Paul Kuliniewicz » Reviews http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog After all, it could only cost you your life, and you got that for free. Mon, 28 Jan 2013 03:25:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ A remake that is (not) terrible http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2010/07/12/a-remake-that-is-not-terrible/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2010/07/12/a-remake-that-is-not-terrible/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 01:44:11 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1927 A little while ago I complained about the abominable remake of The Prisoner. As further evidence of how that review was not just a case of “they changed it, now it sucks“, I present you with this:

Unit-03
It’s time to play inappropriate music and chew bubblegum. And Unit-03 is all out of bubblegum.

Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance improves on the original.

You may recall that my assessment of the first Evangelion remake movie is that it stuck far too close to the first several episodes of the original series, to the point of often being nearly shot-by-shot identical save for the increased budget. A nice visual upgrade, sure, but compressing six episodes’ worth of material into a movie left the plot feeling rushed and the overall effort seeming rather unnecessary.

Evangelion 2.0 instead retells the other twenty episodes of the original series. It manages this by streamlining plot and character development and excising filler wherever possible. The core of the original’s storyline is still there, but it’s been extensively reworked, and mostly for the better.

Unit-00 wielding a missile against the Tenth Angel
For Unit-00, anything can be a melee weapon.

The clearest example of that is the fight scene with the Tenth Angel. Instead of just being an upgraded version of the corresponding scene in episode 19, it also incorporates quite a bit of the fight scene against the Sixteenth Angel in episode 23 of the series, particularly the so-called director’s cut version of that episode. (And the movie does it much better than the episode did; I always thought the shorter, non-director’s-cut version of that fight more effectively conveyed the emotional impact of <spoiler>Unit-00′s destruction and Rei’s death</spoiler>. But I digress.)

And while I’m whipping out the spoiler tags, I might as well add that the fight also has a big surprise for those familiar with the original series, who surely aren’t expecting the fight to include <spoiler>the beginning of Third Impact</spoiler>

The characters, particularly the three main pilots, have been toned down from the series. Shinji isn’t as mopey and angsty and manages to actually take decisive action a bit more. Rei is still mysterious but less aloof; we even see her try to get Shinji and his father together, which isn’t completely out of left field given that she’s <spoiler>a clone of Shinji’s dead mother</spoiler>. Given how Shinji and Rei have a closer relationship in the movie, it’ll be interesting to see what happens this time around when he eventually learns Rei’s backstory.

Asuka's doll... thing...
This is several kinds of wrong.

Judging from the Internet, toning down Asuka’s whole set of issues is a much more contentious topic, but if you ask me, the “resolution” we see of them in the movie is superficial and won’t last. (Or perhaps she doesn’t know certain details of her own past yet?) I mean, she carries around a doll or puppet of herself. Now if you haven’t seen the series before, that might merely seem a little odd, but believe me, once you learn where it came from, that’s seriously messed up.

No, my biggest complaint about how Asuka is treated in the movie is not her character development or (<sarcasm>horrors!</sarcasm>) her changed last name, but the repeated gratuitous fanservice shots of her. I’m willing to accept giving her her own version of Shinji’s toothpicks scene, but pretty much everything besides that is way too blatant and unnecessary. Sure, some of it was in the original series too, but not to the same degree, and even there it also served to torment Shinji. Here, it’s clearly just to titillate the viewer. (And no, hanging a lampshade on her test plug suit doesn’t make up for it.)

Mari
I just destroyed Unit-05; better make myself scarce for the next 45 minutes of screen time.

I can only assume that if new character Mari had gotten more screen time, she would’ve been subjected to similar treatment. (She certainly seemed to enjoy her redesigned plug suit….) It’s hinted that there’s more going on with her than we see, but then most of what we do see of her is her effectively filling in for Asuka after Asuka gets written out a little after the halfway mark.

And while I’m complaining about things, I might as well point out that the soundtrack dissonance used during Unit 03′s fight scene just doesn’t work for me. Using Komm, Süßer Tod during End of Evangelion worked, as does the scene with the Tenth Angel around the end of Evangelion 2.0, but this definitely does not. Maybe it’s just me, though.

But really, that’s about the extent of my complaints about this movie. This is what a remake should be: true to the spirit of the original, but not afraid to take liberties with the source material. Approachable to newcomers (assuming they’ve seen Evangelion 1.0, naturally), yet enough that’s new to keep those familiar with the original engaged. In all honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the first few minutes of Evangelion 3.0, let alone the remainder of the remake. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to see what they come up with.

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The Prisoner remake: a load of number 2 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2010/05/30/the-prisoner-remake-a-load-of-number-2/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2010/05/30/the-prisoner-remake-a-load-of-number-2/#comments Sun, 30 May 2010 23:00:38 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1852 Title for The Prisoner remake
When the title screen tells you to give up, you know you’re in trouble.

The short version: don’t waste your time watching last year’s remake of The Prisoner. Stick with the original.

Considered on its own merits, the remake isn’t terrible, but it never rises above mediocre either. There’s an over-reliance on camera trickery to create confusion on the part of the viewer, with lots of disjointed cuts between scenes that, at it worst, makes some episodes (particular the fifth one) simply difficult to follow. It can be hard to tell whether something is happening concurrently with another scene, or is a flashback, or a dream, or or an hallucination, or something else. Given that each of those happen with quite a bit of regularity, trying to disentangle the editing while making sense of the plot is a nontrivial task.

6 carries 93, wearing a dark shirt 6 seconds later, 6 is wearing a light shirt
Hey, no one noticed when John McClane’s shirt changed color, right?

It would have been nice if the editors had remembered to check for continuity between successive shots, though. Let’s get the basics before we start getting all fancy with the cuts, OK?

The remake does do a couple interesting things with the premise, and it certainly takes things in a very different direction than the original, but it does neither well enough to really stand on its own. And as a fan of the original, it’s impossible for me to evaluate the remake without constantly comparing it against the 1960s version. And there, it comes up far, far short of the mark.

Obviously, a remake is going to change some things. I understand that. Heck, the last time I wrote about a remake of something here, my major complaint was that it changed so little for most of the running time, except for the effects budget. But the The Prisoner remake makes the mistake of changing absolutely fundamental aspects of the original without providing a satisfying payoff for those changes.

The most grating is the issue of 6′s identity. In the original, Number 6 refuses to ever refer to himself as Number 6, the identity imposed upon him in The Village. He never calls himself by any number. He never wears the numbered identity badge that everyone else wears. There’s even an episode where Number 2 struggles to get him to even say the number six in any context.

Contrast the remake, where at the end of the second episode we see 6 screaming at 2 “I am 6, you bastard!” In the following episodes 6 shows no resistance to being identified as 6. The real Number 6 would die sooner than accepting that.

The Village
The remake’s Village is no Portmeirion.

The remake’s version of The Village and the people living there defies suspension of disbelief. The Village is surrounded by desert, and allegedly there is nowhere else. That’s right, the majority of people there accept The Village as being the entirety of human civilization, despite it obviously not having the industrial base needed to manufacture the cars and buses and everything else within it. This is taken to the extreme in the last episode, where we see people arriving by bus to The Village; not only can the new arrivals not explain where they arrived from, but no one besides 6 considers people arriving from allegedly nowhere as something worth questioning.

OK, maybe this isn’t entirely inexplicable, since it’s pretty obvious that the people in The Village live in abject fear of 2, and it would make sense that they would be terrified of voicing any opposition to what he tells them. Even though 2′s weapon of choice is sadistic psychological manipulation, he isn’t above orchestrating acts of terrorism to keep people in line, such as having a diner full of people blown up in the first episode in order to silence 554, where “silence” in this context means “put into a coma.” Although, given 2′s fondness of hand grenades, he may have simply done it himself.

2 holding a grenade
2′s the kind of guy who will throw a grenade at you and ask if you’ve had sex with your mother. I am not making this up.

In the original, most of the Number 2s didn’t sink to that level of obvious evil, and there was some ambiguity as to whether at least some of them were prisoners themselves who capitulated to The Village’s unseen masters. No, the remake’s 2 is pretty clearly evil. Nor is there any question in the remake as to 2 being in charge. This time around, when 6 asks “Who is number one?” — a recurring question in the original — the answer simply comes back that 2 is called 2 instead of 1 as a show of humility. Period.

I’m reluctant to call the remake The Prisoner In Name Only, but then there’s the issue of the episode titles. Each title is a one-word version of an episode of the original, but in only two of the six episodes is the plot even remotely related to the plot in the original. What’s the point, other than trying to slip in a shout-out?

It’s fitting how in the opening of the first episode we see 6 bury 93 in a shallow grave in the desert. 93 is wearing the same distinctive outfit that the original’s Number 6 wore. According to the commentary, the creators of the remake had even tried to get Patrick McGoohan to play the role of 93. I think that pretty much sums up symbolically what the remake does to the original.

Spoiler warning: If you don’t want me to spoil the endings of both the original and the remake, you better stop reading here.


The ending is downright depressing for fans of the original. Why?

2 wins.

Only in the last episode do we finally learn what 2′s goal even is, other than tormenting 6 and, to a lesser but still crucial extent, 313. 2 wants to escape, and to have 6 replace him. All of 2′s machinations throughout the series lead to 6 and 313′s decision to take over the roles of 2 and his wife, M2.

Curtis (2) and Helen (M2)
2 Curtis knows the secret to a happy and healthy Village is keeping your wife on a steady diet of potent drugs.

Unlike the original, which keeps the purpose of The Village and the goals of its unseen leadership vague, the remake ultimately explains everything. The Village is a shared subconscious construct that its inhabitants live in while still going about their lives in the real world. (Those “flashbacks” 6 has about what happened after he resigned? Those are actually happening concurrently.) Keeping The Village in existence somehow requires a “dreamer” to spend their time completely zoned out on sedatives and hallucinogens; that’s the role M2, the discoverer of The Village, plays. If she becomes lucid, The Village starts to literally fall apart.

According to 2, The Village’s purpose is therapeutic, allowing the people within it to go about their daily lives in the real world; the surveillance 6 had been doing in his job in the real world was being used to identify new troubled people to bring into The Village without their consent. In the real world, 2 shows 6 that 313, 6′s love interest, is hopelessly insane, and The Village is the only way for her to have a normal life. (Why 6 believes 2 at this point, especially regarding psychological treatment techniques, is beyond me. But then, 6 wasn’t there when 2 lobbed a grenade at The Village’s therapist.) 6 offers to go on the drugs to keep The Village from falling apart and dooming everyone there, and then 313 takes them instead to save 6 from spending the rest of his existence completely zoned out. 2 offs himself with a hand grenade, and 6 takes over; our last shot of him is sitting in the desert next to a zoned-out but crying 313 as he vows to do The Village right.

Meanwhile, 2 and M2 are just fine in the real world. It turns out dying in The Village has no ill effects on the real world, so 2 and M2 (who had been murdered by her “son” 11-12, who was himself purely a construct within The Village) suffer no ill effects. In fact, now that M2 is no longer taking the drugs that let her maintain The Village, she’s completely back to normal.

313 and 6-the-new-2
“It took me all this time to see how beautiful [The Village] is. [...] It has to be possible to do this the right way.”

That’s right. 2 escapes from the village, and 6 stays there voluntarily in order to improve it, instead of freeing everyone and destroying it once and for all. He as no qualms about keeping everyone in it there against their will, or even making any changes at the company managing the entire project.

Contrast that with the original’s ending, where Number 6 unmasks Number 1 and escapes The Village with Number 2 (who was himself a prisoner in The Village who failed to resist as long as Number 6 had done) in tow. Or at least, he escaped The Village as much as it’s possible to escape something that represents society, but he does preserve his independence and freedom. He is not a number, he is a free man. He most certainly does not pledge his love for The Village and work to continue it.

Patrick McGoohan must be rolling in his grave.

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Mega Man 10 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2010/03/09/mega-man-10/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2010/03/09/mega-man-10/#comments Wed, 10 Mar 2010 03:40:24 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1768 Mega Man 9 was a great game. It took everything that made the early NES Mega Man games terrific and built on them, and avoided the traps that made the latter games me-too rehashes of the same basic gameplay. It played off of the player’s expectations of how a Mega Man game plays out, slipping in traps to trick and surprise anyone who grew up playing the original games. (And its increased difficulty modes in turn played off the player’s expectations from having played the game in normal mode, instead of just making enemies harder to destroy.) The weapons are nicely varied and often have dual uses, such as Tornado Blow hurting all enemies on the screen and boosting your jumps a bit thanks to the updraft. Mega Man 9 easily ranks in the same tier as Mega Man 2, one of the greatest games of all time, period.

Mega Man 10, on the other hand, is a good game. Not great, but good. It’s a pretty solid game, but definitely not as innovative as its predecessor.

The weapons are somewhat harder to use effectively. Several of them have a two-stage attack, and only the second stage deals significant damage. For example, the Commando Bomb‘s blast waves are more effective than hitting something with the bomb itself, and the Thunder Wool‘s lightning bolt is much stronger than the cloud that rises up from Mega Man’s arm cannon to fire it. It’s good to not have each weapon just be a differently-shaped projectile, but it can be tricky to aim for something near your target.

(Speaking of Sheep Man, I get the distinct impression from playing the game that he was originally supposed to be something like Thunder Man. They tried to make him look like a robotic cloud, but it wound up looking more like a robot sheep, so they ran with it. It would certainly explain why Sheep Man’s stage is electricity-centric rather than pastoral.)

The individual stages aren’t bad, though the gimmicks in them aren’t quite as fun to play through as they were in Mega Man 9. The disappearing blocks (heh heh) in Sheep Man’s stage are neat, but the see-saw thing in Blade Man‘s stage is more tedious than anything. Some stages have branching paths, which is then taken to a bit of an extreme in Wily Castle 1, where the branches themselves have branching paths.

I don’t think pointing out that Dr. Wily turns out to be the villain warrants a spoiler warning.

Wily Castle is the high point in the game. The bosses in particular are pretty great, riffing on past games and, in one case, a minor Internet meme? I really like the music for the Wily Castle bosses, and I think it goes particularly well with the first one. I also suspect that anyone familiar with Mega Man 2 will do the exact wrong thing out of instinct when they first encounter Wily Castle 3′s boss, like I did. That’s the subverting-player-expectations thing that Mega Man 9 did so well. And the final battle has a decent variant of the requisite fight against Wily Capsule.

By the way, Dr. Wily has tried to take over the world nine, or maybe ten, times already. Who keeps issuing him building permits for new Wily Castles? It’s not like he could build his latest Wily Castle in secret.

Why do I say nine or ten? Mega Man & Bass is a classic-series but unnumbered Mega Man game, so technically Mega Man 9 is the tenth in the series, and Mega Man 10 is the eleventh. Mega Man 9 supports this by referencing each of its nine predecessors in its ending. However, Mega Man 10 only calls out to the nine numbered classic-series games before it, completely ignoring Mega Man & Bass. And it’s not as though Inti Creates isn’t aware of Mega Man & Bass, since they developed both Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. It’s odd.

The plot makes no sense, even by the low standards of Mega Man games. Ostensibly, Dr. Wily needs Mega Man and Proto Man’s help to recover the components of the Roboenza cure machine from the infected robot masters who stole it from his lab. And it is reasonable to think a mad scientist who spends all his time making killer robots would be interested in not having them infected by a virus. But it turns out that Dr. Wily was behind Roboenza all along! So… why wouldn’t he already have the cure stockpiled somewhere, or design Roboenza so infected robots didn’t steal his stuff? They were his robots, too, since they have DWN-series numbers. Any why would he give Roll a functioning cure capsule, if he wants to trade the cure for robots’ loyalty? Or why not just use his close access to Mega Man and Proto Man to infect them directly? Was Dr. Wily just hoping that Mega Man and Proto Man coming into close contact with the infected robot masters would cause them to catch Roboenza? It seems needlessly indirect, especially when he’s right there in Dr. Light‘s lab working on the cure machine.

Dr. Wily’s plan here makes the whole Mr. X thing in Mega Man 6 look downright genius by comparison.

Mega Man 10 does have an easy mode, which apparently has some people up in arms. Normally I’d say “if you don’t like it, don’t play it”, but you do need to play through it to unlock some of the challenges, without which you can’t get 100% completion on those. Easy mode also counts for the in-game challenges, which I’m not entirely sure I like. My second play-through was on easy mode to unlock some of the challenge stages, and without trying too hard I passed the challenges for beating the game under an hour, beating the game without dying, and beating the game without using any E-, W-, or M-tanks. (Granted, though, I did go through a few Shock Guards — even easy mode can surprise you with spike traps.) I’d like it better if the in-game challenges distinguished which difficulty level you beat them at, just like how some of the challenge stages distinguish between getting through the stage and getting through without taking damage. But beating the game without taking damage would be difficult even on easy mode. Doing it on hard mode… wow.

The challenge stages are a good way to practice fighting the game’s bosses without playing through the appropriate stage first, and they also give you a chance to practice with each special weapon and explore the full extent of its capabilities. I wasn’t aware, for instance, you could use the Wheel Cutter to climb walls, until I went through the challenge stage where it was needed.

If Mega Man 9 is on the same tier as Mega Man 2, I’d say Mega Man 10 is somewhere between the original Mega Man and Mega Man 4: still good, but a bit disappointing, especially when compared to its predecessor. I’d be apprehensive about the prospect of a Mega Man 11, since it doesn’t look like they’re going to top Mega Man 9 anytime soon.

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The Smeg It Was http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/04/28/the-smeg-it-was/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/04/28/the-smeg-it-was/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2009 22:42:34 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1330 Over the course of April 10 through 12, untold millions of people worldwide observed the resurrection of something that once had died but now is risen, in perpetual hope and expectation of its eventual return in glory.

I am talking, of course, about Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, a three-part miniseries that marked the first new Red Dwarf to be made since 1999.

I don’t need to tell you I’m a Red Dwarf fan — my three computers are named holly, kryten, and queeg, after all. I first discovered and fell in love with the series back in high school, when the local PBS station would air Red Dwarf, Red Green, and two episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in an epic two-hour block on Sunday nights. I believe they eventually stopped doing that because federal law prohibits PBS from airing anything that awesome.

Back in 1999, Red Dwarf season 8 ended (after Rimmer kicks Death in the groin and tells him that “only the good die young”) with the words “The End”, followed a few seconds later with “THE SMEG IT IS”. Alas, until this month it was the end. There was no season 9, and the movie never got made.

All hope for new Red Dwarf was lost, until I stumbled across by chance the Red Dwarf page on TV Tropes a couple days after Easter, and noticed the tiny little paragraph closing the write-up:

A three-part story Back To Earth was recently aired across the Easter Weekend of 2009 on digital channel Dave, putting an end to the complete lack of any new TV or book output since 1999.

The next step was obvious.

So, was Back to Earth worth a 10-year wait? Sort of. (minor spoilers ahead)

Part 1 starts off is textbook Red Dwarf, with things having reverted back to the premise of the pre-seasion 6 episodes (though taking place 9 years after season 8): just Lister, Rimmer (a hologram again), The Cat, and Kryten aboard the titular Red Dwarf (with Holly’s absence given a brief hand wave). Nothing great by any means, but not bad either.

The transition from the fight with the giant squid in the water tank to Katerina‘s appearance is very clumsy, and though the abruptness of it can be explained in light of the reveal in Part 3, surely there could’ve been a cleaner transition between the two. Even ignoring the impossibility of the Red Dwarf supporting two holograms at one time (especially seeing how it happened in the last two episodes of season 1), the rest of Part 1 does little other than to set up the premise of Parts 2 and 3.

The storyline that fills most of Parts 2 and 3 is sort of weird. Remember that scene in Spaceballs where the bad guys watch a VHS copy of Spaceballs to figure out where the heroes are? It’s sort of like that, but stretched out over half an hour.

More specifically, the crew get sucked through a swirly thing into the “real world”, which is eagerly awaiting the premiere of Back to Earth. They find a promotional DVD case of the three-parter, and while there’s no actual disc inside, they learn from the back of the case that Back to Earth is the end of Red Dwarf. Since in the “real world” universe they’re just fictional characters, they’ll cease to exist once Red Dwarf has ended, and so they seek out their creator to plead for more life. Hilarity ensues.

This level of self-referentiality is tough to do well, especially as the backbone of the entire plot. While Back to Earth manages well enough, being set in the “real world” loses some of the feel of being Red Dwarf. Which isn’t to say there isn’t excellence to be found within; take, for example, this scene that mercilessly spoofs the magical image enhancement capabilities found in TV shows:

Also, you just know someone in Britain is making a real-life Carbug.

Oh, and lest you think my constant scare-quoting of the “real world” is some sort of spoiler, I’m doing it because of the one infuriating difference between the real real world and the “real world” as shown in Back to Earth: the “real world” apparently got ten seasons of Red Dwarf instead of eight. Lucky smeggers.

In any event, it’s obvious that just as Back to Earth is about the Red Dwarf crew asking the show’s creator to keep making episodes, Back to Earth has the ulterior purpose of testing the market for interest in, well, new Red Dwarf episodes, and not-so-subtly asking The Powers That BBC to fund it.

Maybe the whole “ten seasons” thing wasn’t an error but a promise — the half of Grant Naylor still working on Red Dwarf has apparently said he’s not interested in making season 9 but is interested in making season 10, whatever that might mean.

And we all saw how well season 8′s promise of more Red Dwarf turned out. But one can hope for new life, and isn’t that what the Easter season is all about?

Well, that and Peeps.

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Aahh, doorknob! I mean, Mother 3! http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/02/07/aahh-doorknob-i-mean-mother-3/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/02/07/aahh-doorknob-i-mean-mother-3/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2009 03:35:01 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1124 Mother 3 title screen

Mother 3 is better than EarthBound (a.k.a. Mother 2).

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Mother 3 is the game where Lucas and the New Pork City stage in Brawl come from. (Tip: if you want to avoid Mother 3 spoilers, don’t play Brawl.)

Mother 3 delivers the same style of humor as its predecessor, despite having a more serious, even depressing, storyline. And manages to pull it off, no less. To avoid spoilers, I’ll save further discussion and speculation on that for a separate post, but suffice it to say I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I liked the ending. (And EarthBound’s cast list at the end blows Mother 3′s out of the water, but never mind that.)

Graphically, it has the same cartoony 16-bit sprite style of EarthBound, but larger and with much more detail. Whereas EarthBound gave you a two-frame walk animation, Mother 3 has sprite animation like this:

The battle system is much the same as in EarthBound, including the rolling HP meter. Fighting in Mother 3 relies on more exploitation on that mechanic, however; there are plenty of enemies that do lots of damage, but beating them quickly lets you exit battle before most of the HP drop occurs. Likewise, which characters you rely on to heal makes a difference, since the longer you wait, the closer everyone else could come to death. There’s also a new combo mechanic, where tapping the button in time with the rhythm of the background music deals more damage. Together, they keep battles fast-paced, despite being rooted in an archaic choose-everyone’s-action-at-the-start-of-the-turn system.

Even better, the final battle doesn’t depend on spamming a command that is either only available in the final battle (Sing in the original Mother) or is largely useless until the final battle (Pray in EarthBound). Instead, the final battle in Mother 3 is… something else entirely. But enough about that, without getting into spoilers.

Hippo Launcher

Like EarthBound, the enemies you fight skew strongly towards the goofy. In particular, the villains in Mother 3 spend a lot of time making chimeras, so when you aren’t fighting the Pigmask army you’ll be facing off against kangasharks (kangaroo + shark, complete with a joey + shark in its pouch), cattlesnakes (not a cat + rattlesnake, but cattle + snake), and hippo launchers (which do not launch hippos, but rather are a hippopotamus + rocket launcher, and are just as dangerous as you’d expect).

I’d say that the Pigmask army’s geneticists have too much free time, but their orders come from the top. Normal animals are boring, after all.

The music in Mother 3 is very good, and there’s plenty of it. The sound player accessible from the title screen has no fewer than 250 songs in it. In particular, there’s a lot of variety in the music that plays during battle, which prevents the tap-in-time-to-the-rhythm mechanic from being too easy, especially since some songs don’t have a steady beat to them. My only complaint musically is that the villain’s leitmotif is very heavily represented throughout the soundtrack, so if you don’t like it, that’s going to pose a bit of a problem.

Restrooms

While the “dungeon”-type areas you fight through are generally good, a few in particular stand out. Tanetane Island is wonderfully creepy and disturbing, and the boss at the end was indeed magnificent. The tower in Chapter 8, whose name I won’t mention due to it being a spoiler, is quite possibly the greatest final dungeon I have ever seen in an RPG. At the very least, it has the best use of toilets in a video game, period.

Although having experienced EarthBound isn’t strictly necessary to understand Mother 3, I’d recommend it. Not just because I’d recommend playing EarthBound in general, mind you, even though I would. There are connections to be found between the two games, which I’ll probably ramble on about at great length in the spoilery companion to this post. Maybe someday EarthBound will finally be released on Virtual Console.

Finally, I must say that the Mother 3 translation is very well done. The project’s blog goes into great detail about all the challenges involved in making it, and the end result shows a lot of polish and attention to detail. It wasn’t just a matter of replacing Japanese text with English text; there were lots of technical problems that had to be hacked through along the way, all without anything to go off of except the binary code of the game.

So stop reading this and go play Mother 3.

[Image credit: starmen.net]

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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/01/10/metroid-prime-3-corruption/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/01/10/metroid-prime-3-corruption/#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2009 16:15:39 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1111 Everyone in the galaxy is an idiot. At least, that’s what I learned from playing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

Let’s say you’re the Galactic Federation. You hire a handful of bounty hunters to hand-deliver an antivirus to your computer systems after the Space Pirates have (choose one: compromised, owned, 0wn3d, pwn3d) your networks. Suddenly, said Space Pirates launch a surprise attack, and while aforementioned bounty hunters try to stop a very unpleasant-looking glowing space rock from smashing into your military base, they get blasted by the nigh-unkillable antagonist from the previous game with something that makes their bodies start producing phazon.

Phazon, by the way, is basically concentrated evil in mineral form. It’s extremely toxic and mutagenic, with the tendency to mutate anything or anyone who comes into contact with it into something very deadly and something eager to be deadly. Naturally, the Space Pirates love using the stuff in their genetic experiments.

In other words, suppose someone shot you in the face, and suddenly you started pooping weapons-grade uranium. Now suppose that weapons-grade uranium is also sentient. Well, being the GF, you’re now stuck with four bounty hunters with this condition. What do you do?

Naturally, instead of trying to cure them, you figure out a way to weaponize this internal phazon production in three of the bounty hunters and send them out to fight the Space Pirates. And when you mysteriously lose contact with them after a couple weeks, instead of suspecting that the evil sentient self-regenerating substance has done something, you know, bad to them, you go ahead and make the same “upgrade” to your last bounty hunter, and send her out to find out what happened. And kill Space Pirates.

For whatever reason, Samus apparently sees nothing wrong with any of this. If it were me, I’d be a little upset about them making changes to my armor while I was busy being unconscious with a life-threatening medical condition. Especially when it turns out that the fail-safes in the upgrade to prevent runaway phazon production, um, don’t exactly “work”.

In the GF’s defense, they do apologize when they find out what they did.

That’s the premise to Corruption in a nutshell. The same sort of 3D Metroid action you’d expect from the rest of the sub-series ensues as you travel between planets collecting power-ups and upgrades hidden in implausible areas in (mostly) abandoned environs in between shooting Space Pirates and the eponymous metroids. In that respect, it does things a bit better than its predecessors, in that the plot coupons needed to access the final area of the game are less blatantly arbitrary. In Corruption, they’re energy cells needed to systematically power sections of what’s left of the GFS Valhalla as you explore it, whereas in the previous two games they were “artifacts” or “keys” needed to pass an arbitrary barrier leading to the final boss. (Echoes was particularly bad in this respect, requiring a series of keys to be collected to reach every major boss.)

The Wiimote+Nunchuk control scheme works pretty well, with the decoupling of movement and aiming eliminating much of the need to lock on to enemies in order to hit anything. There’s a lot of waving the Wiimote around to activate knobs and levers and such to activate them, but by matching the motions Samus makes in-game, it avoids feeling like the “arbitrary waggle” controls that apparently plague many Wii games. Plus, swinging the Nunchuk back and forth to use the Grapple Beam works well, especially when using it to rip apart annoying flying enemies.

One problem with the controls, albeit a minor one, is that although all the dials-and-levers type stuff is done with the Wiimote in your right hand, Samus does the motions with her left hand, which breaks the verisimilitude a bit. Of course, her right hand is sort of occupied operating her arm cannon.

I’m less forgiving, however, of the attempt to force more traditional FPS elements into the game play. It comes up a bit in the Spire Pod sequence in SkyTown where you fight hordes of Space Pirates, but it becomes much more blatant in the last areas of the Pirate Homeworld. The combination of the X-Ray Visor and the Nova Beam acts like a sniper rifle, letting you headshot Space Pirates for one-hit kills. Soon after that’s introduced, you’re stuck with the task of escorting a squad of GF tactical demolitionists who have a surprising lack of combat ability. None of this feels very Metroidy, and it weakens the final areas of the game.

Speaking of which, I didn’t much care for how the entire way your health meter works is changed in the final area, especially not the ham-handed way it’s explained to you via a series of four or five dialog popups. I suppose it would’ve been worse if the permanent-hypermode you’re stuck with on Phaaze worked the same way hypermode does in the rest of the game, where letting the phazon meter fill up results in game over, but still, I can’t approve of changing such a core game play mechanic like that, especially once that guts even the limited options for weapons selection you had up until then.

And weapons selection is almost as limited as in the original NES version of Metroid: the new types of beams and missiles replace, rather than complement, the old ones. Worse, missiles as a whole aren’t all that useful once you have enough energy tanks in reserve to abuse hypermode, which is effective against pretty much everything you fight. I don’t think I ever ran close to running out of missiles even before my stockpile hit triple digits.

However, I must give credit for how the game has you deal with the shield protecting the Leviathan Seed on Elysia. On Bryyo, getting past it involved fighting your way to a pair of shield generators and calling in airstrikes from your spaceship. It initially seems like the same will happen on Elysia, until the Aurora unit in SkyTown suggests you just drop a giant bomb on the shield and blow it up. Of course, you then have to run around SkyTown assembling said giant bomb, but still.

Also appreciated is the ability to have all the locations of hidden items marked on your map near the end of the game, if you figure out how to do that. It beats traversing the game world again looking for those last couple items if you’re going for 100% completion. Though to my credit, I did manage to get 98% of them through careful observation and obsessive note-taking, using the endgame map only to find the last two missile expansions.

In practice, however, that’s really only for bragging rights (and unlocking slightly longer endings), since as I mentioned earlier, there’s little reason to use missiles except to get past certain obstacles. Ship missile expansions are even more useless, since aside from getting past a couple obstacles on Bryyo you never need to call in bombing runs again. Actually, it turns out that all the different buttons in the spaceship are just for decoration except for the one that lets you fly from one point to another. Not that I was looking for a dogfight sequence in a Metroid game, though, but if the ship only serves as transportation and a mobile save point, why bother with a cockpit screen at all?

Finally, getting back to my opening rant: the only reason Samus and the GF emerge victorious at the end of the game is that the Space Pirates are even dumber than the GF seems to be. The Space Pirates have hand scanners to activate their equipment. Space Pirate hands don’t look even remotely human, what with the three pointy fingers and all. So why do they have no problem accepting Samus’s hand, given that she is (a) human and (b) walking Space Pirate death. Samus is the last person Space Pirates would want using their stuff. It’s like if TSA made you use a hand scanner before boarding the plane, but the scanner was perfectly OK with bin Laden’s hand on it. Or a kitten.

And how exactly do hand scanners work when someone is wearing full body armor, anyway?

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For Everlasting Peace http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/09/24/for-everlasting-peace/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/09/24/for-everlasting-peace/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2008 03:28:29 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=878 Mega Man 9 'box art'
Even “better” than the Mega Man box art: here he has an arm cannon and a gun!

Having now completed a play-through of Mega Man 9, I can safely say that it ranks right up there with Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3.

The level design in the Dr. Wily stages is very impressive, balancing the fine line between challenging and unfair. You’ll die plenty of times — I certainly did — but each time you’ll know it’s because you screwed up, not because something came out of left field and killed you. There’s plenty of ways to meet a quick death, but never without first giving you a chance to figure out a new type of obstacle in a relatively benign environment. The level design loves to play with your expectations, with lots of twists on mechanics you’ve seen (or think you’ve seen) before. By the time you reach the screen deep in Wily Stage 3 with three 1-ups in it, you’ll know to be on your guard, even if you don’t yet know why.

A fantastic instance of challenging the player’s expectations comes in one of the screens in Wily Stage 1. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you’ve played the game, you know exactly the one I’m talking about. It took me a long time to figure out the trick needed to avoid certain death, and it’s sure to fool Mega Man veterans — heck, especially Mega Man veterans — the first time they encounter it. Whoever at Inti Creates who came up with it is a diabolical genius.

Plus, in retrospect, it’s amazing it’s taken this long for Mega Man to enter a boss’s chamber from the right side of the screen instead of the left.

The bosses in the Wily Stages are also excellent. They nicely avoid the cliche that Mega Man 4 and later fell into of a series of well-drawn but unremarkable screen-sized bosses with a single weak point. Each one here is unique, ranging from a sort of reverse tug-of-war using giant spiked balls, to a multi-screen behemoth, to a twist on a classic Mega Man boss that requires pattern memorization and/or getting into the zone to beat.

Also, Dr. Wily finally realized how effective the mandatory skull-themed robot he pilots during the final battle could be if he made the whole thing out of whatever alloy it is that deflects all of Mega Man’s weapons. And not to spoil the ending, but he even seems to have anticipated his inevitable defeat, beyond just having an escape plan.

Alas, though, the game isn’t perfect. Dr. Wily’s final form sadly follows the stale “disappearing and reappearing saucer” thing that started in Mega Man 4. I never cared much for that type of final battle, though at least the weapons available this time give you a few options for hitting the saucer when it’s well outside of jumping range. Also, even though Rush Jet works just fine underwater, I would’ve kind of liked to see the return of Rush Marine for that purpose, just because.

If I may boast for a second, I managed to get about 25% of the challenges completed on this first play-through quite by accident, including half the beat-a-robot-master-under-10-seconds ones and the one that involves never stopping in one stage (Galaxy Man’s stage for me, if you’re wondering). (I’ve also managed to beat Dr. Wily’s first two forms without taking damage, but there’s no prize for that.) I don’t know if I’ll ever pull off the harder ones like the never-miss-a-shot or never-take-damage ones, or even the tedious ones like beat-the-game-five-times-in-a-day, but I’ll definitely be playing through the game many more times.

Peeking at the downloadable content coming next month, there’ll be options for increasing the difficulty even more, and adding an option to play as Proto Man. Arguably these could’ve easily been part of the main game, but given that I would’ve gladly paid $20 for Mega Man 9 as-is instead of $10, I really can’t complain about shelling out another $8 for all the extras.

Inti Creates could’ve easily relied on exploiting old-school Mega Man nostalgia and produced a lump of 8-bit shovelware, but they took the effort to recreate the quality of those games, not just their appearance. If there is a Mega Man 10 in the offing, let’s hope they don’t start slacking off.

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Mega Man 9! http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/09/22/mega-man-9/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/09/22/mega-man-9/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2008 01:44:53 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=872 Mega Man 9 is shaping up to be precisely as awesome as I had hoped. If you wish to remain unspoiled in regards to this awesomeness, you best stop reading right now.

First off, they’ve nailed the old-school Mega Man look and feel and sound. One could imagine an alternate universe where this game came out after Mega Man 2. Except for being able to save your game instead of scribbling down grid passwords. And the challenges ranging from easy (kill a robot master using only the Mega Buster… yeah, that’s how you have to kill the first one) to nigh-impossible (beat the game without taking damage!). And the online leaderboard for speed-running the game. And the hooks for downloadable content. But hey, the menus for all those things are downright 8-bit.

The plot is, well, nobody plays a Mega Man game for the plot, and Mega Man 9 delivers what you’d expect, with the right amount of ridiculousness in the no-seriously-Dr.-Wily-isn’t-the-villain-this-time-honest!-ness. Eight of Dr. Light’s robots are running amok, and Dr. Wily insists that he’s finally reformed right before Dr. Light turned evil (and if you donate money to Dr. Wily’s Swiss bank account, you can fund development of something to stop Dr. Light’s robots!). Apparently everyone swallows this, and it’s up to Mega Man to blast some sense into the robot masters after Dr. Light’s arrest. (Why the police apparently have no qualms about Mega Man, clearly Dr. Light’s deadliest creation ever given his undefeated record against dozens of Dr. Wily’s robots, running free while all this is going on, has not yet been addressed.)

The level design has been pretty good, putting new and interesting spins on the classic elements. Anyone who’s ever played a Mega Man game knows that eventually they’ll come across two things: disappearing blocks over spikes and/or pits, and multi-screen drops through spike-lined corridors. I’ve played two levels so far, each fairly arbitrarily chosen, and I’ve already seen both.

Plug Man’s stage has several disappearing block sections, and manages to find new tricks with them that previous games never tried. I wonder how many players will fall to their doom when a block suddenly appears in front of the platform they were trying to jump to. Nice. (In fairness, you could very much see that coming if you bothered to watch the pattern before you started jumping around.)

Splash Woman’s stage has the spike drops. Early on, you land on a platform in the middle of the screen. The left drop has no spikes, the right one does. You get to choose which one to jump down. Choose wisely, and you can get a 1-up. Later on, you have to go up a series of spike-lined rooms, relying on platforms that slide across the screen to reach the next ladder. In a way, it’s like a block puzzle mixed with a spike drop, in reverse. I haven’t gotten past the third screen without wimping out and using Rush Coil to avoid the pair of spikes deviously placed in the dead center of the room, but I’m sure it can be done.

So far, even when there’s clearly inspiration from a previous game, there’s something new in the implementation here that keeps it from being the series of retreads that Mega Man 7 wound up as. Again in Splash Woman’s stage, the part where you have to ride bubbles to the top of the screen is straight out of Wave Man’s stage in Mega Man 5, but this time (a) it’s underwater, so you can jump really well, and (b) enemies shoot out at you from the sides of the screen.

The attention to detail is pretty nifty, too. Get hit by an octopus’s ink blob in Splash Woman’s stage, and Mega Man stays covered in ink until you switch to a different weapon. You can also buy a “book of hairstyles” from the item shop on the stage select screen to take off your helmet… until you die. There’s also a “book of costumes”, which I haven’t tried yet, but from its icon I’m assuming it dresses Mega Man up as Roll. (For the record, there are also items available which are actually useful, if you’re in to that sort of thing.)

The robot masters themselves haven’t disappointed so far. Plug Man’s shots travel along the floor, up the wall behind you, onto the ceiling, and then drop down right above you head, so you have to keep your eye both on what Plug Man is doing and the shots you’ve already dodged once. Splash Woman swims to the top of the screen while fish move across the screen, and then she drops tridents on you. The Mega Buster is much more effective against hear than Plug Man’s weapon.

Another great nostalgic thing: Splash Woman and I managed to kill each other simultaneously, just like the first time I won-for-all-intents-and-purposes-even-though-the-game-didn’t-count-it against Cut Man way back in the original Mega Man. And just like then, Mega Man 9 counted it as a death rather than a victory. On my final life. Game over.

Count yourself sort-of-lucky, Splash Woman, for your days are numbered. Specifically, numbered 1, since tomorrow night it’s go time.

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On On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/06/21/on-on-the-rain-slick-precipice-of-darkness/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/06/21/on-on-the-rain-slick-precipice-of-darkness/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2008 01:17:34 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=790 Last weekend I bought Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode 1, and spent entirely too much time this past week playing through it.

I was curious about the game for two reasons. First, I like Penny Arcade, which happens to be the very first webcomic I was introduced to, way back when I was a freshman. Second, they actually produced a Linux version of the game, which you see pretty rarely in the world of commercial games. It seems like the sort of thing I should encourage.

Since they had a free demo of the game, I was first able to see if the game would actually run on my four-year-old laptop, which meets the minimum specs, barely. It does, albeit with swapping everything else out of RAM on startup and taking a long time to switch between areas. But doing the game itself, performance is acceptable, at least one you get used to the slight amount of lag in areas where timing is important. (Most noticeable in the Vandalism minigame, where I’d need to hit the space bar when the meter was centered over the left or right stack if I wanted it to stop over the center one.) Of course, this is more the fault of my old, ill-suited-for-gaming hardware; the game is indeed entirely playable.

The demo got me hooked, and the rest of the game didn’t disappoint. The battle system is nicely done, encouraging you to do more elaborate things than just “attack enemies until they die” to get the bonuses. There’s no random encounters — in fact, enemies never respawn, period, so there’s no grindiness to be found. Plus, you get to beat up barbershop quartets, which is always fun.

Really, the game is largely devoid of the typical set of annoyances you find in games. No random battles. A “Case Log” that reminds you what needs to be done to advance the plot. Auto-saving after any significant event (including battles). Automatic healing after battles. A tutorial level (the demo) where the tutorial content is both entertaining and skippable. You can tell the game was designed by people who play a lot of games, and decided not to put in the things that make games stop being fun.

But where the game really shines, naturally, is the humor. All the cutscenes are filled with precisely the sort of dialog you’d expect from Penny Arcade. My favorite, for some reason, is when the player tries to get a reaction out of The Silent Pope by singing The Name Game for “mime”, pausing after each line to wait for a response.

The game is fairly small in scope, but the level of detail is impressive. Loads of things on each screen have a humorous description or two to be found when you click on them. It turns out there’s a lot of things you can say about trash cans, or ice cream cones dropped on the boardwalk. It’s also a nice touch to have the little robots — you know the ones — say “01100110 01110101 01100011 01101011″, which means exactly what you think it does.

And for the record, the cat is not worthless. It is possible for its attack to do non-negligible damage, and it happens with greater than the roughly 1-in-2,000,000 probability claimed in-game.

Now they just need to come out with the next episode. My character needs revenge. And a house.

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You Are (Not) George Lucas http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/05/12/you-are-not-george-lucas/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/05/12/you-are-not-george-lucas/#comments Mon, 12 May 2008 04:09:48 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=780 [Editor’s note: You knew this was coming eventually. Deal with it.]

Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, the first movie in a four-part “Rebuild” remake of Neon Genesis Evangelion, was recently released on DVD in Japan. And while no distributors have apparently bought the rights to print money release it in the U.S. yet, a little thing like that’s not going to stop me from reviewing it.

As with any remake of something, there’s the question of how closely it will follow the original. Something has to be different about the remake, or else what’s the point of making it? (The answer: shamelessly cashing in.) There’s the opportunity to improve on the original and trim the filler. But there’s also the trap of losing what made the original good, and deviating from what fans liked about the original will lead them to declare that the remake sucks.

In other words, a good remake needs to stick to the original, but do something different, but not too different. And in this case, keep in mind that anime fandom is more, well, fanatical, than a survivor of the Kirk-Picard flamewars wearing a “Han Shot First” T-shirt. Squared. We’re talking about fans that sent the director death threats over how the series ended. Screw up the remake, and you can imagine how they’ll react.

So, does 1.0 pull it off?

Yes.

Blood Rainbow
When it’s raining angel blood, you do (not) want to know what’s in the pot at the end of the rainbow.

The first half of the movie roughly corresponds with the first four episodes of the series. Well, “roughly” might not be the right word, since most of the scenes are virtually lifted directly from it. They’re redrawn and reanimated everything in much higher quality, granted, but the scenes in the movie reproduce the originals almost shot-by-shot.

Of course, squeezing four 25-minute episodes into about 50 minutes of movie means that the scenes that aren’t copied from the series pretty much get left out entirely. Given that the episodes in question didn’t have much filler to begin with, the pacing of the movie ends up being way too fast, rushing from one major plot point to another. Shinji‘s relationship with his classmates, for example, is cut to the bare minimum: he gets punched; he rescues them during battle; they apologize. That’s it. If you haven’t seen the series, you’ll wind up wondering why you should even care. Likewise, Shinji running away — the bulk of episode 4 — gets reduced to a few minutes on screen.

As a result, the first half gives you prettier graphics but poorer storytelling.

Once the movie gets to episode 5′s material, however, the pacing slows to something more manageable and the movie starts realizing its potential. The basic plot of episodes 5 and 6 is mostly unchanged, but the scenes start unfolding differently, so it no longer comes across as something you’ve already seen, but rather as a different take on the same story.

The first engagement with the fifth sixth angel, Ramiel, illustrates this dramatically. In the series, Unit 01 deploys, immediately gets the bejeezus lasered out of it, and is promptly (after an end-of-episode cliffhanger) lowered back underground. In the movie, the fight is much more elaborate. Ramiel is no longer merely an animation-budget-saving regular octohedron, but now shapeshifts before each attack like a cross between an evil Rubik’s cube and the Windows flower box screensaver. Now instead of having Unit 01 retreat immediately, NERV raises a blast shield to block the laser, and Ramiel responds by firing a quad laser to melt through the shield. With the launcher melted by the blast, NERV rescues Unit 01 by blowing the supports and lowering the entire city block until Unit 01 is out of sight.

Just about all the scenes building up to the sniping mission at the climax of the movie are similarly “epic’d up” and made more elaborate, which ends up working quite well. The core of the plot stays unchanged, which is good; there weren’t any problems with episode 6 story-wise, but seeing its events rendered on more than a shoestring budget is appreciated.

But given how closely the storyline follows the series, it’s particular interesting to note the ways in which it explicitly diverges from the series, and speculate how they’ll play out over the next three movies. [Spoilers ahead.]

First, as I noted in passing, the angel that attacks the city in the opening scene, Sachiel, is now designated the fourth angel, rather than the third; the other angels that appear in the movie have their enumeration similarly adjusted. (Now I get to look up their names so as to refer to them unambiguously. Yay.) So what’s the third angel going to turn out to be? Hmmmmm.

Then there’s an added scene where Shinji is stuck between mope and angst (i.e., being Shinji) before the final battle against Ramiel. As part of a pep talk, Misato takes him down to Terminal Central Dogma, shows him Lilith, and tells him that NERV is defending it because if an angel reaches it, that will cause Third Impact and wipe out mankind. In the series, everything involving Lilith is a very closely guarded secret; Misato only discovers it when Kaji shows it to her in the second half of the series (and he only found out about it by snooping around being a triple agent), and even then they mistakenly think it’s Adam. The fact that in the movie Misato apparently knows all about it already is interesting to say the least.

Blood on the Moon
SEELE’s space program was funded by cutting the janitorial budget.

Finally (literally), there’s an added scene at the end, immediately following what was the final scene in episode 6, that opens up all kinds of questions. Apparently there’s some kind of secret SEELE base on the moon, where Kaworu (!) and a SEELE monolith make cryptic comments to each other, and we see a Lilith-looking thing in a pit (!) in the middle of a bloody swath across the lunar landscape (!) with Earth and its blood-red oceans (!) hanging in the background.

I mean, in a post-Second-Impact economy, how exactly does an organization, secret or otherwise, manage to construct a lunar base? Especially when that organization had already committed to constructing what are effectively giant fighting robots, and a city that retracts into the ground for them to fight in and only partially destroy with the collateral damage.

Plus, Kaworu’s totally not wearing a helmet. Or, um, anything else. Moving on….

Evangelion Unit 06
Now that the Cylons have an Evangelion, humanity is frakked.

Then there’s the next episode movie preview after the credits, revealing even more surprises. Intermixed with events from the series (Asuka and Unit 02 deploying; Unit 04′s destruction; the fight with the thirteenth whateverth angel, Bardiel) are things without any analogue in the series: Unit 05 deploying, weird ghost-and-halo-looking things bracketed by the text “ADAMS” (!) and “LILIN+?”, Unit 06 descending from the moon (!), and a new pilot. Needless to say, Evangelion 2.0: Division is going to diverge quite a bit from episodes 7 through 18.

(If you’re wondering how quick the pacing the movie would have to be to cover all that, keep in mind that episodes 7 through 13 have a lot of filler and you could safely cut entire episodes without too much damage to the story.)

Here’s my theory: the secret backstory from the series is the cover story used by NERV in the Rebuild continuity. Misato doesn’t actually know the truth about Lilith, because it’s a different truth this time around, thus suckering fans of the original series into thinking they know what’s going on as well. I don’t know what the truth is going to be, but a hint might lie in a comment one of the SEELE monoliths makes to Gendo about needing to fulfill a “contract with Lilith”. Whether that’s literal or metaphorical, I don’t know.

Or, as Gendo said in End of Evangelion, “The truth is, _____________.”

Moon Pit
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot or lookin’ at a thing in a pit.

Another theory: the creature in the pit on the moon is the as-yet-unnamed third angel. Kaworu makes a cryptic comment about “the third again, huh?” while looking at it. Though “the third” could refer to Shinji (the third child), since Kaworu’s next line mentions him while looking up at Earth. If that’s the case, than the thing in the pit would be a naked Unit 06, before its armor/restraints have been put on. But why would SEELE be building Unit 06 on the moon in the first place, unless there were a very good reason for it, such as cloning it from the as-yet-unrevealed third angel, if it’s also there somewhere? We’ve seen Lilith (the second angel) under NERV headquarters, and presumably Adam (the first angel) was in Antarctica and caused the Second Impact, just as in the series.

“Presumably.” But by my first theory, the secret backstory in the movies are different, so Second Impact could’ve had some other cause, since none of the details surrounding it have been mentioned in the movie yet. Hmmmm.

Or, a less out-in-left-field theory would be that Kaworu has been designated the third angel this time around (instead of the seventeenth), but that doesn’t explain what’s on the moon, or why Unit 06 would come from there, or why NERV would know anything about Kaworu to begin with — in the series, SEELE sent him to NERV as a replacement for Asuka, and they didn’t realize he was an angel until he took over Unit 02 and took it down to Terminal Dogma in episode 24, thinking he’d find Adam there.

So, even though the movie closely follows the storyline of the first six episodes, streamlining and possibly simplifying it, there’s just enough changes and added material to launch rampant wild speculation among fans of the series to try to figure out what’s really going on. The director, Hideaki Anno, managed to figure out a way to cater both to newcomers and the existing fanbase, and did so without ruining any of the classic scenes in the first set of episodes in the series.

Well played.

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