- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Here’s a look at some of the latest software available:

Fight Night: Round 2, by Electronic Arts for GameCube, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. Virtual boxing takes center stage in the best professional-pugilist simulation the video-game world has to offer.

Through a third-person interface, a pair of players control legends including Evander Holyfield, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Jake LaMotta and Rocky Marciano as each vies to become a champion through the use of his fists.

The game not only does an amazing job of re-creating the boxers, including their fighting tendencies and personalities, but also clearly displays the savagery of the sport as countless slow-motion scenes detail pained facial expressions and the bloodletting involved.

In addition to simply boxing against roughly 50 opponents by maneuvering an analog stick on the controller to unleash uppercuts, hooks and body shots, players also can create a boxer. Players use an amazing development process to “make” their own pugilist, from head sculpting to performing intense workouts that hone skills.

A career mode adds to the game’s realism and replayability as it takes a boxer from the streets to becoming a contender and then wearing a championship belt, all the while collecting cash to hire better trainers and upgrade fight gear.

This year’s version features the ability to wind up and throw numerous types of haymakers (of course, missing with a ferocious punch can leave the boxer vulnerable) and empowers the player to act as the corner “cut man,” who must carefully stop the bleeding and lessen swelling around his boxer’s eyes. Left untreated, the swelling can dramatically hinder a boxer’s performance.

Nostalgia buffs who own the GameCube version of Fight Night 2 get the 1994 Super Nintendo boxing classic Super Punch-Out to enjoy as well, which acts as a pacifier for the lack of online capabilities in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game.

Tekken 5, from Namco for PlayStation 2, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. A great-looking third-person fighting game awaits players brave enough to enter lush, interactive 3-D environments and celebrate 10 years of the legendary gaming franchise.

The mythical King of the Iron Fist Tournament continues to offer a challenge by combining a variety of detailed, muscular men and women whose striking movements are punctuated with fire as they crumple, grab, tackle, punch, kick, juggle and throw each other into submission.

The game eventually provides up to two players multiple combat modes and access to more than 30 characters, each with a complicated set of combination moves and a tale of woe that can be revealed in the Story Battle mode.

Bonuses include a third-person action minigame concentrating on the character Jin Kazama and access to a condensed version of StarBlade, as well as full arcade versions of Tekken, Tekken 2 and Tekken 3 for a stroll down memory lane.

Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, from Capcom for Xbox, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $26.99. The 15th-anniversary tribute to the famed 2-D fighting game continues as Xbox owners get a retro package of action at a paltry price.

Nostalgia buffs will be most appreciative of Capcom’s release, which offers control of characters spanning versions of the 1990s Street Fighter titles, broken into the challenges of Hyper Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III: Third Strike.

Let’s get serious, though. Ancient fighting games in the 2-D realm cannot compete with the complex experiences found in Tekken 5, Soul Calibur II and Mortal Kombat: Deception, which blow away the graphics and sounds of any 1990s game.

Still, hearing names such as Ryu, Cammy and M. Bison will have a certain demographic frothing at the mouth and looking to twist their fingers into arthritic masses as they attempt to pull off combination moves on familiar opponents.

The anniversary collection stands out because of an enjoyable and quick-to-execute online component for Xbox Live-enabled players and a wealth of 15th-anniversary celebration features that culminate with the chance to watch the entire 1994 “Street Fighter II” anime to fondly appreciate a popular-culture legacy.

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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