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Arguably one of the greatest things about the videogame's medium is the ability to immerse the player in a character or setting far removed from reality. Thanks to "Madden NFL," even scrawny nerds can be NFL stars; because of "Final Fantasy VII," effeminate emo kids can save the world.
Decapitated bodies and gallons of blood usually don't come to mind when thinking of the Nintendo Wii. It's more common to envision a fat Italian plumber jumping around cuddly bumblebees.
Well, perhaps that's more disturbing.
"No More Heroes" for the Wii bucks the trend of mini-game collections and pet simulators filling the console's library, substituting action-heavy game play and a mature theme sure to leave hypersensitive parents in a gore-induced stupor.
The sandbox approach to games - letting players roam free to explore a game world rather than holding them to a narrow, set path - has its good and bad points. It's good at immersing players in the game, giving a sense of real exploration and the freedom to take as much or little time as the player wishes.
When "Final Fantasy Tactics" was released for the original PlayStation about 10 years ago, it brought to life a subgenre that most American gamers had little knowledge of: the tactical role-playing game. Also called strategy RPGs, tactical RPGs appeal to the thinking gamers rather than the action and thrill-seeking crowd; a basic way to think of it is like a cross between chess and the board game Risk, only with lots of changing variables and customization.
While gamers everywhere frag each other on "Halo 3" this week (which needs no review), Sony's recently released "Heavenly Sword" for PlayStation 3 provides its own brand of fast-paced action - but with far less staying power.
The game definitely has an epic feel, with hundreds of enemies on-screen at once and near-cinema-quality computer animation scenes.
So far, the recent crop of stories out of Japan based on French historical fiction has been of outstanding quality, with anime like "Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo," "Le Chevalier D'Eon" and now the PSP strategy role-playing game, "Jeanne D'Arc."
In most video games and movies, the average thugs have no chance of defeating the hero, even when they attack in a group. Although Ryu Hayabusa, the heroic ninja of the "Ninja Gaiden" series, can defeat dozens of enemies in a row, the game is challenging enough that a normal group of thugs will take Ryu down quickly if players aren't on their toes.
"Guitar Hero II" is in no way a guitar simulator. There are only five fret buttons to play different notes. The neck and headstock of the guitar controller that comes with the game is made of plastic. "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden is easier to play in the game than on actual guitar-even on the expert difficulty level.
Anyone who thought the Pokemon craze was dead has underestimated the little critters. The latest Pokemon game, in Diamond and Pearl versions, is the best-selling Pokemon game in both Japanese and U.S. history, selling more than a million copies in the first week of its American release alone.
A tie-in with one of the biggest summer movie franchises of all time is enough to warrant a game release on multiple consoles and a ridiculous marketing campaign. One would think someone would capitalize on such leverage and make a decent product.
Sadly, it seems Activision hates gamers, because "Spider-Man 3" might be the most disappointing superhero game released in the last five years.
French historical fiction is getting an odd renaissance in anime, with recent adaptations of "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Les Miserables," and now "Le Chevalier D'Eon," an original work based on a real French spy during the time of King Louis XV. The most notable thing about the real d'Eon Beaumont was the confusion over his sex; there were rumors he was actually a woman (he did disguise himself as Lia de Beaumont during a secret mission to Russia), and he actually claimed he was a woman in the latter part of his life, although anatomically he wasn't.
"Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2," more easily known as "GRAW2," is a third-person tactical military shooter, with more realism and strategy involved than many famous first-person shooters like "Halo." In single player mode, players have the ability to take cover behind walls and obstacles, peeking and shooting around corners as someone afraid of getting shot would do.
Diehard Sega Dreamcast fans - oh, they're out there - swear by the original "Virtua Tennis," released in the U.S. in 2000. Real Dreamcast fanatics also swear by "Virtua Tennis 2," not only because of numerous improvements over the original, but because it was one of the last games made for the system before Sega's console division was dissolved.
Back in 1994, Squaresoft graced the Super Nintendo with a beastly role-playing game by the name of "Final Fantasy III." In Japan, however, "Final Fantasy III" was the sixth game in the series and was aptly titled "Final Fantasy VI."
Confused? So was every American fantasy fan in '94.
Of all the outdated franchises littering store shelves with rehashes and cash-ins these days, no intellectual property is more in need of a redesign than Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog.
Following the abysmal "Sonic the Hedgehog," a so-called "next-gen" title for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Sonic makes a dash to Nintendo's hot new console with an innovative game built from the ground up for the Wii.
It seems Spartans are getting all the glory these days. But as incredible as Frank Miller's "300" is, movies aren't an interactive format.
Luckily, the gods created video games.
Those intelligent enough to play the original "God of War" for the PS2 were treated to one of the greatest action games of all time.
Back when arcades were still populated (do they even exist anymore?), fighting games used to have perpetual crowds gathered around, top players getting more than their money's worth as they took on all challengers. That concept is the basis of the quest mode in "Virtua Fighter 5," in which players navigate a city map with different arcade venues to challenge computer players of various skill levels.
At first glance, "Crackdown" looks to emulate the open-world environments of "Saints Row" or "Grand Theft Auto." This makes plenty of sense considering that David Jones, the game's lead designer, was also head designer for the "Grand Theft Auto" team.
But dig deeper into the world of "Crackdown," and the similarities end there.
The PSP has had an interesting run thus far. Sony's sleek and sexy handheld experienced something of an identity crisis from the get-go. Multimedia abilities and UMD (the system's proprietary disc format) movies seemed to overshadow its gaming properties. This negligence has given birth to a slew of lackluster PS2 and PS1 ports.
Proving that PlayStation 2 is still alive and well, "Rouge Galaxy" is a role-playing game that lets players travel to several different planets (one added for the North American version) as an accidental space pirate, looking for a planet said to contain incredible treasures.
The point-and-click adventure has long been a dead genre in the gaming world. On the PC, it saw a healthy life with titles such as "Myst," captivating players' inner puzzle solvers.
But as consoles gained more ground and PC gaming was delegated to the extreme first-person shooter and real time strategy gamer - and those with $5,000 to drop on an Alienware computer - the strong narratives and clever puzzles of the point-and-click adventure seemed to be all but gone forever.
Since its initial release on the Game Boy Advance, the "WarioWare" series has provided Nintendo with a much-needed outlet for fart jokes and toilet humor.
Wario's foray onto the Wii continues this grand tradition with an all-new set of over 200 "microgames" utilizing the system's innovative controller.
'Rainbow Six: Vegas' 4.5/5 Stars "Rainbow Six: Vegas" puts the player in control of a Jack Bauer-esque covert ops agent and a pair of armored cronies. The mission: Take out the typical bad guys in a new environment. The "Rainbow Six" series has long been a solid source for tactical shooters.