[Review] Rurouni Kenshin – The Legend Ends

The Legend Ends

After two major successes, expectations were high for Rurouni Kenshin – The Legend Ends. The second movie, which started the famous Kyoto Arc, left us with Kenshin losing to Shishio aboard his battleship. The vast majority of the arc still uncovered, can the third movie tie all of the loose ends together, or is it crushed beneath the expectations and quantity of source material left to cover?

The movie starts with a short flashback, showing us how Kenshin met his master as a little boy, being taken in under his care and learning his signature fighting style, Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. We then cut to the present day where Kenshin is once again taken in by his master after the end of the previous movie. In the meantime, Shishio is rapidly advancing forward with his schemes, pressuring the Japanese government to follow his command. Sanosuke, in the meantime, caves under the pressure of, what he believes, was the cause being lost as both Kenshin and Kaoru lost the battle as Kenshin has gone missing and Kaoru is now comatose.

If you hadn’t guessed it yet, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends goes off into a completely different direction than the original. It must have been clear that with the time given to them with two movies, it wouldn’t be possible to tell the exact same tale again. And after the failure of Shin Kyoto Hen, I don’t blame them for not attempting another accurate retelling of the same tale. The changes also give new viewers a reason to go back and either read the manga or watch the old anime after watching the movie and finding out what changed.

Rurouni Kenshin_ Densetsu no saigo-hen(The Legend Ends)[GB][WEB-DL 720P].mp4_snapshot_00.49.28_[2015.01.20_20.52.50]

The changes themselves aren’t bad. While a lot of them seem incredibly strange at first, the logic behind them works internally for the story they were trying to tell, which ultimately, is still by and large the same story the original told. Sometimes when moving to a different form of storytelling, changes have to be made to make it fit better. So long as they’re not done out of shame for the source material (so the opposite of everything DC has done with Superman on the big screen), the changes can work out in the long run.

Watching all three Rurouni Kenshin live-action movies, it’s very clear that there is absolutely no shame for the source material at any step of the way. Again, every aspect of the production seems to pay tribute to its origins, from Kenshin’s new outfit being the iconic red and white one, to members of the Juppongatana appearing in full costume in the background of scenes despite not having much of a role in the movie. As a Soujiro fanboy, I have to confess it made me smile when I saw him run up walls while fighting with Shukuchi, something I didn’t expect to make it in because of all the changes made.

Rurouni Kenshin_ Densetsu no saigo-hen(The Legend Ends)[GB][WEB-DL 720P].mp4_snapshot_01.39.09_[2015.01.20_21.43.38]

A very common theme for comic-based action movies is the tendency to be so packed with long-running action scenes that halfway through the fight you forget what it’s even about anymore. What’s especially amazing about Legend’s End is that it could have very easily fallen into this problem, as the movie is packed with action sequences within the first hour already, but it manages to sidestep this problem. Not just by making the fights very well choreographed but, unlike most recent major action movies, by having raw power and emotion behind some of the more effective moves.

It especially helps that a lot of the characters have very different styles of fighting that bring some variation to the different fighting scenes going on, with Sanosuke’s scenery destroying brawling being a most welcome alternative to Kenshin’s usually fast-paced cut and run style. It doesn’t just change up how the fights are acted out, but it also changes up the way the scenes are shot, changing the mood enough for it to avoid blending all together.

Rurouni Kenshin_ Densetsu no saigo-hen(The Legend Ends)[GB][WEB-DL 720P].mp4_snapshot_01.43.15_[2015.01.20_21.47.58]

It cannot be understated how much that approach is needed in this movie, because after the first hour and onwards The Legend Ends turns into one massive non-stop action sequence, with still a little over an hour on the clock. Several battles in a row bleed into one as the urgency behind the events is stressed particularly well. Several of the character’s stories being told mostly through the sequence of moves in their struggles against each other. I can’t speak for how well some of the more nuanced details translated over for people who haven’t followed the original Rurouni Kenshin anime and manga, but as a fan it all stood out clear as day.

As a side note, I timed the Shishio fight, and it lasted about 20 minutes. He started struggling after the first 11 or so. Fans should know what the significance of that is. I think it’s worth noting that they might have overdone it in terms of making Shishio look strong, as it makes the ending of the fight feel like an even more desperate reach than it did it in the original.

Costume design for The Legend Ends is stellar, as everyone’s outfits have started to look worn and lived in, to offset the colorful designs in the serious, action heavy historical background. Especially Sanosuke’s clothes looked ragged and dirtier the longer the movie goes on, as if it’s the same outfit he’s been wearing all three movies. Because it probably is.

Despite the changes and altered ending, I really enjoyed Rurouni Kenshin – The Legend Ends. I wouldn’t rate it as highly as the second movie, although the fight scenes, which for many are understandably the main meat of the franchise, are the best of all three. It’s a shame that there isn’t much of a reason for a fourth movie, although I’m happy that they ended the run of live-action movies on a good note. I still stand by my earlier comments that the trilogy of movies are a great introduction to new viewers with little to no understanding of Rurouni Kenshin, while still being massively enjoyable to long-time fans.

Pros

  • The second hour of non-stop action.
  • Costume design.
  • Strong conclusion to the series.

Cons

  • Some of the changes might anger purists.
  • Juppongatana relegated to background characters.
  • Shishio being even more ridiculously overpowered than he already was.

You might also want to read my previous Rurouni Kenshin related reviews:
Rurouni Kenshin Shin Kyoto Hen part 1
Rurouni Kenshin Live Action
Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno

[Review] Rurouni Kenshin – Kyoto Inferno

Rurouni-Kenshin-Kyoto-Inferno-HD-Widescreen-Wallpaper

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno could have gone either way. The first movie was excellent, but the anime retelling of the Kyo Arc with the Shin Kyoto Hen OVA was terrible. Would the live-action veversion stay true to the level of quality from the first attempt, or does the Kyoto Arc not translate well into a more modern era? Let’s find out!

Having saved Takani Megumi from the clutches of Takeda Kanryu’s opium empire, Himaru Kenshin, played by Sato Takeru, gives up on his life of mindless wandering and settles down for a more relaxing life at Kamiya Kaoru’s dojo. That is, until the new Japanese government contacts Kenshin, asking for help defeating Shishio Makoto, an infamous murderer who helped make the Meiji Revolution possible, who is intent on overthrowing the new government by burning down the old capital, Kyoto. Initially uninterested, Kenshin decides to pick up the sword and travel to Kyoto when his old ally and famous politician, Okubo Toshimichi, is killed in Shishio’s name.

For those who aren’t too familiar with the Rurouni Kenshin franchise, the Kyoto Arc is famous as the best part of the story. Fans of the anime might point towards Tsuioku Hen instead, but manga fans know how deeply the revolution flashback ties into the Kyoto storyline, setting up the Jinchu arc after. Producing a bad version of the Kyoto Arc is almost like slapping the collective Rurouni Kenshin fanbase in the face.

Rurouni-Kenshin-Kyoto-Inferno

Thankfully, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is an even better live-action representation of the franchise than the first movie was, and the first movie was amazing. Where the original made several changes to quicken the pace of the story, as it was covering 11 episodes into a single movie, Kyoto Inferno is much more true to the source material. The only massive changes being that Hajime Saito doesn’t assault Kenshin early on, due to him already having been in the first movie, and Shinomori Aoshi having an altered background story, due to him having been scrapped from the previous movie.

Both changes are understandable, Aoshi was originally scrapped as his story would not have been resolved in the first movie and the status of a sequel was still unsure. Saito on the other hand was a good excuse to give fans something to latch onto by putting him in several police force related storylines. Kyoto Inferno on the other hand was made with the knowledge that there would be two movies, so storylines are allowed to stay intact without any major changes.

SHISHIO

My biggest fears coming into Kyoto Inferno were the absurdity of the character designs and how they would translate over to live action. Characters like Shishio Makoto and just about any of the members of the Juppongatana look outlandish and being able to see them done convincingly in live action is a real treat. There’s a couple of scenes where Shishio Makoto doesn’t look too convincing, but it’s very hard to hold it against the creators of the movie as a man covered head-to-toe in burns and bandages with a few tufts of hair sticking out of the bandages on his head. Thankfully Fujiwara Tatsuya salvages the role, overcoming one of the most absurd characters in the movie. Likewise, Cho, who is played by Miura Ryosuke, successfully comes out of the movie with surprisingly few problems. It will be very interesting to see how they’ll handle the even more outlandish later members of the group in the third and final instalment, The Legend Ends.

I’d also quickly like to point out that as a massive fan of Seta Soujiro, the actor portraying him got the performance down perfectly. Although it is quite jarring to see a real person do his Shukuchi movements.

1402114875_Kenshin_main

Long-time fans are likely happy to hear that the musical homages to the TV series’s soundtrack are still going strong. It’s really the little things that can help make or break a production as large as this, and seeing such a true to life reproduction of a beloved old anime is not something you see every day. Even in the age of a high budget Marvel Cinematic Universe, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is a very rare treat. As there aren’t as many of these movies being made based on anime of this caliber and they few that do get made avoiding sticking to the same formula, both overall and for the choreography during the battles, the experience still manages to feel fresh. Especially compared to the current comic book movies from the west recently. Not to knock them, but I’m definitely feeling comic book movie fatigue, and the very different cinematographic style of the Kenshin movies doesn’t make me feel the same way about them at all.

There isn’t too much to say about this movie individually, as all the praise I have already showered on the first movie is applicable to this one too. The biggest difference between the two being the scope of Kyoto Inferno, covering a much longer sequence of episodes with more story threads than the first. With the success of the previous movie backing it, and the assurance of another movie to expand on the content further, they really hit their stride in this movie. They knew that they figured out how to translate the material over and were given the time and resources to translate it over to film as best as they could. It shows.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is a fantastic movie. It’s safe to encourage new viewers to experience Rurouni Kenshin through the live-action versions if they’re unsure about the series being worth the time investment. Actually giving the franchise the time it needs to develop the plot and characters instead of having to rush through it has helped create a worthy retelling of every current fan’s favorite story arc, and I can’t wait to see how they handled the second half of it in the third and final movie.

Pros

  • Better than the first movie.
  • Another reason people won’t have to watch Shin Kyoto Hen.
  • Soujiro.

Cons

  • Shishio Makoto looks a bit off in some scenes.
  • Shukuchi doesn’t translate over too well.

You might also want to read my other Rurouni Kenshin related reviews:
Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto Hen
Rurouni Kenshin Live Action
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends

[Review] Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

Magi - 01

Alibaba is a young boy down on his luck. Working his fingers to the bone for a slave driver, he dreams of one day clearing the gigantic dungeon in the middle of the town so that he can get the power he needs to achieve his goals. It stays a distant dream until he runs into Aladdin, a young care-free boy with a magic carpet and a magical giant hidden in his flute. Together, the two set out to best the dungeon and explore the world of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic.

Heavily inspired by the Old World, with representative nations for various well-known powerful countries at the time, Magi feels like a breath of fresh air compared to most of your more typical Shonen series. While it still keeps in line with the colorful and simplistic modern stylings of action-oriented anime, there’s a good understanding of various drawing styles and color palettes on display as the show rotates from various levels of seriousness, ranging from light and comedic to dark and down-right horrific. In a lot of ways, there’s quite a few ways in which the show could be compared to the Brotherhood version of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime, which is a very good place to draw from.

One area I would say that Magi especially excels compared to Brotherhood is the comedy. There are a lot of very light-hearted and cheerful scenes in the show, usually involving Aladdin and Alibaba when the two are together that show a better understanding of comedic timing than Fullmetal Alchemist had. Where FMA would often make the jokes feel forced or out-of-place in certain particular situations, Magi shows some more constraint during the more serious moments so as not to draw away from the gravity of the situation at hand.

tumblr_n0x6jqsjK71s25wgdo1_1280

Which is a very good thing, because Magi deals with some really dark and complex themes at times, even if it does so in very simplistic terms at times. With how small the scope is at the start, you’d almost get tricked into believing you’re in for another typical action show, but then characters start struggling with identity, heritage, nationalism, slavery, loyalty, and family amongst various other things. Most characters deal with their own problems in different ways, while balancing different complex problems and bouncing them off of the rather simplistic Aladdin.

It’s especially the combination of the characters, and the way they play off their key strengths and weaknesses that really helps drive the show forward. Instead of wowing the audience with overly flashy powers or immediately making us feel for them by wronging them from the start, we’re given enough time to get to know and care for them. It takes several episodes before we learn anything about Alibaba’s past, and by the time we finally do, it’s all relevant to what is currently going on. Even without that knowledge, we’re given enough to know who he is as a person right now, rather than trying to make us care because of the deeds he has done in the past or an uncharacteristically feat of strength during his introduction. Not only does it show that the writers are confident in the characters on their own strength, but that they don’t need to do anything special for us to like them. This isn’t something that is unique to Alibaba as a character either, most characters in the show (except Sinbad, but he’s a special case) are allowed enough time on the show for us to become familiar with them before forcing them into action. Despite this approach, the show never feels like there are any pacing problems. It doesn’t rush through important story elements, but also moves from key event to key event fast enough to avoid feeling too ponderous.

tumblr_n130j934Rw1s25wgdo1_1280

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic also makes some good use of all the various story threads and mythological epics most people should be familiar with. Even the name of the show, Magi, which is what Aladdin is described as, is not only what the modern word “magic” is based on, but also what originally referred to as the “wise men” who visited Jesus in the Bible. The magical bird-like life force that flows to everything is described as Rukh, and most character are named after famous characters from stories like Aladdin, Alibaba, Sinbad, Jafar, I could go on.

My only major issue with Magi the animation quality. Originally made in 2012, so still from the time period where most of the shows digitally animated haven’t aged gracefully, there moments where the animations look very rough. Never bad enough to look terrible, but bad enough to notice. Thankfully, the quality typically picks up when it needs to.

Magi 2

Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic is an incredible show using some of the best world building in shonen anime while drawing from a setting that, especially these days, feels largely underutilized as a backdrop for an exceptional character-driven series. It doesn’t do anything particularly unique, but everything it do everything in a way that makes it feel as if it is. Anyone interested in a good adventure series should watch this and the sequel, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic at some point.

Pros:

  • Aladdin is adorable
  • Fantastic world building
  • Great character development

Cons:

  • Alibaba can come across as a crybaby
  • Animation quality occasionally takes a huge dive

[Review] Retro City Rampage

retro_city_rampage1

What happens when you mix two of the most influental gaming trends of the last two generations together and put them in a thinly veiled parody game? That’s right, I’m reviewing the retro-themed GTA-styled Retro City Rampage! So it’s time to hijack the DeLorean and hit 88 pedestrians per hour to seeif this game is a bad enough dude to handle the blast processing.

I think I’ve made it fairly clear in the past that I am not a fan of the retro trend that gaming has seen in the past few years. Especially from the side of indie developers it’s often been debatable how far developers can push retro as a graphic style before it comes across as lazy and uninspired. Another instant problem for me is my severe disapproval of sandbox games, which is, to me, another form of developers being lazy in their inability to give us enough to really progress through in a game.

With these two gigantic marks against the core of Retro City Rampage, you’d expect me to outright hate this game from the start. If I’d have to be honest, I expected to hate it myself. Surprisingly, I found Retro City Rampage to be a heartfelt and charming title. Even if the controls were problematic at points.

This is a good case of a game owning its very identity, even when its identity is largely dependant on the appreciation of other games. Quite a lot of the game’s strength lies in appreciating the 8-bit era for what it was, with at least 1 or 2 references to that golden era on your screen at all times. While Retro City Rampage’s introduction stages go full-overdrive on the references in a way that makes Abobo’s Big Adventure seem slow-paced, the game really comes to life when you can start roaming around and explore everything.

My biggest problem with most sandboxing titles is that for all the exploration you’re free to do in your own time, there aren’t that many sights to see. There’s never a sense that one area is all that different from another other than maybe a color filter or pallet swap. You can increase the surface area of the map, but the overall map still tends to have the same sights to see as normal. No matter where you are, you’ll always be doing the same things anyway, so exploration can often come across as pointless.

tumblr_mlg8quFrIs1s25wgdo1_1280

While this largely holds true for Retro City Rampage in terms of the gameplay, visually, the city really is stacked with unique sights to see. There are so many different shops, advertising signs, buildings, and other structures, it’s hard to get confused as to what is where because everything really comes across as different. And it’s not just that it’s different, pretty much everything is a reference of the late ’80s or early ’90s, with a large amount of recent internet memes thrown in for good measure. From “Al Bundy Wedding Chapel” to the entire Paper Boy neighborhood, there’s always something in the area to set it appart from the rest. It’s quite refreshing to see a game like this with this amount of effort put into it, rather than just easily sprite ripping everything and putting it together.

The game’s story is a awkward. You play as a character named Player, a henchman of some bad guy who is about to rob a bank situated in the iconic Mega Man 2 title screen building. This plan goes so wrong that, in the middle of a lot of confusion, you end up stealing Bill & Ted’s time machine and travel to the future where you end up having to help the professor rebuild the DeLorean by piecing together spare parts. In the meantime there’s a subplot following an evil corporation exploiting indie developers for profit, but unfortunately this fades into the background as randomly as it gets started.

Which is something that tends to happen in this game a lot. Quite a lot of work is done to set up potential sidequests, extra missions, and subplots concerning other characters, but they all disappear almost as soon as they’re introduced. Which is a shame, because I would have gladly invested more time into the game’s universe and seen where else it could have taken me. This is not that long of a game, although with the impact it makes at the start of it, I don’t think it was intended to be that long of a game.

RETRO

My biggest issue with Retro City Rampage is the control scheme. Maybe it’s because I played the game with a keyboard, I’m sure it’ll play better with a controller, but the mapping was a pain at times. Weapon switching was problematic, often getting me killed because I couldn’t switch weapons fast enough. Picking up enemies and throwing them, as well as stomping on top of them was counter intuitive, even after switching the native directional arrows with wasd settings, it was confusing to excecute some moves properly most of the time. What especially didn’t help was the delay in movement speed while shooting. It felt like a jab at the terrible shooting controls of the Grand Theft Auto games, but if it is, I can’t say I appreciate intentionally bad controls. The second of slow movement after shooting often had me time my evasion wrong completely and felt absolutely unnecesary.

Which doesn’t mean all of the controls are absolutely horrendous and that the game is unplayable. Most of the gameplay mechanics are in fact very made and intuitive. It just serves to underline the problems that bit more because you don’t expect them to be there.

Retro City Rampage was a big surprise to me. Built upon two components I usually don’t like, it still managed to charm me with its representation and some very solid gameplay.

PROS

  • Bit.Trip Runner and Meat Boy arcade games
  • Awesome visuals
  • Al Bundy wedding chapel offering no refunds.

CONS

  • Sluggish shooting controls
  • A bit too short, doesn’t fully live up to own potential
  • Wasn’t a fan of the Rad Racer or Underwater Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 stages.

[Review] Django Unchained

Django Unchained1

Unable to find any other leads to his targets, the bounty hunter King Schultz buys a black slave his freedom. It’s a long shot, but knowing the slave has had a history with his marks, he’s hoping the man can point them out when he meets them. Django, eager to help point out the people who abused him as a slave, sees no other choice to help the man. After they find the group and they collect their bounty, they befriend each other. After a while, Schultz decides he’ll help Django reclaim his lost wife who was sold to another slaver. And that’s when Django Unchained really begins.

Unfortunately, it takes a full hour before we even get to the meat of the story. Django Unchained is a terribly paced movie that doesn’t seem to know what the main attraction of the story is. Instead of a coherent and strong narrative, we get one hour of build up, an hour of window dressing, thirty minutes frantic action, and a fifteen minute detour near the end before we get the conclusion that we should have arrived at long before.

The set up for Django Unchained takes much too long. After the first ten minutes of the movie, there’s a good feel to the characters and the direction they’ll be going in. Instead of settling for that, Tarantino decided we need an extra hour of fitting into the characters and we start getting sidetracked with a series of scenes that could have easily been worked into the character build up the movie started out with. Instead of packing every scene with strong content, each piece of content needs to be drawn out slowly so we can comfortably become familiar with them.

A lot of westerns have slow pacing and are drawn out, but that’s because the scenes are incredibly tense and dramatic. There’s conflicts and power struggles. Constant uncertainty. Tension. Django Unchained however, has absolutely no tension to it. It has that same smug stretched out presence that Inglorious Basterds suffered from. Although the Basterds at least made up for this with a wide array of colorful characters and some really tense scenes, Django Unchained is not so lucky.

Django Unchained2

Which is an absolute shame, because the performances of the individual actors, and the roles they are playing, are stellar. Christoph Waltz plays a very great oddball bounty hunter who is impossible to dislike. Jamie Foxx’s Django “The D is Silent” is very well portrayed. And Leonardo DiCaprio plays the cheerful asshole slaver role with the kind of snake oil charm the character needs.

All the shots and angles are slick and perfectly capture not just the wild west feel of the movie, but also instantly sets the mood for each scene. Just as you’d expect from both a western and a Tarantino movie.

But it’s the pacing and awkward editing of the movie that has the performances and camera work fall flat. At the very best, there’s maybe 45 minutes of actual movie in Django Unchained, while the movie plays out for almost 3 hours.

Even in terms of old western movies is this completely unacceptable. Scenes often get drawn out to the point where you almost forget what built up towards them. Because in Tarantino’s opinion, building up to a scene or a plot point seems to mean prefacing it with as much dead movie space before it as you possibly can.

What bothers me most is the fact that all the movie actually tries to do is set up this humorous skit in which they arrive at a slave plantation, and everyone has to pretend that Django, a rare free black man, is not to be treated like the other black people. He’s a nigger, but he shouldn’t be treated like a nigger. Not like a white person either, because he’s obviously not. This level of hypocracy is of course mostly ignored by the slavers, but not by the slaves. This is a situation that’s built up for almost two full hours and in the end doesn’t go anywhere outside of presenting itself. Again, it gets drawn out for much longer than it’s worth.

Django Unchained was a painful attempt from Tarantino to try and show he’s still a shocking and relevant director. All the famous Tarantino angles and signatures are present in the movie, from the quirky characters and awesome names, to the time period appropriate pop culture references and appearance from Tarantino himself. It’s just so by the numbers and uninspired this time around. Someone needs to cut his budget and give him a maximum time limit for his next movie so he’ll actually try again, because Django Unchained crossed the line in enjoyment in what has already been a well noted decline in his work.

PROS

  • Fantastic performances from the actors
  • Great camera work
  • As always, Tarantino delivers a great soundtrack

CONS

  • Serious pacing problems
  • Someone needs to actually edit this movie
  • 45 minutes worth of movie in a 2 hour and 45 minute movie

[Review] Dead Harvest

Chris F Holm Dead Harvest

Hate to say I bought a book solely based on its cover, but let’s face it: sometimes you just see a book in stores that instantly demands your attention. Standing in the fantasy section of my favorite bookstore, Dead Harvest just stood out. Surrounded by all sorts of heroic fantasy covers stood these two books with simplistic three-colored designs. Styled to look like one of those old cheap Penguin books. I just knew I had to get my hands on it.

Sam Thornton’s a troubled soul. Not only is he a broken man with a difficult past tasked with the impossible, he’s literally a doomed soul. Once, ages ago, his soul was claimed and collected by the underworld. Now, he works as a collector for the same people. A job he doesn’t particularly enjoy doing. One day he’s tasked to collect the soul of an innocent. He does the one thing no Collector has ever done before: he refuses. It all goes to hell from there.

I’m not kidding about the going to hell part. I’ve read a lot of thrillers, a lot of fantasy stories that told us damnation is just around the corner, so many books where the big bad is just one step behind our hero, and never have I actually felt that it really was the case as strongly as I felt it in Dead Harvest.

What makes almost every situation the characters find themselves in, and every new character that is introduced so exciting is how Collectors interact with the world of the living. They have to posses bodies, dead and living alike. Or as the Collectors like to call them, Meatsuits. Already early on Sam gets warned that if he doesn’t collect the girl soon, other Collectors will come to finish the job for him. From that moment on, the action doesn’t let up. Any humanoid character that you meet could suddenly get taken over by a Collector. A fact that the author, Chris F. Holm, is absolutely aware of. There were parts where I felt that same amount of tension and awe that I had when I first was introduced to the T1000, years ago. The bad guy could be anyone, and the bad guy came across as an unstoppable monster that just would not let up.

The characters were quite well realized, although you don’t really learn much about most of them besides Sam Thornton and his past, and Kate, the girl who he was sent to collect. We get to learn a few vague details about the setting and how things are set up in the eternal conflict between heaven and hell, but nothing really concrete. I would have loved to learn more about these things, but I feel they’re going to be set aside for the later books as this is a first in the series.

I know it’s early to say this, but so far this has been my favorite book this year. Where most would say that a book is so great they didn’t sleep until they finished it, I found myself reading more slowly, spreading it through a week or so, just to have more time to get lost within the setting and with the characters. As much as the suspense was killing me, I just didn’t want it to end.

PROS

  • The entire helicopter part 
  • How the concept of Collectors and souls was worked out
  • Bishop

CONS

  • Not much detail about the conflict between heaven and hell found its way into the story, despite it being important to the overal plot

[Review] Hyrule Historia

Hyrule Historia book cover

Nintendo has done the impossible with the Legend of Zelda franchise. For over 25 years, they’ve sold the same basic story to millions of fans repeatedly. This is not even a bad thing; The Legend of Zelda is a series that has always been released with such sincerity that the magic has not once faded from it. With each new release, the charm is still there. Nintendo has created a cricle of trust with its fans. The fans know what they’re getting with each title, and the creators know what the fans want. Since Ocarina of Time, the fans have discussed the timeline, seeking confirmation from Nintendo about their theories. Now Nintendo has delivered it in the form of the Hyrule Historia.

I’m not going to give away much about the timeline in my review. Don’t worry. If you’re a fan and haven’t read it yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you’ve come across the timelines page spread across the internet, don’t worry, there’s more to it than just the bare timelines page.

Hyrule Historia divided into three parts, four if you include the manga in the back. The first quarter solely focusses on the artwork from Skyward Sword, since it’s not only the most recent title in the series, but is also one of the titles that mostly plays into the fact that there is storyline to the Zelda universe.

The second quarter is all about the timeline, laying down all the games and detailing the important parts of all the games to get a broad sense of the storyline.

The rest of Hyrule Historia, a good half of the book, is artwork for the franchise. Including a lot of concept art that never made it into the games.

As much as I enjoyed reading the timeline, I really found myself loving the concept art in the second half of the book. A lot of the concept art of areas and gameplay elements not used in the final games found their way in, which was especially interesting in the case of games like Wind Waker and Spirit Tracks. There’s a lot of variations of styles for Link in games that were never used. A lot of strange and interesting characters that could have walked Hyrule but never did. And a bare-chested design for Tingle that I thankfully never saw in a game.

The timeline itself surprised me at points. Before diving into the actual book itself, I never looked up the timeline when it was officially announced. I’m glad I didn’t, because without the chapters explaining it, it felt strange for the way it splits. But even with a little thought towards why it went down the way it ended up doing, I can accept it happily. I am wondering what direction the series is going to head into though. It feels as though the entire reason they finally give us an explanation to the timelines is because, looking at each one respectively, they’ve all reached a similar point.

It’s interesting how big a deal the timeline has become amongst fans of the Zelda series while, especially now that the entire thing is put down in front of us, it’s very clear it was never intended to really be the main focus of the series. A lot of the choices made in the story make it very clear that most of the connections and choices are made up as they go along. Again, not a criticism, since it’s handled incredibly rare. Near the end of the book, one of the people behind the series, Eiiji Aonuma even admits the main focus is exploring the hardware’s functionality, with the story as an after-thought.

Maybe that’s why Zelda has managed to still feel like you’re actually out there exploring something new to this day. That sense of exploration is still there from the side of the developers, and in their excitement, they try to distill as many ways to carry that feeling over to the player.

A lot of the art, story details, and general ideas within the Legend of Zelda franchise went right over my head the first time I played most of them. I love exploring games with good, strong settings, and usually do my best to find everything it has to offer, no matter how well hidden. Reading Hyrule Historia made it clear to me how much more there is hidden away in those games. Even teaching new things to a Zelda die-hard like myself.

There’s no way around it. If you’re a fan of the Zelda series, the Hyrule Historia is something you should read at least once. It’s an amazing collection of art and facts about a game franchise that has always been crafted full of amazing art styles and an incredible attention to detail. Absolutely worth the money.

PROS

  •  The 25th Anniversary Illustration
  •  Way the timeline is handled
  • All that artwork

CONS

  •  Barechest Tingle. I could have lived happily without seeing that.
  • Some details are hinted at in a manner that makes it seem Nintendo still wants to be able to deny having acknowledged it.