- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

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

The Adventures of Robin Hood, by Warner Home Video, rated PG, $26.99, and Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown, by Capcom for PlayStation 2, rated T: Content suitable for ages 13 and older, $39.99.

Families enamored of the hero of Sherwood Forest have two ways to enjoy his exploits using their PlayStation 2 entertainment console.

First, Grandpa can pop in Warner Bros.’ digital video resurrection of the 1938 Academy Award-winning film starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains to show young whippersnappers what an action movie really looked like.

This 138-minute swashbuckler marvelously chronicles the legend of Sir Robin of Locksley and comes to home theaters via an amazing new transfer from its Technicolor origins using a process that re-creates each color image from film and then electronically re-registers, steadies and cleans it for the final DVD transfer.

Viewers also can get a feel for what it was like to sit in a 1930s theater via Warner’s “Night at the Movies” presentation. This extravaganza, presented before the main feature, includes the trailer for James Cagney’s “Angels With Dirty Faces,” a vintage Movietone Newsreel reporting on Germany’s conquest of Austria, the musical short “Freddie Rich and his Orchestra” and a lesson in swing-ology from the cartoon “Katnip Kollege.”

After watching the colorful costumed cinema, with an option to listen to commentary about the production from film historian Rudy Behlmer, the family can get further immersed in the archer’s life with a second disc. It contains a 55-minute 65th-anniversary documentary, “Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of the Adventures of Robin Hood”; an audio broadcast from the 1938 National Radio Broadcast of the “Robin Hood Radio Show”; a seven-minute “Robin Hood Through the Ages” presentation highlighting Robin’s earlier screen adaptations; and plenty of historic illustrations.

Warner Home Video even throws in the short “Cavalcade of Archery” (1945) starring the “greatest archer in the world,” Howard Hill; Looney Tunes classic cartoons “Rabbit Hood” and “Robin Hood Daffy,” and behind-the-scenes footage from the film. (Where did they get this stuff?)

So, after four hours of watching everything anyone would ever want to know about the dude who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, it’s time for some hands-on action with a 16-year-old video-game franchise that doesn’t have a chance to make it onto serious gamers’ top-10 lists of cutting-edge titles for 2003.

However, Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown does do a marvelous job of relaying the archer’s exploits by melding a third-person adventure with real-time strategy elements as the Merry Men of Sherwood must defeat all rival lords of England and the vile Prince John, who has taken the throne from his kidnapped brother, Richard.

Help comes from legends such as Little John, Friar Tuck and Maid Marian as the player masters archery, swordsmanship, jousting and siege warfare to lead the people of England to victory against the Sheriff of Nottingham, the mysterious and deadly Guy of Gisbourne and Prince John.

The action involves using Robin and a few friends to amass cash through deadly encounters with soldiers and knights. Then Little John comes along to spend the riches. He must buy military personnel and equipment to protect acquired lands and fight battles to conquer 38 territories, with all the action taking place in sequences.

Players will love the sword fights, find the archery and jousts difficult to master and really get a kick out of winding a catapult into firing position (via the two mini joy sticks on the controller) and unloading a stone or flaming mass at a castle wall.

The multitroop wars were like taking part in an online game of Risk, thanks to maps showing territories conquered and a game board that pops up during the engagements and presents forces as tokens with strength numbers on them. As decisions are made and battle animations occur, the tokens’ numbers dwindle until the opposition with the highest totals left wins the encounter.

The story also progresses thanks to talking animated heads that pop up and practice their British accents by offering pithy remarks, warnings and tutorials; the game can end in eight different scenarios determined by performance.

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

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