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by Marty Demarest & r & & r & TOP TEN VIDEOGAMES OF 2006


& r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & equels rule! After years of releasing copycat editions of successful games, developers have started looking at old franchises with new ideas. The result is a Top 10 list with only two original titles: Okami and Resistance, both of which stand out with unique stories and settings in a year full of well-deployed familiarity.





10) Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Nintendo DS)


Though it lacks the psychedelic graphics that the series has recently been sporting, Portrait of Ruin's clean style parallels the game's straightforward and fiendish gameplay.





9) Harvest Moon DS


(Nintendo DS)


A charming and laid-back farming simulation that's spiced up with quests and even some modest monster fighting.





8) Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GameCube)


This entry feels somewhat like a last-ditch GameCube/quick-fix Wii title, with its appended motion-sensing combat and last-generation graphics. But it's Zelda, and bigger than ever, with more combat options and styles of gameplay, including a chance to try nocturnal life as a wolf.





7) Heroes of Might and Magic V (PC)


An epic, stately turn-based combat game set in a vast, quintessential fantasy kingdom, Heroes litters its landscapes with so many ways to tweak the already robust combat engine that even reluctant players should be able to find ways to express themselves as warlords.





6) Final Fantasy XII


(PlayStation 2)


The year's boldest gaming move was made by Square Enix, which finally abandoned the turn-based combat of the old Final Fantasy games in favor of a new real-time combat engine. The result requires new strategic skills, and creates an adventure that doesn't get clogged with unavoidable battles.





5) Okami (PlayStation 2)


An action-adventure game that draws on the strong traditions of classic PlayStation 2 gaming and Japanese scroll painting, Okami is the most original-looking title of 2006. With graceful, cel-shaded images and quick, stylized combat, Okami takes the PlayStation 2 out with a classy example of the style of videogaming that made the machine great.





4) Madden NFL 07 (PC, Game Cube, Xbox, 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3)


Madden 07 departs from the dull, well-trodden role-playing style of its recent predecessors, and leads directly back onto the field with more control possible for players who want to be a part of everything involving the ball.





3) Resistance: Fall of Man


(PlayStation 3)


The only example that 2006 has produced of next-generation combat videogames, Resistance increases the environmental detail that a first-person shooter can accommodate, making a functional world in which even alien weaponry must accommodate the (occasionally mind-bending) reality of the game.





2) New Super Mario Bros.


(Nintendo DS)


A compendium of the most challenging of Mario's challenges, the game's real edge comes from its frenetic multiplayer mode. It hearkens back to the original arcade game Mario Bros. while reinventing the classic side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. format for wireless multiplayer gaming.





1) Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion


(PC, 360)


No videogame has ever sported this degree of detail, from hundreds of adventurous quests to thousands of unique locations -- castles, cities and mountaintops. The role-playing statistics are seamlessly integrated with the real-time gaming, so that characters change based on the player's actions. The result is what feels like a living world surrounding characters that are as interesting as if they were alive.

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