Monday, May 29

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Once again we're off to the high seas for a bit of piratey fun! I'm always so excited about these movies and I've made sure to stay clear of the spoilers before I go, as it provides me with the most sincere experience that I can have without being affected by opinions or plot points. That being said, I unexpectedly went onto YouTube on the morning of the movie release, and an ad for the film was running. I thought nothing of the seemly random explosions and swashbuckling as I browsed, but then out of nowhere they decided to show more than what I was wanting to see! Indeed it was a lesson, and in the future I will be more cautious. Despite that, I was still extremely happy that the day had finally arrived, and it's always so wonderful to have another adventure with our favorite pirates.

Dead Men Tell No Tales was no exception. It was filled with thrilling action and gorgeous CG that's so good that there really isn't anything to nitpick about (most movies these days are like that). The colors were brilliant, and I absolutely adored the turquoise and slate palettes that the artists chose for the promotional artwork as well.

One thing that I did notice about this particular movie was that it seemed a bit darker than the other stories. There was a lot more implied brutality, and even Salazar's rage was quite foreboding. I've admired that, being a Disney franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean has kept it pretty lighthearted up until now, but this movie definitely reminded us about the true nature of those times. It was not an easy life for a pirate. These days I'm not into violence as a form of entertainment, but it's pretty hard to separate the two. Alas, pirates and violence go hand in hand. Perhaps that duality will always exist in our world. Or maybe one day we'll only need that form of expression via a vicarious experience like movies, TV, and games. In the meantime I'll take what I can get, but perhaps in the very near future Aaron and I can just go to the Caribbean and meet our needs directly: awesome clothes, tall ships, freedom, treasure hunting, white sands, and the horizon.

☠ Claudia

Thursday, May 25

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

What's behind door number two?

Facing darkness is most often a spiritual or philosophical endeavor, but as we navigate the corridors of the planet Aether, we learn that Samus has a far more literal confrontation before her. It would be best to let the events unfold for the player on their own, but suffice it to say that this adventure is steeped in the duality of light and dark. That reality of Nature is a subject that Claudia and I frequent in our conversations, and so the beauty that can be found in both sides of this game can inspire one to think about the same in our own experience.

Echoes turns out to be the longest game in the Metroid series. Scheduling time to reach our 97% completion rate in 23 hours, 40 minutes proved a little tricky; regardless, here we are with one remaining chapter to conclude the Trilogy before we return to the main storyline. Ironically, this review may also be one of the shortest in our marathon.

Metroid Prime: Echoes expands upon everything Prime began for the series. Imagery is detailed and vast: environments are more expansive and organic, boldly offsetting the presence of technology. Color usage is brilliant, and is something that Claudia noted several times. The game's matching soundscape sings of a world revered by those who call it home, or at times pulls at the depths of darkness for something familiar but very different.

Oddly enough, the cinematic nature of Echoes seems a bit lacking compared to my memory. Despite her hardened personality (that was possibly the aim of the developers), Samus seems inhumanly cold and callous during the majority of moments throughout her stay on Aether, regardless of the situation. Although Echoes surpasses Prime in many ways, it would've been refreshing to see Samus act more human. Even through silence, a character can speak volumes, and she didn't create much credit for our species.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- The excellence in controls continues with the Trilogy version of Echoes. The Wii motion controls are spot on for every chapter of the Prime series, and this one is just as perfect.

- The story presentation in Prime 2 is deeper, and more elaborate. Save for Other M, every Metroid game to date has very limited interaction with other characters. Echoes is one of the first to break this trend, having a living indigenous ambassador of another species who communicates with Samus. The Luminoth are an intriguing, enlightened people.

- Visuals push the GameCube even more with textures and particles. The ground broken in Metroid Prime was stellar; however, Echoes takes textures, particles and the more elaborate use of polygons further. In certain "rooms" of the map, the terrain opens up to reveal massive expanses, usually placing Samus at the precipice of shear cliffs, to beautiful effect.

- Design work for creatures is very creative, and some enemy behaviors are more complex, providing greater challenges to the player. The guardian battles were an interesting way of recovering Samus' abilities. Yes, again: it's a Metroid thing.

- The menu system is new and more detailed, and shows the current percentages of subcategories within the hierarchy to help visualize how complete the logbook is. The design of the file structure is something I've found unique to Echoes.

- Music and sound design are both as expertly executed as in the first Prime. The overall atmosphere has a more spiritual but ominous feel that compliments the visuals. Speaking of ominous visuals....


Cons

- The atmosphere in Echoes is the darkest yet. While presented with prowess and surreal beauty, that potency has very real spiritual connotations, and can affect the player in underlying ways. Every creation reveals what lives within its creator.

- While the visual presentation in Echoes exudes the same expertise that has become synonymous with Retro Studios, we did notice something very surprising: the skybox used to give Echoes some of the most expansive scenery in the series has two serious flaws in the forms of incredibly low image resolution and a noticeable texture seam near the bottom.

- Although Samus' suit designs in Echoes were striking and unique, her proportions were painfully exaggerated in some cases: I believe "wack" was the term Claudia used.

- Again, Samus' behavior during certain cinematic moments was disappointing. There's a human in there! We would've liked to see her show that more. Corruption does a better job with story, and Metroid: Other M is the most cinematic chapter of the series, so it's nice that future titles will improve upon portraying Samus as a believable, feeling human being.


Light and dark are within all things, and we will expand our consciousness based on each of our experiences with this duality. Our time with Metroid Prime: Echoes has done this for us also, and we have grown as a result.

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

Monday, May 1

All-One Dream

"All-One Dream"

Where are the walls of the worlds
The surface of one dream to the next
Touch the veil and the waves expand
Step through reflections unfurled

Can the chill reach the third sight
Night visions blur upon the inverse
Creation costs only the truest love
Blinding black embraces white light

When will it see the dreams done
Senses soak the soul in experience
Departure awakens the next realm
Levels dawn toward the All-One

- Aaron -

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