Announced in July of last year, Halo Legends is an animated anthology that gives five of Japan’s top animation studios a chance to expand on the fiction of Microsoft’s beloved franchise. Studio 4°C, Production I.G, Casio Entertainment, Toei Animation, and Bones (read more about them in Ash’s studio guide!) have all had their way with the Master Chief, producing seven short animated features that explore everything from the Forerunners’ sacrifice to the shadowy nature of the original SPARTAN-II program.
Variety is always nice, but combining several disparate quality ingredients isn’t always a recipe for success. Does Halo Legends present a satisfying mix, or will it leave a bad taste in your mouth?
The Duel: Far and away the best short of the DVD, The Duel is essentially the origin story for the Arbiter, explaining how the name became a term denoting both shame and honour among Covenant Elites. It's a touching tale of defiance and revenge, animated in striking style by director Hiroshi Yamazaki, who employed a filter that made the animation look as if it were hand painted with watercolors. Simply gorgeous.
The Package: A group of Spartans led by MC himself embark on a mission to secure a package from the midst of a Covenant fleet. While the story (particularly the ending) should bring a grin to the faces of Halo fans, especially those familiar with the origin of Cortana, the star of this piece is definitely the CG graphics. The Package is the one short on the DVD that shows Spartan soldiers completely kicking arse, aided by the fluid animations afforded by the 3D graphics. I grinned like an idiot when the team stormed through the Covenant flagship. I might have even whooped, but I admit nothing.
Homecoming: A rather depressing tale that touches on one of humanity's darker moments in the Halo Universe, Homecoming weaves together two tales. As female Spartan Kelly helps extract a team of Marines from a hot zone, she reminisces about her days in the SPARTAN-II program. Torn from her family at a young age, Kelly escapes the program as a teen, only to be shocked when she learns the truth behind her childhood abduction. Very touching, and very dark, Homecoming is one of this collection's true gems.
Odd One Out: The only non-canon tale on the DVD features the whacky adventures of SPARTAN 1337, a hapless fellow who falls out of a Pelican transport ship and into adventure! Odd One Out parodies both the Halo Universe and some of Toei Animation's own creations, and is the only light-hearted short of the bunch. It's hilarious, especially after watching some of the more sombre pieces before it, and quite welcome. Just watch out for the pet Tyrannosaurus.
Origins: Here's where my perception and knowledge of the Halo universe weighs heavily on my opinion. For those unfamiliar with the Halo story, these two shorts (Origins I and II) provide a nice overview of the series' fiction, from the Forerunners first run in with The Flood to the rebirth of that ancient enemy eons later, after the universe is shaken like a giant Etch-A-Sketch. To someone well-versed in franchise fiction, this is Cortana talking about things we already know about for what seems like forever.
Prototype: A tale of redemption from Studio Bones, that simply didn't sit well with me, which is odd, as I generally like what the company puts out. While the main story, featuring a marine going against orders in order to save his fellow soldiers, was interesting enough, I felt the emotional framing sequence was somewhat out of place. Perhaps is events and characters alluded to in the opening and closing parts had been more fleshed out it would have clicked, but as it stands it feels as if there wasn't enough time to tell this story.
The Babysitter: The story of a group of ODSTs sent to eliminate a Prophet with the aid of a SPARTAN-II, The Babysitter just didn't grab me in any way. The characters weren't exactly likeable, and the big reveal at the end fell flat, perhaps due to a certain Nintendo franchise making any quiet person in full body armour suspect. You'll understand what I mean when you see it.
Even with three of the shorts failing to impress me, the more compelling stories and overall quality of the presentation are more than enough for me to recommend the DVD to any fan of the franchise. Littered with character, story, and even musical references to games in the series, it's an entertaining expansion of the Halo Universe which should help players pass the time before Halo Reach hits stores later this year.
Halo Legends was directed by Frank O'Connor and Joseph Chou and distributed by Warner Bros Pictures on February 16. Retails for $US34.99 (Blu-ray), $US29.98 (2-Disc DVD) and $US19.98 (Single Disc). A copy of the single disc version was given to us by the distributor for reviewing purposes.
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