Halo Legends (2010) Reviews online.
For someone who has not played or experienced Halo, I was of two minds about looking at this one. If I saw it in the store I probably wouldn’t have bothered. That would have been my mistake. Like many other commentators have suggested, I quickly came to the view that the Halo Legends release is akin to the relationship between The Animatrix and The Matrix series: a series of side-stories and background stories to supplement the actual game. I can understand the strategic intentions of Microsoft to bring the now-established Halo franchise to a wider audience than just the gamers. Halo Legends brings together seven stories (in eight parts) as short movies, each part being about 15 minutes in length. The movies are produced by different anime companies, many of which most anime fans will already be familiar with — Toei, Production IG, Studio Bones, Studio 4°C, Casio Entertainment are the line-up here. I also got the impression very quickly that Halo itself is a very serious game with a strong, almost epic, storyline.
Each story, with one exception, was very serious yet grabbed my attention and I ended up enjoying each of them even without the background knowledge. The remaining one was less-serious, almost comedy-like, with a lot to smile about as the unlucky Spartan tries to reunite with his ship after falling off. The stories usually relate to the Master Chief either as the main character or as an observer. With only 15 minutes per movie, there isn’t any opportunity to provide character development so you will see many characters only briefly.
Each story has a specific purpose, such as providing history of the Halo system, development of the Spartan program, and relationships between the Spartans and other soldiers. As a new entrant to Halo, I found each story intriguing; but I’d think the more experienced would find some interesting while others not so. From a visual side, each story had an entirely different look and feel to it. Some appeared to be almost traditional animation style (Prototype, Origins I and II, Homecoming, The Babysitter); some had a very computer-generated rendering with several “John Woo” moments (The Package); and one had a traditional painted look that appeared to be at first off-putting but, once familiar with the context of the story, worked very well (The Duel).
The diversity of visuals was appealing in my view for the purposes of an anthology as I was able to see and appreciate the different approaches taken by each studio. The Package was directed by Shinji Aramaki, who brought us (in collaboration with John Woo) Appleseed Ex-Machina. The similarities between the two in approach are obvious. Presented in 1080p (native resolution) on Blu-Ray, the visuals had no issues of blocking, colour banding or artefacts. It was, quite simply, good to watch.
The Blu-Ray release comes with a wide variety of audio tracks, each presented in Dolby Digital HD 5.1. Primary listening this time was with the English track and the characters came across as one would expect: The Master Chief was tough; the soldiers were tough and brash; the Covenant were tough. On second watching I listened to the Japanese track and got the same impressions. The music, what there was of it, had the martial and military characteristics I’d expect from something like Halo. A range of extras was also provided, including the making of each short film; an explanation of the evolution of Halo; and commentary by the Directors. Of most benefit to me was the a 30 minute background and history of Halo from its beginnings.
Many concepts and ideas were explained in this feature and I got an appreciation of the depth and effort put in by the producers of Halo to come up with a strong story. The bottom line: if you have played and like Halo then I’d think you’ll like this release and I’d suspect you already have it. If you haven’t, this is probably a good first step into the franchise (as it was for me).
Solid 3 stars for what was a good anthology that supports an ongoing gaming franchise which, I’d expect, has a strong following.