rpg

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Full Review

Deus ex Human Revolution CoverEvidently, I’ve been coddled by stealth-based videogames for far too long. Metal Gear Solid gives players a large radar on their HUD showcasing soldiers’ cones of vision, allowing me to know just how far they saw and when to make my move; it only jammed now and then, leaving Solid Snake feeling clothed yet naked, but otherwise the radar remained a constant and vital companion during the fall of FOXHOUND. The Tenchu franchised handed out safe rooftops like candy. The Sly Cooper games, no matter what locale, always offered a number of places to hide or grapple on or tip-toe across; it also taught me how to pickpocket with a cane. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood had so many ways to hide and blend in with the public that it almost seemed like the point of the game was to be a commoner and not a kick-ass, hidden blade-wielding Casanova—actually, that’s how their online multiplayer does it. Sneaking through the massive cities was never terribly tricky, and if you messed up, there always seemed to be a way to quickly erase your footprints and try again. While certainly some skill is needed, most videogames involving stealth are pretty forgiving.

But then came Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game I tried to play stealthily, but failed miserably, eventually throwing in the towel and just shooting enemies until they breathed no more. The first hour should’ve been a clear indication of what was to come, but I’m stubborn and continued to drop Praxis point after Praxis point into perks like “see through walls” and “hack computers up to level 5.” No points were ever devoted to fixing Jensen’s shooting ability or giving him more backpack space. All I needed—or so I thought—was my tranquilizer rifle, some darts, and the smarts to crack every keypad and computer this side of future Detroit. Turns out, I needed a lot more than that.

Dark Souls

First Hour Review

Dark Souls CoverThere’s different flavors of “difficult” in video games. Some games are hard because of limited lives and crushing level design, like the original Ninja Gaiden, for example. And take Nethack, its difficulty resides in the massive amount of “unknown” in the game combined with a bit of luck. And then there’s Demon’s Souls and its sequel Dark Souls, known for their incredibly challenging, but fair gameplay.

I have not played Demon’s Souls, but when Dark Souls was released last month for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, I was determined to at least give it an hour of my time. That opportunity has come, and while I survived, I did not come out unscathed.

Dark Souls was developed by the obnoxiously named From Software, known for their double-noun named games such as Shadow Tower, King’s Field, and Ninja Blade, along with the Armored Core series. They also published 3D Dot Game Heroes, which as far as I can tell is the extreme opposite of Dark Souls.

Here is its first hour.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter

First Hour Review

Professor Layton and the Last Specter CoverI’ve played and beaten the first three Professor Layton games, and while I continue to return to them every year like clockwork, they have been essentially the same game every time. Sure, the stories change, and the puzzles are a bit different, but the core gameplay has remained the same: move around town poking at stuff, solve puzzles, talk to people, eventually linearally solve the overarching mystery that ends in some bizarre manner. I don’t hate it, it’s just repetitive.

But I love the puzzles, and the characters and setting are so charming, I can’t help but play. The fourth game in the series, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, has finally been released in North America after being out in Japan for nearly two years. Though we’re slowly catching up, the fifth game was just released earlier this year on the 3Ds, so we’ll hopefully be playing that come next fall.

Last Specter also holds a special surprise: London Life. I don’t know much about the new game, let alone this super-minigame inside it, but there’s plenty of buzz around it on the internet. So for a special first hour, we’ll be playing the first half-hour of the main game, and then switching over to London Life, whatever that may be. Let’s get right to it.

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

First Hour Review

Recettear Cover2011 is turning into the year the Japanese RPG redeems itself in my eyes. Radiant Historia is still my favorite for game of the year, and Xenoblade: Chronicles had such a fun first hour that I can’t wait to play it in the evenings. Heck, even Golden Sun: Dark Dawn wasn’t that bad. So let’s give another one a try in Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, the tale of an item shop and whatever a Recettear is.

Recettear is a Japanese indie game (known as “doujin”) for Windows that was translated and published outside of Japan by a pair of Something Awful users. Released last December on Steam (after a 2007 release in Japan), Recettear has seem surprisingly brisk and successful sales that will reportedly open up the market to other doujin games.

I picked up Recettear on Steam during a fire sale and it has been calling to me ever since. How the heck does a game about an item shop work? Are these screenshots showing action fighting for the same game? Let’s find out and play the first hour of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale.

Fallout: New Vegas

First Hour Review

Fallout new Vegas CoverThis is my third first hour in the Fallout series, played the original Fallout back in 2008, then Fallout 3 in 2009. Both games left me interested, but wary. I never went on with Fallout, but played the third game for about 10 hours before I became frustrated with what I thought to be iffy sneaking and overwhelming combat. I definitely feel like I gave the game a great attempt, but in the end just didn’t have the heart to go on.

Fast-forward to 2011, and my brother-in-law gives me Fallout: New Vegas out of the blue. He says it is one of his favorite games, and like how some people give away their favorite book to friends, he apparently just gives away video games. I would have preferred something, anything else, but what can you do? Plus, Paul loves it.

So here we are with October 2010’s New Vegas, the Vice City-esque sequel to Fallout 3. New setting, new characters, slightly tweaked gameplay, and from everything I’ve read, absolutely chock full of bugs. But hey, I really enjoyed Fallout 3’s first hour, so I’m hoping for a repeat with New Vegas. And you never know, I may go all the way with this one.

Welcome to New Vegas.

Dragon Age II

Full Review

Dragon age 2 CoverI was a bit worried going into my playthrough of Dragon Age 2. The first screenshots revealed a depressingly gray world with curiously pointy polygons, and reader reviews of the game blasted it for a variety of reasons. But my first hour review of the title cemented me firmly in the “I’m going to enjoy this game” category, and 40 hours later I emerged with some sore fingers and a smile on my face.

It’s understandable why some gamers didn’t enjoy Dragon Age 2, in some ways it’s quite a departure from the stable, Western RPG tropes that Dragon Age: Origins employed, but deep down, it really is the first game’s sequel. Some aspects have been streamlined, for better and worse, but I always felt like I was in the Dragon Age universe I spent 50 hours in last time around.

Dragon Age 2 was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, and OSX. I played a used copy on the Xbox 360, meaning I didn’t have access to any downloadable content that was provided for first-time buyers.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

First Hour Review

Deus ex Human Revolution CoverAs a prequel to the original Deus Ex, which I've replayed numerous times—well, mostly that beginning level set on Liberty Island—Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a difficult task ahead of itself. It has to be more visually advanced than the 2000 offering, with updated gameplay mechanics, and yet keep things less technological in terms of story, as this is a time before JC Denton took on the Illuminati with his wild and crazy nano-augments, when augments were glorified.

Deus Ex is one of the earlier examples of fusing RPG elements with shooters, often allowing players to not even fire a gun so long as they upgrade their character correctly. Nowadays, with titles like Fallout: New Vegas and just about every shooter with a name implementing some kind of RPG leveling system, it's hard to say how tall Deus Ex: Human Revolution will stand.

Well, its opening hour is upon us; hope I upgraded my enjoyment augmentations enough.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker

Half-Hour Handheld

Dragon Quest Monsters Joker CoverTwo franchises I consider to be inherently Japanese are Dragon Quest—really, Dragon Warrior—and Pokemon, and both were born under the mighty and massive RPG tree, but have had their fair share of spin-offs. With Pokemon, its ranged from zaniness like taking pictures to brawling with other well-known gaming characters to rogue dungeon crawlers. As for Dragon Quest, they took a page out of their younger sibling's book, releasing Dragon Warrior Monsters in 1999 for the Game Boy Color; in it, a young boy is out to save his sister by collecting monsters, breeding them, and pitting them against other monsters. Pretty close to the Pokemon formula, but naturally featuring the classic monsters of the Dragon Quest franchise. Things like slimes, gremlins, and wyverns. There was more of a focus on taming monsters than simply capturing them, too. But it hooked players nonetheless.

The monster-raising series has continued on over the years, and I'm here today to give TOSE's 2007 Nintendo DS release Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker a try, a few weeks shy of the sequel's release. I have no expectations other than Pokemon mixed with my favorite classic RPG monsters, and maybe some light implementation of the DS touchscreen. And I hope the joker subtitle has nothing to do with that crazy jester from Dragon Quest VIII.

A half-hour review approaches!

Xenoblade Chronicles

First Hour Review

Xenoblade Chronicles CoverThe Nintendo Wii is dead in North America. Like the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube before it, Nintendo of America has essentially abandoned the platform at least a year before their next console will be on sale. For any of those fans holding on to the idea that the Wii was still a targeted gaming platform for quality new releases, all their hopes were destroyed when NoA confirmed they would not be bringing Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, or Pandora’s Tower across the Pacific.

As three highly touted RPG and action titles from Japanese studios, gamers were excited at the prospect of English releases, especially late in the Wii’s lifespan with only a new Zelda on the horizon. And in reverse of what was so common in the ‘90s, Nintendo of Europe decided to localize all three titles while North America sat out.

So here we are with an actual English version of Xenoblade Chronicles, developed by Monolith Software. Monolith is known for the Xenosaga series on the PS2 and the two Baten Kaitos games on the Gamecube, but most of the team is also made up of former developers of Xenogears and Chrono Cross at Squaresoft. Nintendo has owned a majority share of Monolith since 2007 so they are considered a first party developer.

Unless Xenoblade receives an official North American release, importing or piracy are your only real options, unfortunately. While some gamers are still optimistic, I saw how Nintendo ignored fans getting behind the EarthBound sequel Mother 3 a few years ago, and have little doubt in Nintendo of America ever touching it. But for what it’s worth, here’s my first hour review of Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii.

Dragon Age II

First Hour Review

Dragon age 2 CoverI enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins quite a bit, but it was a rocky ride to get going. Origins has a lot of stats, a lot of skill trees, and what I found to be a somewhat confusing array of attributes to put points into. When I heard that Dragon Age II was being developed to address many of those aspects of the game, plus a complete overhaul of the dialog system to make it similar to Mass Effect, I was pretty excited.

When Dragon Age II was released, it was met with a Spore-like backlash that railed against everything even semi-related to the game. Gamers lamented the Mass Effectification of their beloved hardcore RPG (which I seemed to deem a compliment reading from afar), and while the professional reviews of the game were lower than Origins but still highly respectable, a seemingly large group of gamers tossed goose eggs at it.

I’ve always been in the play-it-myself group of gamers. I can understand some of the spite, but forming an opinion before you even play the game usually makes one look foolish (and heck, I often look foolish after just an hour!).

Here’s my first hour review of Dragon Age II, released by BioWare in March, 2011.

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