Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Half-Hour Handheld

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow CoverFew gaming series have changed as much as Castlevania.  What started off as an action platformer evolved into an exploration focused action RPG with the release of Symphony of the Night, a genre which has been dubbed “Metroidvania.”  This style for the series wouldn’t be seen again for several years until it hit the most unlikely of platforms: the Game Boy Advance.  Handheld gaming rekindled interest in the series, and since Circle of the Moon in 2001, six handheld Castlevania titles have been released.  Dawn of Sorrow is the first one for the DS, and is a direct sequel to the final GBA Castlevania game.  Since these games are rather short and focus heavily on post game content and speed runs, I’ve decided to do a half hour review.  This has nothing to do with the fact that Dragon Quest IX comes out this week and I’d rather play that than write.  Nothing at all!

Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver

Full Review

Pokemon Heartgold CoverThe “Pokemon fad” died about ten years ago, but the franchise is still as strong as ever as Diamond and Pearl sold over 17 million copies worldwide.  In order to satiate the appetite of rabid Pokemon fans anxiously awaiting the next generation of games (which were recently announced as Black and White), Nintendo decided to remake the second generation games, Gold and Silver.  Pokemon has changed a lot in the ten years since the release of Gold and Silver, but fortunately Nintendo has added every single innovation into the remake, along with a few new ones.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

First Hour Review

Dragon Quest 4 CoverDragon Quest is one of the most popular gaming franchises in Japan, but it has always been in the shadow of other RPG series like Final Fantasy over here in the west. Square-Enix decided to see if they can rekindle some interest in the series putting the series on the DS, with remakes of IV and V already released, and VI and IX coming within the year in the States. While all eyes are on IX, let’s look back at the first Dragon Quest remake for the Nintendo DS, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. Originally released on the NES, and then remade for the PlayStation, the DS version brings us new features, a new translation, touched up graphics, and two-screen goodness.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

Full Review

Mario Luigi Bowsers Inside Story CoverIf there's a series I lost track of over the years it's Mario RPG, which is really now made up of two series.  After the original Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the SNES, Nintendo split up their new Square-spawned role-playing series between their consoles and portables. The curious Paper Mario started off on the Nintendo 64 and the even curiouser Mario & Luigi kicked off with Superstar Saga on the Game Boy Advance.

While I had loved the original Super Mario RPG, I had a bit more trouble getting into Paper Mario. I played through most of the game, but after watching my cousin beat it from start to finish over a long weekend, I packed it away for good.  And for whatever reason, I never played any games from the Mario & Luigi series... until now.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story was getting great reviews so I added it to my Christmas list on a whim.  I received it, surprisingly, and added it to my portable gaming queue, and after forcing myself to finally beat Zelda: Spirit Tracks and read through the long Miles Edgeworth game, I finally landed on Bowser's Inside Story.  Why the heck did I wait so long?

Infinite Space

First Hour Review

Infinite Space CoverInfinite Space is a DS game published by SEGA as a collaboration between Platinum Games and Nude Maker.  Platinum Games previously developed Madworld and Bayonetta for SEGA, and Nude Maker comes from a background making... well, let's just say their name isn't just a bad translation.  However, these two teams had previously worked together on the XBox game Steel Battalion.  Yes, the game that cost $200 and came with a giant mech-dashboard controller.

While Steel Battalion went over the top with its controller, Infinite Space seeks to go where no anime character has gone before.  The concept of the game is space exploration, and the building of a fleet to undertake said exploration.  And because we all know space is a very dangerous place, there will be battles; many battles.

The producer of Infinite Space said this has been a long time dream of his, as he grew up inspired by science fiction.  He mentioned several influences, but if I list them here you will get the wrong idea of the game.  It's nothing like the influences he mentions.

What is it like?  Well, I'll tell you, or at least what the first hour is like.


First Hour Review

Borderlands CoverWhen I first heard about Borderlands, I somehow just knew it was going to be a game that I would like.  I don’t know how I knew, I just knew.  It reminds me of the days when I was 12 years old and shopped for video games by looking at the pictures on the back of the game box in the toy store so long ago.  I don’t know how it worked, but I could look at those 2 or 3 screenshots and read that lonely paragraph and know with certainty if I would like the game or not.  Just like shopping in the toy store years ago, I actually knew very little about the details of Borderlands.  I knew it was an FPS, and I had heard it had RPG elements. I had read a story on Kotaku that discussed a drastic shift from “realistic” graphics to a more “cartoony” cell shaded design.  There was little else I could tell you about the game.  But somehow, I wanted it. 

So, I added it to my mental list of games to play without too much thought. I wasn’t in a big hurry, simply because I’m generally pretty patient about getting games.  This allows me to scoop up great deals from the Target clearance game shelf.  As Greg, purveyor of First Hour, noted in a recent conversation on LIVE, I’m a person who often likes games that other people don’t.  Well, I’m also a person who loves to get a bargain and both traits suit me well for the clearance shelf.  If I wait that first month to buy a game and it’s a critical and commercial failure, there’s a good chance it will see 50% off on the Target clearance shelf. It wasn’t long before I realized that Borderlands would not be one of those games.  Apparently, people were liking it. Good for the developers and bad for my wallet.  This only fueled my desire to play the game sooner rather than later. I finally found a Sunday ad with the game on sale for $39.99 and decided it was fate.  You’re about to read the first hour of what fate decided was a game I must play.

How Persona 3 destroyed my love for Japanese RPGs

Full Review

Persona 3 fes CoverIt was just a few years ago that I was a Japanese RPG freak.  In just one holiday, I asked for and received Persona 3 FES, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, and Rogue Galaxy.  Three of the biggest JRPGs to land at the end of the PS2 lifespan.  You know how much of those games I've played since?  About 30 hours of Persona 3, the first hour of Rogue Galaxy, and I haven't even touched Valkyrie Profile 2; I blame it all on the games themselves.

If I were to make an exhaustive list of my all-time favorite games, it would undoubtedly be topped by Chrono Trigger, closely followed by Suikoden II and Final Fantasy VI, with Final Fantasy X somewhere up there too.  All Japanese RPGs, and all very good games for varying reasons.  I spent my college years playing more from what used to be my favorite genre, and watched my roommate play a ton of them including the original Valkyrie Profile, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, my copy of Xenogears, and pretty much the entire Xenosaga trilogy.

Maybe I was already burned out on the genre when I heard about how great Persona 3 was; how it was the ultimate JRPG and that a re-release of the game was going to put it into my budget again.  By the time I started playing it, I even had Persona 4 in my possession already (which I also haven't touched).  I knew without a doubt I was going to love this game.

Note: This post evolved from a rant on Persona 3 into a rant review on Persona 3, so while it's designated as a full review, I have not beaten either Persona 3 FES or Odin Sphere.  No final scores will be given for obvious reasons.

Mass Effect 2

Full Review

Mass Effect 2 CoverI've been delaying writing my review for Mass Effect 2 for a while now.  It was my most anticipated game in years, and I bought it the day it came out and finished it a few long nights later.  I pored over 40 hours into my first playthrough of the game, longer than even my first run of the original.  This was going to be my defining game of 2010, my Game of the Year.  It's two months later now and I've played it more since I beat it, but I still haven't compiled all my thoughts on it.  Half of me wants to write the best review possible for one of the best games ever, and the other half of me wants to make sure it really was one of the best games ever.

I'll start with my conclusion though: I loved it.  It's a beyond excellent game that takes the series and the genre into new territories.  Mass Effect 2 tries something new at every bend and seemingly succeeds at them all.  I had built up an incredible amount of hype for the game, and I can honestly say it surpassed my expectations.  BioWare, my hat goes off to you.

A little more introduction though: Mass Effect 2 was released in late January of 2010 for the Xbox 360 and Windows.  It's the direct sequel to Mass Effect which was released in late 2007.  The game was published by EA and is its flagship product for its downloadable content scheme.  The free-with-a-new-purchase Cerberus Network has provided us with plenty of free and paid for DLC since the game was released, and more is on the way.  It's BioWare's second big AAA title in about as many months with Dragon Age: Origins coming last November.  Everything seems to be going right for them.

So you can tell I enjoyed the game already, but read on to see exactly why.  Here's my full review of Mass Effect 2.

Borderlands: It's gonna be addicting

Blog Post

Borderlands CoverI received Borderlands from my brother-in-law for Christmas, but didn't have the opportunity to play it until my other brother-in-law was over to visit and asked to play it.  I watched him play while trying out the new Miles Edgeworth game, but Borderlands really grabbed my attention.

He chose to play as a berserker, and after the initial bus ride cutscene, he was on Pandora and kicking butt.  The game was very open but it always seemed like he had something to do. There were a couple of quest givers, he was leveling up, finding new guns, shooting more and more enemies.  He played for about two hours and had taken out the game's first boss after a few attempts, and then it was my turn to give it a go.

I can't believe I left this game on my shelf for so long, it's... awesome. I haven't played a game like it since World of Warcraft.  The open world feels big and intimidating, but it's one of those perfect examples of sandbox non-linearity with just the right amount of linear guidance.  The quests keep coming and I just kept leveling up.  There were skill points to earn and bigger and better guns to collect. I'm already hooked.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

Full Review

Ogre Battle 64 CoverOgre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is a mixed game, and has had mixed reviews. Some hold it as the holy grail of RPG/Strategy gaming, while others find it about as entertaining as a box of rocks.

I’m of the former. When I saw this game in Nintendo Power, and read about it, it was all new to me. I never played its SNES predecessor. But it looked so awesome. Being an RPG fan, and desperately wanting a reason to play my Nintendo 64 other than to play Super Smash Bros. or Star Fox. The game Quest 64 left a terrible taste in my mouth and made me desperately want a Playstation for some good RPG games.

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