Gather 'round friends, and listen closely to my tale so that you will not forget.

In this dark, profit-crazed era, the video game industry sometimes works like a pet cemetery. Not the benign kind where you bury your dead hamsters and ferrets in a small corner of the back yard, but the "Stephen King's Pet Sematary" variety, where the things you love return from the cursed earth in a recognizable but ultimately evil form.

Keep that in mind when you venture out to your neighborhood retailer this week and see "Shadowrun" (Xbox 360, PC, rated Mature) on the shelves. This thing is not what it was before.

In the beforetimes, the age of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, "Shadowrun" was an innovative, action-heavy role-playing game set in a bleak future Seattle, where technology and magic co-existed. The game started with your character waking up in a morgue with a fried memory, and you eventually discovered that a special computer program had been implanted in your head, which is why assassins were constantly trying to kill you.

You could do a lot of cool things in "Shadowrun," things that set it apart from other console titles in the early 1990s: freely roam the game world, hire mercenaries and go on missions, converse with other characters to investigate/advance the plot, and hack into computers. It was a pretty good game, one that gets even better when you add nostalgia and the fact that today's gaming climate is piled high with derivative ... poop.

Which brings me to the original subject of our tale, "Shadowrun" circa 2007, which surprisingly hasn't been re-branded "Battlefield Shadowrun" for marketing purposes.

This mutation is a multiplayer-only shooter with a few twists, such as the use of both guns and magic attacks, the ability to teleport through walls and resurrect dead players, and an odd assortment of characters that includes humans, trolls, dwarves, etc.

The game maintains some of the original's character by keeping the gritty urban environments and such, but disposes of the most important element: THE FREAKING STORY.

"Shadowrun" also serves as a test for Microsoft's new platform that allows Xbox 360 and PC gamers to face each other online, which could make for some interesting match-ups between elitist PC hermits and slur-flinging middle schoolers.

Who knows? Maybe this will become the greatest multiplayer shooter of all time. But calling it "Shadowrun" almost seems criminal.

As an added bonus, Xbox 360 owners will have to pay $60 to purchase "Shadowrun" for their $400 console while PC owners pay $50 to run it on their $1,500 computers. That might be something to discuss together in between matches.

Also out this week:

"Forza Motorsport 2" (Xbox 360, rated Teen) - A gorgeous racing simulation with 300-plus real-world cars. Upgrade and tune your prized ride and then smash it to pieces with careless driving.

"Mario Party 8" (Wii, rated Everyone) - Since this is the eighth time around, let's just assume it will have famous Nintendo characters and lots of mini-games.