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.

Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden

First Hour Review

Ninja Gaiden Xbox CoverNinja Gaiden NES CoverNinja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden are NES and Xbox games with the exact same name. Ninja Gaiden for the NES came out in 1989 and Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox came out in 2004. I'm not sure why Tecmo and lead designer Itagaki didn't give the Xbox Ninja Gaiden game a subtitle, but it's too late to wonder, because there are officially two games under the name of Ninja Gaiden, just released 15 years apart. In first hour tradition, I will be only playing Ninja Gaiden for one hour, but because they are named exactly the same, I will first play half an hour of Ninja Gaiden for the NES, and then half an hour on the Xbox. This will complicate the review a bit, but I'll try to always make is clear what game I'm talking about.

This is an exciting time for the Ninja Gaiden series, as Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword was released last month for the DS and Ninja Gaiden II will be out in a few weeks for the Xbox 360. Remember, this is a new Ninja Gaiden II, not Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos which was released on the NES in 1990. Yeah, Tecmo does it again. I plan on playing Dragon Sword (not Dark Sword) someday as it sounds pretty cool, but this review is all about the first hour of the two Ninja Gaidens. So let's get right down to it. To start, the first thirty minutes of Ninja Gaiden for the NES.

Pocky & Rocky

First Hour Review

Pocky & Rocky CoverPocky & Rocky is a multiplayer scrolling shooter for the SNES and developed by Natsume, the creators of Harvest Moon. It's hard to imagine the guys who made a farming simulator once worked on a fast-paced, crazy hard shoot 'em up. But they did, and here it is. The game has a lot of charisma and character, but it's super tough! I recruited my friend Hylas to help me out, much like I did for Zombies Ate My Neighbors. This game once again proves that two heads are better than one, but is the game really any good? With a name like Pocky & Rocky, how can you go wrong?

Pocky & Rocky is actually the second game in the Pocky series (Kiki KaiKai was a Japanese only arcade game featuring just our heroine Pocky), but the first in the Pocky and Rocky series starring the girl and the raccoon. There's also a new PS2/Wii game called Kiki Kai World (or Heavenly Guardian) that is somewhat of a new sequel to the series, just 15 years later. Well, who cares about those other games, this is all about Pocky & Rocky! Now, let's get it on!

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

Full Review

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon CoverRune Factory is the "Harvest Moon with swords." This is still the craziest thing I have ever heard and I just beat the stinking game! If you would have told me 10 years ago that the Harvest Moon game I loved would one day feature swords and magic and monsters and bosses, I would have thought that was pretty crazy. Of course, the series has evolved a lot since that first game and Rune Factory is just the latest one off that Natsume has been experimenting with the last few years. I think they were successful with a fantasy Harvest Moon though, but there are some problems. Let's just get right into the good and the bad.

Yoshi's Island DS

Full Review

Yoshi's Island ds CoverYoshi's Island DS is the sequel to the greatest 2D platformer of all time, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. In my mind, this is a super tall order for the game to live up to, and unfortunately it doesn't, but the DS sequel is still a great game on its own and is definitely one of the best platformers on the system. If you've played the original you will be right at home with Yoshi's Island DS, as the basic gameplay is exactly the same as it was 13 years ago. This is a good thing but they also spent some time adding a few things here and there.

And maybe it's just me, but this game is hard, harder than the original. Especially if you plan to collect all the points in each level, which I did a few years back for the SNES game, and am currently attempting now for Yoshi's Island DS. Let's just say I need to wear a wrist strap so I don't chuck my DS across the room. Let's get to the review.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies

Full Review

Geometry Wars Galaxies CoverGeometry Wars: Galaxies is a multi-directional shooter and in my opinion, the ultimate descendant of the classic arcade game, Asteroids. This is a full retail game that expands on Geometry Wars and Retro Evolved that appeared as bonus games and on Xbox Live Arcade. It was released on the Nintendo DS and the Wii, and I played it for the DS. There are a ton of levels and there is so much more variety than just the familiar giant box with enemies appearing from the corner. I was really impressed when I encountered my first really small level and was forced to basically hole up in a corner and defend myself for a few minutes.

For those unfamiliar with the series or the concept of an Asteroids clone/descendant, it's basically you against the universe in increasingly overwhelming odds. You pilot one small ship and more and more bad guys appear constantly. The enemies are color-coded and distinctly shaped, so you always have an idea how some will act and react to you. Some just float around aimlessly, others rocket at you at incredible speed kamikaze style. There are a lot of new additions from the original that make this a worthwhile playing experience.

Another World

First Hour Review

Another World CoverAnother World (Out of this World) is a cinematic platformer released on just about every system back in 1991. Now the phrase, "cinematic platformer" gives me shivers because of its sheer potential of awfulness. When I hear those words I think of terrible gameplay and ugly, "realistic" looking graphics. The games are typically rotoscoped to give them a unique graphical style, which usually doesn't bother me, it's more the style of gameplay that makes me experience nasty flashes of nostalgia. If you've ever played the original Prince of Persia games, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Another World is known as Out of this World in the United States. Much like Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, the game is renamed for some stupid reason that leaves people confused and wondering whether the stone is the sorcerer's or the philosopher's. Either way, the game supposedly influenced Fumito Ueda, who went on to create Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. So at least this game was good for something, but let's check out the first hour of Out of this World to see if it can properly defend itself and (in my opinion) the thankfully lacking genre known as the cinematic platformer.

I'll be playing the 15th Anniversary Edition for the PC released in 2006. The game features higher resolution graphics and more detailed backgrounds.

Bioshock

First Hour Review

Bioshock CoverBioShock was widely heralded as the 2007 game of the year. I always pay close attention to games labeled as such because they're generally important to video game history and have great influence on the industry. BioShock seems like it will be no exception. It's a first-person shooter for the PC and Xbox 360 and is set on the dystopian underwater city called Rapture. Our hero unwittingly arrives there and must uncover Rapture's dark secrets while staying alive. Rapture was built by Andrew Ryan, an Objectivist who attempts to fulfill his dream society under the sea. Things obviously don't go smoothly.

BioShock has sold millions, won a ton of awards, and probably has a ton of sequels on the way. But how does the first hour of it fare? Let's dive into BioShock and experience Rapture.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Full Review

Professor Layton and the Curious Village CoverProfessor Layton and the Curious Village is a Nintendo DS point and click adventure puzzle game. The game features 135 brain-busting puzzles that will seriously give you a headache by the game's end, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience beating them all. In between all the puzzles is a somewhat interesting story about Professor Layton and his young apprentice, Luke, exploring the village of St. Mystere and uncovering its many secrets. There's a wide cast of characters and all the art and backgrounds are hand-drawn and looks really great. There's even some voice acting thrown in that's actually good, but the real star in Professor Layton are the puzzles.

Within the curious village, residents will constantly offer you challenging puzzles to tackle, and clicking on certain items also triggers a puzzle from either the Professor or Luke. The puzzles range from 30 second quickies using pattern and object recognition to 30 minute Tylenol-taking nasties using advanced techniques such as shortest path, eight queens, playing card probability, and moving one giant block through a mess of smaller ones. Since there are so many puzzles, there is a ton of variety and only a few "repeats with new conditions."

None of this probably makes any sense, so let me just get to my review.

Bible Adventures

First Hour Review

Bible Adventures CoverBible Adventures is an old, unlicensed NES game made by Wisdom Tree. Since it was unlicensed and not approved by Nintendo, they were able to do cool things like have a baby blue colored cartridge and even featured their own Wisdom Tree Seal of Quality on the box. The game is a popular target for "Worst Game of all Time," mostly thanks to Seanbaby, but honestly this game was not that bad. Definitely not even in the bottom 10%. Compare it to other officially licensed crap like Deadly Towers or Bebe's Kids and you actually have a decent game going. Anyways, Bible Adventures features three Bible stories: Baby Moses, David and Goliath, and Noah's Ark told through platformers. They all pretty much play the same, but the Baby Moses game is actually pretty bad.

Since today is the last day of March, the month is supposed to be end like a lamb, which basically means it will be a calm Spring day. Instead, we have a heavy snow warning and are expecting 6-8 inches of slushy snow. Ugh. I reviewed The Lion King at the beginning of the month when March was supposed to come in like a lion (it was a nice day) and Bible Adventures is one of the only games that features sheep in even a small role. The other game I considered was Sheep for the PC but decided to do the more well known Bible Adventures. Well, let's get to the review.

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

First Hour Review

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer CoverMystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a new Nintendo DS adventure that is actually a port of a 1995 Super Nintendo game released only in Japan. Shiren's gameplay is based off the classic computer games Rogue and NetHack. This means randomly generated stages, turn-based gameplay, and harsh character death penalties. Games today are wussified to the point of being able to save anywhere and three hour long tutorials that wean you into the game, Mystery Dungeon is kind of a breath of fresh air. Even if it is a 13 year-old breath, it mixes up the portable scene a bit.

Not much left to say about Mystery Dungeon, I think the review and screenshots will explain the game pretty well.

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