This site reviews the first hour, and only the first hour, of video games. It gives a minute by minute look at what is potentially a deal breaker for many games. If a game isn't fun during the initial hour, why should we expect the last 10 to 50 hours to be any different? The First Hour updates every few days with a new game review. Please contact greg@firsthour.net for comments, game suggestions, or if you'd like to write for the site.

Suikoden

First Hour Review

Suikoden CoverI tend to be conscious of the games I buy. When I plunk the cash onto the counter, I've usually made the decision to do so months in advance. I've read some previews, watched plenty of gameplay clips, and probably played a demo (if available). This is normal for people to do when they're about to shell out $60 and tax, but I tend to do my research even when the game can be bought for a Hamilton. What can I say? I'm kind of stingy. Chicks love a pennypincher.

I indulged in a blind-buy some time ago, when a game called Suikoden went on sale from the infallible PlayStation Network for a scant three dollars. I guess I can't really call it a "blind" purchase, considering I'd heard of the series, knew it was some sort of JRPG, and recalled some praise for it throughout the years. Still, this was a small triumph for my freewheeling, devil-may-care side. The side that grins mischievously as a tossed beer can ends up in the trash rather than the recycling bin. The side that saunters across the street with reckless abandon when the orange hand in the crosswalk orders me to halt.

I've finally worked up the courage to start playing this recklessly-bought game. Will it turn out to be as thrilling as the initial purchase, or will I pledge to never blind-buy again?

World of Goo

Full Review

World of goo CoverAs one of the forerunners of the modern indie game movement (along with Braid), World of Goo demands to be played.  Created almost entirely by two individuals on a miniscule budget (2D Boy), it has since gone on to spawn several ports while receiving numerous accolades.  I'm a bit late to this party, but its resumé speaks for itself.  With incredibly high 90%+ aggregate scores, it has been universally praised as a near-flawless game.  Greg has given it a similarly stellar 9/10.  PC and Wii first claimed the game in October 2008, followed by OSX in November, Linux in early 2009 and iOS in 2010.

All that's left to do is try it out for myself, two-plus years after the fact.  Could my personal thoughts and feelings for the game live up to its lofty accolades?

Dragon Age: Origins

Full Review

Dragon age Origins CoverI don't like to give up on a game I'm invested in. I'm fine with quitting after an hour, and maybe even a few hours after that I can safely move on without second thought. But when the clock strikes double digit hours, I'm in for the long haul, or I have to make the usually difficult decision to stop for my own sanity. Back in January 2010, I made the bizarre decision to start playing Dragon Age: Origins immediately after I finished Knights of the Old Republic and just three weeks before Mass Effect 2 was released. Suffice it to say, I didn't get very far, and the call of Commander Shepard was too strong.

Almost exactly a year later, I finally returned to Ferelden to finish job. I booted up my old mage and rediscovered the hilarity of my party members and utter deepness of the gameplay. I'll admit right here and now, the first thing I did was crank the difficulty down to Casual. I wasn't playing again to make some sort of statement to nobody that I was any good at this type of game, I just wanted to experience everything Dragon Age: Origins had to offer... in terms of story and world building.

I was actually pretty hyped for Dragon Age before it was released, I read the first book, The Stolen Throne, and Grant and I checked out the web-based spinoff, Dragon Age Journeys. My first hour review of the game went decently well, but the origin story of the Dalish Elf was kind of dull which encouraged me to try another origin when I was ready to play for real. And while it took way too long to finally beat the game, it was well worth the wait in the end.

Here's my review of Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360. While I would normally write a many thousands of words on a BioWare game, I'm going to try and move at a bit swifter pace. If you're interested, Ian also reviewed this game a few months ago, this is strictly my opinion.

Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar

Half-Hour Handheld

Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar CoverLike many, I was first introduced to the concept of farming simulation via an obscure Facebook title called Farmville. Not sure if that game flopped or not, but I didn't stick around too long to find out as the idea of caring for crops day in, day out did little to excite me. Sure, I like managing and being organized and earning faux money, but in the end, there wasn't really much to do with Farmville other than pester friends with countless requests and click on the same things over and over. After some time passed, I got the hankering again to water some crops and decided to give Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon a try; unfortunately, despite being a farming simulator with bonus RPG dungeon-crawling elements, I still wasn't entertained.

Scanning the shelves of my local GameStop recently, I noticed a bunch of other Harvest Moon games on the DS. Like, a ton. There were at least three sitting eye-level, staring me in the face, begging to be watered. And I got that itch again. I decided to give the most newest title a chance. Let's see if Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar is different enough to grow into something fun, something edible. 

Red Steel 2 - Video

Blog Post

red Steel 2 CoverA few days ago, it dawned on me that I've been contributing to The First Hour for a year now. A whole year, no fake! Just remembering last week can be a trying experience for me, so thinking back twelve months is like trying to visualize the guts of a black hole.

To assist my trip down memory lane, I decided to play a bit of Red Steel 2, the first game I reviewed. I gave it a pretty glowing writeup at the time, and it ended up as the runner-up for my Game of the Year 2010 across all systems. The game isn't without its foibles, but it delivered the hardcore shooty-swordy experience that the target render for the original game fooled many into believing possible at the Wii's launch in 2006. That was enough for me to excuse most of its shortcomings.

To commemorate this one-year anniversary, I decided to capture a bit of video from Red Steel 2 to share. Originally, I planned on making a montage of the dozens of cool abilities, finishing moves, and cinematics that made the experience so fun for me, but then I stumbled across one six-minute mission around the game's midpoint that makes for a good standalone exhibition. It also cut way down on the video editing workload for me, which was admittedly the primary factor for the change of plans. Still, I think it turned out just fine.

Mass Effect: Revelation

Book Review

Mass Effect Revelation CoverMass Effect began here, with its first novel, Mass Effect: Revelation. Released in mid-2007, a half-year before Mass Effect proper was unleashed on the Xbox 360 and Windows, Revelation was meant to not only start the hype for what would become BioWare’s flagship series but also begin laying down the structure of the series’ large universe.

Authored by Mass Effect writer Drew Karpyshyn, Revelation follows the video game’s background hero Captain Anderson about 20 years before the events of the first game. We also meet a few of the series’ alien races along with the Citadel Council and first game villain, Saren. An Alliance scientist, Kahlee Sanders, is also introduced and she has served as the main link between the Mass Effect tie-in novels.

I first read Revelation when it was released in 2007, and have since read the second book, Mass Effect: Ascension, which I wrote a review on afterwards. Ascension takes place between the first two games and did an excellent job hinting at what was to come for Shepard and the gang in the second game. I recently received the first three novels (Retribution was released last year) as a gift so I decided to re-read Revelation and write a review on it, enjoy.

Illusion of Gaia

First Hour Review

Illusion of Gaia CoverIt has been a long time since we covered a classic game here at the First Hour. Not since Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts in March 2010 have we played the first hour of a game more than a decade old (not counting remakes, such as Dragon Quest IV). This used to be a pretty common occurrence, but that was back when it was just me writing and I didn’t have access to any of the newer systems.

Illusion of Gaia has been sitting on my game queue for quite a long time now, I had heard of the game during its initial release but never played it, and then my roommates in college loved it but I still didn’t give it a chance. I decided it was finally time to sit down with this action RPG Enix release on the Super Nintendo.

Released in 1994, Illusion of Gaia seems a bit like Enix’s response to Squaresoft’s Secret of Mana, with both having similar action-based gameplays with some stats playing in behind the scenes. Illusion of Gaia was actually developed by Quintet, who also created ActRaiser, Robotrek, and Soul Blazer. Hearing those names brings up a lot of nostalgia, so let’s get to the game’s first hour before we’re overwhelmed.

Nintendo 3DS: One month later

Blog Post

3ds Cosmo BlackMy first encounter with a 3DS was less than perfect. I had the privilege of playing Pilotwings Resort for about fifteen minutes in the midst of a particularly loud and busy Best Buy. The stereoscopic 3D was hardly noticeable, though it may have been because the system was locked into the cabinet a few feet below my face. And Pilotwings was...well, Pilotwings. A fine game, but hardly the one I'd choose to impress somebody.

What was impressive, however, was the strength and duration of the resulting headache. The drive home was almost unbearable, with temples flaring to the beat of my heart and some eye strain to boot. I went to bed and nursed a hangover-level headache for about three hours.

Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I decided to buy a 3DS anyway. It's hard to believe that the system's already been on the market for a month, but here we are. I've found plenty to love with Nintendo's DS successor but have some concerns as well.

Code Monkeys

TV Show Review

Code Monkeys CoverI finished watching the first season of Archer a few weeks ago and loved it. The show is a perfect storm of black humor mixed with modern office politics and 60’s era spy agency spoofs. I laughed out loud like I was watching Arrested Development all over again.

Unfortunately, I’m not writing about Archer as it really has nothing to do with video games. Instead, I’m here to tell you about Code Monkeys, a somewhat similar television show in that it shares the office politics and back-in-the-day setting. What it doesn’t share, however, is the humor.

Running between 2007 and 2008 on the G4 network, Code Monkeys features just two seasons and 26 episodes. Created by Adam de la Peña, the show follows the goings-on of a game development studio in the early 80’s. The series is entirely available on Netflix Instant Watch where I watched the first two episodes.

Rayman 3D

Half-Hour Handheld

Rayman 3d CoverPlatformers may be my favorite genre. Maybe I'm a product of the era I grew up in, when so many developers tried to beat Super Mario Bros. at its own game. Most failed, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the multitude of games that celebrated the uncomplicated joy of running and jumping skillfully across tricky terrain.

That said, the move from sprites to polygons did not treat the platformer kindly. So many of the colorful characters that were born in two dimensions were simply confounded by a third axis. I can only think of a handful of 3D platformers I've really enjoyed, and almost all of them begin with the words "Super Mario." To be fair, my standards are very high, and my definition of "platformer" is quite narrow as well.

And I've missed out on more than a few fondly-remembered 3D platformers, one of which is Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Originally released for the Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast, Rayman's first sequel (and first step into 3D) has become a cult classic of sorts. It's at least popular enough for Ubisoft to revive the game for the 3DS, just as it had seven years ago for the launch of the original Nintendo DS. Actually, according to Wikipedia, this game has been ported from the Nintendo 64 to Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, iPod Touch, and PC, in sum.

So how does Rayman 2 hold up after ten years and two ports to a picky platforming purist like me? And do the 3DS' stereoscopic visuals add a significant difference to the experience, as Nintendo claimed they could?

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