Greg Noe's reviews and writings

  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

    Full Review

    Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword CoverThe Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was my primary reason for buying a Wii at launch. It left me feeling disappointed and greatly annoyed. Five years later, beating The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on my second Wii (after selling my first just days after beating Twilight Princess) leaves me with nearly the opposite effect: I loved it and am slightly giddy to write a review about it before the end of the year.

    I was definitely not feeling the game a few hours in. Twilight Princess’ first hour is awful and Skyward Sword’s is arguably worse, and the ramp up feels tedious. My list of annoyances was longer than any kind of enjoyment I was getting out of the game, but once the game does ramp up, it does it incredibly successfully.

    So as the Wii’s last hurrah, Skyward Sword leaves a great impression, here’s my review of the latest Legend of Zelda game, released in November. This is our second full review of the game, following Nate’s from last week. I re-read his review in preparation for my own, and have to say I agree on basically every point. So hopefully this review won’t be longer than it needs to be, but if you have some time, do read his write-up.

  • Trophy Unlocked: PlayStation 3 obtained

    Blog Post

    Heavy Rain CoverFive years after its release, I finally own a PlayStation 3. This feels like a significant length of time, especially as the only console I purchased after a comparable amount of time was the Dreamcast, which had already been "dead" for years at that point. But the PlayStation 3 is far from dead, and through a combination of a down economy and systems that are still "good enough", neither Microsoft or Sony seem to be in any kind of rush to release their next console iteration. This is beneficial to consumers like me, who are greatly rewarded for waiting with lots of great, exclusive games at cheap prices.

    There is definitely an embarassment of riches to be had jumping into a five year old, successful console like the PlayStation 3, emphasized by my recent Christmas extravaganza. My wife ordered me the system over Black Friday, triggering a chain reaction of purchases from siblings and in-laws, hey, I can't complain. Here's my haul:

  • Need a starting class for Star Wars: The Old Republic?

    Blog Post

    Star Wars the old Republic CoverI was in The Old Republic beta for about two months, and during that time, I managed to get three whole classes to level 10. About three weeks into my beta period, we were forced to reinstall the game due to a major update... and I simply never bothered to install the 20GB+ download again. This isn't to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic is a bad game, I just don't have enough time to devote to an MMO anymore, which is kind of sad, but then I go back to playing Zelda and Skyrim and I feel better.

    Back to my original point though, the three classes I played were Smuggler, Jedi Consular, and Sith Warrior. While all fun in their own right, I had a really great time with the Smuggler. This is an action heavy class that plays like nothing I've seen in an MMORPG before. The Smuggler can take cover, roll around, and fire on demand with his blaster. It's a rather exciting class that made it feel like I was playing a lite version of Mass Effect.

    I wasn't too impressed with the starting area of the Smuggler, however. Before playing as a Smuggler, I was expecting to do... some smuggling. But the plot arc made me feel more like a Republic soldier at worst, and a mercenary at best. Outside of my character's snarky dialog, I didn't feel much like Han Solo, the obvious archetype the class should have been modeled after. I understand BioWare is probably trying to lay the groundwork for the all tension between the Republic and Sith early on, but it made everything feel out of character.

    Maybe I'll provide short write-ups of the other classes I tried in the next few days, but give Smuggler a shot, will make the World of Warcraft comparison a big joke.

  • The Famitsu 40/40 List: 2011 Perfect Score Update


    Final Fantasy 13 2 Japanese CoverWe last checked in with Famitsu, the premier video game magazine in Japan, in April 2010, right after they had awarded Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker a perfect score. It was Famitsu's 14th perfect score in their 20+ year history, but what really caught my eye was that half of them (7 at the time) had been given out in just three short years! Something had changed at Famitsu as it seems to difficult to imagine that there are that many more perfect games per year (even if the individual reviewer doesn't consider a 10 perfect, they're still handing out the score relative to everything else released).

    And while I was hoping this wouldn't become an annual event, in the 20 mere months since my article we add four more games to Famitsu's perfect score list: Pokemon Black and White, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XIII-2. I'll be honest and admit the inclusion of this particular Final Fantasy game spurred me to write this update.

    For the unaware, Famitsu assigns four reviewers to major titles, with each reviewer giving a score out of 10. A perfect score would be 40 out of 40 points totaled across four reviews. The first 40/40 review was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998, presented 12 years after the magazine's first issue. Let's have a quick word about the four new titles and update our graph.

  • Games I am Thankful For: Harvest Moon

    Blog Post

    Harvest Moon CoverLast year I cobbled together a list of multiplayer games I was thankful for during the United States' Thanksgiving holiday season. From Chip 'n Dale to Halo, playing great games with friends is undoubtedly one of the best things about video gaming. This year, I'd like to call out the game that reminds me as much about Thanksgiving as turkey and stuffing: Harvest Moon.

    Even the name conjures up the best autumnal memories, and while the game doesn't really have anything to do with giving thanks, I still strongly associate this time of year with Harvest Moon. Undoubtedly, it has to do with the game's central objective of running a farm and harvesting basic crops that are found during most Thanksgiving meals, and maybe the themes of starting a family ring true in my life, too.

    I still return to the original Harvest Moon sometimes, though it's been out nearly 15 years and surpassed by a few other titles in the series, the game is still very fun to play. The formula hasn't changed greatly over the years, but even at the beginning it feels polished. It's amazing how much Natsume got right the first time around and how fans and critics have stuck with the series for so long. It's a testament to Harvest Moon's simple yet deep design that it so successfully established a niche. The series has evolved and gone off the rail a few times, but some things never change.

    Here's to Harvest Moon, hope my American readers had a great Thanksgiving holiday.

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

    First Hour Review

    Skyrim CoverDo we have another Game of the Year contender on our hands? Skyrim is the latest adventure in the epically massive Elder Scrolls series, released just last Friday. Heralded by many as the second coming of... Oblivion, Bethesda looks to destroy college grades and tear apart healthy marriages.

    What else needs to be said? This is a massive game and we'll barely be striking the surface with its first hour, but I hope to get a feeling of the game's tone and pacing, something I would say the series has stumbled with before. This is the first time we've even discussed The Elder Scrolls here at First Hour, but better late than never.

    Later this week we'll have an ever-timely review of Oblivion along with the first half-hour of Super Mario 3D Land, and early next week is the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which will definitely receive some coverage. But until then: the first hour of Skyrim for Windows.

  • Bastion

    First Hour Review

    Bastion CoverThe Bastion narrator has been everywhere lately. To gamers like me, this reference barely means anything. But like “the cake is a lie!”, it’s beginning to ingrain into gamer culture and being in-the-know in the early stages of fun is the best part.

    But that’s not why I’m playing Bastion. I’m playing Bastion because it’s been almost universally heralded as a great game by everyone I pay attention to. From the graphics to the story to the music, Bastion is the indie darling of the year.

    Released as one of Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade premier titles in July, Bastion made an immediate splash. While doing a pretty poor job advertising and selling most indie games on their market, Microsoft seems to do a pretty good job predicting which titles to really push during their summer event. A Steam version came a month later, and just last week the game finally went on sale for half price (I’m one of those obnoxious gamers who will almost never pay full price for a game, whether it’s $15 or $60).

    So let’s dive into Bastion’s first hour and see if this darling has legs.

  • Chrono Cross: The Best Worst Sequel of All Time

    Blog Post

    Chrono Cross CoverChrono Cross is an excellent game, it is also a really awful sequel.

    To celebrate Chrono Cross' release on the PlayStation Network, I'd like to take a moment to tell you that, yes, it really is a good game. How could it not be? Even though it was released in the waning years of Squaresoft's peak, the development teams still had a bit of magic left in them. But I'm also here to tell you that if you approach the game as Chrono Trigger 2, you will be incredibly disappointed.

    And that's what I was back when the game was released: disappointed. As someone who has claimed Chrono Trigger as their favorite game for more than 15 years, it's hard for me to look back objectively on its sequel. So here's a bit of subjectivity for you.

    But please, don't let me stop you from enjoying the game's re-release.

  • Dark Souls

    First Hour Review

    Dark Souls CoverThere’s different flavors of “difficult” in video games. Some games are hard because of limited lives and crushing level design, like the original Ninja Gaiden, for example. And take Nethack, its difficulty resides in the massive amount of “unknown” in the game combined with a bit of luck. And then there’s Demon’s Souls and its sequel Dark Souls, known for their incredibly challenging, but fair gameplay.

    I have not played Demon’s Souls, but when Dark Souls was released last month for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, I was determined to at least give it an hour of my time. That opportunity has come, and while I survived, I did not come out unscathed.

    Dark Souls was developed by the obnoxiously named From Software, known for their double-noun named games such as Shadow Tower, King’s Field, and Ninja Blade, along with the Armored Core series. They also published 3D Dot Game Heroes, which as far as I can tell is the extreme opposite of Dark Souls.

    Here is its first hour.

  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game

    First Hour Review

    Ghostbusters CoverHappy Halloween, everyone! Time for a spooky first hour with Ghostbusters: The Video Game. As the game sequel to one of most popular, family-friendly Halloween movies out there, and as one of my favorite films growing up, I found it my duty to finally play this game I bought during a Steam sale cheap years ago.

    Released in mid-2009 on every platform available, Ghostbusters: The Video Game played on early trailer hype and fan nostalgia to sell over a million copies that summer while receiving pretty decent scores. It doesn’t hurt that essentially the entire cast returned for what some call “Ghostbusters 3”, not to mention Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd worked on the game script.

    I’ll be playing Ghostbusters in Windows, a few years ago I gave the Xbox 360 demo a try and wasn’t impressed at all, so I’m curious what my reaction will be on this platform, years later. Well, bustin’ makes me feel good, so let’s get started.

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