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Playing a sport requires intense training and a knowledge of myriad rules and techniques. But is all that really necessary in a video game?

If you want to play “Madden NFL,” “NBA Live” or “FIFA Soccer” on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, the answer seems to be “yes.” Each of these franchises has developed into an excellent simulation of the sport it portrays and offers hours of enjoyment for fans who want an intense — and very complex — sports experience.

However, the learning curve required to play these titles is so steep that it intimidates many casual gamers.

EA Sports seeks to change that with its new “Family Play” option for Nintendo’s Wii console. The idea involves making each game more accessible to the uninitiated by reducing the control options to the very basics, and translating them into waves and wiggles of the Wii’s motion-sensitive remote and a few button-presses.

In “Madden,” which came out earlier this fall, this means gamers select plays and then snap the remote back to hike the ball and flick it forward to pass. Running and defensive plays also have a limited number of control options in “Family Play” mode. Of course, gamers can still opt for the full-blown “Madden” experience by connecting the Wii’s Nunchuk, which allows them greater control of what the digital players do and where they go. The results in both modes are very good.

Now, Electronic Arts has brought simplified play to its “NBA Live” and “FIFA” titles.

In “NBA Live,” this means that players can shoot, dunk, rebound or steal with waves of the remote, and pass or drive with a push of a button.

Taking shots can be quite fun since it involves waving the remote back and then forward in a motion reminiscent of an actual shot.

However, the rest of the control scheme is so inconsistent that it leads to frustration. Passes aren’t made. Shots aren’t taken. Players grab rebounds and then slide magically across the court and out of bounds. Players move to the wrong places — even when using the Nunchuk.

When testing “NBA Live 08,” I invited some teen friends to join in both “Family” and standard styles of play. However, it wasn’t too long before some had switched to shooting real hoops and the rest of us were playing “Wario Ware: Smooth Moves.”

In comparison, the Xbox 360 version of the game shines. Its controls are smooth, the graphics are crisp and the options for game modes are plentiful. It’s thoroughly enjoyable.

However, it is definitely a gamer’s game that requires nimble fingers and the ability to recall numerous button combinations. It certainly highlights the need for EA to give “Family Play” another shot in this franchise.

“FIFA Soccer” fares better under the simplified style of play.

Shooting and slide tackles involve waves of the remote, while passing, switching players and standing tackles are handled by pressing buttons. In “Family Play,” the digital players basically run on rails, making slight adjustments to pursue or avoid opponents. Since soccer is a game of position and passing, this simplified scheme works well enough.

Connecting the Nunchuk gives additional control over players’ motion and offers the ability to make game play much more realistic.

However, the controls can sometimes be a bit over-sensitive, with a slight wiggle sending passes to opponents or out of bounds. This can be overcome with some practice, but is still a bit of a problem for a game mode that’s designed for newbies.

Despite a few small difficulties, “FIFA Soccer” offers plenty of fun in its standard game modes, which feature plenty of options for single matches and tournaments. It offers even more fun in its mini-games, which include simple kicking and juggling games and a version of tabletop soccer — or foosball.

As in “NBA Live,” the Xbox 360 version of “FIFA Soccer” offers smoother game play, superior graphics and a deeper sense of realism. In fact, the game has gotten so realistic that it elicited complaints from my sons, who play on grass as well as the game console. The pace of play has been slowed a bit, better reflecting the time it takes to actually move a ball around a field. My sons argue it’s now a little too slow. However, the downshift suits me just fine.

Of course, the realism offered in the next-gen version of “FIFA Soccer” is accompanied by complexity, once again demonstrating the need for a game that appeals to the uninitiated. It’s a need that’s answered in “Family Play.”

Platforms for “NBA Live 08”: Wii, also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PC

On the Web: www.easports.com/ nbalive08

Platforms for “FIFA Soccer 08”: Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, PC

On the Web: www.fifa08.ea.com

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