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The Return of Art

Thursday, May 11, 2006, 12:36PM EST

Sequels are the videogame industry's constant companion. This year's E3 is a showcase for some highly anticipated sequels, most of which will see release on PlayStation 2 and PC.

Leading the vanguard for this year's sequels is Square Enix's massively popular Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2 received the highest grade possible from respected Japanese game magazine Famitsu, and is scheduled for a North American release in October.

Dramatic changes to the basic formula have been made for this new Fantasy. For one thing, the game's battles have almost been wholly redone. Now, the game moves from exploration to combat without pause.

Fights are more fluid and strategic than in previous iterations. Gone is the turn-based combat; everything now happens in real-time. Characters move nimbly around the battlefield, allowing for flank attacks. Spellcasters can hurl magic from a distance while melee-inclined heroes can get up close and personal with foes.

Phantasy Star Universe expands on Sega's venerable RPG series with three oversized planets and more than 20 dungeons for players to explore. In addition to all-new enemies and a wealth of online multiplayer options, Universe also features vehicles to aid in exploration. Sega plans to release this game for both PlayStation 2 and PC.

Other noteworthy sequels include Atari's Dungeons and Dragons-licensed Neverwinter Nights 2 and Namco Bandai's Xenosaga III: Also Spracht Zarathustra, for PC and PlayStation2, respectively. Nights 2 picks up years after the ending of the original, now-classic Neverwinter Nights and sports a redone toolset to allow players to create their own game scenarios, which can then be shared with other players. Zarathustra—all the Xenosaga games are subtitled after works by German philosopher F.W. Nietzsche—concludes the futuristic RPG series in fine turn-based fashion with approximately eight hours of in-game movies, all-new minigames, and a special map editor allowing players to create their own environments.

Offbeat PlayStation 2 offerings such as Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raidou and Namco Bandai's .hack//G.U. take place in rather novel settings. Raidou sends players to a post-World War I Japan, where they'll fight in real-time with a series of demonic allies. A futuristic multiplayer online game titled The World serves as the jumping off point for G.U., and players in World's world can use their hacking skills to manipulate their surroundings, form guilds to share information and trade with the game's characters and, of course, rage against the machine. As a bonus, save data from the first .hack series will be recognized in G.U. and used to unlock special items.

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