Archive for January, 2016

X Files

In late summer of 1996, I was 14 years old. I had never had access to a Fox channel, but knew through word of mouth about The X-Files. It was shortly after school started back that my parents purchased a satellite dish (one of those big monsters that you had to move from satellite to satellite and with which you could pick up off air news-feeds). I wasted no time getting in on this phenomenon I had heard so much about.

The first episode I ever saw was Home. Is it any wonder that I fell in love with The X-Files. I watched it religiously from that point through the disappointing finale, while catching up on reruns when I could (this was before the days of buying a season on DVD or finding it on Netflix). Imagine my excitement when I found nearly all the VHS tapes on sale at a Wal-Mart for about $3.00 each. I could finally catch up on the mythology of the series, as well as seeing classic episodes such as Squeeze, Tooms, and Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.

X Files - VHS

These used to be magical, and didn’t remind me that I’m old.

When the show went off the air and the second movie came out as a standalone story, I just assumed that we’d never get resolution to the 2012 invasion that was revealed in the finale. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been happier to be wrong about something. Last Sunday (January 24th), The X-Files once again graced our television screens. I’m not sure I could have enjoyed it more.

Some points to keep in mind coming into this new story, regarding the mythology of the series:

  • In Season 5, it was revealed that an alien invasion would come via a black alien ooze that caused a creature to incubate within those afflicted with it
  • The Syndicate (the Cigarette Smoking Man and his compadres) were working with these aliens in order to, essentially, save themselves and try to create a vaccine against the ooze
  • Alien rebels were working to stop this invasion, but the Syndicate opposed them. Possible to save themselves and possibly because they felt the rebels stood no chance.
  • The invasion is nearly upon us in Season 6, but the rebels kill the Syndicate and short circuit the plan, leaving on the CSM alive.
  • The invading aliens then shift to creating super soldiers because reasons.
  • Scully and Mulder have a super weird baby.
  • The CSM informs Mulder that the invasion is happening in 2012, then gets shot with a missile. Mulder and Scully share a moment in a hotel room. Fade to black.
  • A second film adds nothing to this story.

Okay, you’re all caught up now. It’s convoluted, but I’ve always felt that it was pretty concrete through Season 6. After that, it feels like Chris Carter couldn’t really figure out where to go and just threw ideas at the wall, hoping something would stick.

The premiere of Season 10 opens with Mulder and Scully separated (they were an item in the second film). Scully works in a hospital. I’ve no idea what Mulder does other than watch Jimmy Kimmel on Youtube. A popular internet show host contacts them regarding a conspiracy he believes he has uncovered. This brings them to a woman claiming to have been abducted multiple times. Scully takes some blood from the woman while Mulder is shown an ARV (Alien Replica Vehicle) which, admittedly, is pretty cool. It is being built in secret by some scientists based on alien technology.

The most impactful plot element of the episode occurs when Mulder visits the woman again and she admits that it was men that take her. Mulder (with some minor confirmation from a source that was at the original Roswell crash) comes to the conclusion that it has been men, masquerading as aliens, that have been guilty of abducting people for 50+ years. This is going to ultimately lead to a takeover of the country by these men, through the use of fear and manipulation. It’s quite a leap. The episode closes with the woman at the center of the story being killed by a flying saucer, the ARV being destroyed by men in army uniforms, and the reveal of the CSM making a phone call, stating that the X-Files had been reopened.

X Files - CSM

How could we have possibly seen his reveal coming???

Firstly, let me say that the chemistry between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny is perfect. It’s been nearly 15 years, but you would never guess it by watching this episode. Secondly, regarding the story line of the premier, there is quite a bit to digest in this episode. Primarily, the revelation that men have been behind abductions (mostly) for over 50 years and are part of a larger plan bent on power and domination. The largest criticism of this turn of events is that the show threw 9 years of plot away by creating an entirely new explanation for UFO’s, abductions, and the like. Not that the show discarded aliens, just that they changed the role aliens have had in the story, that they were actually drawn to Earth by the atom bomb and were concerned for our welfare. This is tough to reconcile with the long running invasion plot, and lends credence to the charge that Chris Carter has trashed the story with 10 minutes of dialogue. This is a fair criticism, and I understand where it comes from (I mean, Mulder outright stated that maybe all they had done had been a lie), but I’m not buying it…yet.

X Files - Poster

Of course, maybe this was representative of what they were figuratively doing to the story.

Let’s recap again. In seasons 5 and 6, as well as in Fight the Future, we see alien incubation happen. We see attacks by the rebels. We see the Syndicate, along with their families, assemble in a warehouse, expecting to be taken away by the invading aliens. This can’t be dismissed by a few lines in the newest episode. Now, I may be proven wrong when the second mythology based episode airs in a few weeks, but I believe this newest revelation has to work in conjunction with the plot lines we’ve already seen in past episodes. One invasion has already failed due to the rebels. I believe we can assume that the second was thwarted as well, though we don’t know why. It could also be that the CSM was simply lying in the finale. That has been his prerogative multiple times in the past. Why should that prediction be taken as the gospel? At this point, there’s simply too much that we don’t know about what’s going on behind the scenes of the show’s mythology. I do have faith, however, that Chris Carter and others involved with the show wouldn’t, on a whim, ignore all that they have written in the past. Maybe I’m giving them all too much credit or am just a foolish optimist. We can only wait and see. At least no one can accuse me of taking the show too seriously…

 

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Hyrule Warriors - Title

First off, I have never played a Dynasty Warriors title, so when Hyrule Warriors was announced as a sort of hybrid of the two franchises, I literally had no clue what to expect. As more trailers and gameplay segments were released though, it continued to pique my interest, and I ultimately ended up owning it (Thanks, Christmas!). The question is, does it hold up well in the Zelda franchise?

The Set-up:
You are Link…well, initially you are Link. You will eventually be Impa, Zelda, Midna, Ruto, and a whole other cast of characters from all walks of the Legend of Zelda games. An evil force has invaded Hyrule, and you, along with the other good guys, begin a journey to stop it in its tracks. Along with the numerous familiar heroes you’ll control, there are also an equal number of villains that make an appearance, ranging from the “big guys” such as Ghirahim, to more minor foes such as Dodongo and Lizalfos. Each character has a different weapon to use (along with upgrades and weapon augments), and attacks vary, meaning that there is some variety in the combat, which is crucial since this game is VERY combat-centric.

Hyrule Warriors - Enemies

Maybe they just want to talk.

The Story:
The game begins with a large army invading Hyrule in an effort to take Hyrule Castle. The army is led by Cia, a new character, and her generals Volga, a flame-breathing dragon warrior, and Wizzro, an annoying as hell purple clad wizard, reminiscent of the Wizzrobes from the original Legend of Zelda (who were probably his inspiration). Cia is a sorceress, and guardian of the Triforce, maintaining balance. For reasons that aren’t initially clear, she has abandoned her post and is seeking to overtake Hyrule. Link, a trainee in the Hyrulean army, joins the battle, only to discover he possesses the Triforce of Courage.

In spite of a valiant effort, and a victorious battle with the giant Dodongo, Zelda is found to be missing at the conclusion of the battle. Impa asks for Link’s assistance in finding her, and they then journey throughout Hyrule, meeting up with the mysterious Sheik (we all know Sheik is Zelda by now, so don’t pretend that’s a surprise) and Lana, another sorceress from the same clan as Cia, only serving the side of good, assisting Link and Impa in their battles.

The story deepens when Cia opens a Time Portal to different eras of Hyrule, bringing the villains of those eras to her side. However, when these are opened, heroes from those eras arrive as well, assisting Link, Impa, Sheik, and Lana. Deepening this game’s ties to the Zelda franchise, each character is encountered in their specific era. For example, both Midna and Zant are encountered during a battle on the Twilight Field and Palace of Twilight maps. It’s obvious that great care was taken when designing the story to treat these characters with respect, and remain true to each of their origins.

Hyrule Warriors - Imprisoned

True to his original appearance, the Imprisoned is just as aggravating here as in Skyward Sword.

Much to my surprise, I felt that the story of Hyrule Warriors was quite strong, more in depth than many of the main entries’ stories, frankly. It wasn’t one dimensional, or straight-forward, but revealed a bit more with each battle you complete. This doesn’t mean that it stands up beside narrative powerhouses such as NIER or a Final Fantasy entry, but for a game that is, at its heart, a hack-n-slash, it was impressive that a cohesive story exists at all.

The Gameplay:
This game is most definitely a hack-n-slash title. You take control of a character, attack hordes of enemies with your weapon, rinse and repeat. This sounds boring and redundant, but it is spiced up with the inclusion of secondary weapons such as the boomerang, bombs, and bow & arrow. Fortunately, most enemies are taken down in one or two attacks, so you never feel overwhelmed, despite being attacked by hundreds of enemies. Harder enemies will require some strategy to take down, mainly consisting of dodging attacks, and waiting for a weak point gauge to be revealed. Reduce this to trigger a stronger attack with your character. Most bosses can only be harmed via this method. It must be noted that some characters have multiple weapons to choose from for each stage, and stronger versions of those weapons can be collected by defeating enemies.

One last element added to spice up the gameplay is the collection of items, much like the collection process in Skyward Sword. Collect a certain number of particular items, and you can unlock, or buy, various upgrades that increase attack power, add the ability to use health potions, strengthen secondary weapon attacks, etc… This is both fun to use and tedious at the same time. Some needed items are only dropped by bosses, and completing a level just to not receive the item you were after can be aggravating.

Hyrule Warriors - Strategy

Pictured: Strategy

Now, so far I’ve only spoken of the story mode (which includes free-play of levels once they are completed, with other characters). Also included are challenge maps (some are DLC only) that appear as overworld maps in the style of the NES Legend of Zelda. Each square has certain rules or requirements that make each battle unique. These can be very short, or as long as a story level. To unlock adjacent level blocks, you must achieve a certain ranking (bronze/silver/gold) in the current level. Again, the ranking is based on differing factors (enemies killed and time in story mode, any number of factors on the challenge maps). These maps unlock stronger weapons, different outfits, and even some new characters you may play as, so I never considered them optional in the slightest, though I imagine some people will.

Conclusions:
Hyrule Warriors is most definitely not for everyone. I can deal with redundant combat and levels, so I quite enjoyed the game, but if you prefer variety, such as you would find in the Arkham games, this is not the game for you. But then, this game doesn’t ever apologize for what it is. It is very much what you see is what you get. You’re never fooled into thinking that you’re getting a full-fledged Zelda adventure. This is a Dynasty Warriors game with a Zelda skin. At the end of the day, it appealed to my love of the hack-n-slash genre and my need to collect as much as possible in a game. There is also an odd benefit to a game such as this. It’s the type of game you can take a break from for weeks, then fall right back into. There are no complex button sequences to memorize, or the risk of forgetting where you are in the story and where you should go next. Again, this will be frowned upon by some, but I rather liked that aspect. Is this a great Legend of Zelda game? No, but it never really tries to be like other Zelda games. When judged by its own standards and not against the Legend of Zelda franchise, I think it stands up as a very good game.

Hyrule Warriors - Chickens

The game clearly takes itself very seriously.