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Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

First Hour Review

Recettear Cover2011 is turning into the year the Japanese RPG redeems itself in my eyes. Radiant Historia is still my favorite for game of the year, and Xenoblade: Chronicles had such a fun first hour that I can’t wait to play it in the evenings. Heck, even Golden Sun: Dark Dawn wasn’t that bad. So let’s give another one a try in Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, the tale of an item shop and whatever a Recettear is.

Recettear is a Japanese indie game (known as “doujin”) for Windows that was translated and published outside of Japan by a pair of Something Awful users. Released last December on Steam (after a 2007 release in Japan), Recettear has seem surprisingly brisk and successful sales that will reportedly open up the market to other doujin games.

I picked up Recettear on Steam during a fire sale and it has been calling to me ever since. How the heck does a game about an item shop work? Are these screenshots showing action fighting for the same game? Let’s find out and play the first hour of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale.

I am now in the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta

Blog Post

Star Wars the old Republic CoverYes, I am now a beta tester for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and that is literally all I can tell you. The NDA says everything is confidential except for two addendums:

  1. The fact that there is a Game Program.
  2. The fact that you are a member of the Game Program.

So until the NDA is lifted, I have to be silent! Please don't tempt me!

I am rather excited about beta testing, I recently went from seeing The Old Republic as a must-buy to being on-the-fence, so I see this as my free trial at the game before I plunk down $60 for the box plus $15/month. When I finally can write about the game, I will have plenty to say, with hopefully first hour impressions of every class. (yes, the game has classes and that's a well known fact, I can say that!) I'm also a big fan of Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic, and I usually put tons of trust into BioWare blindly, so that too will be put to the test.

Hopefully this won't cut into my regular gaming too much, but I'm actually not playing much at the moment though besides Xenoblade: Chronicles, so they will definitely compete for time. In the meantime, I'll probably pop up some first hour reviews of a few of my Steam games, Recettear has been calling to me for a while.

Fallout: New Vegas

First Hour Review

Fallout new Vegas CoverThis is my third first hour in the Fallout series, played the original Fallout back in 2008, then Fallout 3 in 2009. Both games left me interested, but wary. I never went on with Fallout, but played the third game for about 10 hours before I became frustrated with what I thought to be iffy sneaking and overwhelming combat. I definitely feel like I gave the game a great attempt, but in the end just didn’t have the heart to go on.

Fast-forward to 2011, and my brother-in-law gives me Fallout: New Vegas out of the blue. He says it is one of his favorite games, and like how some people give away their favorite book to friends, he apparently just gives away video games. I would have preferred something, anything else, but what can you do? Plus, Paul loves it.

So here we are with October 2010’s New Vegas, the Vice City-esque sequel to Fallout 3. New setting, new characters, slightly tweaked gameplay, and from everything I’ve read, absolutely chock full of bugs. But hey, I really enjoyed Fallout 3’s first hour, so I’m hoping for a repeat with New Vegas. And you never know, I may go all the way with this one.

Welcome to New Vegas.

Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips

Full Review

Airport Mania 2 CoverWikipedia says Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips' genre is "Click Management", which sounds like the category Microsoft Excel would also be filed under. But trust me, Airport Mania 2 is infinitely more fun. In the same vein as Diner Dash, Sally Spa, and all the hundreds of other click management, strategy, time management clones out there, the goal is to efficiently do something with limited resources. But Airport Mania 2 stands above the rest with high polish and attractive graphics.

Developed by Reflex Entertainment and South Wind Games, the original Airport Mania: First Flight, was a mild success for Windows and OSX in 2008. Re-released on nearly every portable platform since then (including DSiWare), they've slowly been building their airport simulator empire. Airport Mania 2, released earlier this year, is an upgrade of the original but still carries all the charm.

Airport Mania 2 is less of an airport simulator and more of an air-traffic control strategy game. Let's take a quick look at the Android version released a few weeks ago.

Dragon Age II

Full Review

Dragon age 2 CoverI was a bit worried going into my playthrough of Dragon Age 2. The first screenshots revealed a depressingly gray world with curiously pointy polygons, and reader reviews of the game blasted it for a variety of reasons. But my first hour review of the title cemented me firmly in the “I’m going to enjoy this game” category, and 40 hours later I emerged with some sore fingers and a smile on my face.

It’s understandable why some gamers didn’t enjoy Dragon Age 2, in some ways it’s quite a departure from the stable, Western RPG tropes that Dragon Age: Origins employed, but deep down, it really is the first game’s sequel. Some aspects have been streamlined, for better and worse, but I always felt like I was in the Dragon Age universe I spent 50 hours in last time around.

Dragon Age 2 was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, and OSX. I played a used copy on the Xbox 360, meaning I didn’t have access to any downloadable content that was provided for first-time buyers.

Best in Show

Preview

Best in Show CoverA few weeks ago I found myself addicted to a little iOS game called Turtle Fly. The idea is as simple as the title: you fly a turtle like you’re launching a rocket into space, avoiding obstacles until you run out of fuel or health. Sounds like a typical mobile game, right? Worth about five minutes of your time and then deleted? Well, toss in a shop and RPG elements and all of a sudden we have a real, solid game on our hands that will suck hours away at a time.

I’m not going to argue that adding RPG-like elements to every genre will make it better - would Tetris be improved with hit points? - but sometimes the right amount of stats and level-up progression injected into the right part of the game will give it the boost it so desperately needs.

The new indie title, Best in Show, is attempting to do just that, with solitaire. Here’s my preview of the soon to be released, canine-themed, solitaire card game with RPG elements.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

First Hour Review

Deus ex Human Revolution CoverAs a prequel to the original Deus Ex, which I've replayed numerous times—well, mostly that beginning level set on Liberty Island—Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a difficult task ahead of itself. It has to be more visually advanced than the 2000 offering, with updated gameplay mechanics, and yet keep things less technological in terms of story, as this is a time before JC Denton took on the Illuminati with his wild and crazy nano-augments, when augments were glorified.

Deus Ex is one of the earlier examples of fusing RPG elements with shooters, often allowing players to not even fire a gun so long as they upgrade their character correctly. Nowadays, with titles like Fallout: New Vegas and just about every shooter with a name implementing some kind of RPG leveling system, it's hard to say how tall Deus Ex: Human Revolution will stand.

Well, its opening hour is upon us; hope I upgraded my enjoyment augmentations enough.

Plants vs. Zombies

Full Review

Plants vs Zombies CoverPlants vs. Zombies is a game I've been eyeing for a while.  It regularly tempted me at $10 Steam with even cheaper sale prices.  This summer's sale finally put me over the edge.  Every so often you need some good tower defense action, and PvZ seemed like a unique yet highly praised take on the genre.  Its cartoonish, Popcap/flash feel and simple five-lane setup makes things perfect for beginners.  And it has enjoyed massive success over a huge variety of platforms.  Originating on PC, PvZ has since expanded to every modern platform imaginable, both traditional and mobile.  Popcap is undeniably a casual gaming powerhouse.  The Bejeweled and Feeding Frenzy creators certainly know how to make products and pricing that clicks with the average consumer.  They've been so successful that EA recently purchased the company for ~$750 million.

For the most part, PvZ exemplifies this success.  It creates a casual-friendly atmosphere with calculated progressive learning combined with enough longevity and a tad of optional difficulty to round out the complete package.  The game starts slowly, at first holding your hand with only a couple plant options (towers) available to defend your house from a weak zombie horde on a completely barren level.  With only five lanes to defend, beginners will learn quickly what it takes to operate.  In case they make mistakes, the game includes a get-out-of-jail-free card, in the form of zombie-clearing machines that activate and clear the lane should a zombie make it past the plants.  For a while, the game introduces a new plant on almost every level, encouraging the player to try them out and discover what they're worth.  Soon enough, juggling several plant types on more obnoxious levels will be a requirement.

Bionic Commando and Bionic Commando

First Hour Review

Bionic Commando nes CoverThere once was a game named Bionic Commando, and then twenty years later there was another game named Bionic Commando. In some media, this would be called a remake, but when one features a generic soldier battling through different locations with a grappling hook and the other features a dreadlocked dude battling through an office building with cheesy one-liners, I wonder where the remake line is drawn.

Bionic Commando was released for the NES in 1988 by Capcom. It landed among a glut of platformers where characters did normal things like run and jump, but Bionic Commando bucked the trend and put you in the body of a slow-moving soldier with only his grappling hook at hand to move vertically. Its combination of solid but difficult gameplay and a branching level select entrenched it in the mind of gamers, which led to...

Bionic Commando was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2009 by Capcom. It landed among a glut of actiony-platformer shooters where characters shot things until they died, and Bionic Commando did not buck the trend. Its combination of generic yet insulting gameplay and derivative story made it largely a totally forgotten game.

Neither Bionic Commandos is meant to be confused with Bionic Commando: Rearmed, which is an actual remake of Bionic Commando (for the NES), and released a year before Bionic Commando (the forgotten one on the more whiz-bangery systems). Or Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, which is a sequel to the remake released before the game with the same name as the original.

I've played around with this tom-foolery before, particularly with Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden. A pair of games that both featured the same name and ninjas, but that's about it.

I'm going to play the first half-hour of each Bionic Commando, which adds up to an hour of Bionic Commandoness. I will then judge them entirely on 30 minutes of gaming and move on with my life.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Full Review

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition CoverI first played The Secret of Monkey Island about 20 years ago. This was an era of launching games from DOS, Commander Keen, and wheel spinning copy protection. I played the game with my cousin, who would frequently lose the Dial-a-Pirate code wheel forcing us to wildly guess at the game’s opening question.

The Special Edition released in 2009 thankfully does not have any code wheels (or even worse: always-on internet connection), but does feature completely redone high resolution art, a full voice cast, and the same brand of humor fans of the game know and love.

I’m personally a huge fan of the Monkey Island series, with the second holding a very special place in my heart and the third (gasp!) being my favorite. And while I beat the original when I was younger, I never held a lot of nostalgia for it, so this review is actually coming from a fan of the series who likes the first one the least in the trilogy And no, there is no fourth game.

Paul Eastwood originally reviewed the Special Edition two years ago when it was new, I finally got around to beating it this weekend after having it sit in my Steam library since release. Here is my review of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

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