Thursday, May 22, 2008

Subspace Emissary, Part Deux

So, last time on The Subspace Emissary... stuff happened. Yep. Now, for more epic fun!

I’m With Stupid:
Cut from The Sea of Clouds to a lush and mountainous jungle. A cart piled high with bananas and driven by a minor Koopa careens along the edge of the cliff. In the jungle, a giant ape trashes Koopas and Goombas without mercy. I guess King Bowser has started a banana cartel, and the ape works for the CIA or something. The great ape strikes a pose at the edge of a cliff, beats his chest and roars. Yay, Donkey Kong. But wait, it’s DK Country-type Donkey Kong. This cannot be good.
The departing banana truck fires Bullet Bills at DK, who sends for his backup. Yes, it’s little Diddy Kong, with his prehensile tail, his baseball cap, and his peanut pistol. Sigh. Diddy takes out the Bills with his peanut gun, and the “cousins” strike victory poses as the last BB goes off behind them.
Grade: Anything featuring Diddy Kong receives an automatic F. Also, why are DK and his little cousin so pleased with themselves? The Koopa got away with the ‘nanas.

The Dark Cannon Aims for the Kongs:
DK and Stupid rejoice over their banana booty, then Bowser shows up and gets all threatening-like. Stupid Diddy Kong makes menacing martial arts poses at the Koopa King, who pulls out a massive gun. DK, realizing his idiot relation is about to be killed, punches the brat into the safety of thin air and takes the hit. Stupid Diddy covers his eyes in horror as he sails away. DK falls to the ground, a lifeless trophy.
Grade: I know I promised to give anything involving Diddy Kong an F, but this was a concise action sequence, and I think the creators intend the viewer to think that Diddy is a foolish little nuisance. But this scene sets up a sequence wherein the player has to play as Diddy Kong, so I’m still going to give it an F.

The Ancient Minister Escapes Mario and Pit:
The Ancient Minister glides down the court! He has the ball! Mario leaps and misses! Pit makes a heroic lunge, and misses the ball! The Ancient Minister heads down the court unimpeded, and he’s going to score!
Grade: B- It was cute when Pit stepped on Mario’s head and caused the plumber to face-plant. Pit’s also cute when he’s annoyed. But really-- can Kid fly, or not? Is this an Idiot Plot device of some kind? Points deducted for making me even have to wonder about this.

Fox Confronts Rayquaza:
Diddy swings blithely through the trees until he reaches the shore of a lake. A smoking Arwing is visible in the background. Diddy is headed for the wreckage when a cartoonish green dragon comes out of the water and roars. Not placated by Diddy’s stupid cuteness, the dragon belches a green orb of death at the downed Arwing, which bursts into flames. The dragon then snatches up Diddy with the presumed intention of eating him.
Not all is lost! A heroic figure leaps from the flaming Arwing wreckage and frees Diddy from the monster’s three-clawed grasp using lightning-quick martial arts. Dramatic slo-mo shows the viewer that Our Hero has a bushy tail. Yes, our hero is none other than Fox McCloud, aka Star Fox, aka just plain ol’ Fox. Fox uses a hexagonal shield to reflect the energy ball right back at the dragon, which falls into the lake, defeated. Fox, cool as a furred cucumber, gestures to Diddy that monkey-boy should come along with him.
Grade: I can’t give Fox an F. Even though I don’t like his Brawl character design, I don’t want him hanging with Diddy, and I don’t precisely know why he had to fight a giant Pokemon, I have to give McCloud at least a B+. At least this “hero” actually, y’know, did something.

Diddy Kong Appeals to Fox:
Another boss defeated. Fox and Diddy stand on the shores of Lake Rayquaza. Fox gives the thumbs-up and Diddy does his asinine victory dance. Fox, his job done, walks away with heroic bearing and purpose. Diddy grabs Fox and tries to explain... something... using squeaks and sign language. Fox doesn’t care about the banana cartel and walks off a second time. Diddy drags a disgruntled Fox away by the collar.
Grade: I guess it was kind of cute. And short. B?

The Dissolving of the False King Bowser:
Fox and Diddy do their victory poses over a Bowser trophy. Diddy pokes and then rams the trophy, which dissolves into purple pollen spores. Uh-oh. Fox narrows his eyes in suspicion, and then a black arrow shoots out of the trees. Yes, Bowser is back, and he has his trophy-gun at the ready. Bowser fires twice on the pair, getting only clouds of smoke and flames for his trouble. Diddy beats his little chest and charges Bowser, but Fox grabs the monkey brat and whisks him off to the comparative safety of the jungle with a cinematic plunge off a cliff. Bowser, gun in hand, gloats over their retreat.
Grade: B Plot twist, I guess.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blogging the Subspace Emissary, Part the First

So, originally I was going to blog The Iliad. I was inspired by David Plotz’s Blogging the Bible on Slate magazine, and wanted to do justice to my favorite epic poem. But, in spite of picking up multiple translations of Homer and writing a few drafts, I never managed to post anything.

So, here is something even more epic than The Iliad-- an account of the Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Brothers Brawl, cut scene by cut scene, with my commentary. That’s a good substitute, right? No? Too bad, as I’m doing it anyway.

NB: In some cases, I have broken down the commentary by discrete “stages” that must be cleared by the player. Clearing a stage unlocks the cut scenes for repeated viewing. In other cases, I lumped stages that seemed thematically related together in one chunk. Also, there are battles and gameplay and stuff in between the cut scenes, in case you’re wondering.

The Weird World of Trophies

Le Opening Montage
It’s the Subspace Emissary! Starring Mario! Link! Kirby! Pit! And a motley collection of bounty hunters, mercenaries, Pokemon, small children, cross-dressers, exiled royalty, vermin, and spacemen! These categories not considered mutually exclusive! Le montage is set to the stirring strains of some Fire Emblem song, whose lyrics (translated from Latin) can be found here. All the “primary” characters of SSBB get a scene in the montage, and so do a handful of secret unlockable characters. Ness from Earthbound gets a close-up intro, and so do the big-ticket unlockables Sonic and Solid Snake. Marth from Fire Emblem is glimpsed twice but doesn’t rate a close-up, and the likes of Luigi, Falco Lombardi, and Toon Link don’t get jack that I saw.

The World of Trophies
A great stadium, filled to capacity, floats in mid-air. The logo of SSBB is featured prominently; Princesses Zelda and Peach are among the distinguished spectators. Our gladiators, in trophy form, enter the ring and come alive. Mario versus Kirby. This is killer stuff, folks.
Grade: B One cut scene in and my mind is already reeling from the meta weirdness of it all.

Mario Beats Kirby
Trophy!Kirby, having lost the match, falls to the stadium floor and bounces. Mario, a grim look on his face, brings Kirby back to life. Kirby bounces cutely in appreciation. He looks puzzled, then smiles at Mario.
Grade: B I still don’t know what precisely is going on here, but it’s weird.

Pit Watches From Above:
Setting: a grand hall of a palace or temple. Content... you know those lame depictions of Heaven in movies, where valley-girl angels talk on celestial phones and watch celestial soaps and eat bon-bons all day? And other non-spiritual, non-edifying, variations upon the theme? Well, here in Nintendoland, angels in heaven sit around watching the equivalent of professional wrestling. Pit here (dude from Kid Icarus) has an actual day job, too-- Captain of the Guard for the Goddess Palutena, I believe. I dunno who Pit’s rooting for, but I get the impression it’s Kirby.
Grade: B Pit’s cuter than he deserves to be, given his primitive NES origins. He’s received the full bishounen makeover-- tumbling chestnut curls, huge blue eyes, a fair and pretty face. He’s adorable. He looks about ten years old. And he has shorty-shorts under his tunic. Fanservice bait, pure and simple. I’m not objecting, but let’s be honest about it.

Attack On The Stadium:
Winner Mario and loser Kirby shake hands and receive the accolades of the crowd together. But all is not well-- red-hued clouds pile on the horizon and a ginormous menacing airship cruises overhead and drops a shower of purple glowing spores on the stadium. Said spores coalesce into little cuddly robot creatures. The Princesses, shocked at this turn of events, charge down to where Mario and Kirby stand. The four stand shoulder-to-shoulder, ready for a fight. Well, Zelda is ready for a fight. Peach floats in like it’s going to be a tea party down there.
Grade: B+ Something’s happening here, what it is is not exactly clear.

The Ancient Minister and the Subspace Bomb:
Our four heroes encounter a green-draped levitating weirdo with glowing eyes, who carries a round bomb with with a great red X on it. Meet the Ancient Minister. AM drops the bomb right there in the stadium, and two little robot dudes (not the ones who spawned out of the purple pollen) take opposite ends of the bomb and slide it open to reveal a blue glowing core and a red countdown clock. The Ancient Minister nods his approval of the time bomb and flies back to the battleship. Mario runs to defuse the bomb but is thwacked by a handy cannonball and sails out of the stadium. Kirby stands alone, because in the meantime a giant piranha-plant thing has captured both princesses and has them aloft in birdcages. Said plant bangs the cages together and roars at Kirby.
Grade: A- At this point, in spite of the ludicrous nature of the whole exercise, something did click for me. Peach and Zelda in peril! Venus Fly-trap things dangling princess-filled cages! Mario and Kirby against bad evil critters! If I were nine years old again, every cylinder of my imagination would be fired up over this stuff. This is what I watched that awful Zelda afternoon cartoon for.

Zelda Taken:
Petey Piranha is dead. Kirby and Peach leap out of the fiery explosion of Petey’s demise and land safely on the stadium floor. Enter Wario, who is packing a massive weapon that appears to have been made from motorcycle parts. Ever the gentleman, Wario aims at the Princess of Hyrule, who is trapped beneath the ruins of her birdcage prison. Wario charges up the weapon, which glows with pink and scarlet light before firing a black arrow at the Princess. Zelda is transformed into a lifeless and stylishly posed trophy.
Wario slings the dead Zelda over his shoulder and takes off, gloating as usual. Kirby and Peach run after him, just in time for that pesky bomb to finally explode. The detonation obliterates the stadium in an indigo orb of nothingness. Kirby and Peach alone sail out of the holocaust, riding a Warp Star.
Grade: A- Hey, cool. Wario killed Zelda. No, wait, that sucks. I like Zelda. Why didn’t he kill Peach instead? Also, this death-by-trophy thing has some interesting implications. Also, what is Wario going to do with a lifeless Princess Zelda? The mind boggles.

Pit’s Descent:
Pit watches in consternation as his television program is interrupted by the demolition of the Stadium. A warm glow of light and some new music behind him herald the appearance of his employer, the Goddess Palutena. She’s pretty! Pit kneels to his boss, and Palutena gives him a weapon and some magic bracelets. Pit scampers off happily, climbs a stairway to nowhere, and descends into the clouds as the theme from Kid Icarus plays in the background.
Grade: A- Pit is cute, Palutena is pretty, and apparently someone here has some kind of a plan.

The Subspace Army in the Sea of Clouds:

Pit lands on solid ground and spies the evil battleship (The Halberd) emerging from the er, Sea of Clouds. The Halberd drops more purple pollen balls that become those robot-thingys (Primids). Some Primids surround Pit, who brandishes his weapons and is ready for a fight.
Grade: B+ Pit’s cute. The plot advances. Slowly.

Mario and Pit Meet:

Pit finds trophy!Mario embedded in a cloud bank. Pit revives Mario and stares intently into Mario’s eyes. They share a brief flashback to the terror attack on the stadium, and team up without any soul-searching or hesitation. Maybe angels give off vibes of inherent trustworthiness. Pit and Mario go bounding/soaring off together, shorty-shorts and all.
Grade: B+ Just what it says, really. Did I mention Pit’s cute?

The Arwing’s Pursuit:
Pit and Mario stand in the clouds as the Halberd gets away. A smaller craft is tailing it, Gee, that must be an Arwing. Where’d that come from again?
Grade: C Self-explanatory.

Kirby and Peach Flee the Sea of Clouds:
Kirby and Peach flee on the Warp Star, but that battleship is catching up to them. The battleship smacks the Warp Star, and Kirby and Peach get flipped off, just in time for a comical close-up.
Grade: I guess they’re in trouble. I fail to care. See, I’m a newbie to most of these franchises. I dunno that the battleship is the Halberd, pride and joy of Kirby’s own rival, Meta Knight. I barely remember that Arwings come out of Star Fox. And I don’t give a crap about Kirby or Peach. Okay, C-

Arwing Downed, Peach Overboard
The battleship launches sprays of golden fire at the Arwing, which evades the fire with skill. It does not evade a metal arm-thing that shoots out of the ship and smacks the fighter in a manner reminiscent of Wario’s black arrow nuking Zelda. Instead of becoming a trophy, the downed fighter enters a spin and clips the top of the battleship, knocking Peach and Kirby off their standing pose atop the Halberd. Peach and Kirby fall away into the clouds.
Grade: B- So, Mario got taken out temporarily, Zelda is out for the count, Star Fox just got shot down... this is not looking good for our heroes, but I still don’t much care. This is too whacked-out at present. It’s not really “great tastes that go great together” for me. And these are still fairly cartoonish franchises, so you know it’s just going to get weirder from here when Samus Aran and Solid Snake join the party.

Overall, color me confused.