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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Intel    RAM: 999 MB    Hard Disk: 4800 MB

Jade Empire: Special Edition
November 24, 2008 | Marcus Albers

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One of my earliest exposures to the world of martial arts was a Friday night movie viewing of the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon, on one of our local television stations. I remember watching Lee's movements, the complex dance that resulted from expert fight choreography and talented martial arts stuntmen. At that point, I was hooked, and I've been a fan of the genre ever since. Soon after, I started to play around with martial arts games. The choices were, by today's standards, less than stellar. But, back in the eighties, games like Karateka, Karate Champ, and Kung-Fu Master were our chance to live our fantasies without the extreme discipline, years of training, and numerous bruises. Today, we have access to games the like of Bioware's Jade Empire: Special Edition. While it still won't earn you a black-belt, the game is immense enough to keep you involved for hours.

Jade Empire was released for the original Xbox in 2005, and was later released for the PC in 2007. Transgaming Technologies has used their Cider porting technology to bring the game to Mac users, and GameTree Online has taken on the duties of distributing the game digitally. The end result is a game that, while going on 4 years old, does a good job of hiding it's age. While some will bemoan the use of Cider to bring the game to the Macintosh, I have noticed a great deal of improvement from early attempts to Cider-ize current Windows games (remember all of the initial problems that Battlefield 2142 and Command and Conquer 3 users experienced?). Others will complain that the process leaves PPC users in the cold. In many ways, this is true. But, just as Apple developers eventually had to leave the 68k users behind, so must these developers now concentrate on the current generation of Mac hardware: those with Intel processors. It is no longer possible to purchase a Macintosh new from Apple that doesn't have an Intel processor, so it is reasonable to start moving the bulk of development down that same path. And, while I did have my share of problems with Jade Empire from a technical standpoint, I think it is definitely a step in the right direction.

But enough about the politics of hardware. What about the game? Well, in Jade Empire, you choose either a male or female protagonist and take on the role of apprentice to an ancient martial arts master, Master Li. (Yes, you can see the cliches coming a mile away, but bear with me.) After a brief tutorial to introduce you to the mechanics of the game's battle engine, you are summoned by your master. You are his most promising student, and it seems that there is a destiny that you must fulfill. But, as you are talking, the village of Two Rivers, where the academy is located, comes under attack by a band of marauders. You leave Master Li to defeat the attackers before they can do damage to the village and its inhabitants. You soon find yourself in over you head, and Master Li enters the battle in time to defeat the leader of the marauders, whom we discover were actually assassins working for the Emperor of the Jade Empire.

Once you arrive back at the Two Rivers academy, you are challenged by a fellow student, Gao the Lesser. The loser of the challenge will be expelled from the academy. Gao loses, and attempts to use dark magic on you, but Master Li protects you. He tells you that you are actually the last of the order of Spirit Monks, an order tasked with turning evil away from the lands of the Jade Empire. Gao the Lesser kidnaps a fellow student, but as you return from rescuing her, you find the academy ablaze and Master Li gone. It is up to you and you ever-changing band of adventurers to rescue Master Li and save the Jade Empire from the rising evil.


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