Mass Effect is an action role-playing game for the Xbox 360. It was recently released in November and has received many great reviews and accolades since then. Of course, this doesn't always mean I will like it, but I have high hopes for it as it comes from a distinguished line of video games (notably Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire). Mass Effect takes place in the future after humans find out they're not alone in the universe and end up joining in a peaceful truce with many other powerful alien races. The human race has to deal with brand new styles of diplomacy and communication, but have also benefited from an influx of advanced technology. The concept of mass effect itself is similar to "the force" from Star Wars, but more grounded in technology and physics. It basically allows control over dark energy that species can take advantage of through the use of biotic implants and training.
For my review on the whole game, please see my Mass Effect review at Beyond the First Hour.
I'm starting 2008 (and Day 2 of reviews) where I left off with 2007: a new Xbox 360 game. And I'm actually really excited to be able to play Mass Effect finally (I've been borrowing a friend's 360 for about a month now, and have wanted to play this game more than any other, I even read the prequel book). Let's just hope my self-built hype for this game doesn't implode on itself, but from everything I've heard, I don't think it will. I'd like to quickly apologize for the choice of screenshots, they don't really fit the text but they are neat to look at! Now let's get started with Day 2 of The First Hour and my review of Mass Effect.
Assassin's Creed is a new action-adventure game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 from Ubisoft. The game tells the story of Altair, an assassin in the Holy Land in the 12th century. Altair controls somewhat like the Prince from the Prince of Persia series, but focuses more on stealth and silent killing similar to the Metal Gear Solid games. But instead of hiding in boxes and camouflaging yourself in the trees, Altair hides himself among the people of Jerusalem, attempting to blend in with the public and not stand out to the guards. This makes for some interesting gameplay as Ubisoft spent a lot of time working on crowd reactions for their new kind of camouflage. Without much further ado though, let's dive into the first hour of Assassin's Creed.
For my review on the whole game, please see my Assassin's Creed review at Beyond the First Hour.
Skies of Arcadia Legends is a role-playing game developed by Overworks and released on the Gamecube. It is an enhanced port published by Sega in early 2003. The original game, simply Skies of Arcadia, was released on the Dreamcast in 2000. The game was pretty well received on the Dreamcast and has even ranked on some all time top 100 video game lists. The port to the Gamecube was an interesting decision considering the system was not known for RPGs, but Sega probably figured gamers would be eager to grab up a game when it stands nearly alone in the genre. They were also probably right (hey, even I own a copy).
Anyways, Skies of Arcadia follows a group of sky pirates who steal from the rich and give to the poor. The main pirate is Vyse, a young man who apparently wields a glass sword as some sort of useless forearm shield. He's joined by "up to 22 crew members" according to the back of the box, most of whom appear to be skinny, voluptuous women or tough looking pirate geezers. Not a bad combination there. The game also features ship-to-ship battles along with the typical RPG fights, so let's see how much Skies of Arcadia sets itself apart from those landlubbers in its first hour.
Psychonauts is a multiplatform adventure game from the creative mind of Tim Schafer, creator of some of my favorite games: Monkey Island, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango. Up until recently, I had never played Psychonauts, call me cheap or call me foolish, but it's the sad truth. Times have changed though and Psychonauts is now a free game at Gametap through the end of the year! That did it for me and now I've been suckered into downloading Gametap and Psychonauts to my PC for the low price of free. Not a bad deal.
A little more on Psychonauts, it was released in 2005 to relatively lackluster sales but has since gathered a seemingly rabid fanbase. It has also been released on pretty much every digital distribution method including Steam, Xbox Live, and of course, Gametap. There aren't a lot of developers out there who are brave (or stupid) enough to make a "funny game," but Tim Schafer has the quality resume, so let's see if the first hour of Psychonauts lives up to his predecessors.
For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Psychonauts review at Beyond the First Hour.
Jet Force Gemini is a Nintendo 64 third-person shooter game released by Rare in 1999. Looking back, it seems like such an odd game: twins Juno and Vela fly around in a space ship and save furry creatures from the evil empire. But when I think about it more closely, Jet Force Gemini really seems like the ultimate Rare amalgamation of their other Nintendo 64 games - Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker's Bad Fur Day specifically. That collection of animal fur and blood and guts really comes together on this cartridge.
The game also has some interesting history during development. I used to read IGN very closely and I remember the day when some new character art was released and the twins went from being bland to sexy. Now it seems like they did this just so they could give Vela boobs, but I suppose breast sells and that's their right. Anyways, now you know all of Jet Force Gemini's exciting history (there wasn't much to cover), so let's get right into the review.
SimCity Societies is the newest entry in the long and respected SimCity series. However, as you may or may not have heard, Societies is a radical departure from the traditional SimCity game. Gone is most of the micro-management you dealt with as being mayor and gone is zoning to lay the groundwork for your city. Now you are more of the city's grand architect and visionary. You decide what kind of city you want to run, whether it's a prosperous metropolis, a spiritual mecca, or an oppressed dystopia, it is all up to you. To dictate your direction, you lay down each building individually, from houses to ice cream stands to city hall, everything is under your control.
Now not everyone likes the new direction SimCity is heading, and of course this game is definitely not for everyone. Before I played the game, the entire premise reminded me more of City Life than SimCity 4, not necessarily a bad thing, just totally different than the games I grew up to know and love. I think as fans of the series we have to acknowledge that we will probably never play a new "classic" SimCity game, which is fine with me. The series peaked with SimCity 2000 and I still play that from time to time. But let's see if SimCity Societies renews the franchise or leaves me with a sour taste, let the first hour begin.
It should be noted again that my computer is not that great and doesn't even meet the minimum system requirements laid out by Electronic Arts (it requires at least an Athlon 2100 and I have an 1800, everything else meets or exceeds). I am still able to run the game okay with all the settings at medium or below though.
Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters is a fifteen year old DOS game that has overtime gained a large following due to a variety of reasons. One of them is that the game is good, well according to the numerous accolades it has received at least. The second reason is that the source code of the 3DO port was released under the GPL license, allowing anyone to dive into the game's innards. A group of dedicated fans have taken advantage of this, and have Windows, Mac, and Linux ports simply known as Ur-Quan Masters. This open source game has had stable releases and I am going to play the first hour of version 0.6.2 of Ur-Quan Masters.
Describing Star Control II is difficult, but basically you control a spaceship on a 2D representation of space and visit planets and fight off evil aliens. The game reminds me the most of Pirates, a swashbuckling adventure where you roam a 2D representation of the high seas and visit towns and fight off evil pirates. Anyways, let's see if my first hour review of Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters can get a good idea of what the rest of the game will be like.
With Mass Effect coming out in about a week, I think we might see some comparisons pop up between Star Control II and Mass Effect. It will be interesting if Bioware was inspired by Ur-Quan Masters at all.
Kirby Super Star is kind of like the old-school equivalent of The Orange Box. You put down your $50 and you get a whole collection of great games. All of these games are basically running the same engine and feature the same graphics and generally the same gameplay, but yet are distinct and can individually be recognized and enjoyed. This is Kirby Super Star, easily the best Kirby game in its long and colorful career (well, until Canvas Curse came along).
Anyways, as you can see by the cover of the game, Kirby Super Star features eight games. Now two of these are just simple minigames but the other six are more or less Kirby games we all know and love but done in different styles. A few of these games could actually stand on their own too but as a collection it really feels like you're getting your money's worth (so much so I actually own two copies of this game, long story).
I'm not going to have time to play all eight games in one hour, but I'll try to get to as many as I can. So let's start the review.
Eternal Darkness was released on the GameCube in 2002 and was actually the system's first M-rated game and I believe the first M-rated title published by Nintendo. I'm actually not very good with horror games (or anything horror in general) so it's a surprise to me that I'm even reviewing this game, but it's Halloween this week, so you are all in for a timely treat. I think I own two scary games, and Eternal Darkness is one of them (the other is Resident Evil REmake, also on the GameCube, and you will never see a review on here of that game, it's just too dang scary!).
Anyways, onto the actual game! Eternal Darkness features a unique sanity system unlike anything ever seen before. So addition to your health and magic meters, you have a sanity meter that measures just how stable you are. You lose sanity when you get hurt, or when you see something particularly freaky (which happens a lot). Losing sanity is nothing to laugh at either, because when it gets low, even more crazy stuff happens! I won't detail these "sanity effects" right now because some of them are pretty cool, but let's see what Eternal Darkness throws at us in our first hour together.
In a few years, Okami is probably going to be one of those games that gamers call a "work of art" but hardly any of them will actually have played it. Well, I think that's actually happening right now but someday it will be a lot more prevalent. Anyways, for those unaware, Okami is basically a Legend of Zelda game set in feudal Japan with most of your abilities being executed using a calligraphy brush. The Celestial Brush is used by holding R1 (which freezes time and grays the screen) and then moving the thumbstick around while holding down a face button to draw. Offensive slashes can be drawn with a quick, straight stroke, or you can light an enemy on fire by drawing a line from a torch to the baddie. There are a whole bunch of different strokes available by the end of the game, but I'm only interested in the first hour. Do we even get to use the brush early on or should we cross that off our list of fun in favor of something... a whole lot less fun? Time will tell and it's about to start the clock.
I actually wrote this review about two weeks ago, but since I had the opportunity to play and review Portal, this review was delayed a week!