smash the furniture

Okamiden

First Hour Review

Okamiden CoverBefore I say anything, I beat Okami. It was a fun game with some issues, and my PlayStation 2 version is an important part of my video game collection.

Before I say anything else, I didn’t like the first hour of Okami. It’s one of the few games I went back to play the first hour of because I thought it would illustrate well what a bad first hour looked like, and I was right. But it’s also a good example of where this site can go wrong. Some games like Okami just take a long time to get going, but this can also cause gamers to quit prematurely, like my friend and fellow writer Steve did.

Enter Okamiden, the chibi-ized version of Okami for the Nintendo DS. Okamiden will likely go down as one of the last good DS games before the 3DS is released in a few weeks (hopefully time remembers Radiant Historia, as well). Because I enjoyed Okami but didn’t like its first hour, Okamiden seems like the perfect game to try out for a bit. Will Capcom repeat the same mistakes they made with Okami? Will the game be too targeted for children? How will the gameplay and stylized graphics translate to the small screen?

Released yesterday, here is Okamiden’s first hour.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

First Hour Review

Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands CoverHollywood and video games have never had a healthy relationship. Ever since the Super Mario Bros movie ruined millions of childhoods, video game franchises of all kinds have received blasphemous silver screen adaptations. The latest mainstream abuse of a video game license comes from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I'm not one to praise the narrative of most games, but I really enjoyed the bittersweet fable of the Prince and Farah that the 2002 hit presented. I've heard less favorable things about the movie, and I don't think I want to see how it ended up.

The existence of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the result of one of the strangest cross-media cycles I've ever seen. The Forgotten Sands, a sequel to the Sands of Time video game, was released alongside the Sands of Time movie, an unrelated adaptation of the Sands of Time video game. Even stranger, Sands of Time already has a pair of sequels (Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones), but Forgotten Sands apparently precedes them. Even strangerer, the Wii version of Forgotten Sands is actually an alternate tale to the version of the game available for PS3, 360, and PC!

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all that. The plotline of the Sands Trilogy was already mind-bending enough with all the time travel going on, but now Hollywood's gone and made everything worse! Oh well. I guess the more pressing topic at hand is just how forgettable Forgotten Sands is on the Wii.

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening

First Hour Review

Devil may cry 3 CoverThe video game industry isn't as surprising as we'd like to think. Sequels rule the sales charts, and even new IPs tend to be paint jobs of proven gameplay schemes. It's easy to point the finger at developers and publishers, but let's take a look at a few of the bigger gambles that companies have taken with their properties.

Back in 2001, the first footage for the next Legend of Zelda caused some serious uproar when, rather than an updated Ocarina of Time fantasy setting, the new game went with a wholly cel-shaded, cartoony art style. Many had been won over by the charming new Link by the game's release, but I bet that just as many swore off Nintendo for good after this "kiddie" debacle. Later in 2001, those who had recently purchased Metal Gear Solid 2 were appalled to find the game had pulled a bait-and-switch, tossing the series' longtime protagonist Solid Snake aside within the first hour of the game for a never before seen pretty boy. The ensuing explosion of discontent was megaton in proportion.

Nintendo and Konami have had their share of death threats on message boards for these switcheroos, and now it seems Capcom's neck is on the chopping block. The long-rumored Devil May Cry 5 was finally made public at TGS 2010 as "DmC," and fans were shocked to see that it would reboot the series with a new, barely recognizable, adolescent punk version of cocky anti-hero protagonist Dante. Further, Capcom itself isn't even spearheading the development of the title, leaving Heavenly Sword developer Ninja Theory in charge. The response has been almost entirely negative.

Amidst all the noise on message boards and in video comments, I realized I hadn't spent any quality time with the old Dante myself, despite how much I enjoyed the modern Ninja Gaiden action games that are often compared to the Devil May Cry series. I borrowed a copy of the franchise's most acclaimed game, Devil May Cry 3 (which also happens to be the earliest in the series timeline) to serve as my official introduction to the outrageous half-demon. It's hard to empathize with the gamer rage that DMC fans feel at the moment, but will I change my tune after walking a mile in the old Dante's boots?

Disney Epic Mickey

First Hour Review

Disney Epic Mickey CoverMickey Mouse was never a big part of my early life. I guess that's to be expected: my grandfather remembers seeing Mickey Mouse cartoons when he was young, and a kids' cartoon character can only stay relevant for so long. I've never been into the whole corruption-of-childhood-icons thing, either. It always sort of struck me as puerile and cheap, like finding a genitalia-spacecraft dogfight penciled into the margins of a social studies textbook.

So when I first saw the Game Informer cover art for a dark take on Disney called Epic Mickey, I scoffed. I'd never imagined such a thing would exist, and I couldn't fathom it being worth a damn. I let out an unapproving sigh as I skimmed over the concept art in the magazine, featuring mechanical perversions of classic Disney characters. The designs themselves didn't bother me beyond their tired post-apocalyptic, steampunk styles, but the concept itself seemed like something a goth 7th grader might come up with after being dragged to Disney World by his family.

As it turns out, all of that imagery was just pre-production concept, used in the magazine to create as much hype as the shock value could muster. The final product has a safer appearance, one that most would say is more "tame." I think it's just less gimmicky. Further details would catch my interest as well, including the use of forgotten Disney properties to create an off-kilter gameworld (rather than just a dark one) and the moral freedom system that's supervised by a guy who excels at that sort of thing.

It's been a strange hype cycle, but Epic Mickey has finally arrived. For the first time, I'm actually anticipating a Mickey Mouse property. Is my newfound interest warranted, or should I have left it in the trash with that issue of Game Informer?

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