Well, now that the turkey is digested and the Black Friday bargain hunting is done, it’s time to get a start on your holiday shopping. Of course, I’m here to help you get a head start. For the $20 GOTW, I’ve got one of those new-fangled rhythm games that the kids seem to love so much, and for the lost classic, I got one of those old-school style PC RPGs that a select few tend to love.

$20 Game of the Week Part 1: Guitar Hero II (Xbox 360, PS2)
guitarhero2There have been music games long before the Guitar Hero series. However, none of them have done the genre justice like the Guitar Hero series. The Guitar Hero series has made the genre more accessible thanks in no small part to the prop guitar that comes with the game and the recognizable song list. Even hip-hop heads such as me can recognize many of the songs on the game’s playlist, and it’s not uncommon to go into stores like Best Buy and see people gathering around an in-store product demo. The genre has spurned many knockoffs and imitators, but beside Rock Band (which was created by series creator Harmonix), few of them have gotten the genre right.

Guitar Hero II is a very important entry for the series for two reasons. Number one, it was the first to go multiplatform (hitting Xbox 360 months after the PS2 release). Number two, it introduced music tracks downloadable content. For a cheap price, your playlist can get even bigger, making your game experience fresh. These two features helped change the face of the music game genre. Thanks to the online model that Harmonix and Activision introduced, more and more of your favorite bands and tracks are showing up for current games such as Rock Band 2 and Lips.

(Obviously the $20 or less price tag is for the game by itself and without the guitar.

Lost Classics: Realms of Arkaina (PC)
Roa1The main thing that separates console RPGs from their PC counterparts is their ties to the old school pen-and-paper RPGs of the past. You know, the kind that you have to roll 10 or 20 sided die in order to generate your character’s stats. Even with current hits like Dragon Age and Oblivion don’t stray too far from the Dungeons and Dragons blueprint with their character customization. While games such as Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire feature characters who are unique, games such as Mass Effect and Neverwinter Nights have concentrated on having players making unique characters. Earlier RPGs especially stuck close to this blueprint, even at the cost of their accessibility. One of the earliest examples of this trend was SirTech’s Realms of Arkania. Based on the German pen and paper RPG The Dark Eye, Arkania features several features from other RPGs, such as Might and Magic 3 and Eye of the Beholder. The game takes place mostly in a 3D view, but switches to an isometric view for the turn-based strategy battles.

This 2 pack features the first two games in the series, Blade of Destiny and Star Trail. In Balde of Destiny, players have to find the pieces of a legendary sword in order to defeat an orc king while in Star Trail, players have to find a legendary artifact which will unite elves in dwarves in battle against the orcs. The cool thing about this series is that players can save the game after beating them, and carry their characters over into the sequel. The game has a very steep learning curve. Along with simply having to defeat enemies, you also have to make sure they get adequate food, water, and rest. You also risk catching the flu if you don’t use blankets while sleeping. Unlike today’s RPGs which put you through an intro, the game tends to throw you right into things without telling you what to do, so reading the instruction manual is a must. You’ll also want to find a decent strategy guide or FAQ somewhere online.

Realms of Arkania has a very steep learning curve that WILL scare away most players. However, for those who do manage to get a hang on how things work and how to approach the game, the game can be quite rewarding. You’ll get into some serious level grinding and exploring, and you’ll be spending time in the game’s generation section crafting the perfect party to use. There is a 2 pack featuring the first 2 games in the series at GOG.com. The third game, Shadows Over Riva is also available on the site, and both can be purchased for $5.99 each.