Sunday, July 20, 2008

Subspace Emissary, Part IV: A New Hope

So, we left off our narrative with mopey psychic-kid Lucas teaming up with cocky Red the Pokemon Trainer. Now, we drastically switch gears. I was going to call this segment "Together, We Run Around Aimlessly!" but figured the Fire Emblem reference was too obscure. So, I'll call this portion what it is.


The Battlefield Fortress:

A vast and crenellated fortress lies in a wasteland. It appears to have been under siege for a long time, given the number of spent arrows lying in the dust. No dead bodies, though-- weird. Pan over to-- hey, another Subspace Bomb! Two more ROBs activate the thing, bowing their little robotic heads in sorrow as they accept their duty and their fate. Poor sad robots! Bomb goes ‘splodey and rips open another abyss, which reaches almost to the fortress itself.
One lone figure stands on the ramparts, watching the devastation. He has a cape. He has blue hair. Atop that blue hair is a precious little tiara. Yes, indeed, we have our next Secret Character-- Marth Lowell, Prince of Altea, the bearer of Falchion the Sword of Light, aka Pit’s competition for Most Androgynous Brawler. We have another bishounen here, in other words, fair and slender with lovely hair. Marth’s smooth, pretty, big-eyed face isn’t designed to express much in the way of emotion, and what he does express is anxiety-- tightly restrained, highly refined anxiety, of course. Kid’s not happy. Neither would you be, alone and surrounded by enemies with really freaky bombs.
Marth witnesses the Ancient Minister spawn an army of Primids out of the dust, so he takes action. Dramatic music plays, and Marth draws Falchion and does this neato trick with it wherein it sends a beam of light far off into the distance. I dunno whether the Sword of Light actually generates light, or Marth was catching a sunbeam with it. Anyway, scene over. It remains unclear as to whether the gesture with Falchion was a threat or a distress call.

Grade: Uh, why is Marth alone in the humongous fortress? Is everyone else already slain in defense of the place? I guess Master Hand has basically just installed Marth in the Fire Emblem equivalent of the Barbie Dream House. I hope Crazy Hand lets Zelda come to visit Marth when Crazy plays dolls with the trophy collection. Oh, yes, I was rating the actual scene. You like Marth? You’ve been dying to see him, up close and adorable? Then A+++ for sure. Otherwise, I give it a B+, mostly for the oddly sympathetic bomber-robots. And I do like Marth, but I like him best when he talks, and he’s not saying anything here. Again, it’s pretty much pure fan-service.
I still have watched this scene eighteen times. Sigh.

The Meta Knight Encounter:
Marth gazes up into the abyss. His large cerulean-blue eyes narrow in sudden apprehension. Meta Knight comes barrelling down from the sky and they briefly duel. I understand Marth’s reaction, given he’s already under attack, but MK’s motivation is unknown unless he thinks Marth was the guy who hot-wired the Halberd (Hint: No). Anyway, they fight, and meanwhile a bunch of Primids surround them. Marth and MK have a simultaneous enemy-of-my-enemy moment and essentially team up.

Grade: If you want to look at Marth (or Meta Knight), you will like it. Otherwise, I give it a B-. No, really, I saw people describe this scene as “epic”. The “duel” featured stylized and jerky animation and was over in seconds, so I dunno what was so awesome about that. Marth cute, Meta Knight badass, nothing more to it. And if Meta Knight's a good guy, what's with the ambush?

Ike Unleashes Aether:
Oh, good. It’s the Ancient Minister again, and he has another bomb. Yay. And Marth and MK are trying to catch him. Marth attacks and just misses, then MK lunges and is shot in the wing. He looks more annoyed about it than anything. Offended, maybe. So, fail and double fail.
Then we see this BIG sword, floating in the air behind the Ancient Minister. Said sword belongs to a different blue-haired young man in a billowing cape, and he grasps the sword, lets out a bellow of “Great... Aether!” and then slices the bomb clean away. The Ancient Minister goes spinning away into the distance, and the bomb falls harmlessly to the earth. Our Hero then receives a lovely close-up (squeeeeee!!!). Meet Ike, ladies and gentlemen. Ike can be differentiated from Marth in that his sword is really big, he wears a filthy headband instead of a tiara, and his cape is all tattered at the edges. In short, Ike is not a sissy. He also gets one of the few “speaking roles” in Subspace Emissary, as he’s allowed to give his battle cry. There’s no explanation as to why Ike is here, so maybe the viewer assumes that Ike saw that bat-signal trick Marth did with Falchion a couple of cut scenes back and came running. Ike’s sword is named Ragnell, by the way. I don’t know if Falchion and Ragnell are friends, but Ike and Marth do a little victory flourish before the cut scene ends, so I’ll assume they at least know one another in this continuity.

Grade: B+ Ike rocks and all, but even so, the scenes with the Fire Emblem boys have a stagey lifelessness to them. There’s no humor to be found in the vicinity of the Battlefield Fortress, so all the viewer gets is the Epic, and Epic in this case means a couple of kids with big swords hanging out with a flying bowling ball.

Three Warriors and the Ancient Minister:
Three guys with swords in hot pursuit of the Ancient Minister. MK flies, and Marth and Ike run along like they’re planning to head-butt the Ancient Minister, Zidane-style, when they catch up with him. They reach the edge of a cliff, and the Ancient Minister escapes.

Grade: C Dude got away. That’s it. Nothing more to see here....

In fact, nothing of any import happened in this entire four-part sequence-- another Subspace Bomb, another appearance by the Ancient Minister, another futile chase, another escape. Same old, same old. We got three new characters, and that’s... it.
But, hey, there is one thing-- all three of them were still standing at the end of the sequence. Nobody got trophy-gunned. That was unexpected; I went into this figuring Secret Character #2 would go the same way as SC#1 (R.I.P. Ness). After all, you don’t need two kids with similar psychic powers, and you don’t need two guys with blue hair and swords when Ike is obviously up to the task on his own. Hmm. Are they actually going to do something with Marth besides have him look pretty? Probably not: Marth and Ike have very different styles of fighting, far more so than Ness and Lucas, making both FE boys useful to the player. Ike is powerful as hell but runs like molasses and can’t jump well. Marth is nowhere near as strong but is quick and highly agile. In short, they’re a matched team, instead of a set of clones.

Oh, yeah. Squeeeeeeee!!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Subspace Emissary, Part the Third

OK, let's get back to the action, shall we? We left off with Diddy Kong (ugh) teamed up with Fox McCloud (yay). There's still about 30 protagonists to go....

Oh, Mother! Middle School is Hell!

The Pig King Statue Targets Lucas:
Cut to a strange grey world of chain-link fences, palm trees, and desolation. A sad-eyed little boy wanders what appears to be an abandoned playground, kicking a soda can. Meet Lucas, hero of Mother 3. Except Lucas is not feeling very heroic right now. Purple spores descend, and Primids surround the whimpering Lucas. Then this bizarro statue of a fat kid wearing a crown, like a fast-food mascot gone wrong, shows up and starts chasing poor Lucas. Lucas screams and runs, the animated statue in pursuit.
Grade: A- Wow, major shift in priorities here. This world is grim, realistic, desaturated of all color and life. And the emotions here are genuine human emotions, instead of cartoon-hero cockiness and slapstick. Things are looking up.

Ness and Porky Face Off:
Lucas runs frantically through the desolate schoolyard, the Pig King statue in pursuit. Lucas trips over what appears to be either a bit of rope or a dead snake (Rope Snake?); he cries out and buries his head in his hands, believing he’s about to meet his death. Out of nowhere, a cry of “PK Thunder” is heard, and a thunderbolt smacks the statue right in the face. The statue crashes to ground. Lucas’s savior touches down in front of him. It’s another little kid, but he has a red baseball cap and a smile. He sparkles as his feet make contact with the earth. Ness! Ness! Ness of Onett, he of the mighty baseball bat and killer yo-yo! Our first Secret Character makes his appearance; up to now, all the protagonists have been the official and public slate of Brawl contestants, the guys featured on the cover art and in the booklet.
Ness levitates and unleashes PK Cross, which obliterates the Pig King statue in a burst of green light and concrete fragments. Surprise! The statue contains a nasty spider-like mecha, powered by... a little fat kid. Ness touches down lightly, and wipes his brow. Ness sparkles. He’s cool, and he’s ready for battle.
Grade: A. Neeeeeeeessss!! It’s Ness! Yay. I love Ness. Seriously, this scene is pretty damn good. You have Lucas, who is too overwrought to unleash whatever powers lie within him, contrasted with Ness, a cool-headed master of his own psychic abilities. I want to see a whole movie about these two.

Lucas Leaves Ness:
A huffing, puffing, Lucas runs up to Ness, who looks fresh as a daisy after his victory over the Pig King. More trouble awaits our heroes-- perched atop a rock formation is Wario, holding his trophy gun.
Wario aims at Ness! He fires! Ness evades once, twice, five times in all! Wario, man of cunning, aims anew at the weaker party, poor dazed Lucas. Ness dives to intercept the hit! Ness goes down! He’s trophyized, folks. Ness of Onett is out of commission.
Wario leaps down to claim his prize; he holds what’s left of Ness aloft, cackling up a storm. Literally. A storm starts, with rain and lightning. A traumatized Lucas shows his own heroism by running away, abandoning Ness’s remains to the tender care of Wario. Lucas ends up running bang into Pokemon Trainer, who looks kind of like Ash but isn’t. This is good, because more Primids are popping up, and Pokemon Trainer (let’s call him Red) has a Squirtle in his pocket. Otherwise, Lucas doesn’t stand a chance.
Grade: A+ This was fantastic-- miserable Lucas, cocky but heroic Ness, disgusting but clever Wario. It was more logical and less cracked than previous installments, Ness and Lucas being a natural pair. Dunno about this Pokemon trainer dood, though. We’ll see about him in a bit.

Lucas Joins the Pokemon Trainer:
Red looks wary but zaps his Squirtle back into its ball with a stereotypical PT flourish. Red waves bye-bye to Lucas and walks off. Lucas pouts and whines and has grayscale flashbacks to the demise of Ness. Lucas snaps out of his horrible fantasies, looks grim, and runs to catch up with Red. The Pokemon Trainer agrees to recruit Lucas into his gang, which smuggles heroin in Poke Balls. OK, I made that last part up.
Grade: A- Lucas is messed up. And I mean that in a positive sense, and this is a character actual human beings can possibly relate to.

Overall, this is really looking up. This sequence is so much more gripping than the previous character arcs that I can only resort to superlatives. Let's see if SSE maintains this momentum for the next installment, the Misadventures of Puffball and Pixie Girl. And no, I don't mean Kirby and Peach.