Onimusha: The Best Series Everyone Already Forgot About

Blog Post

Onimusha CoverAfter a flurry of six games in just five years, there hasn't been another Onimusha game since March 2006.  I understand that the series always played second fiddle to Capcom's other series, Devil May Cry, but man, Onimusha always had an awesome combination of historical inaccuracy and great hack-and-slash action.

I played and loved the four main games in the series, even the one that takes place in France with Jean Reno.  The first time I ever played an Onimusha game was at my uncle's house; the only thing I knew about Onimusha: Warlords was that it played like Resident Evil and was rated Mature.  This seemed to indicate to me that the game would be scary or something, but what it turned out to be was simply a blast to play.  Fast action, great puzzles, a storyline with famous Japanese figureheads that I recognized, and more gore than scare.  My kind of game.


First Hour Review

Aquaria CoverIt's rare that we get to combine our love for games with charitable donations, and unheard of that we can feel like a smart shopper while doing both. Such a concoction of impossibility was made real when the Humble Indie Bundle experiment went live on May 4, 2010. For a limited time, five acclaimed indie games (Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, Penumbra Overture, and World of Goo) were offered as a bundle to whatever price they were willing to give. For any price you name, you could have access to five games you may or may not love. A sixth game, Samorost 2, was even added to the bunch as extra incentive. You could even split your price between the developers and two partner charities, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play Charity, at whatever fractions you wanted. I gave $7.50 to the developers and $7.50 to the charities myself, contributing to the $1,270,000 in total donations contributed as of May 15. It's a great cause that also happens to be a great deal.

Having only previously played (or even heard of) the fantastic World of Goo, I decided to go alphabetically and spend an hour with Aquaria first. Aquaria was created by Bit Blot, an independent game company comprised of Alec Holowka and Derek Yu, in 2007. An indie games festival winner known for its atmosphere, Aquaria is an underwater 2D sidescroller with a focus on exploration and puzzle-solving, in the same vein as Metroid.

As I dive into Aquaria for the first time, I wonder if it's true what they say: is it really better down where it's wetter, under the sea?

Iron Man 2

Full Review

Iron man 2 CoverSequels. Comic franchises converted to video games. Movie tie-ins. Studios closing their doors. Needless to say, there are a lot of barriers that can narrow the odds of producing a high quality title. It would seem that Iron Man 2 was forced to hurdle all of them. As I mentioned in my recent First Hour review of Iron Man 2, its predecessor was critically panned. But did it deserve it? Or did it fall prey to the echo chamber of hate that often befalls licensed products and spin offs? The truth is, Iron Man had it’s problems. From unwieldy controls to frame rate issues, it seemed like it stumbled each time it would just get up to speed. But it had moments of fun, high intensity super hero action that carried one through to each subsequent mission. Going into a sequel, one assumes that Sega Studios San Francisco, the developer behind both titles would make an effort to improve the failings of the original while trying to maintain those things they got right the first time. The question is, did they pull it off?

After sitting in on the developer conference call for Iron Man 2, I was hopeful that things were looking good. They talked about a dedication to listening to fans, and to implementing those lessons they learned from user feedback on the first game. They talked about simplified controls, vast levels, destructible environments and deep customization. They touted a boss that is “bigger than any boss in any game ever”. And War Machine. War Machine sounded like a perfect addition to the Iron Man gaming universe. Yes, it sounded like it had really come together. And so I eagerly anticipated my review copy, thinking back to the flawed but fun experience I had with the first game.

Iron Man 2

First Hour Review

Iron man 2 CoverYou may have seen our recent article covering a conference call presented by Iron Man 2 developer: Sega San Francisco.  The First Hour was invited to take part in a small pre-release Q&A with two of the people involved with the production of the game.  I sat in on the call and submitted a few questions. It was a good conversation and lots of aspects of the game were touched on, so if you’d like some more insight into what went into making this game what it is, please check it out here. 

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I recently sat down with a copy of Iron Man 2.  To state the obvious, Iron Man 2 is the sequel to Iron Man. Both games were released to coincide with the movies of the same name. As most people know, releasing a game on a movies timeline can be... problematic.  It often leads to rushed development schedules and lots of cut corners in the final product.  Despite this situation, the first game was commercially successful. However, it struggled to win over most critics.  With an aggregate score of 45 on Metacritic, that’s probably an understatement.  However, I was one of the people who enjoyed the first game (while recognizing it’s many flaws), which is why I was chosen/volunteered to review the sequel.  

Much like Greg’s recent review of Saboteur, this game is the final release of a studio before it gets shut down.  Sega San Fancisco, formerly Secret Level Games will close shortly after the release of Iron Man 2.  This does not bode well for the 3 other gamers besides me crossing their fingers for a Golden Axe: Beast Rider sequel.

I went into this first hour with an open mind and reasonable expectations.  Having enjoyed the first game, more of the same with increased graphical performance, control tweaks and mission diversity would be a good start.  Let’s see if they were able to squeeze any of that into the first 60 minutes of Iron Man 2.

Assassin's Creed II

First Hour Review

Assassins Creed 2 CoverA few years ago, I had to opportunity to borrow an Xbox 360 along with a bunch of games when my friend was out of the country. Assassin's Creed was one of them, and while I was more or less satisfied after the first hour, the entire game left a lot to be desired.  I found it incredibly repetitive and full of crappy A.I. while lacking any kind of story framework.  It had its moments, like finding the lookout points around the city along with some beautiful graphics, but the game left a foul taste in my mouth.

Fast forward more than two years later and this time Assassin's Creed II has fallen into my lap.  Everyone was raving about how much Ubisoft had improved the game over the original, but then again all those same people had lavished praise on the first one.  I'm not one to judge a game without giving it a try though, so here we are for another go around with the first hour of Assassin's Creed II.

For a quick introduction, the Assassin's Creed series is all about third-person parkour in the past.  You play as an assassin who runs around the city doing what assassins do: finding out information about their target and then taking them out.  The first game took place in the Holy Land in the 12th century whereas the sequel is set in Italy during their Renaissance in the 15th century.

Warning: Do not buy this game for Windows as Ubisoft wrapped Assassin's Creed II in some of the most awful DRM anyone could ever imagine: a required, persistent internet connection for a single player game.  Avoid this at all costs, don't buy it and don't pirate it for Windows.  Do not give Ubisoft any reason to justify what they did.  Two years ago, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia without any DRM whatsoever, ask them to return to those days.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Full Review

Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks CoverThis is a first for us, but this is our second full review of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks on the First Hour. Paul first reviewed the game in early February and praised it for its stellar action and improved controls over Phantom Hourglass.  He did note some issues with the train in the game, and while most of my opinions will echo his, I would like to get my thoughts down before I move on to other games.

This is Nintendo's second attempt at going for an entirely stylus-driven Zelda experience.  I'm actually still a bit shocked that this works.  It's not perfect, but it is definitely not substantially worse than playing a console Zelda game, and in some ways works better than the old 2D games.  Paul said he noticed improvements in the control, but either it's been so long since I played Phantom Hourglass that I didn't notice, or... they didn't make any improvements.  I'm guessing the former as I was rarely frustrated with the game control-wise.

Just like to quickly mention how awesome it is that we got two Legend of Zelda games on the Nintendo DS, especially considering it was nearly three years after the system debuted that Phantom Hourglass finally landed.  It'd be great to see a third, but I imagine Nintendo will be refocusing their efforts on the DSi or 3DS at this point.  Hey, you can always hire Capcom to make more portable iterations.

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.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

First Hour Review
Legend Of Zelda Spirit Tracks Cover

The Legend of Zelda is an old and respected series of games. The brainchild of Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, the series contains some of the best-loved games ever.

When a series continues this long, there's always a risk: either the games stay the same and get stale, or they innovate and don't fit in the series.

December 7 ushered in the latest iteration of the green-clad hero on the DS. Spirit Tracks is a direct sequel to Phantom Hourglass, which itself was a direct sequel to Wind Waker, making this the longest string of direct sequels for the franchise.

Set about 100 years after Phantom Hourglass, it features the descendants of the previous Link and Zelda. But what we want to know, is this game any good? Is it the same as Phantom Hourglass, but with a train instead of a steamship? Is driving a train any fun? What will the first hour of the latest Zelda game be like?


First Hour Review
Chibi Robo Cover

Ever get tired of fighting? Can't someone make a game about something besides combat? Those were questions I was asking myself when I discovered Chibi-Robo. I remembered this Nintendo-published game vaguely from when it first came out, but looked into it with more interest as I tried to find a game about something other than violence.

Granted, games like The Sims are about something other than fighting, but what I was looking for was a game that used familiar game elements in a non-combat setting. For example, could you earn experience points by talking to people? Explore and find something other than more enemies to fight? Surely it can be done, but it didn't seem to exist in the wild.

That's when I found Chibi-Robo. Developed by Skip Ltd. and published by Nintendo, it seems to be an adventure game in which you play as a tiny robot and explore a house. Your mission is to make the host family happy, which you do by cleaning up trash and spills, finding lost objects, and sundry other tasks.

But will a non-violent game be able to offer an exciting first hour experience?

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

Guest First Hour Review
Prince Of Persia Warrior Within Cover

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is the sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was itself a relaunch of a popular 2D platformer from the early 1990s. The relaunch, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, eventually became a trilogy, released on PlayStation 2, XBox, GameCube, PC, and even a version for the GameBoy Advance. The series has since been relaunched again on the current generation of systems.

Sands of Time was very well received for many reasons, including beautiful art direction, spot-on controls, fluid animations, clever mechanics and a wonderful intangible quality. It had two main downfalls: the combat was repetitive and the game was short.

Warrior Within sets out to correct both of these follies, boasting a longer story and a much-improved combat engine that takes the acrobatic attacks of the first game and expands them to a move list that takes up several pages in the instruction manual.

With these improvements, the game has also "matured" in the video game sense, which as usual means blood and scantily-clad women. Oh, and heavy metal. I'm not really sure why Ubisoft felt this was necessary; I'm assuming it was based on customer feedback.

I played through Prince of Persia: The Sands of time a while back and enjoyed it very much. When it was over I wished it wasn't, and that's what sequels are for. Will Warrior Within satisfy my craving for more acrobatic platforming/adventuring featuring the Prince of Persia?

Note: If I say "the first game" I'm referring to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, not the original Prince of Persia game.

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