Jonathon Ramundi's reviews and writings

  • Diablo III

    First Hour Review

    Diablo 3 CoverThe original Diablo was introduced to me by a friend probably no more than 3 years after its release, before my highschool years. Diablo would eventually see some of the most unforgettable and impactful gaming moments of our childhoods, and those of our closest friendslargely due to how much it scared the crap out of us. The first time I laid eyes on The Butcher and heard that deep, grating voice"Ah... Fresh meat"I slammed the door to his lair in his face and ran all the way out of the dungeon (a little excessive since enemies can't use doors). I can distictly recall at least two other moments that caused me to toss my mouse or phone (I was talking to said friend while playing once) in suprise and fear. Ah, the good old days.

    Diablo II and its expansion would demand exponentially larger amounts of our attention due to its improved graphics, presentation, story, and gameplay (both online and off). It was a staple in our gaming repertoires, and inspired many discussions and stories of our own. I spent a good deal of my time every night reading through Brady Games' strategy guide.

    When all was said and done, standing in the wake of the Worldstone's destruction, Diablo fans were sure we would someday see a sequel. It was just a question of when. The answer came at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Paris on June 28, 2008, though it would be many years more before an official release date was announced. On March 15, 2012, Blizzard finally announced that the release date was only two short months away.

    And now, 11 years in the making, Diablo III couldn't have come at a more awkward time for me... I'm currently in the middle of two jobs, one of which takes up the entirety of my weekends. Throw in a small spat of the flu and new member of the family (a stray cat my girlfriend decided to bring home one night), and I'm left which much less time to play, let alone write, as I would've liked...but I finally found the time, and you didn't come hear to read my whining, so let's jump into the first hour of Diablo III.

  • Xenoblade Chronicles

    Full Review

    Xenoblade Chronicles CoverNearly two years after its initial Japanese release, and eight months after finding its way to Europe and Australia, Nintendo of America finally saw fit to grace North American Wiis with the critically acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles (though not without a lot of pestering it would seem). Debuting at E3 2009 under the title Monado: Beginning of the World, Monolith Soft's latest immediately captured the attention of RPG-starved Wii owners with its large, open environments, colourful atmosphere, and intriguing storyline.

    Probably most intriguing, however, was the gameplay. Xenobladeits title a tribute to Monolith's flagship franchise, Xenosagadeviates considerably from traditional JRPGs, doing away with random encounters and turn-based combat. Instead, players do battle on the very map they explore, without a transition to a battle screen, and with the ability to see enemies long in advance, as many are simply animals going about their business in the game world. Battles themselves are much more tactical, seeing players manoeuvring about the battlefield for ideal position and using abilities at advantageous times.

    Never mind that I'd been craving some decent RPG action for a while, I definitely wanted to see what Xenoblade had to offer, and was more than a little disappointed when it first looked as if I wouldn't get the chance. Better late than never, I guess. At least my Wii has something to do now besides collecting dust.

  • Dungeons of Dredmor

    Full Review

    Dungeons of Dredmor Cover_0Riding on the excitement of The Binding of Isaac, I decided to dive right into another roguelike, this time from indie developer Gaslamp Games. But unlike Binding of Isaac, Dungeons of Dredmor is a more traditional, turn-based dungeon crawler, complete with character classes, skill trees, item forging, and the hack and slash-style fun one would expect from classic franchises like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate. Well, maybe not that traditional. Dungeons of Dredmor is perhaps best described as a spoof of classic computer roll-playing games; nothing takes itself seriously...

    Three other writers here posted their impressions of Dungeons of Dredmor last week in our new series: Indie Impression. You may consider these my extended impression that turned into a complete review.

  • The Binding of Isaac

    Full Review

    Binding of Isaac CoverFollowing in the wake of the widely popular Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen’s latest entry, The Binding of Isaac, takes its name and narrative from a story in the Book of Genesis. In that tale, Abraham is called to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a proof of his devotion to God. Isaac is bound by his father and placed upon an altar on top of Mount Moriah, where an angel appears to stop Abraham just before the slaughter.

    The Binding of Isaac has players taking control of the titular character, whose mother is called to kill her son as a sacrifice to God. In this story, however, there is no angel to stop the fanatic parent; it’s up to Isaac to survive, fleeing the clutches of his murderous mother in the basement of their house.

    The artwork and style are synonymous with that of McMillen’s other works, such as Super Meat Boy and Gish (both of whom make cameo appearances), but, taking a break from platforming, level design and gameplay share similarities with The Legend of Zelda. The interface also shares a resemblance. However, unlike the series from which it seemingly draws inspiration, The Binding of Isaac features fully randomized levels, items, enemies, and even bosses. Another key feature is the aspect of permanent death. You have one and only one life to clear the dungeon-like levels and defeat the final boss, which serves to make The Binding of Isaac a very challenging and nerve-racking experience.

  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

    Full Review

    Golden Sun: Dark DawnThe Nintendo DS is easily the go-to console this generation when it comes to RPGs. As a developer, you'd be hard-pressed to have your title stand out in a library already rife with role-playing goodness. There are exceptions however, and Camelot's Golden Sun franchise is certainly one of them. The series' notoriety on the Game Boy Advance was enough to perk people's ears when Golden Sun: Dark Dawn was first announced. The sequel comes to us 7 years after the The Lost Age, with 30 years having passed in the game's universe. The original GBA games were hits. Does the sequel live up to the legacy they left behind?

    If you take a glance at the beginning of my First Hour review, you'll see that I've listed what, I feel, makes a damn good Golden Sun game. I thought I'd keep this review simple and basically go through each of the points I already made and comment on what's changed and whats been added or subtracted from the core experience.

  • Donkey Kong Country Returns

    Full Review

    Donkey Kong Country Returns CoverIn case you hadn't noticed, in the last couple of years, the Nintendo Wii has been subject to the revival of a number of key franchises in the company's portfolio; franchises that have either strayed far from their humble beginnings or simply haven't been seen in many years, if not both. The beloved Donkey Kong franchise is the latest to follow this trend—in the footsteps of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and even, to some extent, Metroid: Other M—with its newest incarnation, Donkey Kong Country Returns. Interestingly, the game's developer, Retro Studios, is the same company responsible for the reimagination of another classic Nintendo franchise, in the form of the Metroid Prime saga. However, this time—as mentioned—the company was tasked with bringing a series back to its roots, rather than taking it (quite literally) to another dimension. It's been 13 years since we've seen the Kong family in 2D platforming fashion. In fact, the game's titular character hasn't been played in this form since Donkey Kong Land for the Gameboy back in 1995. Well, as the name suggests, he makes a return in DKCR. And what a triumphant return it is.

    I previously wrote a first hour review of the game, and now, after spending much more time with it (and considering Retro's history with Metroid), I'm of the opinion that Retro should be given full responsibility over all major Nintendo IPs henceforth. This game is—and I'm trying really hard not to oversell it—perfect. Okay, well, maybe not perfect, but about as close as you can get. I kind of had trouble writing a review because of this. I didn't know exactly how to convey the sheer brilliance of this game, but, at the same time, I know words can only go so far. Only after playing will you understand why everyone's going ape over this—and hopefully, if nothing else, this review will get you to do so.

  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

    First Hour Review

    Golden Sun: Dark Dawn CoverNine years ago, I introduced myself to an interesting little RPG from Japan for the Game Boy Advance. Little did I know, I was playing what would eventually become, arguably, my favourite RPG of all time. That game was Golden Sun, and many other gamers around the world shared my passion. The game ended, but the story was only half-over; it continued in a sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, two years later. The sequel couldn’t have come any sooner; waiting that long for a continuation, for Golden Sun fans, was torture. Turns out that was nothing...

    Sometime after The Lost Age’s launch, we learned that the Takahashi brothers’ creations were merely the prologue to a supposed saga of games set in the Golden Sun universe. Fans were frothing at the mouths with anticipation, but, unbeknownst to them, would have to wait seven long years before seeing another sequel. That wait is finally over.

  • Donkey Kong Country Returns

    First Hour Review

    Donkey Kong Country Returns CoverIf you were to ask me what game I was most excited for following the events of E3 2010, my answer, without a doubt, would have been Donkey Kong Country Returns. It's announcement marked the return of one of my favourite platforming franchises of my youth—and something I hadn't experienced in years. In the E3 trailer, I noticed the hairy ape brought back all of his signature abilities, plus a couple of new tricks. I saw old friends Diddy and—in later trailers—Rambi make a return. I saw vine swinging, barrel blasting, and mine carting. I saw banana grabbing, KONG letter finding, plus new items to collect. In fact, after seeing what I saw, to say I was excited would've been an understatement; I was overwhelmed with anxious anticipation; I couldn't wait to get my hairy paws on this game.

    And now, the day was finally here; November 21, 2010. I woke up bright and early, refreshed, and ready for a full day of barrel blasting, ground pounding, tiki crushing fun. I set out and purchased the game at a local EB Games outlet about one minute after opening. I was their first customer. I rushed home, popped open the case, threw the disc into the Wii, and fired it up–all the while singing the DK Rap in my excitement (I wish I was joking).

    The game features two control options–Wiimote plus nunchuck, and classic Wiimote. I choose the classic style and begin my session...

  • Kirby's Epic Yarn

    Full Review

    Kirbys Epic Yarn CoverAttendees of the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo were witness to many exciting announcements on June 15th during Nintendo’s press conference—one of them being the highly awaited return of Kirby to home consoles. This would mark Kirby’s first appearance on a home console since 2003’s Kirby Air Ride for the Gamecube, and his first platforming adventure since 2000’s Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. It clearly had a lot to live up to. But alongside roaring applause, the announcement was met with many raised eyebrows regarding our pink hero’s return—for he had undergone a change the likes of which a Nintendo mascot hasn’t seen since Paper Mario. Kirby was made of yarn. Yes, yarn. And his new game, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, would see him battle across a world of felt and fabric against a new foe, and with a new friend. Nevertheless, everyone was excited and anxiously awaiting its release. So, did Nintendo weave the world a masterpiece (yes, I just said that)?

    Editor's Note: If you're interested to see how Kirby's Epic Yarn starts, check out Nate's first hour review of the game (and his overall conclusions at the end of the article).

  • 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.

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