castlevania

2011 Game of the Year Awards

Game of the Year Awards

Game of the YearAnnouncing the 2011 Game of the Year Awards from First Hour!

These aren't your normal awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour. We also don't sum up votes on categories or anything either, we simply present each writer's thoughts on their pick, so if you don't like something, you know exactly who to blame! Of course, we do all this just for fun (spare time!) and buy all of our own games (real money!), so most of us don't even touch some of the big releases of the year. Woe to the unpaid game critic!

Retiring my Nintendo DS Lite

Blog Post

ds DslwhiteThe Nintendo DS was the first game system that I followed from announcement to launch. It was way back early 2004 that Nintendo first hinted at a dual-screened handheld, then codenamed "Nitro." Considering that was the only information available, it's not surprising that many questioned Nintendo's strategy. Why two screens? Nintendo offered some hypothetical benefits, like extra camera angles for sports games, but their words were hardly convincing. Little did we know, it was Nintendo's first step into the "blue ocean" strategy that would lead the company to greener pastures.

And yet, the original DS launch in November 2004 came and went with little fanfare. I was aware of the date, but didn't even realized that it arrived until I walked through a Wal-Mart electronics section and saw the grey handheld on the shelves. I kept walking. I was Nintendo faithful, sure, but it was hard to get excited about a launch lineup headlined by something nearly a decade old. It wasn't until the impending release of Kirby Canvas Curse in the summer of 2005 that I decided to bite the bullet, trading in half of my Gamecube library to GameStop in order to pay off the Nintendo DS and one game.

While it's certainly worth praise in its own right, I think Canvas Curse deserves to be remembered as the flagship of the DS library; it was the first of a fleet of incredible games that would follow in its wake. A system redesign, dubbed the DS Lite, accompanied the platform's newfound software vigor. Reduced size, brighter screens, and an iPod aesthetic provided enough worth for many to upgrade (including me) and many more to buy in for the first time. The sleeker profile and beefier games are what truly began the success story of the best-selling handheld game system ever.

But even Nintendo's first detour in the generations-old graphical arms race would lead to a dead end eventually. With the launch of a successor, the 3DS, history tells us that the best we can hope for is a year or two of life support for what was once Nintendo's "third pillar." It was an incredible performance that none could have predicted, and I think the Nintendo DS deserves a hearty round of applause before its curtain call. I've decided to contribute to the celebration in that age-old tradition of blogging: the top ten list.

In no particular order, here are ten great games that exemplified some aspect of the Nintendo DS' legacy.

2010 Game of the Year Awards *updated*

Game of the Year Awards

Game of the YearAnnouncing the 2010 Game of the Year Awards from the First Hour! We published over 60 full reviews this year, tripling our output from last year. Of course, our writing staff has grown quite a bit also. I personally beat 30 games, undoubtedly making 2010 my most productive video gaming year ever. We also played over 55 first hours, keeping up a steady pace of one a week. We have not been lacking for great games or content this year.

This isn't your normal Game of the Year awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour, so keep scrolling all the way to the bottom! If anything, our game of the year picks are the least interesting decisions. The writers here also don't vote on the categories, instead, everyone is welcome to submit their picks as their own definitive decision.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

First Hour Review

Castlevania Lords of Shadow CoverIt's not uncommon for a game's narrative concept to change mid-way through development. Story is just one of many factors that go into a title's creation, after all, and is probably the most malleable. Alterations to the game mechanics from the original plan often crop up during the creation process, and the story is adapted to reflect them. Other times, a new intellectual property will be merged into a proven franchise in order to create instant brand recognition. Before it was a celebration of all things Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. was "Dragon King: The Fighting Game." Star Fox Adventures started out simply as "Dinosaur Planet."

Such is the case for the newest installment in the Castlevania series. Lords of Shadow was originally the title, not the subtitle, and had no real connection to Konami's classic series. It also went through a few of those oh-so-common story adaptations. It was originally pitched as a remake of the original Castlevania's tale of Simon Belmont, but eventually became the series reboot released last week. And a reboot is something many would say Castlevania sorely needed: five attempts at a 3D installment of the series ended with five instances of mediocrity, and it's obvious that some fresh perspective would help, here provided by relatively unknown developer MercurySteam.

The game found its way into my mailbox last week, courtesy of GameFly. I'm a noted Metroid-vania fanatic, though my time with Lament of Innocence a short while ago was largely underwhelming. Does the reboot take the polygonal half of the franchise a step in the right direction?

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence

First Hour Review

Castlevania Lament of Innocence CoverI'd never really paid much attention to the Castlevania series until Dawn of Sorrow was featured during the early days of the Nintendo DS. I was a bit hesitant to purchase the game, writing off the series' gothic style as that of a poor horror game. But in late 2005, I ventured into Castlevania for the first time and found its undead denizens too charming to slay just once. I've returned to see Lord Dracula and his wacky friends eight times since then, and enjoyed every visit.

Having played every modern "Metroidvania" since then (besides the recently-released Harmony of Despair, focused on online multiplayer), I realized I hadn't yet spent any time in a polygonal version of Drac's realm. The impending release of franchise reboot Lords of Shadow encouraged me to stop by the local game store and check the ten-and-under bin for anything Castlevania. The various entries on the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2 systems have received mixed reviews, but I'm willing to take a chance on a bargain title in one of my favorite franchises.

My excursion to GameStop ended with my wallet ten dollars lighter and a copy of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence added to my collection. I've spent sixty minutes in the demon castle. How did this latest visit fare?

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Half-Hour Handheld

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow CoverFew gaming series have changed as much as Castlevania.  What started off as an action platformer evolved into an exploration focused action RPG with the release of Symphony of the Night, a genre which has been dubbed “Metroidvania.”  This style for the series wouldn’t be seen again for several years until it hit the most unlikely of platforms: the Game Boy Advance.  Handheld gaming rekindled interest in the series, and since Circle of the Moon in 2001, six handheld Castlevania titles have been released.  Dawn of Sorrow is the first one for the DS, and is a direct sequel to the final GBA Castlevania game.  Since these games are rather short and focus heavily on post game content and speed runs, I’ve decided to do a half hour review.  This has nothing to do with the fact that Dragon Quest IX comes out this week and I’d rather play that than write.  Nothing at all!

Fanboy Fantasies - Capcom vs. The World

Editorial

Marvel vs Capcom 3 art Iron man ryu Morrigan Wolverine HulkFanboy is a column about gaming what-ifs, hopes, dreams, and the inevitable realization that we will probably never get what we want.  But it’s always fun to speculate!

In April, Capcom shocked the world by announcing the sequel we all wanted but never thought we’d see: Marvel vs. Capcom 3.  The Vs. Capcom series is always filled with surprises: another recent one is releasing Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in the America, which many thought would be a licensing nightmare.  Capcom has crossed paths and punches with four companies: comic book titan Marvel, legendary Japanese animation studio Tatsunoko, fighting game rival SNK, and even Namco in a Japanese-only RPG.  But what other companies should Capcom square off against?  Here are five that I’d like to see.  Keep in mind, I hope for all of these to be fighting games (sorry Namco x Capcom).

Video Games Live

Blog Post

Video Games Live LogoThose of us who play a lot of video games know the power that music brings to them.  We all have our favorite classic tunes, and we know the feeling of hearing a great piece of music while playing a game.  Personally I am a huge fan of game music, listening to soundtracks and remixes of soundtracks in my everyday life.

Video Games Live is a show designed to bring the joys of video game music to the greater public.  The show consists of an orchestra playing music from games while footage from the game plays on big screens, accompanied by a light show and sometimes stage antics.

Last week I had the privilege of attending this show.  For those of you who are stalking me online, let's just get this out of the way.  I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the show was just outside the city April 1st.

Now for those of you who listen to the podcast, you will know that myself and one of our other writers, Michael T, were planning on attending the show in February but it was canceled.  Although we're still not completely sure why, they rescheduled it at a different venue about six weeks later.

Captain N: The Game Master

TV Show Review
Captain N The Game Master Cover

Captain N: The Game Master was a animated television series that aired for three seasons in the late 80's and early 90's. It was set in an imagined Nintendo universe, where most of the major Nintendo games along with a few games from third-parties come together to fight evil. While they made over 30 episodes, four from the first season were available for instant streaming over Netflix so I took the opportunity to check them out. If the rest of the series is anything like the four I watched (Kevin in Videoland, Mr. and Mrs. Mother Brain, Videolympics, Mega Trouble for Megaland), then I don't think I'll be continuing on. It's an interesting premise though, and the following is simply some random thoughts about the episodes I watched.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Full Review

Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance CoverThe first game in my new review series is Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. The second Game Boy Advance Castlevania game and the third with Metroidvania style of gameplay (the first being Symphony of the Night, which I reviewed on The First Hour a week ago). The game was released in 2002 and then re-released again in the Castlevania Double Pack to reach a larger audience (as the first release of this game and the next had rather small releases). This is how I was able to play it for the first time, and being a huge fan of this style of gameplay, was very excited to play it. Let's see at how it panned out, all scores are out of 10.

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