guns." Whether you were excited for this prospect or not, it definitely seems to have panned out as the game was honored with many Game of the Year awards in 2008. But I like to form my own opinions, and set out to eventually give the Fallout series another chance. I had the opportunity a few months ago, when my brother-in-law asked me to help him play this game. I wandered around for a few minutes in complete and utter confusion, eventually killed some important story characters (and then the game auto-saved!), and was more or less left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

But I also like to give a game a decent shake, so here is its opportunity: the first hour of Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360.

Syndicate content