- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Samurai Warriors, by Koei, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99; Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, by Capcom, rated M: content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99 — both for PlayStation 2.

The Last Samurai, by Warner Home Video, rated R, $29.99; and Samurai Jack: Season 1, by Warner Home Video, not rated, $29.99 — both for DVD-enabled computers and home-entertainment centers.

The famed warriors who enforced the laws of feudal Japan from the 11th to 19th centuries have been in the spotlight recently because of a bevy of beautiful multimedia releases.

In fact, for the mature owner of Sony’s powerful entertainment console, at least a solid week of entertainment can be had through the combined enjoyment of DVD releases and video games.

I would begin my seven-day devotion to the ways of the Bushido by exploring the double-disc digital video ode by director Edward Zwick and actor Tom Cruise, “The Last Samurai.”

The 154-minute film, found on the first disc, poignantly captures the end of the samurai legacy through the eyes of Mr. Cruise’s character, Civil War hero Capt. Nathan Algren. Algren is looking for honor to replace a dishonorable past by joining with the rebel leader Katsumoto.

An optional commentary track by the director is especially enlightening — it reveals his passion for accuracy. His quest for accuracy is further explored on the second disc and the best extra on it, a 30-minute documentary from the History Channel, “History vs. Hollywood: The Last Samurai,” which explains the modernization of 19th-century Japan, which led to the sword-wielding heroes’ downfall.

For more on the individuals entrusted to serve for hundreds of years, sneak over to the Web site by popping either disc into a PC. The site gives a concise look at the samurai through their culture, warfare and code of honor, all found under the Discover section.

Then, replaying the film’s battle scenes should pump up players to take control of their own fate in the visually dazzling historical fiction game Samurai Warriors.

This button-mashing third-person adventure does away with any subtlety and demands that a player enter Japan’s political power struggle in 1467. The player can choose from 15 powerful protagonists, who lead an elite band of samurai and ninja to take down warlords in 3-D open-field combat.

The mission-based battles will take the player to the Japanese battlefields of Okehazama and Kawanakajima and inside the Osaka Castle ,where he will face gun-toting troops, ninja and deadly kunoichi — female ninja.

The title mixes the use of real samurai with fictional villains; requires the player to acquire new skills, weapons and powers; and offers players the ability to mount horses and charge into lines of enemy troops, which makes it worth the price of admission.

Next, I would give my thumbs a break and transition into the final game by watching Cartoon Network’s brilliant animated series featuring the exploits of an ancient warrior displaced into the future by the evil demon he has sworn to destroy.

Crammed into a two-disc set, “Samurai Jack: Season One” features the first 13 episodes of the series, which mixes a distinct animation style with humor, few words and epic battle scenes, capturing the imagination of a wide range of audience demographics.

The paltry extras include a making-of featurette with series creator Genndy Tartakovsky and a slide-show-type presentation of original artwork.

Finally, cinema melds with video game in Capcom’s conclusion to its 3-D third-person action trilogy surrounding two warriors who switch places between feudal 1582 Japan and a demon-riddled French metropolis in 2004.

Onimusha 3: Demon Siege brings back Samanosuke Akechi as he hunts for Nobunaga Oda and Jacques Braun, a French covert-operations army officer trying to get back to Paris. Comparable to Resident Evil or Devil May Cry in its style of action, the game allows players to cut down creatures and solve puzzles.

The incredible look of the game makes it hard to focus on taking part in the action. The gorgeous environments, frightening creature detail and breathtaking computer-generated scenes make it look better than some current movies.

Onimusha 3: Demon Siege stars the virtual versions of actor Jean Reno (“Mission: Impossible”) and Asian film star Takeshi Kaneshiro, along with plenty of moves from martial-arts choreographer Donnie Yen.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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