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Killing Kisses

You probably didn’t hear about the following low-level news, so let me catch you up: "Leisure Suit Larry," the only video game series that includes some sex scenes, will not include nudity in its next sequel, subtitled "Box Office Bust." This is odd. Imagine if Playboy were the only nudie magazine in the world, and suddenly it began nixing naked photos.

"Leisure Suit Larry" is putting on clothes because it can’t make as much money as a naughty tale. Whenever there’s a mild sex scene in a game, even though it would be considered PG-13 material in a movie, it risks getting an "A" (for "adult").

Games such as "Leisure Suit Larry" have been targeted by political groups, which use the media to lash out at game makers and game retailers, which don’t even sell "A" games.

Think about the consequences. There are very few love stories or romantic relationships in video games, because they can barely show two people kissing heavily without getting smacked down by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which operates slightly less puritanically than the Hays Code did with movies in the 1930s.

So console games have gone down the path of many movies in the 1930s and become reliant on gangster lore. Those fatal games get rated "T" for "teen," or if they’re super bloody and contain one scene featuring a half-naked woman, they get an "M" for "mature."

This is where the new "Ninja Gaiden II" comes in. Billed as the sequel to perhaps the greatest action sword-slicing game ever, "Gaiden II" has ratcheted up blood and gore beyond its predecessor.

This time, you lop off people’s heads by the hundred, and watch blood squirt profusely out of their necks, arms and torsos, after impaling or dicing them with swords, a metal staff, metal talons attached to your hands, a steel club, projectile stars, a knife and a bow and arrow. You then stand amid bloody piles of arms and legs.

I am not saying "Ninja Gaiden II" is too violent. It is acceptably violent in its own context for fans of the genre, just like "Kill Bill" and "Scarface."

"Ninja Gaiden II" is addictively fun, not necessarily in its butchery, but in epic game play. You can spend a dozen hours (if you’re very good) or 60 hours (if you’re not good) running through a series of beautifully drawn locales in Japan, New York and elsewhere, while fighting many tough villains.

There are two downsides. Camera angles mess up a lot, then you’re not sure which evil monster you’re slicing. And the game doesn’t come with online, multiplaying fighting.

If, without playing it, you think it sounds too gory for kids, well, you are not alone. The ESRB rated it "M." It is not to be sold or rented to kids under 17. If a kid plays it, it is the responsibility of parents or adult supervisors. And remember, most gamers are adults, anyway.

So here’s my question: What would you prefer our nation of adult gamers to be, killers or lovers? While you’re thinking about that, feel free to go slice someone’s head off in "Ninja Gaiden II." It’s a lot of fun.


("Ninja Gaiden II" by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 — Plays fun and addictive. Looks great. Very challenging. Rated "M" for partial nudity, suggestive themes, blood, gore and intense violence.)

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