First Hour Reviews

  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

    First Hour Review

    Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers CoverIt's almost expected these days that a Final Fantasy game will be announced long before it ever hits store shelves. 2010's Final Fantasy XIII was first made public nearly four years before anybody outside of Japan got their hands on the final discs, and its companion titles revealed the same day aren't even locked for release yet. I know hype builds over time, but when a game passes the four year mark since announcement, I tend to forget about it completely.

    Square Enix's teasing ways aren't exclusive to the main HD-platform Final Fantasy games either, as the absurdly-titled Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers was let out of the bag a year before its HD cousins, but saw release only months prior. There were multiple rumors of cancellation, rumblings of drastic changes mid-development, and over two-thousand days between announcement and release, but FFCC:TCB did eventually see the light of day.

    I remember the first teaser footage and a full trailer released some time later, which featured the protagonist in some pretty exciting situations and plenty of lighthearted flair. As time went on, I forgot about the title completely when it saw release last Christmas, but picked it up on the cheap a few seasons after its launch. Did all those years in the oven leave Crystal Bearers well-done or burnt to a crisp?

  • Mega Man X8

    First Hour Review

    Mega man x8 CoverThe second video game I ever played was Mega Man 2. Since then, I've finished twenty-eight games with "Mega Man" in the title, most of them multiple times. I was the sixth person in the United States to submit a game completion time to the leaderboards in Mega Man 9, the afternoon it was released. I was fifth in Mega Man 10. I beat Mega Man 9 without taking any damage, earning the "Mr. Perfect" in-game challenge title. I'd even go so far as to say Mega Man 9 was my favorite release in 2008, a year packed with great titles that don't look like they were made twenty years ago and forgotten in a time capsule somewhere.

    I enjoy Mega Man, you guys. Like, kind of a lot.

    Because I didn't have a PlayStation 2 until a few months ago, I missed out on two titles released exclusively on that system, Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8. I recently came across the latter in the bargain bin of a local game shop, so I figured I'd give it a shot. The Mega Man X series had started to lose its way by the sixth game (my least favorite game in the series, oh no!) but I had heard good things about X8.

    I was understandably excited to start a relatively new Mega Man game for the first time. So how did the first hour go?

  • Halo 3: ODST

    First Hour Review

    Halo 3 Odst CoverI don’t know if this is just really good timing, or really bad timing, but Halo: Reach was released yesterday, so here’s the first hour review of... Halo 3: ODST! A first person shooter that came out last year on the Xbox 360. Now, last year wouldn’t be that big of deal, I cover older games all the time, but it’s already out of date a year later (not to mention it being basically an expansion pack to Halo 3 that was released in 2007). I’m guessing this is bad timing.

    Haters gonna hate though, so we must trudge on with what we’ve got. I wasn’t a huge fan of Halo 3, so I pretty much ignored ODST when it was released. The game doesn’t star Master Chief, multiplayer is just Halo 3 with some new modes, and everyone knew the real sequel, Reach, was on its way.

    Here’s the first hour of Halo 3: ODST.

  • Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

    First Hour Review

    Zack and Wiki Quest for Barbaros Treasure CoverI purchased a Wii at launch just to play The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I wasn't particulary interested in Wii Sports, though it grew on me, but after I beat Zelda, I looked at the upcoming release schedule and promptly sold my Wii. Three years later another Wii falls in my lap and I'm given the opportunity of catching up on what I missed.

    Super Mario Galaxy seemed like an obvious play, but after that, selecting games got a little tougher. Super Smash Bros. Brawl? While I had been a huge fan of Melee, I had heard the online offering was weak and the general feel of the game had changed too much. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? Hadn't enjoyed the second Prime and an unofficial first hour of the game turned me off completely. The game my wife and I decided to get? Wii Fit Plus.

    A sad state of affairs for a Nintendo system, in my opinion, but there was one game that had received good reviews and seemed right up my alley: Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure. Zack and Wiki is a point and click adventure game drawn in a distinct cartoony style. It was released October, 2007 with lower than expected sales. Here's its first hour.

  • Metroid: Other M

    First Hour Review

    Metroid Other m CoverI was first introduced to Samus Aran through her appearance in the Super Smash Bros. fighting game in 1999. As Smash is a melee-centric brawl, I always imagined Samus as an agile and powerful close-combat fighter who happened to have an arm cannon as well. In 2002, I eventually played Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, and discovered that Samus, both in 2D and 3D, fought primarily with her many energy-based weapons. I certainly enjoyed each of the games, but still yearned to see the hulking heroine kick some ass in a more literal sense.

    To everyone's surprise, Nintendo ended their E3 2009 presentation with a trailer of the next Metroid game. Created through a collaborative effort between Nintendo's internal studios and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame, this Metroid: Other M featured Samus Aran's return to third-person adventuring after many years spent behind the visor. Jaws were dropped, however, when the bounty-hunting babe began tossing her foes around like rag dolls, grabbing them in choke-holds, and firing charged beam shots right into their faces. Could this be the Metroid Gaiden I had been waiting for?

    The months that led to Other M's release at the end of August tempered my expectations somewhat as new details were revealed, but I was still fairly excited when the game was shipped to my door earlier this week. Did my first romp with Other M leave me disappointed or eager to see more?

  • Killzone 2

    First Hour Review

    Killzone 2 CoverBack at E3 2005, Sony showed off two minutes of "in-engine footage" of a highly detailed military shooter. The visuals were unmatched by anything previously seen in a video game, and PlayStation fans went nuts. In the comings days, Sony eventually backpedaled from their initial claim and admitted that the footage wasn't pulled from any gameplay architecture, and was instead a target render "done to PS3 spec." In a matter of weeks, Killzone 2 went from the new standard of visuals to a fraud.

    Sony knew there was some damage control to be done here, and a few years later, the same footage was shown with in-engine graphics. Amazingly, few could tell the difference between the CG target render and the real deal, and the hype train left the station for good. At its launch in early 2009, many media outlets were calling Killzone 2's graphics unparalleled.

    My interest in the game had always been lukewarm, considering my waning affinity for military-style first person shooters. Several Call of Duty titles had already come and gone, and none had left a lasting impression upon completion. I hadn't played either of the two previous Killzone games -- who has? -- but I decided to give Killzone 2 a shot anyway. After all, I've got access to a pretty amazing HDTV and surround-sound system, so I might as well put them to use.

  • StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

    First Hour Review

    Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty CoverNot since Half-Life 2 has a PC game release needed no introduction. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has sold millions, will sell millions more, and is just the first game in a billion dollar trilogy. Of course, games are generally popular for a reason, not always the right reason, but in StarCraft II’s case, it seems we actually have a great game on our hands too.

    You undoubtedly know what StarCraft II is already, so I’d rather talk quickly about how nearly every interested gamer can play the first hour (and more) of Wings of Liberty for free! Each copy of the game comes with a 14 day / 7 hour free trial, and since at least three of your friends already own the game, just pray they still have a code available.

    So let’s just play, here’s the first hour of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.

  • Mafia II

    First Hour Review

    Mafia 2 CoverWhen someone talks about the mob, the first thing that pops into our head is probably a great gangster movie. Be it The Godfather Part II, Scarface, or Goodfellas, there are a lot of excellent mob films to land on. 2K Games would like to change that though with Mafia II, the sequel to the 2002 hit, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.

    Can you even name a decent mob game? Sure, there have been Godfather games, a bargain bin full of Yakuza titles, or even the Grand Theft Auto series, but there has not been a standout mob game since the original Mafia. A game that flew way off my radar, but must have landed on someone’s as it received a lot of critical acclaim.

    So here we are eight years later with Mafia II. Yes, the game has essentially been in development that entire time as it was originally slated to release on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 (remember those?). Fans of the original are going to be expecting a lot of improvement over nearly a decade of development, and those who are unfamiliar with the series are going to be asking what sets Mafia II apart from the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV.

    Mafia II was released on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows. The First Hour’s Xbox 360 copy was provided by 2K Games.

  • Split/Second

    First Hour Review

    Split Second CoverI’ve been a fan of the Burnout series for years, ever since I rented Burnout 3: Takedown for the PS2, it has been my favorite racing series. Friends know that I am not a fan of realistic racers such as Gran Turismo or Forza, but would much prefer a round of destructive racing. As the Burnout series evolved with traffic checking in Burnout Revenge and an open world system in Burnout Paradise, I began to miss the classic vehicular elimination.

    Enter Split/Second, an arcade racer from Black Rock Studios released earlier this year by Disney for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. This was just the game I was looking for: lots of destruction in fast cars on skinny streets. Split/Second has an additional twist though, and that is the primary way to take out your opponents is to trigger some kind of set piece explosion.

    It’s not easy to explain, but just imagine you’re on a Disney World ride that’s on rails and you can tell the animatronic pirates ahead of you to cut the head off your rival. Now replace the Disney World ride with an abandoned airstrip and Johnny Depp with... well, an airport terminal blowing up in a million pieces.

    This is Split/Second, and this is its first hour. Also check out Ian's full review of the game.

  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

    First Hour Review

    Scott Pilgrim vs World Cover"No More Heroes: The Movie." That's how I've been introduced to a film that opened last Friday, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, each and every time a friend first mentions it to me. I suppose it's a valid parallel: it stars a maladjusted young adult living on the fringe of suburban society fighting over-the-top duels through an organization in order to win official rights to a girl he already has some sway with, utilizing a presentation style that pays tribute to classic video game quirks. Whatever you liken it to, it's a unique movie worth seeing for any self-diagnosed gaming nostalgist, or anyone who wants to see a quirky romantic comedy that doesn't take itself seriously and manages to make Michael Cera actually seem kind of badass.

    Prior to seeing the movie, I played a bit of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, which was released on PlayStation Network last Tuesday and will be available on Xbox Live Arcade one week from today. In an interesting blend of media paying homage to each other, Scott Pilgrim: The Game borrows its name from its film counterpart, its artistic style from the comic series that was adapted into the movie, and its gameplay from the classic video games that infuse the culture of the comics and movie. Specifically, this is a River City Ransom clone if ever there was one, sharing that cult classic's brawler mechanics, RPG elements, and humorous tone.

    Considering I wasn't too impressed with River City Ransom when I downloaded it off the Virtual Console, I had mixed feelings going into Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. I'm all for modern throwbacks to the era of chiptunes and sprites, but I've never been a big supporter of the RCR-style focus on stats. How did the trade-off fare in my first hour with the game?

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