Cartoons · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

My Problem With Voltron: Legendary Defender and Its Writing

I’m an avid fan of Voltron:  Legendary Defender, if my past reviews of a few of the seasons isn’t any indication.  Recently, seasons 6 and 7 dropped rather close together:  Season 6 on June 15, and season 7 on August 10.  Now usually I write reviews about each season, but for these past 2 I didn’t (I had my computer out of commission for season 6, but that’s beside the point).  I held off reviewing both seasons because honestly, there wouldn’t be much else I’d say about it that I haven’t already said.  I enjoyed it, plot points met their assumed conclusion, and new ones came up…only to be resolved rather quickly.

For me, this has been an ongoing issue with VLD.  There’s a lot of good character work, and the plot is interesting, with lulls here and there.  But it always brings itself back to being what it started as at its core:  a space opera, with drama, character development, and awesome mecha action scenes.

 

But can the show evolve past this point?  I’ve found myself asking this, especially with the last 2 seasons.  Season 7 was a full 13 episode season as well, and I feel like we’ve just gone back to status quo, as far as the characters are concerned.  Can the writing get past the basic premise of Form Voltron, save the universe?
I’m going to be talking about plot and character specific stuff beyond this point, so if you’re not caught up with Voltron:  The Legendary Defender, don’t read past this point.

 

Spoilers!  Spoilers!  Proceed at your Own Risk!!!

 

So the biggest plot points I’d like to address as far as the issue of not taking risks when writing are the Pidge’s search for her Dad plot, the Evil/Clone Shiro Plot, and the Lotor’s deception Plots.  All three of these aren’t the only plots I feel like the writing could have been better with, but they’re the biggest ones that I think had the most missed opportunities’ with them.

 

The Search For Pidge’s Family

 

I forget which season Pidge actually finds her Father, but there was such a big build up to this plot point.  We find out Pidge’s brother and Father went missing a few years before in season 1, and her entire story arc for the first half of the series is her drive to find them, wherever they are.  Through intel from Lotor, she finds out their location, goes on a hunt to find them, and ultimately does find them.  Her Father has been captive in the Galra Empire for the past few years, building tech for them.  In the end there was a skirmish  that resulted in saving Papa Pidge, but like…to me it would have been a lot more interesting if perhaps, there were more stakes than saving him?

 

 

What if it turned out that Sam had been indoctrinated into the Galra Empire, and used as a sleeper agent or mole?  Then they send him back to Pidge, and he’s secretly sending them intel from the other side of the war.  Pidge finds out, and has to make a tough choice of what to do with her Father.  She has to re-evaluate whether or not looking for him was the right choice.  Maybe she should have never gone down this path?  But instead, Sam is just instantly good, he’s saved, and no harm no fowl for our heroes.

 

Along with that plot, why couldn’t Matt, Pidge’s brother actually be dead?  There were so many red herrings that pointed to just that, but ultimately, once again, oh wait Matt is alive and all is well, he’s ready to help Voltron! I’m not saying every plot has to end in doom and gloom, but making some of the characters morally gray, or not what they seem would make the Voltron Paladin’s have to rethink and refocus, growing more as characters, and reacting differently to situations in a way that isn’t just them being the heroes of the story.  This constant cycle of the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad doesn’t work all of the time and it feels like the writers just want to keep it that way, with scarce reasons to throw a wrench in the main characters plans by shaking it up a bit with supporting characters that are actually close to them.

 

And on that note…

 

 

The Shiro Clone Saga

 

Voltron likes to build up multi season long arcs, and end them almost instantly as soon as the actual details are revealed.  We had this plot thread of what’s up with Shiro?  For 2 to 3 seasons and as soon as the cat came out of the bag, the thread was wrapped up in a matter of three episodes.  We found out Shiro is a clone, oh no!  That’s fine, cuz Kieth fought him and brought him back.  After that, we find out Shiro’s soul has been hanging out in the Black Lion, how will we get him out?  Oh Allura is magicXmachina, it’s fine.  She got him out literally in the last five minutes of the final episode of season 6.  Then in the first episode of season 7, he wakes up and is back to normal, all be it his soul is now in the clone body because his is missing…or something.

 

And all I have to say about this is, why couldn’t evil clone Shiro have been a full or half season arc?  After all of that build up, why was this story resolved in four episodes?  In season 7 after Shiro wakes up, all we get from it is a few jokes here and there but nothing more.  Real Shiro is back, it’s fine!  Don’t stop watching the show fans, it’s ok.  I mean I’m only half kidding here, with how they rush things that is indeed how some of these plots feel.  The characters don’t have time to react to their trauma, or plot developments, and the audience is just left wondering how they feel.  It’s sloppy writing, and makes the show a bit confusing as far as it’s themes go:  Does it want to be an ensemble character piece, showing these characters fighting through a centuries long universal war and growing and dealing with it?  Or does it just want to use its characters as the engine for the plot.  Either thing is fine, but trying to do both and only do both halfway is a bit jarring.

 

Lotor’s Deception

 

This leads into my next and final point.  The characters, when faced with a problem, never react in a way you wouldn’t expect them to.  There is never any sort of second guessing, never any doubt.  Allura, after being shown that Lotor was using and lying to her, instantly went gasp!  How dare you!  I’m totally on the side of my friends!

 

Lotor and Allura had a teased romantic relationship, to the point where the two have them shared the first on scene kiss.  So why, when confronted with the information that Lotor was lying to her, didn’t she ask Lotor to explain?  Why wasn’t she like wait guys, I have an emotional attachment to this character, why don’t we slow down and figure out what’s going on before turning on him.  She finds out this information right after the kiss too, so I feel like she would be a little more cloudy with her judgement.  But, we need to get to the season finale, so she just instantly believes her friends and turns on Lotor.  All in all some interesting character growth that could have been stretched a bit longer, but wasn’t.  It was rather disappointing, and even though I still adore Allura, why can’t she grow as a character through events in the plot happening to her?

 

And that is my main problem with the overall writing in Voltron: Legendary Defender.  It isn’t willing to take risks.  Why can’t we have dynamic character moments not linked to forming Voltron.  Why can’t our characters grow, and learn from their mistakes?  It just shows that our characters never had anything to learn, and overall this plot is about saving the universe, not them evolving into better people while saving the universe.

 

I won’t say that no character has grown:  Lance, Keith, and Hunk especially have grown as far as outward character traits.  But there’s no internal character growth there we see through them reacting to external plot events, every character who started out good remains good, and every evil character stays evil.  I didn’t mention this, but why couldn’t Lotor also be morally gray?  It seemed like they were going to go that route with him, but then they decided not to and make him the typical power hungry evil person.  Which, we already had with Zarcon, so why have more of the same?  Sure Lotor was different in their motivations, but ultimately they both ended the same way:  their narrow minded focus on getting what they want, when they want it.
That also is a problem with the show.  There’s a lot of flip flopping with our characters motivations, that doesn’t feel like it’s as much a fault with the characters, but a fault with the writing.  Or perhaps the format of the show?  Maybe the six to seven episode format has hindered the story telling, because I really don’t feel like this was a problem in seasons 1 and 2.  But who knows, maybe if I went back to those seasons I’d see those problems there.

 

Voltron:  The Legendary Defender is still my favorite modern animated series, but it’s lack of willing to take risks with its plot twists and characters is a problem I’m always going to have with the show.  For what it is, it’s enjoyable, but I just really wish the show would do a little more to be engaging.

 

What do you think though?  If you watch the show, do you have these problems with it as well?  Would you like the writing to take a bit more risks, or are you fine  with how the show is progressing?

Video Games

Let’s Talk About Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The internet as far as gaming goes is very, very toxic at its worst, and kind of tolerable? At its best.  I enjoy having so much access to gaming content, but as far as dealing with actual communities, there are more toxic ones than positive ones out there and it makes me want to stay away from online gaming most of the time.  That, and online gaming doesn’t really have an appeal for me unless I’m playing with friends, but that’s another topic for another post.
The problem with the internet is, there can be huge bouts of bad press for something before it’s even released, or the opinions of the loud minority become what’s heard and people who may have differing opinions feel like they can’t speak up.  This causes major bouts of games that perhaps don’t deserve a ton of harsh critique, or simple statements of “This sucks” directed towards them.  I mean, at the end of the day, all gaming is subjective:  You like a certain genre of game, I don’t, vice versa.  You saying a game sucks will mean absolutely nothing to me if I pick it up, play it, and enjoy it.  That’s why it’s super important to play a game yourself  Or, look up videos of actual gameplay on YouTube, and decide if you’re willing to give the game ago.
Final fantasy:  Dissidia NT is honestly a game I think got entirely too much of this bad press for no reason.  For the reason that people, for some reason, were upset that it was labeled Dissidia and not like the past 2 Dissidia games, when every FF game labeled “Dissidia” is just the franchise for FF crossover games.  You don’t see anyone complaining about Dissidia Opera Omnia, do you?  I mean maybe they are, who knows.  But I think people are letting their disappointment that this game isn’t exactly like the first 2 Dissidia games overcloud their view of Dissidia NT.  I never played the first two Dissidia games, so have no frame of reference for this one.  But honestly, to be blunt:  If you want to play old Dissidia, then play it.  Please stop harping on a game that exists that people like.  If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but don’t attack everyone else that does.

 

I went on a bit of a tangent there with my intro haha.  But onto my review of the game!  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy it.  I’m not going to go into major gameplay details about it, because I feel like you know the basics of the game if you’re familiar with it.  But simple version:  It’s a 3 v 3 team based brawler, where you play as 1 of 4 classes and run around on stages fighting with characters from all of the main line Final Fantasy games.  You have lots of fan favorite attacks, and the summons from the series act as a sort of Super Smash Bros stage hazard each team can summon once per match to trip up your opponents.

 

So far, the summoning is the only major beef I have with the game.  At times it makes the matches way too chaotic, and from a blindness standpoint, if I’m close to the summoning range I rarely can hear my character and can’t tell what’s going on.  That being said, I think that would just happen in general, whether you’re sighted, or blind, and that’s part of what’s so refreshing about this game.  Other than the menus, which are always a hurdle for any blind player without reading vision, once you get into a battle, the playing field is very even and it’s a matter of skill, team composition, and all in all having lots of fun playing as your favorite Final Fantasy characters.

 

When first loading up the game, it can be majorly overwhelming.  I still haven’t figured out all of the menus, and have been working my way through them.  A good example is the customization menus, for putting on EX skills, and changing chat messages.  I had to Google how to pull up the menus, and when I figured it out, it was a sea of other menus that I’ve yet to care to navigate.  Now EX skills, in my opinion, aren’t a necessity to mess with if you really just want to pick up the game and play like I did, but once you get past that point, and start leveling up characters, and hearing your little Moogle assistant tell you you have a ton of EX skills to customize with, you’ll want to work on figuring out how to use the EX skill and chat menus.  I’m lucky enough to have a pair of eyes that’s generous enough to help me read things when I go “Mom, can you read a menu?” but I can see it being a problem for a blind user who doesn’t have any sighted help.  You definitely need that to get your baring’s in this game, because every menu is designed differently.  When you figure them out, they’re easy to navigate, but it’s just that blindness learning curve that comes with picking up a new game, plus the abundance of menus that makes this game a tad overwhelming after coming from the ease of BlazBlue:  Cross Tag Battle’s menu system.

 

The character select is pretty easy to figure out, but make a note that it’s laid out differently in the tutorial than in any other menu.  In the actual game modes, the characters are in a descending list and you can just scroll down and count in chronological order, because the characters are laid out according to franchise.  So the first character you start on is Warrior of Light, the last one in the list is Ace.  It’s fun to put my Final Fantasy know how to the test with my counting, but sometimes I count wrong because I forget of one game or another, or forget some games have 3 characters.  But to me that’s no big deal – I’ve gotten a lot of crazy parties made that worked surprisingly well because of that.  Today I accidentally made a team of Rinoa, Kain, and Kefka and it worked super well, won five matches in a row with it.  Would it work online?  Probs not, but it’s still fun to see what parties work, and a lot of fun to be able to use characters you may not want to physically use yourself by having them in your party.

 

I really like how story mode is formatted.  Instead of having to sit through a 2 to 4 hour story like most games, you unlock cutscenes and battles by playing Gauntlet mode.  You go to story mode, and then use Memoria to unlock cutscenes and battles, and if you want you can do 1 battle, watch the cutscenes after it, and move on.  Leveling up characters in Gauntlet mode is a must for some fights, as the first two story mode battles I’ve done were a bit of a hurdle because I haven’t been using certain characters, so went back to Gauntlet mode to level up and see how it goes.  But I prefer this format over the sit and watch a ton of scenes then do like eight fights and really without cutscenes story mode would be like twenty minutes.  Set up in the way it is in Dissidia, you can play multiple modes at once and enjoy them all equally, and not feel obligated to sit through story mode.  You can’t unlock any cutscenes out of order either as far as I can tell, so from a blindness standpoint, it’s easy to just pick a scene and see that you unlocked it – because when you unlock something new, it makes a special unlocking noise.

 

 

 

I really like the leveling up system too.  You play the offline Gauntlet modes to get EXP.  You get EXP no matter if you win or lose a battle, which is also nice.  So you really can just go to Gauntlet mode and grind and test out characters and parties and earn experience to unlock story mode cut scenes, EX skills, summons, treasure.  Pretty much everything that’s an add on to the game, you win by battling.

 

The battles feel like you’re playing an actual active time battle in a Final Fantasy game.  I will say there’s some lag sometimes with moves, and the load times between fights and character selecting can get a bit much for me.  Because the battles are so chaotic, Dissidia NT has a targeting system that works super well for blind gamers.  Just lock on with L2 and R2, and you instantly are directed to the closest enemy.  You’ll want to practice listening in for someone coming close to you so you can react accordingly, but the sound design is great in this, so you’ll have no problems with that.  I tend to fight as the marksmen, because that’s been my playstyle since before I lost my sight, and it’s very easy to just walk as far as hearing far away voices, and start launching off attacks.  I’ve used some closer range characters and they’re a little more tricky, but I’m sure you could get them down if you worked on it because like I said, the sound design in this game is superb.  You can tell what’s going on all around you with no major issues, and all you have to do is be attuned to your surroundings and fight, just like any other gamer would have to do.

 

 

And that’s my biggest take away from this game:  It’s addictive, fun, and levels the playing field for anyone to play.  Other than the menus, which will always be a chronic blind gamer issue unless companies start integrating text to speech in their games, the gameplay itself is strategic, enjoyable, and I find myself playing it for hours on end without any major issues.

 

The game has a lot to do in it, But I will say the pricetag of 60 dollars is rather high.  I waited to get it used for 20, so I could get the season pass for its 30 dollar price and spend 50 dollars on the game.  But to have the game be 60, and the season pass be 30, making getting everything in the game if you buy it new be 84, then to me that’s a bit much for what you’re getting in the game.  But I paid 70 for Cross Tag Battle so…I guess it just depends.  All in all, games nowadays are going for 60 dollars, so I’m sure it’s a fine price but if you’re on the fence about the game I’d say buy it used, you can get it cheap.  But honestly the argument of “I want more content” is a little silly, because if you want to play a game and it’s at a certain price, then you’re going to buy it lol.

 

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is the only other game I have for the console, and as far as content goes, I feel like Dissidia has more to offer.  As I stated earlier, I think the distain towards it was far too unwarranted.  Like why compare a new game that’s built from the ground up to an old one anyway?  There was plenty of footage of Dissidia NT before it got ported over to the US of what the gameplay was, so saying it’s not what you expected is silly.

 

Accessibility wise, get past the menus, and you’re good to go.  The selecter stays on the last character you were on, so make a major note of that if you’re a blind gamer.  Also, in the offline play modes, it saves your party so the last characters you were using are the ones selected when you reload the game.  Which is nice when you know it’s happening, but when you don’t it’s baffling haha.

 

The menu layout is very aesthetically pleasing for sighted gamers, but for the blind it’s a little weird, because it’s set up in 2 columns of 3 options, instead of just a descending list of six options.  It’s workable for sure, but know that your first load of the game is going to be figuring all of that stuff out before you can play, along with figuring out the character select screen.  It’s easy enough to get to the tutorial though,  and just figure out characters and have fun with the game.

SO if you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this game!  I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan and seeing my favorite characters 3D rendered with voices, and seeing them interact with each other in story mode is a huge kick for avid Final Fantasy fans.  If you want a fun team based game, I’d suggest giving it a go! This isn’t even remotely close to all of the features of Dissida NT, or all of the accessibility tips for NT because I’ve been playing it for about 2 weeks now, so feel free to talk about your tips and experiences playing it in the comments below!