Friday, June 22, 2007

Sudden Shock: Baldr Force EXE Resolution

I have a lot more time than most, what with being unemployed (or unemployable), yet I am mostly behind. Chalk it up to a pre-obsolete laptop and what passed for state of the art laptop storage oh…5 years ago. I've had to resort to borrowing a desktop for good and for awesome, but only on condition that I be removed should that PC be required for actual work.

Despite gasping for disk space, I did manage to free up about 250 MB by disposing of a few game replays and highlight reel AVI's, although I will miss some truly golden moments. Incidentally, 250 MB is enough to fit the concluding episode of Baldr Force EXE Resolution as subbed by Kiss-Sub.

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I was initially holding out for Megami subs, and then proceeded to forget Baldr Force in its entirety because, well, Megami stalled. I was reminded by a little note in my head, as if forwarded to my future self, only that it was delayed by over a month, kind of like those pathological cases back in the old days of ICQ (and SMS today). I'm getting old.

Episode 4: Remnants of the FLAK ForcesEpisode 4: Remnants of the FLAK Forces

What's disconcerting at first is the mecha design. More functional than pretty, simulacrums look and sound clunky. Primary surface movement is accomplished by sliding around, not unlike roller skates. However, there is little combat, and battles are not of the epic, pitched variety. Rather, they are brief skirmishes. That's not to say that actual tactics get employed; firefights are won by simple means such as enemy incompetence and vastly superior firepower.

Soukou no Strain demonstrated the effect of a first episode body count consisting of potentially significant characters. While Baldr Force doesn't kill off such characters, the first episode is graphic in terms of how they die. In the first noticed inconsistency, exploding heads don't make an appearance in the last episode.

In another hand-waving moment, it seems that the Big Bad can be selective in who it kills. The problem is, it spares the lives of characters in an inconsistent, but very convenient, manner.

Onii-chan! He's so going to die. I mean, people who turn Shinji in the last episode are asking for it. Right? Right?!

The story is pretty simple. See if you can take a guess as to what transpires from the following list: rebels, a conspiracy involving child experiments, virtual reality. What's more interesting, and unpleasant is the world. The four episodes give a tour of the slum living that results when most of the population decides that it's too hard to clean up after themselves, and since the wired world is arbitrarily clean…

Expanding upon anything is a tall order when only given four episodes, so it's not really a surprise that Baldr Force relies on shock value. Shocking things happen, and then…what? If said shocking thing happens to be part of a plot, side or main, then it gets wrapped up, which is better than leaving things hanging, in this case. If it's something like exploding heads, then nothing happens. As a matter of fact, as mentioned before, it doesn't come up again.

Overlooking convenient plot devices and inconsistencies, episode four as a standalone unit was intense. When KOTOKO's Face of Fact opened for other episodes, it was some dreamy, watered down version, and watering down an already average (for KOTOKO) song just isn't right. Face of Fact appears in its original mix in an epic (and lop-sided) large-scale engagement. It's like flipping on God Mode: you know it's cheap and gratuitous but it doesn't matter, because KOTOKO is singing in the background.

It's also not every day that you see something like in that picture above. Sharp rows of teeth and blood make me squeamish. Never mind that the whole sequence was oddly irrelevant and even the scenes afterward made no sense (how does touching an artifact revert a monster when it's stated that they have to be stabbed in order to have any effect?), I don't do well around horror scenes, so you can guess what I'm really not watching from this spring season.

Because of drive constraints I don't have the first three episodes anymore, but I wouldn't keep the series anyway. There are better series with virtual reality settings, but Baldr Force might be of interest if you've played the game(s?).