gamecube

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

First Hour Review
X Men Legends 2 Cover

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is an action RPG featuring the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants teaming up to fight Apocalypse. Developed by Raven Soft and published by Activision, it's (obviously) the sequel to X-Men Legends.

I have never played X-Men Legends. Why, then, am I playing the sequel? In the first game, you play as the X-Men fighting against the Brotherhood. In the second, you play as the X-Men and the Brotherhood, which seemed much more interesting to me.

How will this game capitalize on this unique license? Will an action RPG be fitting for the X-Men (and Brotherhood)? Did I make a huge mistake in playing the sequel before the first?

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai

First Hour Review
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Cover

Everyone should have heard of Dragon Ball Z, the famous anime based on the manga by Akira Toriyama. It's the second part of the series (preceded by Dragon Ball), and the most famous. It follows the adult life of Goku as he grows more powerful and gets in fights with aliens.

Dragon Ball Z has such loyal fans that any game with the Dragon Ball Z moniker automatically sells well, no matter how bad. This is what licensed games are all about: making money on the strength of the brand instead of the strength of the game.

Then along came Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (which basically means "tournament") for the Playstation 2. It sold exceptionally well, even for DBZ, so Atari decided to update the graphics and release it on the Nintendo GameCube, where it went on to sell over a million copies and become Player's Choice.

The GameCube version is the preferred release, as the developer Dimps took the opportunity to implement cel-shading, making the game look more like the anime than the Playstation 2 version. I will be playing the GameCube version.

What I want to know is this: is this game worthy of its Player's Choice status, or did DBZ just have a million fans ready to pay for anything with Goku on the front? Will this game be fun for those without prior knowledge of the story, or will you have to be a devoted fan to get anything out of it?

The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Third Age Cover

And so we've come the the last game in the Lord of the Rings marathon. The good thing about this marathon is that it was much shorter than a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. Actually, beating all three games would probably take less time than watching the extended versions of the movies. Snarkiness aside, it would be a good idea to read the first two before venturing into this one.

After Return of the King was released, there was still enough hype about the Lord of the Rings movies to warrant releasing another game. Since the two previous games had already covered all the battles from the movies (and then some), EA decided to tap into a previously neglected genre: they released an RPG.

The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is almost a JRPG, except it wasn't developed in Japan. Because of this, it has a little more Western influence on the storytelling and some of the gameplay.

The story was created just for the game and has you controlling new characters, mainly Berethor, a man of Gondor, who is searching for Boromir.

Will Lord of the Rings make a good RPG? Perhaps the bigger question is, will EA make a good RPG? Hmmm....

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Return Of The King Cover

The second game in my marathon is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. To simplify, I will assume you have already read my Two Towers review, so if you haven't you may want to do that first.

Return of the King (RotK) is the follow-up to The Two Towers. This game was released in conjunction with the movie, so it follows it much more closely. The levels are taken only from the final movie (which doesn't always correspond to the final book).

In order to one-up the previous game, RotK raises the number of playable characters from three to five right off the bat, with several unlockable characters as well. It also adds interaction within the environment, two-player co-op, and a bunch of tweaks such as graphical enhancements.

Will these changes be enough to help Return of the King surpass The Two Towers? Will its First Hour be as well paced as its predecessor? Or will neither of these things happen?

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Two Towers Cover

This is the start of a marathon of Lord of the Rings gaming, in which I play the first hour of three games based on the Lord of the Rings movies. Strangely enough the three games are not one for each movie; there was in fact no game made for the Fellowship of the Ring movie. Instead, I'll be playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age as the third game.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most beloved series of books ever written, and the movies based on them are some of the best-selling of all time. What I want to find out is if the IP was able to make the jump to video games with the same fidelity.

I read these books some years back, before the movies came out, and they are some of my favorite books. Because of this, I may throw around a few terms that are unfamiliar if you have not read the books or watched the movies. If this is the case I strongly urge you to read the books.

Electronic Arts had the video game rights to the Lord of the Rings films (Sierra had the rights to the books; I'm not really sure how that works), but since the first film came out around the time the console cycle entered the next generation, EA decided to skip Fellowship of the Ring and instead focus on releasing a game that coincided with the premier of The Two Towers. Because of this, the game starts with several scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Which stigma will this game live up to: Lord of the Rings, or movie game? Find out. Here's the first hour of The Lord of the Ring: The Two Towers for the Nintendo GameCube.

Chibi-Robo!

First Hour Review
Chibi Robo Cover

Ever get tired of fighting? Can't someone make a game about something besides combat? Those were questions I was asking myself when I discovered Chibi-Robo. I remembered this Nintendo-published game vaguely from when it first came out, but looked into it with more interest as I tried to find a game about something other than violence.

Granted, games like The Sims are about something other than fighting, but what I was looking for was a game that used familiar game elements in a non-combat setting. For example, could you earn experience points by talking to people? Explore and find something other than more enemies to fight? Surely it can be done, but it didn't seem to exist in the wild.

That's when I found Chibi-Robo. Developed by Skip Ltd. and published by Nintendo, it seems to be an adventure game in which you play as a tiny robot and explore a house. Your mission is to make the host family happy, which you do by cleaning up trash and spills, finding lost objects, and sundry other tasks.

But will a non-violent game be able to offer an exciting first hour experience?

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

Guest First Hour Review
Prince Of Persia Warrior Within Cover

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is the sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was itself a relaunch of a popular 2D platformer from the early 1990s. The relaunch, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, eventually became a trilogy, released on PlayStation 2, XBox, GameCube, PC, and even a version for the GameBoy Advance. The series has since been relaunched again on the current generation of systems.

Sands of Time was very well received for many reasons, including beautiful art direction, spot-on controls, fluid animations, clever mechanics and a wonderful intangible quality. It had two main downfalls: the combat was repetitive and the game was short.

Warrior Within sets out to correct both of these follies, boasting a longer story and a much-improved combat engine that takes the acrobatic attacks of the first game and expands them to a move list that takes up several pages in the instruction manual.

With these improvements, the game has also "matured" in the video game sense, which as usual means blood and scantily-clad women. Oh, and heavy metal. I'm not really sure why Ubisoft felt this was necessary; I'm assuming it was based on customer feedback.

I played through Prince of Persia: The Sands of time a while back and enjoyed it very much. When it was over I wished it wasn't, and that's what sequels are for. Will Warrior Within satisfy my craving for more acrobatic platforming/adventuring featuring the Prince of Persia?

Note: If I say "the first game" I'm referring to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, not the original Prince of Persia game.

007: Everything or Nothing

Guest First Hour Review
James Bond Everything Or Nothing Cover

James Bond: he's the original super-spy. The secret agent with style, he always gets his man... and his woman.

Unfortunately he hasn't always fared so well in video games. Except for Goldeneye, games bearing the 007 insignia have turned out less than stellar.

I recently got my hands on a copy of 007: Everything or Nothing. This EA-published game on the GameCube (it was also released on the PS2 and XBox) was the first 007 game to ditch the first-person-shooter genre that Goldeneye established in favor of a third-person action adventure. (There had been a third-person 007 game on the PlayStation, but it was received poorly and all subsequent 007 games were first-person-shooters.)

Also, this game has more stars than most Hollywood movies. Pierce Brosnan voices 007, Dame Judy Dench is M, John Cleese is Q, our villain is Willem Dafoe, the Bond girls are Heidi Klum and Shannon Elizabeth, with Mya for good measure, Richard Kiel is Jaws... and all the characters are modeled after their actors.

Will 007 get a video game worthy of his refined demeanor, or is this another impotent cash-in on the 007 franchise? Will a cast full of Hollywood stars take this game to the next level, or will these actors fail to make the transition to video game voice acting? Will 007 introduce himself as "Bond, James Bond?" Let's find out now:

Battalion Wars

Guest First Hour Review
Battalion Wars Cover

Battalion Wars is a GameCube exclusive real time strategy/action hybrid developed by the British second-party team Kuju and published by Nintendo. Real time strategy is a popular genre but has been mostly unsuccessful on consoles, due primarily to the lack of a mouse. Battalion Wars tries to solve this problem by introducing a new control scheme, as well as allowing the player direct control over any unit on the field at any time.

Battalion Wars was initially announced as the console entry into the Advance Wars series, billed "Advance Wars: Under Fire," and later was spun into a new series. Did the new control scheme and 3rd person shooter mechanics bring the long-hoped-for innovation to console RTS games, or will this be a massive mess of mangled controls and muddled objectives? Only I know, and I'm going to tell you.

Paul Eastwood returns with another action oriented game, if you like his style, check out his first hour reviews of Freedom Fighters and Enter the Matrix!

Freedom Fighters

Guest First Hour Review
Freedom Fighters Cover

Freedom Fighters is a third-person action game set in an alternate reality in which the Soviet Union became the world superpower after WWII. What sets it apart from other action games is the squad tactics: you can give orders to a number of other people, and must use them strategically to advance through the game. The more charisma you earn, the more people you can command.

The game came out in 2003 for Xbox, PS2, GameCube and PC. I played the GameCube version.

The story has the USSR invade the United States to "free it from a corrupt regime." You play as a guy from Brooklyn who sets out to make things right.

Will squad tactics help this game rise above an ordinary action game, or will the first hour be mired in learning a complicated control scheme, enough to put off any player? Let's find out.

Paul Eastwood delivers another great review just in time for the 4th of July! Enjoy!

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