February 21, 2010

Lazy Sunday – Production I.G To The Rescue

Halo Legends
Last night I took time out to watch Halo Legends, because despite my dickish reputation I am, in earnest, a fountain of eternal optimism. Thematically and structurally Legends is chasing after The Animatrix, no surprises there, and while it misses that mark it is also littered with sequences and ideas that make the work hard to dismiss entirely.

Rather than a focused and stylish effort, Legends is more like a sloppy bomb that leaves just enough shrapnel embedded in the subculture it wants to wrap itself in to find extended life, not unlike the Skeksis. Repeated viewings turn up interesting pieces, but it’s clear from the first run through that Production I.G is in many ways without peers, with The Duel easily standing out from the pack both for its visual challenge and narrative focus.

Halo Legends
The Animatrix remains memorable for me owing largely to balance – the way the visual style, character development, and the expansion of loose ideas that world inspired all stretched out to play without stumbling over any of the other elements – haunted houses and machines capable of love and obsession at no extra charge. That’s a challenge a bit beyond Halo at the moment, which is so caught up in cannon and shout-outs that it loses the opportunity to have more fun with the freedom and possibilities. Halo Legends has a more definitive agenda that holds it down.

One can see the promise of a company like Casio in The Package, but would be hard pressed to hold it up against Final Flight of the Osiris. And it feels like the larger share of that difference engine owes to the attempt to put the game content ahead of the possibilities inherent in the animation experiment. But still there’s something worthwhile to be found in the by the numbers reliability of Prototype – and it’s impossible not to find some joy following Spartan 1337 through Odd One Out.

The Duel is something special, and not just because it looks snazzy. It does look snazzy by the way, offering up a visual aesthetic that should be studied by Sega for consideration on further Panzer Dragoon pursuits. That the episode can layer a very traditionalist art style outside of film with 3D technology to create a film, while telling a story about the changing of a society in an absolute sense, well, this is the key to my love letter for it. That it offers what this type of series should strive for, a slice of life that expands the universe without heaps of exposition, that’s gravy.

The Duel is also the only episode in which the Elites’ gain a real sense of terror, interestingly enough, at the same time that their society is being humanized.

Halo Legends
Legends has tossed me back into my Halo love-hate relationship, which is better than ignoring the franchise. I simply can’t ignore the impression the original game made on me, mostly for the multiplayer, and perhaps because of this ad, which predates artsy delusions. Being on the run from an alien alliance seeking to exterminate humanity was a very straightforward but fun place to be at the time, especially when played with a friend.

The series is as stuck as any other that Microsoft has control over, capable of being more things to more gamers if only the company were as forward thinking as it needs to be to avoid sinking into cultural irrelevance. I suspect no one there will be concerned until it affects the finances, which isn’t a given anytime soon. Halo doesn’t need to do anything to sell better, but it could do plenty more to expand itself and its audience without risking success, and that is its burden to me.

The real moral of Legends is that if studios want to do something different with game IP, they need to step up their game first. If a company like Microsoft commissioned short games instead of films based on a franchise like this, it would not only give smaller developers a chance to shine and experiment, but it would offer gamers something truly worth that old ‘forward thinking’ moniker.

I wonder if Nier is going to want me to say it’s forward thinking when it finally releases? While I’m still trying to absorb the idea that fishing and farming apparently play a role within the game, this latest trailer shows Cavia’s love for gigantic boss encounters and drama. I can’t help wondering how it’s all going to get squeezed onto a disc neatly by the end, particularly because I would call myself a Cavia fan, so I know how often they come to almost creating something incredible before falling over right before the end. I’m not sure if I should be looking at it as a core Cavia endeavor with Square level production or something entirely different that looks vaguely familiar, but it feels like a no-brainer to call it the Square-Enix game to watch.

That wraps up the start to my Sunday, leaving me to finish a larger share of Star Ocean before trying out NIS’ Last Rebellion, and a potential date with Deadly Premonition, which I hope holds some cheesy charm. I might just be trying to cram it all in with Bad Company 2 and still catching up on Resident Evil 5 DLC before Valkyria Chronicles gets its DLC on Thursday – capturing the larger share of my attention.

Fans of the game need no explanations, but if you’re sick of me talking endlessly about how great Valkyria Chronicles is, all I can say is that if you make a game that pushes the boundaries even half as far with that same attention to detail, I’ll talk about your game for a very long time as well.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress