A week from tonight, Santa makes his rounds to all the little boys and girls of the world. To that end, I got a triple shot of cheap gaming goodness for those of you struggling with last minute shopping ideas, so click ahead for some great stocking stuffers!

$20 GOTW Part One: Assassin’s Creed II (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
The original Assassin’s creed had a lot of promise. Not only for the first part of an all new franchise, but to demonstrate what this current generation of systems is capable of. However, the finished product ended up being a ‘love it or hate it’ affair. Those who loved it were fond of the unique crowd system, stealth mechanics, and historical setting. Those on the ‘Hate it’ side couldn’t stand its repetition. Weather you loved the game or hated it, ACII is vastly improved over its predecessor, and will win over even the harshest critics of the original game.

ACII ditches the Middle East in favor of Renaissance-era Italy and previous protagonist Altair in favor of new character Ezio. Ezio is your average fun-loving Italian nobleman. He gets into gang brawls, flirts with women, and does what he feels like. However, when his family is betrayed, Ezio discovers his heritage and seeks revenge. Like in the original AC, you play as Desmond Miles, as he uses the animus to sync his memory with that of his ancestor, only this time, you’ve joined a resistance group dedicated to battling Abstergo Industries, who are the modern-day incarnation of the Templars that Altair battled in the original game.

The areas you explore are bigger and more lively than ever, and the missions have much more variety. Just like in the original Assassin’s Creed, it’s easy to explore the cities and climb on buildings and rooftops. Of course, this risks drawing attention to yourself, but this time, you have more ways of diverting it. You can hire courtesans and thieves to distract guards, and you can even swim. Ezio will gain a villa he can purchase art for, and he can have Leonardo Da Vinci build special weapons and devices for him after finding the blueprints. You’ll also discover hidden files that reveal a conspiracy involving the Templars. These hidden messages reveal more about the Assassin’s Creed universe, and will have you going through each location with a fine-tooth comb to discover the truth.

ACII is perhaps one of the most improved sequels of this generation. Even if you didn’t like the first one, you should give this one a chance. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has recently been released, and it adds another great chapter to this series.

$20 GOTW Part 2: Victorious Boxers Revolution (Wii)
Boxing was one of the games on the Wii Sports pack-in disc. While it wasn’t anything groundcreaking, it was fun to play and it made boxing fans yearn for an actual boxing title on the Wii. It seemed inevitable that Wii gamers would bet some motion controlled fisticuffs, perhaps even Fight Night! Sadly, the inevitable turned into 4 years and counting, and the only Wii boxing we got was a dismal Showtime boxing game and a port of the already lackluster Don King’s Prizefighter. Well, there was also Victorious Boxers from Grand Prix/Cavia/Xseed. Based upon the anime and manga Fighting Spirit, players step in the shoes of boxer Ippo Makunochi as he attempts to make a name for himself as a boxer.

Victorious Boxer’s story is basically the anime version of Rocky. Ippo deals with relationships, friendships gone sour, rivalries, and other soap opera-style drama. You’ll encounter other boxers as well, and after unlocking them, you can play as them in the game’s versus mode. The game offers several control schemes, including motion control. You can also use the classic or gamecube controllers to take control of the action. There are times when what goes on on-screen doesn’t mesh with what you’re doing, and the story mode has a habit of interrupting me during a match to show a cutscene just to move the story forward. The difficulty tends to be all over the place as well. The game will remark about how I ‘barely made it through a match’ when the truth is is that I defeated my opponent in quick order.

Even with these flaws, Victorious Boxers Revolution is a fun boxing game for the Wii, even if it is flawed. Now someone page EA and tell them to bring motion controlled Fight Night to Wii!

Lost Classics: Original War (PC)
Original War is a real time strategy title with a unique premise that was unfortunately lost in the shuffle of bigger RTS releases. Even so, it maintains a healthy fan following and provides an excellent alternative from the normal RTS conventions. Original War depicts a war between Russia and the U.S. which has been altered by two things, one, a device called EON which allows one-way time travel and a mineral called Siberite, which is both a fuel for EON and a catalyst for cold fusion, potentially providing a new source of energy. The U.S. decides to send a group of soldiers into the past to move the Siberite over to Alaska. Of course, since the science behind time travel hasn’t exactly been perfected, the outing is a one-way trip.

One of the things that make Original War unique is that you don’t train human units who will magically appear outside of your barracks. You’ll have to increase your army by seeking out other soldiers stranded in the past. Your men come in one of four catagories: soldiers, mechanics, scientists, and engineers. As a soldier does things related to thier role, they gain experience levels, improving thier abilities in that area of expertise. Each character has thier own name, stats, and picture, so it’s not uncommon to get attached to your troops. Watch out though, because if they die, they are gone for good. While there are tech trees, researching, and base building, resources are scarce, so your primary means of gaining buildings and vehicles is to steal them from the enemy. Throughout the game, you’ll be notified of side missions you can take to gain more exp.

If there was one major issue with this game, it’s the god awful voice acting. John McMillian sounds like he’s doing an impression of Tony Danza. Even with this issue, Original War manages to provide something fun and unique, and the community continues to support it to this day over at owsupport.com. Original War’s blend of RPG gmaeplay and RTS action offer something different for RTS fans. Head over to GOG.com where you can purchase a DRM-free copy of the game for under $20. It may not be Starcraft, but it will give you a whole new RTS experience.

That just about wraps it up for this special edition. Be back here next week, as I have a surprise for the good poweteers (and a lump of coal for the bad ones).