Shippin' Out: Guitar Hero Encore, Civ IV: Beyond the Sword

Harmonix and RedOctane's final duet rocks out this week with the latest expansion from Sid Meier's classic strategy game and fistful of portables.

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This week, the third and final Guitar Hero collaboration between Harmonix and RedOctane hits store shelves. Looking to close out the collaboration with sweet, sweet overindulgence, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s features a set list dominated by the gods of the early MTV era, including original tracks from the likes of Twisted Sister, Flock of Seagulls, Judas Priest, and Scandal. Both Harmonix and RedOctane are now off to pursue solo careers, with the respective Rock Band and Guitar Hero III slated for release later this year.

PC gamers have a few to look forward to this week, including new installments in two classic franchises. Sid Meier's addictive world-conquering strategy game expands this week with Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. The latest add-on focuses primarily on the postgunpowder ages and bolsters the game with 12 new scenarios, 10 new factions, 16 new world leaders, and five new wonders.

Not to be overshadowed in complexity, Big Time Software's wargame sim Combat Operations: Shock Force also debuts this week for the PC. Grognards can look forward to a new game engine from the consistently impressive series as they work to restore peace to the war-torn Middle Eastern region.

Nintendo's and Sony's handhelds receive a number of new titles this week. For the Nintendo DS, Koei will offer a unique take on its long-running ancient Chinese strategic beat-'em-up action. In lieu of the beat-'em-up action found in console versions of the game, Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter's Battle will feature strategic card-based combat. Anchoring this week's PlayStation Portable lineup is Square Enix's Final Fantasy II Anniversary Edition. Square Enix's redux of the venerable original will feature updated graphics as well as additional cinematics and levels.

On the downloadable front, Nintendo will be updating its Virtual Console with a trio of offerings. Golf fans who are more disposed to the putt-putt circuit than to Palm Beach might want to check out the Super Nintendo adaptation of Kirby's Dream Course, available for 800 Wii points ($8). Also available are the 1992 Sega Genesis strategy role-playing game Shining Force for 800 Wii points ($8) and the haunting TurboGrafx-16 pinball game Devil's Crush, available for 600 Wii points ($6).

A pair of classics will also be hitting Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday. Wing Commander Arena is a reimagining of Origin's classic Wing Commander franchise, and will cost gamers 800 Microsoft points ($10). Also running for 800 Microsoft points ($10) will be Konami's grueling Super Nintendo side-scrolling shooter, Super Contra.

This week's new releases are listed below (list taken from retailer information--actual dates may vary).

JULY 23, 2007
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword (PC)
It's the Big Game, Charlie Brown (PC)
NASCAR 08 (PS3, PS2, Xbox 360)
Kirby's Dream Course (Wii)
Devil's Crush (Wii)
Shining Force (Wii)

JULY 24, 2007
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s (PS2)
Final Fantasy II Anniversary Edition (PSP)
NHRA: Countdown to the Championship 2007 (PS2)
Fullmetal Alchemist: Trading Card Game (DS)
Ultimate Puzzle Games: Sudoku Edition (DS)
Alien Syndrome (Wii, PSP)
Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter's Battle (DS)
Escape from Bug Island (Wii)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2)

JULY 25, 2007
Wing Commander Arena (Xbox 360)
Super Contra (Xbox 360)

JULY 27, 2007
Combat Mission: Shock Force (PC)
Chameleon: To Dye For! (DS)

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