First Hour Reviews

  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

    First Hour Review

    Recettear Cover2011 is turning into the year the Japanese RPG redeems itself in my eyes. Radiant Historia is still my favorite for game of the year, and Xenoblade: Chronicles had such a fun first hour that I can’t wait to play it in the evenings. Heck, even Golden Sun: Dark Dawn wasn’t that bad. So let’s give another one a try in Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, the tale of an item shop and whatever a Recettear is.

    Recettear is a Japanese indie game (known as “doujin”) for Windows that was translated and published outside of Japan by a pair of Something Awful users. Released last December on Steam (after a 2007 release in Japan), Recettear has seem surprisingly brisk and successful sales that will reportedly open up the market to other doujin games.

    I picked up Recettear on Steam during a fire sale and it has been calling to me ever since. How the heck does a game about an item shop work? Are these screenshots showing action fighting for the same game? Let’s find out and play the first hour of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale.

  • Fallout: New Vegas

    First Hour Review

    Fallout new Vegas CoverThis is my third first hour in the Fallout series, played the original Fallout back in 2008, then Fallout 3 in 2009. Both games left me interested, but wary. I never went on with Fallout, but played the third game for about 10 hours before I became frustrated with what I thought to be iffy sneaking and overwhelming combat. I definitely feel like I gave the game a great attempt, but in the end just didn’t have the heart to go on.

    Fast-forward to 2011, and my brother-in-law gives me Fallout: New Vegas out of the blue. He says it is one of his favorite games, and like how some people give away their favorite book to friends, he apparently just gives away video games. I would have preferred something, anything else, but what can you do? Plus, Paul loves it.

    So here we are with October 2010’s New Vegas, the Vice City-esque sequel to Fallout 3. New setting, new characters, slightly tweaked gameplay, and from everything I’ve read, absolutely chock full of bugs. But hey, I really enjoyed Fallout 3’s first hour, so I’m hoping for a repeat with New Vegas. And you never know, I may go all the way with this one.

    Welcome to New Vegas.

  • MotoHeroz [Video]

    First Hour Review

    Motoheroz CoverAlthough it's common to see a physics engine mentioned in the opening credits of current generation titles, games that are driven by calculated friction, momentum, and the like are still so rare. Trials HD is one of the few I've experienced that uses complex physics as a gameplay core, rather than merely governing how crates jump and limp bodies flail after an explosion. Tellingly, Trials HD is also among the generation's most unique games, a blend of platformer, simulation, and racer that make it impossible to define with current genre labels and difficult for new players to grasp.

    Developer RedLynx appears to preserve that essence and curtail the frustration in MotoHeroz, a WiiWare title that replaces Trials HD's injury-prone dirtbike rider with durable, tumbling buggies. Trials's garage skatepark courses are also traded for platformer-adventure mainstays like forests, snowfields, and deserts. Strip away the Wii-appropriate aesthetics, however, and the game seems to be a kinder Trials romp, very much the approachable but deep physics showcase of its Xbox 360 and PC cousins.

    I spent an hour bounding through the Story Adventure and climbing the leaderboards in some daily online challenges. Check out some of the footage pulled from that sixty minutes.

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution

    First Hour Review

    Deus ex Human Revolution CoverAs a prequel to the original Deus Ex, which I've replayed numerous times—well, mostly that beginning level set on Liberty Island—Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a difficult task ahead of itself. It has to be more visually advanced than the 2000 offering, with updated gameplay mechanics, and yet keep things less technological in terms of story, as this is a time before JC Denton took on the Illuminati with his wild and crazy nano-augments, when augments were glorified.

    Deus Ex is one of the earlier examples of fusing RPG elements with shooters, often allowing players to not even fire a gun so long as they upgrade their character correctly. Nowadays, with titles like Fallout: New Vegas and just about every shooter with a name implementing some kind of RPG leveling system, it's hard to say how tall Deus Ex: Human Revolution will stand.

    Well, its opening hour is upon us; hope I upgraded my enjoyment augmentations enough.

  • Bionic Commando and Bionic Commando

    First Hour Review

    Bionic Commando nes CoverThere once was a game named Bionic Commando, and then twenty years later there was another game named Bionic Commando. In some media, this would be called a remake, but when one features a generic soldier battling through different locations with a grappling hook and the other features a dreadlocked dude battling through an office building with cheesy one-liners, I wonder where the remake line is drawn.

    Bionic Commando was released for the NES in 1988 by Capcom. It landed among a glut of platformers where characters did normal things like run and jump, but Bionic Commando bucked the trend and put you in the body of a slow-moving soldier with only his grappling hook at hand to move vertically. Its combination of solid but difficult gameplay and a branching level select entrenched it in the mind of gamers, which led to...

    Bionic Commando was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2009 by Capcom. It landed among a glut of actiony-platformer shooters where characters shot things until they died, and Bionic Commando did not buck the trend. Its combination of generic yet insulting gameplay and derivative story made it largely a totally forgotten game.

    Neither Bionic Commandos is meant to be confused with Bionic Commando: Rearmed, which is an actual remake of Bionic Commando (for the NES), and released a year before Bionic Commando (the forgotten one on the more whiz-bangery systems). Or Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, which is a sequel to the remake released before the game with the same name as the original.

    I've played around with this tom-foolery before, particularly with Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden. A pair of games that both featured the same name and ninjas, but that's about it.

    I'm going to play the first half-hour of each Bionic Commando, which adds up to an hour of Bionic Commandoness. I will then judge them entirely on 30 minutes of gaming and move on with my life.

  • Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition - Video

    First Hour Review

    Street Fighter Third Strike Online CoverI have a soft spot for fighting games. Even though my multiplayer game time has dwindled to almost nothing, I relish the chopsocky action too much to quit entirely. My interest has further grown alongside the genre's worldwide revival, sparked by 2009's Street Fighter IV, which produces more and more games that exhibit extravagant martial arts action with tournament balance. This pleases me.

    Not content to milk just Street Fighter IV year after year, Capcom's digging deeper into its past to re-release what many consider its finest fighter, Street Fighter III: Third Strike. The fan favorite finds its way onto Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, adorned with bells and whistles that appear to go beyond what fans would expect from a modern port. SF3:TSOE boasts visual filters, remixed music, concept art, detailed tutorials, expert trials, Youtube match uploads, and even renowned GGPO netcode that promises smooth and customizable online performance.

    I have played Third Strike a few times in days long past. I remember some of the game-specific basics, like parrying, but am unfamiliar with most characters. I'll see what the trials can teach me about the game's mechanics beyond parrying. Next, I'll see what trials are available for Dudley, a boxer I recognize from Super Street Fighter IV but have never used in Third Strike. Finally, I'll check out Arcade mode and see what the game has to offer as a singleplayer experience.

    Check out five minutes of parries, Corkscrew Blows, and everything else that makes up gentlemanly fighting.

  • Xenoblade Chronicles

    First Hour Review

    Xenoblade Chronicles CoverThe Nintendo Wii is dead in North America. Like the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube before it, Nintendo of America has essentially abandoned the platform at least a year before their next console will be on sale. For any of those fans holding on to the idea that the Wii was still a targeted gaming platform for quality new releases, all their hopes were destroyed when NoA confirmed they would not be bringing Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, or Pandora’s Tower across the Pacific.

    As three highly touted RPG and action titles from Japanese studios, gamers were excited at the prospect of English releases, especially late in the Wii’s lifespan with only a new Zelda on the horizon. And in reverse of what was so common in the ‘90s, Nintendo of Europe decided to localize all three titles while North America sat out.

    So here we are with an actual English version of Xenoblade Chronicles, developed by Monolith Software. Monolith is known for the Xenosaga series on the PS2 and the two Baten Kaitos games on the Gamecube, but most of the team is also made up of former developers of Xenogears and Chrono Cross at Squaresoft. Nintendo has owned a majority share of Monolith since 2007 so they are considered a first party developer.

    Unless Xenoblade receives an official North American release, importing or piracy are your only real options, unfortunately. While some gamers are still optimistic, I saw how Nintendo ignored fans getting behind the EarthBound sequel Mother 3 a few years ago, and have little doubt in Nintendo of America ever touching it. But for what it’s worth, here’s my first hour review of Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii.

  • Kyotokei - Video

    First Hour Review

    Kyotokei CoverLast year, when I checked out 3D Dot Game Heroes, I admitted my leniency regarding game copycats. Where some saw a sly attempt to cash in on the Zelda brand, I only saw a new adventure game in the same mold. The game's tone, both parody and homage, further erased any chance of disdain.

    I'm having a tougher time excusing Kyotokei, a WiiWare game that came out last week. My five minute experience with Ikaruga is enough to tell me that Kyotokei is clearly a copycat game, stealing the novel color-coded bullet hell stylings of the cult classic shmup. And unlike 3D Dot Game Heroes, I'm not getting a tributary or tongue-in-cheek vibe from Kyotokei. Instead, the game mimics the Touhou craze, which replaces the classic shmup players and enemies (spaceships and mechs and whatnot) with cute little girls for whatever reason. I guess that's not a big deal: Hello Kitty Chess is still chess, right?

    Mechanical and aesthetic burglaries aside, the game looks like it might be fun. And Wii could certainly use some decent software in a time where an above-par movie-licensed game is gunning for Game of the Year. I decided to throw $5 at Kyotokei and see if I could get my money's worth out of this downloadable doppelganger.

    I played for an hour. Check out this video of the first stage. Try not to blink.

  • Magicka

    First Hour Review

    Magicka CoverManaging a small group of diverse writers has its perks. When Ian sent me his review of Magicka a few months ago, it was my first exposure to the indie title that is garnering quite a bit of attention this year. Would I have heard of it eventually? Probably. Would I have picked it up during the Steam Summer Sale a few weeks back? Probably not.

    But cheap games are great and cheap games with good reviews are even better, so I bought the four-pack of Magicka and spread the wealth among the writers. I found some time to finally get into the game during a business trip and gave its first hour a whirl.

    Magicka is an action-adventure game where you control a small-hooded magician on his quest to... do something. You have near immediate access to a complete range of elemental spells that serve to challenge you in both finger and brain dexterity. Released in January on Windows, here is the first hour of Magicka.

  • Minecraft

    First Hour Review

    Minecraft CoverInitially, Humble Indie Bundle 3 was only five videogames for whatever price you deemed worthy: Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight. After a day or two, a free pass for Markus “Notch” Persson's Minecraft was added, allowing HIB3 buyers to play the blocks-laden indie game until August 14, 2011. This might have had something to do with the fact that Notch was/is one of the top contributors to the cause, dropping well over $4,000 for a handful of games he surely already owns. But it's easy to figure out why he'd support indie games like so, and giving the wary a free looksie into his own thriving title is a smart decision.

    For some time now, I've been interested in Minecraft. Take note that I did not say interested in playing Minecraft, as the two statements are actually very different. Just interested. From the outside, it looks like a creative, germinal, easy-to-play game that is just asking you to open it up and go nuts. Plus, y'know, I grew up on Lego blocks. It's just plain ol' nature here, stacking and breaking blocks galore and building crazy fortresses loaded from ceiling to cellar with booby-traps. However, Minecraft could also share the same problems many other open-world games have, where there is ultimately little purpose.

    At E3 2011, it was announced that Minecraft was coming to the Xbox 360, my preferred gaming console. For now, I'll be giving the game a swing on my Macbook, and hopefully it can handle everything. It's struggled to run other games from Humble Indie Bundle 3 (and previous iterations). I am and always will be a console gamer though so if I do enjoy my time here, I'll more than likely download it from Xbox Live Arcade whenever it becomes available.

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