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Colosseum: Road To Freedom

Koei

PlayStation 2

Being a gladiator during Roman times was a tough gig! Not only are you a slave, but you also had to fight for your survival constantly. Colosseum is a third-person action role-playing game featuring six types of battle scenarios ranging from dueling tigers and bulls to surviving the attack of fifteen or more attackers, as well as dueling one on one versus famous gladiators. At least you have the opportunity to master fighting techniques and prepare for battle on the training ground, which strengthen your character’s stats. And as you win battles in the arenas, you earn money, which ultimately buys your freedom-if you can live long enough-as well as new equipment (battle armor and weapons) to increase your chances of survival.

Overall, Colosseum is good game. The learning curve is mild, and you can be a master gladiator in no time. Each of the battle scenarios requires different strategies, which adds to the dimension of the game. If you try and go balls out swinging like a madman, you’ll tire your gladiator and become lunch or just a pile of flesh while the Roman crowd cheers feverishly. Pretty grim society.-Eric Sentianin

Sid Meier’s Pirates!

2K Games

Xbox

What’s a pirate’s favorite letter? Arrrrrr! Sorry, bad joke. I needed an opener. I wish it could have been a bit more clever, like Sid Meier’s Pirates! conversion from the hit 1987 PC game into an excellent Xbox version. Although a few things were lost in the translation, it still adds up to a swashbucking good time.

In Pirates!, you play as a pirate looking to avenge your family who had been kidnapped by a Spanish nobleman some ten years earlier. But before your adventure begins, you’re prompted to name your pirate, choose a specialty (like swordfighting or navigation to reduce sailing times), a nationality to align yourself with, and a time period to begin. And from there, the Caribbean becomes alive with plenty of activity.

The beauty of this game is that it is truly an open-ended adventure. You can stay true to your nationality and capture enemy vessels filled with treasure and bombard enemy ports to claim them for your motherland. Or you can decide that you like no one and attack every passing vessel with precious cargo. No matter your path, your fate is defined by two constraints: Food and your crew’s morale. Food can be bought at friendly ports, so making too many enemies will be to your disadvantage. And your crew’s morale is dependent upon how much money you acquire.

Pirates! really, though, is made up of mini games like battling ships on the open seas, sword fights, dancing with the governor’s daughter, sneaking into unfriendly ports, and turn-based land battles when you raid an enemy port. With all the options and open playing arena, Sid Meier’s Pirates! will have you sailing the high seas with your scurvy mates seeking out buried treasures for months to come.-Eric Sentianin

NCAA 06 Football

EA Sports

GameCube/ PlayStation 2/ Xbox

It’s actually quite hard to play other football games once you’ve played any of the Madden games. That was the biggest beef with NCAA 05 because the gameplay was so counterintuitive compared to Madden 05. It didn’t really make sense, considering both were made by EA Sports. But 2006 is a new year, and this time it looks like NCAA 06 followed in the footsteps of its older brother and mimicked the gameplay of previous Madden versions. Passing plays are executed with more ease and the hit stick has has been added on the defensive side. But besides being easier to play, NCAA 06 has added some features to the game like Race For The Heisman mode starring yourself. Essentially it’s similar to Dynasty mode, but after choosing a position for yourself (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, et cetera), you are asked to execute a drill, and based on your perforrmance, you’re rewarded with the choice of three scholarships. If you don’t like the choices, you have the option to walk on to any campus and be the starter. Which seems kind of weird considering you’re offered a scholarship from Baylor but you’d rather be the running back for USC. Fat chance of that happening! Race For The Heisman can be a lot of fun, because you’ll give yourself the ball all the time and run the score up to increase your stats in order to impress the voters for your ultimate goal-the Heisman trophy. Probably the best part of this is your created player can be drafted into Madden 06 as a rookie. So at least there’s a little crossover between the two franchises. Now go, fight, win.-Eric Sentianin

Rise Of The Kasai

Sony

PlayStation 2

I’ve never read the reviews that are printed on the back of video-game boxes, but due to my writer’s block on reviewing this mediocre game, I flipped the box over and stared. “If you thought that Mark Of Kri’s Rau was fearsome, Rise Of The Kasai’s Tati will surpass him in her pure bloodlust,” writes Game Informer. Ha! Whose job is it to write nonsense like that? Thankfully, not mine. I’ll just sit back and poke fun (and get paid for it). There’s another review on the back written by someone at the Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter? What are they doing reviewing video games (ignore the fact that you’re reading this game review in a skate magazine)? I’ll be interested in the Hollywood Reporter when Steve Berra and Tom Cruise start skating together at the skatepark of Scientology. Until then, their opinion on video games is moot. The real story here is that GTA: San Andreas is getting yanked from stores like Best Buy because of hidden sex scenes that have gone under the radar for last year that the game has been out. So it begs the moral question-who’s got that cheat code?-Ric Flair