Halo 3: ODST – Uncovering Connections

Halo 3: ODST on Steam

“Halo 3: ODST” is a good game. Narratively it feels like a mixture of “Rogue One” and since it exists as the story inbetween “Halo 2” and “Halo 3” it has quite a few events it has to cover to get there. Overall, the gameplay is some of the best it has been and my only big problem with it is some of the writing, which I’ll get into below. Besides that, if you’ve enjoyed the “Halo Franchise” so far and haven’t played this yet, you should.

The story was written by Joseph Staten with the game developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios.

The story follows Rookie when he and his team of ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) land in New Mombasa. They are lead by Buck (Nathan Fillion) and are being led by Dare (Tricia Helfer) on a secret mission.

SPOILERS ahead

Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay is really good in this. You aren’t an immortal Spartan so you can’t regenerate your help and need to find safety and play more cautious. I loved this as I felt as vulnerable as the marines as I was playing as. The vehicle sections are also the best outside of “Reach” as you get a good tank, warthog and flying mission and the final throws everything at you so you get to use all the skills you’ve picked up and used throughout the game. It is fantastic.

The Opening – The opening starts out with the ODST team clashing amongst themselves before the jump. They jump and Regret’s Cruiser jumps to the Halo Ring in “Halo 2” leaving our team separated.

The Mystery – Rookie is who is the main POV in the game and it is through his eyes you see him put together what happened in New Mombasa. You get Sadie’s logs (the civilian story) while discovering what happened to your teammates. It is well done and the Covenant threat is constant as you see them send more troops to occupy.

The ODST – The ODST have a good dynamic though I prefer the Spartans from “Reach.” The Spartans die so they didn’t need to be fleshed out as much as they needed to because of the sacrifice. Here, they all survive so it ends up being the talent that carries the characters. Fillion’s Buck is smarmy, Dare (Tricia Helfer) is distrusting, Romeo (Nolan North) hates, Dutch (Adam Baldwin) likes the blow things up and Mickey (Nathan Fillion) is anxious. The “Firefly” actors are playing to type and they do a good job it just left more questions though. We could have got more scenes or played as more than the voiceless Rookie. I still liked them, but their potential was not fully used.

Sadie’s Story – Sadie’s story is powerful as you see her talking to the A.I. of the city while trying to escape and dealing with the corruption within New Mombasa. I’d recommend just listening to her voice files as the civilian story is one that is rarely told in these games. This element elevated the game.

The Engineer – Another cool thing the game did was show us another alien fighting against the Covenant. The Engineer is the asset you protect in the final 2 missions and he gives Avery Johnson the data he needs leading to the initial UNSC assault in “Halo 3.”

The Cons:

Romeo’s Unexplained Hate – Romeo really hates Dare and hates Buck. We never learn why so he just comes off as cruel and mean. I hated this as there are stories there to mine. What is the relationship between the ODST’s and Intelligence? Did he have a prior history with Dare? Why does he hate Romeo? These are all things that could have been fixed in 2 lines of dialogue.

Buck and Dare’s Lovestory – I hated this. We learn Buck proposed to Dare and she didn’t answer and thought that they were going to die in the war. Them being in love is fine but beyond defending each other we never get anything deeper. Cortana and Master Chief are done better and that isn’t a well written romance. These writers right politics better than romance.

This is a game I’d rate on part with “Halo 3,” they had similar flaws. Both of them didn’t fully flesh out elements of the story but still managed to tell a good action story. I thought I’d want more loss given these are ODSTs and not Spartans but the fact that your entire team survives feels earned, which really is a testament to how great this gameplay is. The tension in each of the missions is real and I hope we get back to this type of storytelling in “Halo: Infinite.”

Final Score: 8.8 / 10 On par with “Halo 3.”

Mass Effect 3 – Improved Gameplay, DLC, and Dramatic Moments Can’t Hide Story Problems

     The version of the game I played was “Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut” which gave me “From the Ashes,” the DLC where you get Javik. I’m glad I got this version and bought what DLC I could find as it really did enrich the game. I would have been super annoyed with the plot holes (there are still a few) that a lot of the DLC deals with, making the game so much more enjoyable. The game still has problems but before I get into details and spoilers, I enjoyed the Multiplayer, the dramatic sacrifices of characters, the gameplay and combat and the character moments you get with side characters and your team who in many cases you’ve been since “Mass Effect 1.” I’ll get into the details of all of these further into the review.

Here is my review of “Mass Effect 1:

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/mass-effect-an-amazing-space-opera-with-some-narrative-and-cinematic-choppiness/

and Mass Effect 2:

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/mass-effect-2-amazing-character-development-combat-and-final-leads-to-this-being-one-of-the-best-rpgs-ive-played/

    “Mass Effect 3” picks up where “Mass Effect 2” left off with the Reapers on the way. Shepard has been arrested by the Alliance for his warcrimes but is released when the Reapers attack Earth. From here it is up to Shepard to find his team, create a united front against the Reapers and build a Prothean Super Weapon called the Crucible that might be the only way to defeat the Reapers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Multiplayer – I’m usually not a fan of multiplayer in singleplayer games, especially ones that are almost an implied necessary part of the game as in “Mass Effect 3” multiplayer increases your chances of success in the main game campaign by increasing Galactic Readiness. The thing is I actually enjoy Multiplayer for “Mass Effect 3.” you can unlock the other species such as the Asari, Turians, Quarians, Salarians, Drell and Krogan and unlock other weapons. I really enjoyed playing as someone who wasn’t human as I love the aliens of Mass Effect. The gameplay is PvE which is my favorite type of multiplayer and the maps give a diverse array of challenges as you defeat wave after wave of countless enemies ranging from Cerberus, to Reapers to Geth.

Gameplay – The gameplay is fantastic! You can mod all your weapons, melee is easier to do and more effective and there are more guns and combat scenarios you face. For example at one point you are facing a Reaper one on one while using a powerful gun that calls down attacks from above. The gameplay without a doubt is an improvement over “Mass Effect 2.”

The World – The world continues to be amazing as you get to the homeworld of the Krogan, Salarians, Turians, Quarians and Asari. In each of these places you face a threat that reveals more about the lore and the Reaper threat, as well as how the different species interact among themselves and what they value.

Politics – Politics in 3 is on display more-so than any of the other games as you recruit each of the species against the Reapers and to help build the Crucible to fight them. I really enjoyed this as you have to make choices, like choosing the Krogan and Turians or the Salarians and if you don’t have high enough Paragon or Renegade, choosing the Quarians or the Geth in their war. I loved all of it and it gives some great character moments as politics is the art of what matters on a world and in this case Galactic scale. There aren’t easy answers a lot of the time, and this game really illustrates that.

Side Missions and Recruitment against the Reapers – There are a lot of great side missions in this, where you pick up things like Medi-Gel or Cerberus information to help doctors, scientist and ambassadors on the Citadel. You also help rescue the other species on the Citadel too as the Reapers attack their homeworlds, be it the Elcor, Hanar and Volus. Recruiting from the main council Races is really rewarding too. Also, it’s nice that the Council finally believes you.

Continuing the Romance and Character Relationships – 3 you pick up where the romances left off in 2 or 1. For example I ended things with Ashley as apparently saying no in my quarters in 1 wasn’t taken as a breakup. I also continued the romance with Tali and did her mission last to make sure I’d save her and have peace between the Geth and Quarians. You also continue your friendship with Jack and save the Biotic Academy she works at now, you save Miranda from her father, help Mordin stop the genophage, and Captain Anderson, who stays on Earth to fight the Reapers, help Miranda stop her sister, help Jacob save his partner who is pregnant with their child, spend time with a dying Thane and help EDI get a body! There is so much character development between 2 and 3.

Side Characters – There are a lot of great side characters in 3, from Admiral Hackett who is leading the fight for the Alliance on the front lines against Reaper forces, Aria and uniting the gangs and retaking Omega with her friend, Victus the new leader of the Turians and his son, the Asari military forces and countless diplomats, soldiers and refugees on the Citadel.

Past Consequences Paying Off – This isn’t across the board, but if you saved the Council they are open to working with you and at least give basic forces early on, if you saved Wrex you work with him against the Reapers and Cerberus on his homeworld, all your squad in Mass Effect 2 has payoff in their side missions.

The Reaper Threat – The Reaper threat is great in this! From their destruction of Earth and the other Council Homeworlds, to their controlling of the Geth and Rachni, to you feeling them on side missions as they can kill you as you find resources and complete side objectives. They never stop being this great threat and it was one thing that has been consistent through all 3 games.

The Ending of Arcs and Sacrifices Before the Final – The Geth and Quarians have peace thanks to Legion and Tali! The Krogan join the Galaxy and there is peace between them and the Turians thanks to Victus’s son’s sacrifice and Mordin curing the Genophage. Miranda kills her abusive dad and saves her sister and you get to help all of your squadmates and recruit them once more for the final push against the Reapers.

Relationships and Friendships With the Crew – There are some great moments of friendship and romance with your crew. From Tali coming up to your quarters when she’s made Admiral, to conversations around the ship and Citadel (shooting on top of a building with Garrus) to the amazing Citadel DLC where you get to see everyone who is alive.

The DLC – The DLC is the best it has ever been, with only the Shadow Broker DLC being on par and sometimes better than what we get in this game. It really enriches the game and makes it really good.

Javik – Javik is a Prothean, the last living one and is a cynical and sarcastic guy who doesn’t respect anyone except you until the end as he sees powerful the Galaxy is in standing together versus being dominated and enslaved by the Protheans. He really is a fun character and gives a perspective that hasn’t been in any Mass Effects. He was also DLC, which was stupid as he like Leviathan was kind of needed for the game to make any sense.

Omega DLC – Omega is fantastic DLC as you unite the different gangs under Aria and take back Omega from the Cerberus general. It is a lot of fun as you get to know the different leaders and fight your first big battle in the game. It was so much fun to complete, and I rubbed off on Aria and get her to care about her people! Sometimes it rocks to be Paragon.

Leviathan DLC – Leviathan explains how the Reapers were created as the AI you meet that controls them was created by Leviathans in order to dominate and document past races. In the end they got overthrown and nearly wiped out showing the cycle that Snyths will always rebel against the oppression of organics and bring about chaos and death. This is where the cycle begins as these creature are ancient. Getting them to join you is a lot of fun and rewarding and I loved the lore dump.

Citadel DLC – Citadel is awesome! You get time with your squadmates after taking out your evil Cerberus created clone. It feels like a James Bond film until you finish the main quest and after you get to support the characters and have great moments with them. Part of the mission is infiltrating a casino so I took Tali on the date with me. It was a blast.

The Romance – The romance is wonderful in this game as you get to spend time with your partner. I chose Tali and I’m glad I did, she is a great character and is there with you feeling the pain of all that is revealed. Her “I love you,” and “I have a home” are some of the saddest moments in this series and I do plan to play a mod in the future where Shepard survives so I can get their happy ending. For now the game is staying how it was originally intended as this beautiful relationship where I save her people and the Geth and she was with me on most missions and shared what got her into inter-species romance was first born (the vid in your date with her on the Citadel) and all the past moments just mourning our lost friends and the suffering galaxy end in my death. Damn, Mass Effect 3…They sure know how to make you care about the characters…

Tali – Tali becomes a greater leader in this game as she is part of the Admiralty and is one advocating for peace between the Quarians and Geth. She helps bring it about if your Paragon is high enough (as mine was) and we see her arc complete as she has her homeworld back and has found a home in her relationship with you (and vise versa for Shepard). We also see her hurt too as when you complete Miranda’s mission she drinks and regrets how everything she did was for her father and she did nothing to fight his control of her own path. It is powerful and I think this plays a big part later in how she takes the lead in watching out for others (she tells you to talk to Liara after Liara’s homeworld is destroyed). Tali is one of my favorite characters in the series and I think will be the romance in this game that will be the one I would have done if I was Shepard as an actual person in this universe.

The Characters – The characters have always been one of the strongest parts of Mass Effect. In this some characters I didn’t give a paragraph to but will mention here are Ashley and her finally trusting you again, Cortez the pilot who mourns his husband as you help go through his grief, Traynor and her worry at being the new person figuring things out, the macho man Vega who has a good heart, Jack and her becoming a mentor and caring for others, Kasumi fighting for the good while still being crafty, meeting Grunt and his elite squad and saving him from the Reapers, and Zaeed finding his nobility as well as saving Samara from her code and meeting her other daughters. All of these moments were fantastic.

Joker – Joker is with you through the series and in this you help him get together with EDI and learn to relax as well as being there as he waits and worries about his family. He is the core heart of the ship it is sushi with him that kicks off the Citadel DLC.

Mordin – Mordin is back and is his fast talking, wonderful, logical self who develops empathy thanks to the female Krogan Shaman and in the end saves all the Krogan. He is a wonderful character and I’m glad I got to see him again this game.

Wrex – Wrex is back and is doing all he can to fight for his people. He can’t be talked out of anything this time and I get why. His people have been screwed over countless times and their survival is down to the wire and can only happen with your honesty, Victus’s son sacrifice and Mordin releasing the cure. I’m glad he comes to the Citadel party too as it is a call back to the first game and you get to have a lot of fun with him.

Garrus – Garrus is one of if not your best friend as male Shepard. I wish I could have romanced him as Male Shep, he really is a great character and in this we see how much he’s grown as a leader as he is adviser to Victus and takes time on the Citadel advocating and caring for the Refugees. He also never forgets about you and reminds you to not get lost in guilt and loss…as last game he was in that place and you help him get out of it.

Liara – Liara is your other closest friend and it is her actions that make the defeat of the Reapers even possible as she learns about the Crucible and as Shadow broker is doing all she can to bring it about. She sadly loses her homeworld and it is up to you to help her heal. She also meets her father and learns she is 1/4 Krogan! I plan to do a romance path with her in future playthroughs of this series.

EDI, Legion, Geth and Synthetics – This game picks up what 2 starts with showing how EDI, the GEth and Synethics are fully conscience beings with humanity. EDI explores it with you when she asks moral questions and gets relationship advice about her and Joker and thanks to the Reaper code, Legion achieves individuality that he gives to the Geth. It is beautiful and there was no way I was going to destroy them so I chose peace and Synthesis, even though it meant my death.

My Squad – My initial squad before I picked up Tali was EDI as my tech and Liara as my biotic, though that quickly changed once I picked up Tali and my old Mass Effect 1 squad was back. These two are two of my favorite characters in the series and they are amazing squad mates to have.

The Good-Byes – The good-byes hurt but were amazing. My favorite good-byes were Liara’s mind meld, Garrus talking about drinks in Turian heaven, Tali’s painful “I want more time.” EDI finding humanity and how you can call up squadmates who are off of Earth. They really are some wonderful moments as you sit in the rubble of what is left of Earth.

Final Sacrifice – I chose Synthesis and in the process Shepard dies to help Synths and organics com to an understanding between one another. It is really cool and it made sense since Shepard had been the one to break the cycle, so his perspective was key in bringing about peace in the galaxy.

Power in Cooperation and Empathy – The power of empathy and cooperation is a major theme  in this and it is in helping others that others help you build the Crucible and protect Earth. It is also in the empathy and compassion of time with Squad mates that saves them from possibly dying and stops war. This is the Paragon way and one I fully support. It is the “Star Trek” ideology in “Mass Effect.”

The Theme of Sacrifice – The theme of Sacrafice is huge, Aria’s friend sacrifices herself to protect her people from the Reapers on Omega, Victus’s son sacrifices himself for peace between the Turians and Krogan, Mordin sacrifices himself to heal the genophage and Legion sacrifices himself for the Geth so that they can find the individuality he gained. There is of course Anderson’s sacrifice and yours on Earth as well. Each of these things goes towards peace and is a major theme of the game. Plus you remember past sacrifices like those of Kaidan.

The Cons: Lack of Rachni Payoff – The Rachni Queen gets captured again and we never see the full Rachni force after you save her for a second time. This was a waste as they should have been a powerful ally against the Reapers given the Queen tells you in “Mass Effect 2” that everything is going well with her people.

How the Catalyst is Handled – The Catalyst AI looks like a kid and it is never explained and you see it in stupid drawn out dreams. The Catalyst should have been hinted at in 1 or 2. There is no setup and the scenes with the Catalyst just feel awkward.

Cerberus, the Illusive Man and the Villain Problem – Cerberus kills so many humans and the Illusive Man never explains why. I get ends justify the means but this game he does everything to turn humanity against him and how he has such a large force is never explained. He isn’t like Saren where you get his background and can see it. He’s just a character who was never on your side to begin with and it is shown by his actions in 3. This was a wasted opportunity. Luckily the Reapers never stop being a threat.

Kai Leng – This guy is meant to be the anti-Shepard but is only introduced in this game. I wouldn’t have minded the ninja thing if he’d been a presence on 1 or was a squadmember who betrays you. Instead he is a one-dimensional baddy who has no personality or drive. He is a waste of a character who is only there to hurt you but with no reason why.

Going Cinematic and Forgetting the Game – There are a few times where 3 wants to be a movie rather than a game and it hurts both. You have these weird dream sequences chasing the Catalyst and when you get the final part of Earth you are limping everywhere and somehow survive a direct hit from a Reaper, with no explanation. These are good examples of “Cinematic” over “Story” and they hurt the game. The game would have been worse and only been okay if there had been more of it.

The Choices I Made – The choices I made were to end the relationship with Ashley (apparently turning her down in your quarters doesn’t break up with her in 1), continued my relationship with Tali. Chose the Krogan over the Salarians and helped end the genophage (saved Wrex in the first game) and let Mordin sacrifice himself, saved the Council (again), saved the Geth and Quarians and let Legion give himself to the Geth to make them stronger and brought about peace between the two species. Finally, I chose synthesis and gave up my life in the process.

This is a game and series as a whole that for all of it’s flaws, is one of my favorites. Though I wish more had been done with the ending and the Catalyst be presented in a different matter rather than an annoying kid, and Cerberus being so powerful never being explained (as well as the Illusive Man’s motivations being one I never understood fully and Kai Lung having no setup as the New Dragon…he should have been in “Mass Effect 2” if he was going to be such a threat. I still loved the Synthesis ending and as much as I wanted to have Shepard stay with Tali forever, Galactic Peace was worth the sacrifice of losing her. Synthesis was a great explanation that really changes the drama that 2 and 1 set up of Organics against Synthetics. It was also great having Tali and Liara as my main squad again. If you like science fiction stories and games you may still love this series. It is one of my favorites and the best ending really is fantastic, even with all the story flaws littered through the game. “Mass Effect 2” is still the best of the series, but I did enjoy 3 more than 1.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

“The Expanse” Season 1 – An Amazing Sci. Fi. Thriller That Covers Politics, Identity and New Life

The Expanse

   “The Expanse” is the best show to come from the SyFy Channel since “Battlestar Galactica” and “Caprica.” Part of it is due to the rich political material they are pulling from the novels of the same name by James S. A. Corey. Also like “Battlestar” this is  a show that follows many different character perspective to unfold the political drama and mystery of what is going on, and manages to do a great job, while still leaving things open in regards to other mysteries that need to be solved. I seriously recommend this show if you are a science fiction fan.

   The series was created by Hawk Ostby and Mark Fergus and based off the novels by James S. A. Corey.

    The story involves the mystery of the missing Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) as detective Joe Miller is seeking her out in a missing persons case and finds himself pulled into a bigger conspiracy. Elsewhere the crew of the Canterbury are drawn to a ship that Julie was last reported on and find themselves pulled into a much greater conspiracy going on between the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance), Earth and Mars.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Clinton Shorter is a great composer and the soundtrack manages to be one of the strongest parts of the series as it illustrates the mystery, the tension and the rising threat that pervades the show.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and reminded me a lot of “Battlestar Galactica.” So much was put into making this world feel lived and making sure the Belters, Mars and Earth each look distinct in the environments in which they live.

The World – The world of this universe is fascinating. We have the OPA who is fighting for Belter independence and goes to extremes to do so, we have the U.N. which appears benevolent but tortures is corrupt and is planning to go to war and Mars is a warrior people who protect our heroes even though they come off as fascists. No one is simple in this and all the factions and people get complexity.

The Mystery – The mystery of Julie Mao is really fascinating as through her we see how strong the OPA is and that Belter Independence will happen over the course of this show, the corruption of Earth and the power brokers like Anderson and Fred Johnson and the complexity and agendas they bring to the table as well as the new life form that Julie Mao is consumed by.

The Factions and Characters – The factions and the characters are the strongest parts of this show and really drive the action as everything is tied back to Julie Mao and through her eyes we see the good and bad of the factions and people within the galaxy fighting for freedom, power or control.

Belters and OPA – The Belters are a faction that is oppressed by Mars and Earth who take their resources and give them water and air in return. They are desperate and from the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) arose as an Independence movement. You get the motivations of them and see the complexity of Belter identity too.

Anderson Dawes – Anderson Dawes is the OPA representative on Ceres Station and shows us he is both noble and villain in how he interacts with Joe Miller. He is a true nationalist and I’m really curious to see what is going to happen with his character as he has a grudging respect for Miller and lets him go after he tries to kill him. He’s one of the few who knew Julie Mao. Jared Harris does a fantastic job.

Fred Johnson – Fred Johnson is a character drive by guilt as he ordered the destruction of a ship a bunch of miners took over after they were abused. This has lead him to become OPA and it is that which drives him and his actions as he knows Earth and Mars going to war will give his people freedom. Chad Coleman does a great job.

Dmitri Havlock – Dmitri is Joe Miller’s partner and is lovers with a Belter prostitute and is from Earth. He nearly gets killed by Belters but still is the idealist who think connection and talking can fix things. He’s a great contrast to the bitter Miller.

Detective Joe Miller – Thomas Jane is fantastic as Joe Miller! He feels like he’s out of a noir and it is his obsession and belief in Julie Mao that helps us learn about the OPA conspiracy and from that the Earth conspiracy and expansion plan as he is fired when he solves the case of what happened with Julie Mao and his boss is revealed to be OPA.

Mars -We see Mars through the eyes of Alex who used to be a pilot in the Mars military and the military vessel that captures the survivors of the Canterbury and protect them when the mystery vessel and faction attacks. In Mars we see honor and a people who maybe military but do not want war and dream of a planet that will be green and full of water.

Earth – Earth is the corrupt faction we see outside of the OPA as it is Earth factions that are creating the alien life form and it is the leader of the U.N. who is going to war. It is in Earth we see a past Empire trying to capture it’s former glory.

Chrisjen Avasarala – Chrisjen is great as a hardened diplomat who knows how to get into people’s mind. She isn’t an idealist but realizes that the future she has been trying to prevent is out of her control as it looks like Earth is going to go to war and has wanted to go to war. She stays to be an agent in the trenches to resist in her own way, though she does send her husband away for his safety. Shohreh did a great job.

The Crew of the Canterbury – The crew is the strongest part as each them compliment one another in different ways and we see how they act under pressure. They are one of the best parts of this film and truly drive everything that happens outside of Joe Miller’s investigation.

Amos – Amos is the unhinged member of the crew who is okay killing and will do whatever Naomi wants. He has the biggest kill count of the survivors and has an aura of dangerous about him so much so that even Naomi fears him. He is a good guy though and Wes Chatham does a great job portraying him.

Alex – Alex is the pilot and is one of my favorite characters as he is former Mars military and can be a coward sometimes. He brings a great perspective to things and his love of flying is always fun to see. Cas Anvar does a great job with this character.

Jim Holden – Holden is the main character who kicks off the conflict when he blames Mars for teh destruction of the Canterbury which triggers the OPA fight, Earth expansion and the creation of the new life form . Sadly he is the least interesting person on the crew as he is a Paladin type even when it puts people in danger.

Naomi – Naomi is awesome! By the end we learn she probably was or is OPA as she knows about the OPA tunnels in the station that the life form is consuming and she is the one who keeps a clear head and save the crews head on multiple occasions. Dominique Tipper is fantastic in the role!

The Finale – The final is powerful as the survivors of the Canterbury manage to get off the station before the alien life form consumes them all and we see that Holden and Miller are able to get their radiation treated. We are left with a sense of hope because they lived but powerlessness as we see this new life form growing and know that war is on the horizon.

Revolution – OPA’s revolution is going on as scheduled as we see it triggered by the framing of Mars and Earth beginning to overreach and expand. We see the reasons revolution happens to as the Belters are an oppressed faction that is barely surviving most of the time and lives by the whims of Mars and Earth.

New Life – The station that is being used for the experiment has the sentient bioweapon thing that inhabited Julie Mao and we see it kill the Earth Agent at the end…it’s cool that this is our introduction to a true alien life form and it is one that humanity created.

The Cons: Sometimes Wooden Acting – There are times when characters act (none of the ones listed above) and it comes off as wooden and artificial. In that way it does feel a little like a Sy Fy Channel show and that does bring it down.

The Motivation of the Scientists – Why are they creating new life and why is Julie’ Mao’s father find sacrificing her to create it? This was really unclear, especially as we see how many people they are willing to sacrifice to create this new life. Motivations of these guys are unclear.

   This was a great series that I highly recommend. The politics between Mars, Earth and the OPA are fascinating as heroes and villains are revealed on all sides and the overall mystery of the life that has consumed Julie Mao and consumes the agent at the end. This sets up a 4th Faction that isn’t aligned to any of the human ones as far as we know. What will come out of this, especially since it looks like Earth is going to be conquering sets the stage for the war that is to come. So much of the stage is set for wider conflicts and the main characters who drive the story have been explored in regards to their pasts and motivations which makes me curious how circumstances will change them further. This is one of the greats, now lets see if SyFy can keep it that way, rather than ruin it like the last chance I gave them with “Helix.”

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Finale – Season 1, Episode 49 – “The Final Victor” – Weak Humanity

Gw-ep49-the-final-victor

I thought I’d like this finale more than I did but it had a few things going against it that are largely issues with the series as a whole, which I’ll go into when I do my review of “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” as a whole. Taking the episode on it’s own though, it does do a lot of things right, even if it messes up in some big ways too.

“The Final Victor” was directed by Shinichi Sakuma, Hitoshi Waraya and Yasunao Aoki and written by Katsuyuki Sumizawa.

This is the Finale and what is at stake is stopping the Libra from crashing into the Earth (which the Gundam Scientists do by turning on Peacemilllion’s engine to push it out of Earth’s orbit) and Heero facing Zechs. There is also Lady Une who is working with Sally, Relena and Noin on the political side of things to try and find a peaceful resolution between the factions. These are the main areas of action unfolding at the finale.

The Pros: The animation  – I’m going to mention this again, since I haven’t for a long time…but “Gundam Wing” has beautiful animation that is really highlighted in the finale. You can see the details on the Gundams and characters’ facial expressions and hair and feel the emotion.

The Soundtrack – The music is beautiful too and creates tension when it needs to as well as adding to every scene it is in.

The Battle – Epyon vs. Wing Zero, Zechs vs. Heero…it is a great fight and they are evenly matched throughout it until Heero admits he is weak, which Zechs is unable to admit. This leads to Heero defeating him and Zechs choosing to blow up the engine in the Libra to help stop part of the ship from falling and hitting the Earth before he disappears claiming that he and Heero will face each other again.

Gundam Team – I really liked seeing all the Gundams and the scientists working together. In the case of the scientists we see them defeat Quinze who was always more extreme in his approach than they were, and they die in the process and take him down with them. It is there atonement…while all the Gundams working together manage to stop the falling section of Libra.

Okay: The Ending – I have mixed feelings about the ending. There is peace but we don’t see what happens to the Gundam Pilots beyond Heero surprising Relena on her birthday by leaving a gift on her plane that is returning to Earth. There is complete peace because people didn’t like seeing the empty fight between Heero and Zechs…I’m sorry but I don’t buy it. Peace is never that simple and it doesn’t take into account how hurt each side still is, as well as all the political factions that still exist. I liked the moment with Dorothy at Treize’s and Zechs’s grave talking Noin who believed Zechs is still alive and I liked Zechs choosing to help Heero in the end before disappearing but beyond that it felt way too easy. No real loss in the end beyond those like Treize who wanted to die.

In the first “Mobile Suit Gundam” there was so much loss…it was a tragedy and you felt for the people fighting in a war that they had no idea if it would end. In the end there is peace but an entire family is killed in the process and the Alliance corruption is never fully faced, but our character arcs are complete, which is more believable. The narrator just declares victory in this when, “Endless Waltz” is still to come out. Narrator, you were way to premature calling peace. But I’ll get into more of my issues here in the actual analysis of the series as a whole.

I do like that Relena is the go between for the Colonies and Earth and that Treize is in fact dead, but that just isn’t enough for everything that was happening. Peace is never as easy as a phone call when there is this much history of conflict involved.

The Cons: A Call for Peace – I don’t buy it. There are too many factions and why would anyone listen to Lady Une. She doesn’t demand the respect someone like Relena or Treize would do doing the exact same thing. Also, the White Fang is still out there, the Earth saw that the Colonies tried to destroy them. The Gundams are their own faction so them stopping it shouldn’t bring about peace. It isn’t enemies putting down their swords, it’s a third faction forcing the issue. So, major con in regards to the ending.

I liked the Finale, but it was not a favorite. It showed a lot of what I liked about the series but also really highlighted the problems with it too, which I will go into in the assessment of the series whole. I look forward to seeing “Endless Waltz” though. Does it add more depth and show that things aren’t as simple for peace to exist? I like the intent behind the idea of the Finale, it was just very poorly executed and needed much more time and communication between the different factions, as well as revealing that Quinze and Zechs were not as noble as they pretended to be and were just cowards before their own faction.

Final Score: 8 / 10. I can say after this though, “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” is now one of my favorite animes.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 41 – “Crossfire at Barge” – Zechs, Guardian of the Colonies

Gw-ep41-crossfire-at-barge

Well, we know Zechs’s motivation now for wanting to destroy the Earth, and he isn’t wrong…especially with a militarized Romafeller Foundation again now that Treize that has taken charge…and between the two of them, I’d choose Zechs over Treize. Zechs is a real, Treize is manipulative. More on my thoughts on the episode though further down.

The episode was directed by Shinichi Sakuma, Hitoshi Waraya and Tetsuya Watanabe and written by Akemi Omode.

The story begins with OZ’s forces using the Barge to destroy the incoming White Fang forces. A great battle ensues with Zechs leading the charge in Epyon. Around this time Noin, Quatre and Duo arrive to confront Zechs to join them but it doesn’t go well as they witness the destruction of a Colony by the Barge. This leads to an all out assault by the Gundams against it. On Earth Treize overthrows the Relena faction and puts himself once more in charge of the Romafeller Foundation for the coming war with the Colonies.

The Pros: Zechs – Zechs is truly motivated in saving the Colonies. This leads to him destroying Fortress Barge single handily and ignoring Noin when she pleads for him to stop the fight now that Relena is in charge of Romafeller. Zechs truly believes Earth is the problem, which given what happened to the Sanc Kingdom, he has every reason to believe it.

Team Gundam – Quatre, Duo, Trowa and Noin – These are the Pacifist Faction now and are a bit lost since Epyon is much stronger than they are and Noin is not able to get through to Zechs. He’s a true believer and has lost his humanity in the process. Trowa also goes to protect the Colonies from the battle.

Major Sally – She’s back! She also delivers Heavyarms to Heero so that Trowa can get his Gundam back. It is great to see her again and that she is there fighting just like Noin.

Okay: Relena – She wants to try and stop Zechs, but she didn’t fight her position at all. That was a disappointment as she has no reason to trust Treize, since he killed her adoptive Father.

Treize – Why did he want to take control of Romafeller again? He seemed to believe in the Gundams, does he anymore? His reasons for coming out of the shadows are still a mystery.

Dorothy – Dorothy if following Relena to space, her ends are still an unknown.

This episode was great but could have been better. It was a good exploration of Zechs but we got almost no exploration of Treize, Relena or Dorothy. I hope we see that change in the coming episodes as they are all still major players in this.

Final Score: 8,7 / 10.