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Everybody Wants to Rule the World 

Game On

Old games never die - they just fade away in the shadow of gamers' indifference.

Too bad. Some of the greatest titles in the short history of video games happen to remain some of the greatest games ever designed. Nostalgia aside, what made these titles good 10 or more years ago keeps them relevant and enjoyable today.

That's why "Sid Meier's Civiliza-tion Chronicles" comes along as a holiday must-have for the "Civ" fan, and also turns out to offer a bookcase-worthy box of interactive fun for any gamer.

For a few dollars more than a brand-new PC game, the "CC" package boxes up the original "Civilization" from 1991, "Civ II," "Civ III" and this past year's "Civ IV." As if that weren't enough world-conquering ecstasy to last you a lifetime, the box also bundles in various "Civ" add-ons, such as the "Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds" expansion pack.

A DVD with game commercials, a television special on "Civ" creator Meier, a "Civilization" card game and lots of little extras stuff the box full.

Following George Lucas and Disney, the film business has figured out how to keep selling the same movies over and over. Star Wars special editions and The Little Mermaid

Limited Time Only Two-Disc Platinum Edition keep the original properties in play and earn loads of residual revenue for the creators. Some might sit on the sidelines and scoff at the obvious consumerism of repainting the package and selling the same thing as something new. But really, this remarketing in the aftermarket helps keep fans happy while generating the kind of revenue that companies like to see before investing in new ideas.

The video-game business could learn a lot from the movies, and from "Civilization."

The handsome "Civ Chronicles" package has a heft that modern games have lost, and it just feels good to place something as weighty as a book on your shelf. Behind the leather-bound pretension of the package, "Civ Chronicles" also executes an admirable bait-and-switch. While you might pick up the box for all the collectible goodies, you'll fall back in love with the game play, as antique as it now seems.

Just for perspective, you might pop in the original "Civ" game, planning to mock the primitive graphics and simple game play for 20 to 30 minutes of nostalgic reflection. Hours later, you'll find yourself lost deep in the insidiously ingenious design of the original. Lacking high-end graphics and sophisticated resource management algorithms, the original "Civ" reminds you that it takes very little computational power to make a title that will suck free time from your life like some sort of interactive black hole.

The only thing more exciting than seeing the world under your benevolent thumb is the promise of the next installment in the series, waiting for you in the "Chronicles" box.

Who's It For: If you've enjoyed any installment in the "Civ" series, this boxed set is the ultimate collectible. On the other hand, this might be the package to draw in that board-game fan who remains hesitant about the whole video-game thing.

If You Like This, Try That: The "Civilization" series has spun off a wide variety of imitators. Some of the best are games built by former "Civ" designers. "Age of Empires" and "Rise of Nations" bear a genetic similarity to "Civ," but offer their own takes on conquering the globe.

Best Part: Video and audio segments with key "Civ" designers provide context that makes the games even more interesting.

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David Thomas

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