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Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

Full Review

sin and Punishment Star Successor CoverThe original Sin & Punishment was released in late 2000 for the N64. Due to developer Treasure's cancellation of its North American release, the game never made it outside of Japan until its rerelease for the Wii's Virtual Console seven years later. Its success, combined with the prospect of creating an all new experience utilizing the Wii's motion controls prompted the Treasure team to make a sequel; Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.

Control in Star Successor is done via the Wii Remote and Nunchuck by default. Motion controls are implemented perfectly, allowing for smooth, precise targeting, though I found my wrist getting strained after long periods (there's a joke in there somewhere). You can also use the Classic Controller, GameCube Controller, or Wii Zapper, but I feel the standard setup works best.

Editor's Note: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is Jonathan's second review here at The First Hour. This review was previously posted at IGN and Destructoid. Nate has previously written a first hour review of the game also.

GoldenEye 007

First Hour Review

Goldeneye 007 wii CoverWhen I think of GoldenEye 007, I think of a screen split in two by a horizontal line through the center. I think of the Complex, a multiplayer map with plenty of hidden nooks and crannies, as well as one raised bunker room overlooking the map's main area. I think of the claustrophobic staircase that leads into that room. And I think of the countless times I climbed that staircase, RCP-90 at the ready, only to catch a glimpse of an enormous explosion before blood dripped down my half of the screen.

When I think of GoldenEye 007, I think of my brother hoarding the explosives, camping in that fortress of perfectly-placed remote mines, watching my screen until the perfect moment to strike, then pumping his fist and laughing when the blood started to spill. Every. Single. Time.

It was infuriating then, but I can't help but laugh looking back on those days. It seems Activision, the current owners of the 007 videogame license, want to cash in on our fond memories of the N64 phenomenon that introduced so many to the first-person shooter genre. The game-publishing juggernaut announced a Wii re-imagining of GoldenEye 007 at this year's E3 with plenty of hype in tow. Though it stars Daniel Craig and boasts a storyline more fit for modern times, the new GoldenEye appears to be taking many cues from the Pierce Brosnan-era video game, with updates to the gameplay that seem stripped right out of the latest Call of Duty titles.

There aren't a lot of games that can get people excited through name alone, but GoldenEye 007 definitely fits that bill. It's easy to forget, however, that the GoldenEye name has been mishandled before. I've briefly stepped into the gadget-laden shoes of this latest James Bond. How did this first mission go? This briefing is for your eyes only, 007.

Kirby's Epic Yarn

First Hour Review
Kirbys Epic Yarn CoverThe word "epic" sees plenty of use these days. You'll find it on plenty of video game boxes, woven into a bullet point or two on the back between screenshots and numbers pulled from reviews. You'll see it in a few game company logos, as well. And sometimes, the word will flash in your mind when you play something otherwise indescribable.

It seems "epic" has truly made it big this year, finally being promoted from the back of the box to the title. Not only has the game formerly codenamed "Epic Mickey" been finalized as "Epic Mickey," but Nintendo announced and released their own titanic mega-game worthy of the term: Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Wait, seriously?

That's right, a series that has seen the words Squeak, Dream, and Tumble in its marquees is now Epic. And made of yarn. The title, of course, is a play on the word "yarn" used as a story and also the fact that everything in the game is made of fabric and knitting. But those same reviewers whose five-stars and upward-thumbs sit alongside the word on so many rear covers are giving a game that ironically uses it on the front the same treatment.

I played an hour (and then some more). Would Nintendo want to put my words on the back of the box?

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

First Hour Review

Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers CoverIt's almost expected these days that a Final Fantasy game will be announced long before it ever hits store shelves. 2010's Final Fantasy XIII was first made public nearly four years before anybody outside of Japan got their hands on the final discs, and its companion titles revealed the same day aren't even locked for release yet. I know hype builds over time, but when a game passes the four year mark since announcement, I tend to forget about it completely.

Square Enix's teasing ways aren't exclusive to the main HD-platform Final Fantasy games either, as the absurdly-titled Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers was let out of the bag a year before its HD cousins, but saw release only months prior. There were multiple rumors of cancellation, rumblings of drastic changes mid-development, and over two-thousand days between announcement and release, but FFCC:TCB did eventually see the light of day.

I remember the first teaser footage and a full trailer released some time later, which featured the protagonist in some pretty exciting situations and plenty of lighthearted flair. As time went on, I forgot about the title completely when it saw release last Christmas, but picked it up on the cheap a few seasons after its launch. Did all those years in the oven leave Crystal Bearers well-done or burnt to a crisp?

Metroid: Other M

Full Review

Metroid Other m CoverMetroid has never been one of Nintendo's big money-makers, but that hasn't stopped the franchise from garnering some very devoted fans. It's not uncommon to see Super Metroid or Metroid Prime sitting atop the list of favorites from hardcore gamers, and for good reason. Super Metroid provided a sprawling, interlacing realm of disquieting alien dangers and secrets, and Metroid Prime translated that experience into 3D with incredible audio-visual design and some interesting world-building mechanics built right into the gameplay.

Though there's certainly a base blueprint from these two trailblazers, no two Metroid games feel exactly alike. Even so, I've found something to love in each and every one of them (except for the antiquated debut NES game, which admittedly I just played for the first time days before Other M's release). The tension of being hunted in Fusion, the sudden shifts in power at Zero Mission's final hour, the thousands of text logs scattered through the Prime series...as far as I'm concerned, it's all great stuff.

It's only natural that the formula would see some alterations and evolutions over a quarter of a century, and Metroid: Other M is the latest and most radical experiment to come out of Nintendo's R&D labs in quite some time. Featuring third-person 3D action gameplay and a heavy emphasis on cinematic storytelling, the curiously-subtitled Other M certainly feels very different from its predecessors. It seems to take after Metroid Fusion the most, with a bit of Metroid Prime in there as well, but Other M's additions and adaptations certainly make it feel distinct, for better or worse.

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

First Hour Review

Zack and Wiki Quest for Barbaros Treasure CoverI purchased a Wii at launch just to play The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I wasn't particulary interested in Wii Sports, though it grew on me, but after I beat Zelda, I looked at the upcoming release schedule and promptly sold my Wii. Three years later another Wii falls in my lap and I'm given the opportunity of catching up on what I missed.

Super Mario Galaxy seemed like an obvious play, but after that, selecting games got a little tougher. Super Smash Bros. Brawl? While I had been a huge fan of Melee, I had heard the online offering was weak and the general feel of the game had changed too much. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? Hadn't enjoyed the second Prime and an unofficial first hour of the game turned me off completely. The game my wife and I decided to get? Wii Fit Plus.

A sad state of affairs for a Nintendo system, in my opinion, but there was one game that had received good reviews and seemed right up my alley: Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure. Zack and Wiki is a point and click adventure game drawn in a distinct cartoony style. It was released October, 2007 with lower than expected sales. Here's its first hour.

Metroid: Other M

First Hour Review

Metroid Other m CoverI was first introduced to Samus Aran through her appearance in the Super Smash Bros. fighting game in 1999. As Smash is a melee-centric brawl, I always imagined Samus as an agile and powerful close-combat fighter who happened to have an arm cannon as well. In 2002, I eventually played Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, and discovered that Samus, both in 2D and 3D, fought primarily with her many energy-based weapons. I certainly enjoyed each of the games, but still yearned to see the hulking heroine kick some ass in a more literal sense.

To everyone's surprise, Nintendo ended their E3 2009 presentation with a trailer of the next Metroid game. Created through a collaborative effort between Nintendo's internal studios and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame, this Metroid: Other M featured Samus Aran's return to third-person adventuring after many years spent behind the visor. Jaws were dropped, however, when the bounty-hunting babe began tossing her foes around like rag dolls, grabbing them in choke-holds, and firing charged beam shots right into their faces. Could this be the Metroid Gaiden I had been waiting for?

The months that led to Other M's release at the end of August tempered my expectations somewhat as new details were revealed, but I was still fairly excited when the game was shipped to my door earlier this week. Did my first romp with Other M leave me disappointed or eager to see more?

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

Half-Hour Handheld

Broken Sword Shadow of the Templars CoverBroken Sword is not a new game. In fact, it was released back in 1996, a year so far gone that I barely remember anything about it. I know I did not experience Broken Sword then or even heard of it; I was just a lad with a PlayStation and a little RPG called Suikoden to occupy my time. Broken Sword only existed in my mainframe later on as a cult thing, something people talked about playing, but were never caught playing. I later played other point-and-click games like Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle and Escape from Monkey Island yet never got to try this “classic.” Then I discovered it in my mother’s DS collection (yes, she plays) a few weeks back and found my chance to try it out for the very first time, some 14 years later. And this is the Director’s Cut which, I guess, means something.

As it’s a story-heavy Nintendo DS game, this is only a half-hour review. I hope it hits all the points and really clicks! Um, I apologize for that…I know it was a stretch.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

First Hour Review

sin and Punishment Star Successor CoverBack when I was a kid, I loved telling people about things that I enjoyed. I would explain, in excessive detail, how amazing whatever I had just witnessed was. I distinctly remember recounting the entirety of a particularly amazing Simpsons episode to a friend in grade school, to the point where he rolled his eyes and walked away in disbelief of my obsession. I understood that he couldn't appreciate the episode without watching it and that my overexcited babbling would do Leonard Nimoy's brilliant guest appearance no justice, but I couldn't stop myself. I find myself thinking back on old times like this one because, as I sit down to write first hour reviews for this site, I look at the massive walls of text that result from my sixty minutes with some very entertaining games and think about just how powerless those words are compared to the experience in my mind.

On that note, I've had to do some significant editing to this first hour review of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. I knew I would enjoy the game after playing through its prequel a few weeks ago for the first time, but my enthusiastic ramblings from that first hour were anything but concise. I threw out a lot of what I had originally written, and it's still far longer than the average first hour review here. If you want the long and short of it up front, just imagine playing Star Fox 64 with one hand and House of the Dead with the other and you've got the jist of Star Successor. Only this version of Star Fox 64 is much more difficult, and this version of House of the Dead has dozens of things to shoot on the screen almost all the time.

I'll just go ahead and say it up front: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is a serious contender for my game of the year. I do hope the text gives you an idea of how the game works and whether or not you should go out and buy it right this very minute, but one glance at the sheer length of this review should let you know just how much I enjoyed it.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Full Review

Super Mario Galaxy 2 CoverIt has been a while since we've seen two core Mario series games on one Nintendo system in a while, you need to go back to the Super Nintendo with the two Super Mario Worlds for the last example, and it is highly arguable whether Yoshi's Island can be considered a core Mario game for that matter. Surprisingly, Nintendo announced Super Mario Galaxy 2 last year and the game was released this May to much herald and acclaim. Glancing at Metacritic, the top two games for the Wii are our two Galaxies, an incredible triumph for Nintendo.

I actually beat Super Mario Galaxy 2 well over a month ago, but I decided, much like I did with the first Super Mario Galaxy, to wait until I had collected all 120 stars before writing a review. Actually, make that 240, no... 242 stars! Galaxy 2 more than doubles the collectible star count over the original while keeping the game both interesting and challenging. But is the game too much like the Super Mario Galaxy, or does it set itself apart enough to transcend the typical sequel failings we've been witness of lately?

For a look at the game's opening, check out Nate's first hour review of Super Mario Galaxy 2 published right after release.

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