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The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Full Review
Legend Of Zelda Spirit Tracks Cover

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is the latest in the revered Legend of Zelda series. I doubt anyone needs an introduction to this series, so I won't give one.

Spirit Tracks is on the Nintendo DS, and is a direct sequel to 2007's Phantom Hourglass. The controls have remained mostly the same, with a few refinements that I'll get into later.

Spirit Tracks follows the story set out by Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. It's now a hundred years later and everything is settled in the new land, with Zelda as the princess. Link is training to become an engineer (get it? Training?) when suddenly bad things happen and Link is the only one who can fix them. We've heard it all before, right? Maybe all except the train part. But this time, Zelda has had her body stolen, and she travels with Link in spirit form. She acts both as fairy companion a la Navi (although much less intrusive), and she doubles as a giant-sword-wielding, invincible suit of armor. Zelda can possess Phantoms and you can control her, in a new twist to the Zelda series. So for those of you clamoring for a playable Zelda character, this is as close as you can (and probably ever will) come.

Heavenly Sword

Full Review
Heavenly Sword Cover

Heavenly Sword is the latest PS3 exclusive title from developers Ninja Theory. They are a relatively new and smaller development house based in Cambridge, England. Originally founded under the name Just Add Monsters, their only previous project was an unrelated original Xbox exclusive entitled Kung Fu Chaos. Released in 2007, Heavenly Sword was hyped as displaying an example of what the PS3 was truly capable of.

The game follows the story of Nariko as she comes face to face with the prophecy of her people, a prophecy that may lead to victory over an opposing army but will almost surely end in her death. According to the story, Nariko’s clan has possession of The Heavenly Sword, a gift left behind by a warrior deity who once wielded the sword to protect them. It is now their sworn duty to protect the sword and to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Legend has it that any mortal who wields the sword will be granted amazing powers in combat, enabling them to slay armies, but will succumb to it’s power by eventually being cursed and dying a horrible death. The prophecy further says a male warrior will be born on a special day with the power to wield the sword. But on that prophetic day, the very feminine Nariko is born instead.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Full Review
Knights Of The Old Republic Cover

Back in 2003, I played a bit of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the PC when it was released. It was college, so everybody was doing it, but for whatever reason, I only played a few hours. In 2009, I played the first hour of the game and rediscovered a gem. I loved Jade Empire and Mass Effect, but here was their older brother: slower paced and much more heavily based in the D20 rule set. It seemed like it wouldn't be possible to take the step backward from those action heavy games to Knights of the Old Republic, but after playing the first hour, I had to give it a try again.

I have a bit of an odd history with the game, like I mentioned, I played KotOR when it was first released, but gave up on it after reaching a key point in the game about 8-10 hours in. While replaying the game this time around, however, I couldn't remember how far I had played. I kept thinking, "oh, I remember doing this before, but there's no way I played beyond that" until I reached a point where I thought I really was playing all new content. Turns out, a few weeks ago I was perusing some random posts I wrote on a message board in 2003 and I was actually having a discussion with someone about reaching a particular scene I have absolutely no memory of playing. It was this really weird sense of deja vu, like I could have beaten the game but not remembered it.

I've beaten the game now though, here's my full review of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Full Review
Professor Layton And The Diabolical Box Cover

Professional puzzle-solver and tea lover Professor Hershel Layton and young Luke, his apprentice, are back to solving the ultimate mystery in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the sequel to 2008's Curious Village. The game plays as a Myst-like point-and-click with brain-teasers thrown in every couple of minutes; and not the random, bumbling puzzles of Myst, but random, Mensa head-scratchers that will have you reaching for the nearest bottle of headache medicine. Diabolical Box is not just about solving puzzle after puzzle, however, there's a series of unsolved mysteries at hand along with a big cast of characters to help and hinder along the way. The game is chock full of wit and charm, and it is truly hard to put down.

Developers Level-5 seemingly got the formula right the first time, as not much has changed for the sequel (the third game was released last year in Japan and the fourth is almost out there too!). We still have the lovable British accents, the endless number of puzzles, and nearly the same enticing soundtrack. Let's get into my review of Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider

Guest Full Review
Golden Axe Beast Rider Cover

Golden Axe: Beast Rider is the long anticipated entry in the classic Sega-developed series; Golden Axe. The franchise began life in 1989 as an arcade game but was later successfully ported to both the Master System and Genesis with multiple sequels and spin-offs to follow over the years. This installment doesn't play so much as a sequel, but rather as a re-imagining of the first game in which the evil Death Adder must be vanquished. It was developed by a relatively unknown developer; Secret Level Games.

Editor's Note: Mike B. is a brand new guest writer here at the First Hour, you may also see him around here as Mike in Omaha. He's enthusiastic about game writing and has even been to E3! I haven't even been west of Wyoming. In all seriousness though, great to have him on board and keep an eye out for more from him in the future. And like always, if you'd like to write for the First Hour, just shoot me an email and we'll talk. Back to Mike's review.

Hitman: Blood Money

Full Review
Hitman Blood Money Cover

Hitman: Blood Money is a stealth action game for the Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Windows. It's the fourth game in the Hitman series and the last to come out. I will admit, I was influenced in playing this game after seeing the movie. I think that is probably the first time a film adaptation has done that, pretty special considering that's one of their main reasons for existence. I had never played a Hitman game before, and I will admit, I really enjoyed it. It's almost a sandbox game considering everything you can do, and no two gamers will play it the same way. What's nice about Blood Money is that someone without any experience with the series can come in and enjoy it. So maybe this review will convince you to check out the game like the movie did for me.

I wrote up a first hour review of the game a few weeks ago, check it out if you're interested.

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

Full Review
Sacred 2 Cover

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is a hack and slash role playing game for the Xbox 360, Windows, and PlayStation 3. I had never even heard of the Sacred series before playing this game, and if you haven't either, think Diablo. Though it is definitely a brighter game if anything. Sacred 2 features a seamless open world with tons of action. It was released last year on the PC and about a month ago on the consoles.

I haven't played a lot of hack and slashers in my life besides the Diablo game here or there, so let's see if I still enjoyed Sacred 2: Falled Angel. This is my full review of the Xbox 360 version.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Full Review

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition CoverLost Planet: Extreme Condition is a third-person shooter set on the eternal winter world of E.D.N. III. It was released in 2007 for the Xbox 360 and PC and the PlayStation 3 got a port in 2008. I reviewed the first hour of the game a few months ago and loved it. The game featured a great blend of action, atmosphere, and adventure. I definitely enjoy third-person perspective games typically more than first-person, the controls are usually a bit more unforgiving but I seem to get a much better context of the world around me. Lost Planet is no exception.

I honestly had low hopes for this game, fighting bugs on an ice planet? Sounds lame; sounds like it's been done a hundred times before. Mechs? Been there, blown up that. In reality, the game isn't much more than this, but it's action packed and you will be having fun. So there's mechs and ice and bugs, but all together, it makes for something awesome. Let's get into the full review of the Xbox 360 version of Lost Planet.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2

Full Review

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 CoverTrauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is the direct sequel to one of my favorite Nintendo DS games Before I played the original Trauma Center, I had never understood the real appeal of the DS. That game, along with Kirby Canvas Curse, demonstrated what the system was really capable of and how much fun it could be. So when the sequel was released, I put it at the top of my list to play. I actually beat this game about two months ago, but things have been pretty busy so I haven't been able to write the review until now.

The Trauma Center series pits you as a highly skilled surgeon working for Caduceus, a well funded research facility. The games are highly linear, with tons of text, so if you're looking for a straight surgery simulator, you'll have to wade through a lot of cruft to get to it. If you can put up with much too serious characters in contrived situations, then you will be rewarded with excellent and difficult gameplay. Let's get to my review of Trauma Center 2.

Pikmin

Full Review

Pikmin CoverPikmin is the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto, released for the GameCube in 2001. It's a real-time strategy game starring a horde of plant creatures and a tiny space traveler. You control Captain Olimar directly, leading around the mini pikmin that come in three different colors. The goal is to collect 30 ship parts in 30 days. Now I am generally annoyed by timed games, but I finished it on about my 20th day with every piece, so don't feel rushed for time. The pikmin serve as Olimar's willing slaves as they carry each piece back to his ship while sacrificing their lives in front of giant ladybugs and fire breathing snouts. It's kind of sad when you think about it. Well, can't dawdle on that too much. Pikmin 2 was also released for the GameCube and Pikmin 3 is announced for the Wii. Olimar rolls on with his minions in tow.

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