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The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

Full Review

Legend of Zelda Minish cap CoverOver the course of The Legend of Zelda series, I haven't missed a lot of games.  I've played everything from Zelda II to Majora's Mask to Oracle of Ages, but there was one that I had skipped: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.  Why that one? How could I have missed it?  I can only determine that my interest was low due to it being developed outside Nintendo again (Minish Cap, the two Oracle games, and Four Swords were created by Flagship, a former Capcom studio) and that it missed the 2004 holiday window by a few weeks.  Plus, for whatever reason it seemed like a kids game.  I always saw the feature of Link turning into a pixie as... lame.

How wrong I was.

Five years later and I finally determine that it's high time to play The Minish Cap, so I add it to my Amazon wishlist and receive it for my birthday in May.  I plowed through this game like my family's lives depended on it (meaning I ignored them in the process, whoops, won't happen again), but wanted to let the game sink in for a while before I organized all my thoughts and finished the review.

It's probably worth comparing my review of this game to the two previous portable Zeldas: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.  I always felt like those games were missing something, but I couldn't lay my finger on it until I played The Minish Cap.  Here's my full review of the one I almost let get away: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. 

Red Steel 2

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red Steel 2 CoverThe first third-party Wii game was revealed in the May 2006 issue of Game Informer. It promised intuitive swordfighting controls and unmatched precision in gunplay, all in a stylish Yakuza setting. In the six months between reveal and launch, Red Steel hype built to unattainable levels. Disappointment was inevitable. But even with tempered expectations, Red Steel is barely an average game, and the case for motion controls in action games took a serious blow when it failed to impress.

That said, the game rode the launch hype into some pretty decent sales, eventually crossing the million mark. A sequel was rumored almost as soon as the original appeared on store shelves. It took three and a half years, but the sequel did eventually arrive in March 2010. Barring the focus on guns and swords, Red Steel 2 is nothing like the original: the realistic visuals are switched out for a cel-shaded style, the Yakuza setting and characters are changed to an otherworldly-mix of Samurai and Western trappings, and the hopes dashed by waggle at launch are replaced with renewed fervor for precise motion controls, which are provided by the Wii Motion Plus controller attachment that Red Steel 2 requires.

Even if you made the mistake of purchasing Red Steel back in 2006, don't make the mistake of ignoring Red Steel 2 now.

BioShock

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Bioshock Cover

BioShock is a first-person shooter released in 2007 for Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Many moons back, I reviewed the first hour of BioShock in a series of Xbox 360 reviews I did while borrowing my friend's system. I enjoyed the game immensely, but sadly, it was the one game I borrowed that I didn't beat (I even wasted my time playing all the way through Assassin's Creed). I'm not sure why I didn't choose to play through it, though I think I was actually scared. BioShock is a dystopian game set underwater with tons of crazed lunatics running around with masks on, not to mention its the spiritual successor to System Shock 2, considered one of the scariest games of all time by fans. So my wits got the better of me and I set it aside until now, and with my own Xbox 360 on the shelf and a copy of BioShock in my hand, I headed back into Rapture.

Waiting to play it was probably the best possible outcome, however. Late last year, I read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. When I first played BioShock, I had no idea who Rand was, what Objectivism is, and what any of that has to do with a first-person shooter. Well, now I've done my reading and I can honestly say I understand everything marginally more than I would have if I hadn't read the books. Anyways, I can definitely sense that BioShock is far more ambitious than just being a unique shooter with plasmids and great physics.

Here's my full review of BioShock for the Xbox 360.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

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Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Cover

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the newest Grand Theft Auto game and the first for the Nintendo DS. It's an ambitious game (aren't all the GTA games though?), the entire Liberty City crammed into a tiny little cartridge, complete with a full story and living, breathing world. I will tell you right now that Rockstar really pulled it off.

There's already been a bunch of content about Chinatown Wars already featured on this site, including my friend's first hour review of the game and my own DS M-Rated Blitz (this game is just one of six games rated Mature by the ESRB on the Nintendo DS). So check those out if you're interested, but here's my full review of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

World of Goo

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World of Goo CoverWorld of Goo is a physics based puzzle game available for Windows, Linux, OS X, and WiiWare. I reviewed the first hour of the game a few months ago and just kept on playing it until it was unfortunately over. World of Goo was one of the highlights during February's indie game month at the First Hour, and as Magic Toy Chest developers, Graduate Games, told me, "it's tough following World of Goo." That it is. The game has a ton of charm, wit, and atmosphere to carry it over about 50 levels. Each one is unique and will leave you wanting more, and while I feel the story is a bit overdone, this is a brilliant game. Let's get into it.

Mother 3

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Mother 3 CoverMother 3 is the sequel to the Super Nintendo RPG, Earthbound. It was released in 2006, but only in Japan. Being the successor to such a popular game, and no hope in sight of Nintendo of America releasing it, fans took it upon themselves to translate it. It took a few years, but the team released their translation patch in October and fans of the series, like me, pounced on it. I won't say I tore through the game, but I definitely dropped all other games to play it.

I was a big fan of Earthbound, so playing this was a no-brainer. It's just unfortunate that fans had to rely on an unofficial translation to play it. No one really knows what Nintendo of America's reasons were for not releasing an English language version, but honestly, they missed their opportunity. This game is brilliant, including the translation. Let's get to the meat. All scores are out of 10.

For a review on just the first hour, check out my Mother 3 review at The First Hour.

Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword

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Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword CoverNinja Gaiden Dragon Sword is a new action game for the Nintendo DS. It features 3D graphics with pre-rendered backgrounds and the story is set six months after the events in Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. I recently posted my first hour review of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden and was inspired to try out the newest offering in the series. This was an excellent decision because Dragon Sword was a great game and plays perfectly on the Nintendo DS. Read on for the full review, but note, Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword is not to be confused with Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos for the NES or Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

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Professor Layton and the Curious Village CoverProfessor Layton and the Curious Village is a Nintendo DS point and click adventure puzzle game. The game features 135 brain-busting puzzles that will seriously give you a headache by the game's end, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience beating them all. In between all the puzzles is a somewhat interesting story about Professor Layton and his young apprentice, Luke, exploring the village of St. Mystere and uncovering its many secrets. There's a wide cast of characters and all the art and backgrounds are hand-drawn and looks really great. There's even some voice acting thrown in that's actually good, but the real star in Professor Layton are the puzzles.

Within the curious village, residents will constantly offer you challenging puzzles to tackle, and clicking on certain items also triggers a puzzle from either the Professor or Luke. The puzzles range from 30 second quickies using pattern and object recognition to 30 minute Tylenol-taking nasties using advanced techniques such as shortest path, eight queens, playing card probability, and moving one giant block through a mess of smaller ones. Since there are so many puzzles, there is a ton of variety and only a few "repeats with new conditions."

None of this probably makes any sense, so let me just get to my review.

Mass Effect

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Mass Effect CoverMass Effect was my "must-play" game of 2007. Alas, it wasn't until 2008 that I finally got to play it. And play it I did: nearly 40 hours of gaming in 10 days is probably the most gaming I've done since Final Fantasy VIII was released (or any period of time that I played World of Warcraft). The game is not perfect, but I was engrossed the entire time and the game kept throwing surprises at me around every turn. I went in thinking I understood the game and thought I could play it the way I wanted to play it. Instead, Mass Effect played me like it was my first time saving the universe. I came out extremely satisfied and wanted to start it over again right away.

For my review on just the first hour, please see my Mass Effect review at The First Hour.

Bioware's epic is a combination of role-playing game and third-person shooter. Think of the best things Knights of the Old Republic has to offer and carefully mesh it with the best features of Gears of War, and you will have Mass Effect. However, the game is much more action-oriented than Knights but isn't as demanding as Gears, it really finds a perfect balance between the two that makes you wonder how they pulled it off. Geez, I don't know how I can go on without going into too much detail, so let's get right to the specifics!

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Full Review

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare CoverI've recently had the opportunity to borrow a friend's Xbox 360 and five select games. I played the first hour of all five of those for my first hour review site, and ended up playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare last. I did not stop playing until 3 am last night when I finished it. I simply could not put the game down.

I missed out on Call of Duty 1, 2, and 3, so it was kind of a wonder that I was even interested in playing this game in the first place. I gave it a chance however, and I loved it. The previous installments of Call of Duty have all taken place during World War II, which I think has been done to death. Infinity Ward instead made the correct decision to set Call of Duty 4 in our own turbulent, modern day Middle East. This makes for an ultra high-action, technology driven war experience. And this is very fun. I'm not sure how else to describe this game without creeping in on what I want to say later, so let's just get right down to it.

For my review on just the first hour, please see my Call of Duty 4 review at The First Hour.

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