Portal is just one game in Valve's newest release, The Orange Box. The Orange Box is a collection of a few different games but Portal is definitely the one that intrigued me the most. The concept of the game is that it is basically a first-person puzzle game that uses a special gun to navigate the areas. This special gun is the portal gun, which allows you to create a blue portal and an orange portal. You can place these portals on most surfaces and then walk/fall/hurtle yourself through it and you'll end up on the other side. Lots of cool things can be done with this and I'll try to explore its many possibilities in my first hour review.
Portal was actually based off a senior project called Narbacular Drop. From the sounds of it, Valve basically hired everyone on this project to help them create Portal! Not a bad turn of events. Oh, and you're probably thinking: "Portal is a brand new game! How is it possible you're reviewing it already!" It's true I don't normally review such brand-spanking new games, but I couldn't pass this one up! Enjoy this rare, new game review!
For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Portal review at Beyond the First Hour.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a cult-classic barely recognized by most gamers, but much like Streets of Rage 2, ZAMN (maybe the greatest gaming acronym ever) looks like it will soon get a release on the Wii Virtual Console. This will undoubtedly expose the game to a much wider audience whose only experience with run-and-gun games is Alien Hominid. Well, hopefully they're able to appreciate this oldie enough to check out some of the other greats in the genre, such as Metal Slug, Contra, or Gunstar Heroes - all of which are available on the Wii or Xbox 360. Actually, let's hope this game appreciates the modern gamer.
Anyways, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was actually developed by Konami and published by Lucasarts (a rare pairing). It was released for the Genesis and Super Nintendo in 1993 and features two player multiplayer. I'll be taking advantage of this and playing simultaneously with my friend Hylas. Let's see how the first hour of one of the original zombie games turned out...
For the record, we are playing the Super Nintendo version of the game (I just like the Genesis cover better), so the score I assign is specifically for the SNES version, but is no doubt indicative of the Genesis version too.
Streets of Rage 2 is often called the greatest beat 'em up and the must-play Sega Genesis game. Its popularity has lasted a long time in an age where the beat 'em ups are relatively rare (one of the latest being God Hand by the now dissolved Clover Studio). The entire series is reaching new fans now as Streets of Rage 1, 2, and 3 have all been re-released on the Nintendo Wii via the Virtual Console and on Xbox Live Arcade. Back to the game on hand though, beat 'em up games have a certain expectation associated with them: the story is not as important as the gameplay and the action should start right away. This is what I'm considering when reviewing and playing the game. Does the first hour of Streets of Rage 2 deliver what its genre promises while keeping the game interesting and fun? Let's dive in and find out.
Halo: Combat Evolved was released along with the original Xbox and essentially defined the console, along with the entire last generation of first person shooter games. Halo was one of the most popular games of the last few years, basically only surpassed by its sequel and a few other select games. Featuring a two player cooperative campaign and a multiplayer mode that supports up to 16 players over system link (multiple Xboxes on the same LAN), Halo basically had everything gamers wanted, and definitely everything the Xbox needed to get the kick in the pants that it needed. The game sold millions and so did the Xbox along with it.
Halo is basically the opposite of a game like Beyond Good and Evil. It's extremely popular with gamers, readily recognized in mainstream media, and considered overrated by some (or many, depends on who you talk to). But with Halo 3 less than a week away, Bungie's blockbuster series is on the rise. But how does it all begin? Does the first hour of Halo start the series with a bang, or a fizzle? Read on and find out.
There are no pictures in this post because I am stuck at work dealing with a major support issue. I plan to add them later this week.
Final Fantasy VII is the fanboy's dream come true. Not only is it the best-selling Final Fantasy game (at 9.5 million copies sold), it has one of the longest Wikipedia entries known to man (at 92 kilobytes and over 7,000 words). This is the result of the rabid fanboyism behind the 10 year old game that Square-Enix has only realized recently that it can milk to death with anime, spinoffs, and pretending there is no remake in the works. I'm personally not a huge fan of the game, I'm more of a fan of the even numbered entries in the series, but I've played through it at least twice and have traveled through the very fun opening Midgar hours many, many times.
Final Fantasy VII celebrated its 10 year anniversary in the U.S. on September 7th, so it seems like an appropriate time to review its first hour. I have fond memories of a very enjoyable first hour, so let's hope that it lives up to my memories. Here's to another 2,500 words!
The Curse of Monkey Island is the third Monkey Island game in the series. It was first though to transition from pixelated sprites to really nice looking hand-drawn characters and backgrounds. The game uses cel art and animation, making it quite bright and vibrant, if somewhat cartoony and quite different looking than the previous games. The Curse of Monkey Island was one of Lucasart's last adventure games, something they used to be quite known for, and also the last of their games to use the SCUMM gameplay engine. The first three Monkey Island games are some of the funniest and best written video games ever made, but let's see if the first hour of Curse is actually on par with the rest of the series.
There will be lots of pictures in this review because the art is just so great and I couldn't help but take lots of screenshots!
Symphony of the Night is known by Castlevania fans as the definitive game in the series. I personally see it as the turning point from when the series went from tired and mediocre to awesome and addictive. The catch is, I had never played Symphony of the Night! I own every single portable Castlevania released for the GBA and DS (and 100% them all), but I have never played the pivotal game, until now. Did Konami have any idea what they had when they released this game (probably not)? Does the experience live up to the hype? Well, a Night virgin is about to find out.
Bully was Rockstar's big release last year on the PS2, and thus a big target for ignorant attorneys and retailers (it was also a hot topic overseas but people generally realized it wasn't that bad of a game). Beyond all the controversy, however, let's look at the core of the game: you're a misfit kid who's just been sent to boarding school, and you're meaning to come out on top. Bully provides gamers a sandbox school and city environment, fully interactive and fleshed out, utilizing the now classic (albeit aging) Grand Theft Auto III gameplay engine. Bully focuses less on destruction and bloody violence, and more on comical violence and something almost everyone can identify with: growing up and going to school. Does Rockstar pull it off? That's for someone else to answer. Does Rockstar pull off the first hour of Bully? That's for me to answer.
Diddy Kong Racing was Rare's answer to Mario Kart 64, which had come out earlier that year. Of course, no one had actually asked for another kart racer on the Nintendo 64, but Rare saw it as an opportunity to start the marketing machine for their future franchises, namely Banjo-Kazooie and Conker (yes, that Conker). They also packed in a bunch of other lame, no-name racers to fill the void - and thus, Diddy Kong Racing was born. The first hour of racers is typically much like the rest of the game, race, race, and race some more. So this will be very indicative on how Diddy Kong Racing (and its DS remake) fares as direct competition to Mario Kart.
Before I even start the main game, I notice a few things: it has been a few years since I've held the Nintendo 64 controller and this thing sure feels weird. It's very light and plasticky, and of course the three prong design definitely makes it one of the oddest looking around. It's also not terribly comfortable compared to more recent controllers, and even the SNES before it. Anyways, on with the first hour of Diddy Kong Racing.
Harvest Moon was a Super Nintendo sleeper that proved to be unique combination of gameplay and originality that received a small, but devoted following. Natsume released numerous sequels over the last 10 years trying a few different formulas, but the original has always worked the best. Harvest Moon is definitely not for everyone, however. The game moves very slow, and does not introduce the player to the core concepts very well. The player has to conduct much trial and error to figure out many things, and the weak translation doesn't help either. Let's see how the first hour of Harvest Moon progresses.