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.

Kirby Super Star

First Hour Review

Kirby Super Star CoverKirby Super Star is kind of like the old-school equivalent of The Orange Box. You put down your $50 and you get a whole collection of great games. All of these games are basically running the same engine and feature the same graphics and generally the same gameplay, but yet are distinct and can individually be recognized and enjoyed. This is Kirby Super Star, easily the best Kirby game in its long and colorful career (well, until Canvas Curse came along).

Anyways, as you can see by the cover of the game, Kirby Super Star features eight games. Now two of these are just simple minigames but the other six are more or less Kirby games we all know and love but done in different styles. A few of these games could actually stand on their own too but as a collection it really feels like you're getting your money's worth (so much so I actually own two copies of this game, long story).

I'm not going to have time to play all eight games in one hour, but I'll try to get to as many as I can. So let's start the review.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Full Review

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass CoverThe Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a recent Nintendo DS release and the direct sequel to Wind Waker. It features cel-shaded graphics and complete control using the stylus, pressing buttons is entirely optional and you can only use them for shortcut keys anyway, no controlling Link. This probably makes Phantom Hourglass the most unique Zelda game in terms of control (even considering Twilight Princess), but other than that it is a pretty standard Zelda affair.

Phantom Hourglass picks up where Wind Waker left off, with you and Tetra sailing the high seas. Of course, something bad happens and we basically get a repeat of the opening of Link's Awakening (a game I always considered to be sort of a sequel to Wind Waker even though they were made 10 years apart with probably no intention of relating to each other). Anyways, the game focuses on exploring the four quadrants of ocean on a treasure hunter ship and saving your girlfriend. Treasure and women is usually a good combination and Wind Waker doesn't disappoint. There is a surprisingly amount of repetitiveness, however, as the game forces you to repeat a particular dungeon something like five or six times over the course of the game. This is the only part in which the Phantom Hourglass actually has any meaning and it just feels a little rushed and slopped together in this sense. Anyways, time for some scores out of 10.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

First Hour Review

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem CoverEternal Darkness was released on the GameCube in 2002 and was actually the system's first M-rated game and I believe the first M-rated title published by Nintendo. I'm actually not very good with horror games (or anything horror in general) so it's a surprise to me that I'm even reviewing this game, but it's Halloween this week, so you are all in for a timely treat. I think I own two scary games, and Eternal Darkness is one of them (the other is Resident Evil REmake, also on the GameCube, and you will never see a review on here of that game, it's just too dang scary!).

Anyways, onto the actual game! Eternal Darkness features a unique sanity system unlike anything ever seen before. So addition to your health and magic meters, you have a sanity meter that measures just how stable you are. You lose sanity when you get hurt, or when you see something particularly freaky (which happens a lot). Losing sanity is nothing to laugh at either, because when it gets low, even more crazy stuff happens! I won't detail these "sanity effects" right now because some of them are pretty cool, but let's see what Eternal Darkness throws at us in our first hour together.

Okami

First Hour Review

Okami CoverIn a few years, Okami is probably going to be one of those games that gamers call a "work of art" but hardly any of them will actually have played it. Well, I think that's actually happening right now but someday it will be a lot more prevalent. Anyways, for those unaware, Okami is basically a Legend of Zelda game set in feudal Japan with most of your abilities being executed using a calligraphy brush. The Celestial Brush is used by holding R1 (which freezes time and grays the screen) and then moving the thumbstick around while holding down a face button to draw. Offensive slashes can be drawn with a quick, straight stroke, or you can light an enemy on fire by drawing a line from a torch to the baddie. There are a whole bunch of different strokes available by the end of the game, but I'm only interested in the first hour. Do we even get to use the brush early on or should we cross that off our list of fun in favor of something... a whole lot less fun? Time will tell and it's about to start the clock.

I actually wrote this review about two weeks ago, but since I had the opportunity to play and review Portal, this review was delayed a week!

Portal

First Hour Review

Portal CoverPortal is just one game in Valve's newest release, The Orange Box. The Orange Box is a collection of a few different games but Portal is definitely the one that intrigued me the most. The concept of the game is that it is basically a first-person puzzle game that uses a special gun to navigate the areas. This special gun is the portal gun, which allows you to create a blue portal and an orange portal. You can place these portals on most surfaces and then walk/fall/hurtle yourself through it and you'll end up on the other side. Lots of cool things can be done with this and I'll try to explore its many possibilities in my first hour review.

Portal was actually based off a senior project called Narbacular Drop. From the sounds of it, Valve basically hired everyone on this project to help them create Portal! Not a bad turn of events. Oh, and you're probably thinking: "Portal is a brand new game! How is it possible you're reviewing it already!" It's true I don't normally review such brand-spanking new games, but I couldn't pass this one up! Enjoy this rare, new game review!

For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Portal review at Beyond the First Hour.

Portal

Full Review

Portal CoverPortal is a puzzle first-person shooter recently released as part of Valve's The Orange Box. Also in this long awaited package is Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It also includes the original Half-Life 2 and Episode One, so basically this is the perfect purchase for someone looking to get into this great series. Portal was just released this week but I had the foresight of playing it right away from the recommendations of a couple of co-workers (direct quotes: "game of the year," "funniest game ever," "best character ever"). It was a great experience as I will soon describe.

But how about a quick explanation of what this game is all about! Basically, you're a woman in a research facility, experimenting with the new portal gun. This gun can shoot two different portals, a blue one and an orange one. These portals are then connected so if you walk into the blue portal you'll come out the orange portal and vice-versa. This makes for a complex but enjoyable gaming experience as you can walk through one portal and fall out the other side if it's on the ceiling. Even more fun is the momentum you can build up by placing a portal on the floor a couple levels below you and then jumping down into it from above. Your momentum carries over from the fall and you'll come hurtling out the other portal! Very fun stuff! The portals also allow you to see yourself through the portal if they're positioned properly, making for a disorienting experience. Not a bad disorienting though. Time for some scores out of 10!

For my longer review on just the first hour, please see my Portal review at The First Hour.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

First Hour Review

Zombies Ate My Neighbors CoverZombies Ate My Neighbors is a cult-classic barely recognized by most gamers, but much like Streets of Rage 2, ZAMN (maybe the greatest gaming acronym ever) looks like it will soon get a release on the Wii Virtual Console. This will undoubtedly expose the game to a much wider audience whose only experience with run-and-gun games is Alien Hominid. Well, hopefully they're able to appreciate this oldie enough to check out some of the other greats in the genre, such as Metal Slug, Contra, or Gunstar Heroes - all of which are available on the Wii or Xbox 360. Actually, let's hope this game appreciates the modern gamer.

Anyways, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was actually developed by Konami and published by Lucasarts (a rare pairing). It was released for the Genesis and Super Nintendo in 1993 and features two player multiplayer. I'll be taking advantage of this and playing simultaneously with my friend Hylas. Let's see how the first hour of one of the original zombie games turned out...

For the record, we are playing the Super Nintendo version of the game (I just like the Genesis cover better), so the score I assign is specifically for the SNES version, but is no doubt indicative of the Genesis version too.

Streets of Rage 2

First Hour Review

Streets of Rage 2 CoverStreets of Rage 2 is often called the greatest beat 'em up and the must-play Sega Genesis game. Its popularity has lasted a long time in an age where the beat 'em ups are relatively rare (one of the latest being God Hand by the now dissolved Clover Studio). The entire series is reaching new fans now as Streets of Rage 1, 2, and 3 have all been re-released on the Nintendo Wii via the Virtual Console and on Xbox Live Arcade. Back to the game on hand though, beat 'em up games have a certain expectation associated with them: the story is not as important as the gameplay and the action should start right away. This is what I'm considering when reviewing and playing the game. Does the first hour of Streets of Rage 2 deliver what its genre promises while keeping the game interesting and fun? Let's dive in and find out.

Halo: Combat Evolved

First Hour Review

Halo: Combat Evolved CoverHalo: Combat Evolved was released along with the original Xbox and essentially defined the console, along with the entire last generation of first person shooter games. Halo was one of the most popular games of the last few years, basically only surpassed by its sequel and a few other select games. Featuring a two player cooperative campaign and a multiplayer mode that supports up to 16 players over system link (multiple Xboxes on the same LAN), Halo basically had everything gamers wanted, and definitely everything the Xbox needed to get the kick in the pants that it needed. The game sold millions and so did the Xbox along with it.

Halo is basically the opposite of a game like Beyond Good and Evil. It's extremely popular with gamers, readily recognized in mainstream media, and considered overrated by some (or many, depends on who you talk to). But with Halo 3 less than a week away, Bungie's blockbuster series is on the rise. But how does it all begin? Does the first hour of Halo start the series with a bang, or a fizzle? Read on and find out.

There are no pictures in this post because I am stuck at work dealing with a major support issue. I plan to add them later this week.

Kirby: Canvas Curse

Full Review

Kirby Canvas Curse CoverKirby: Canvas Curse was one of those early Nintendo DS games that really showed off what the system could do and what happened when good developers took the time to take advantage of the DS's unique capabilities. Typical Kirby games have you basically playing a platformer, fun, but unoriginal and done to death. Kirby: Canvas Curse takes all direct control of Kirby out of your hands, instead, you draw lines on the screen to act as a path for Kirby, and the poke him along with the stylus to get him to roll along on your lines. It sounds simple, and maybe awkward, but it simply works. You can get Kirby rolling really fast and then launch him off one of your line ramps into an enemy, or make him do loops, or even scale walls with near vertical strokes. This is also one of the deepest Kirby games to date, even beating out Kirby Super Star in terms of number of things to do. The game encourages you to replay levels many times to collect more medals - to buy more stuff. The neat thing is the levels are usually different than the last time you played them, offering enough variety to keep the fun going for a while. Now for some scores out of 10.

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