Mouse Trap Arcade (Ultrasonic’s thoughts)

As many Arcaders know, after the phenomenal success of Pac-Man, a whole slew of maze games were made, some of which have been covered here on the site. But there was one that also merits mentioning, and that title is Mouse Trap.

Created by Exidy in 1981, this Arcade definitely emulated Pac-Man in many respects, yet it had a style all its own.

In this game Arcaders were placed in the role of a mouse who is trying to collect/eat cheese in a maze. Sounds pretty simple right? Wrong, because there are cats in this maze as well as occasional hawks who are looking for their next meal, and you are on the menu.

But fortunately, you are no ordinary mouse, for you have the ability to open/close doors in the maze to help you, plus there are bones that can turn you into a dog once you eat them. Much like how the energizer dots allow Pac-Man to eat the ghosts, Once you are a dog you can attack the cats with gusto.

In all, it is a really unique Arcade game and one that truly deserves notice, even among all the copycats that came out after Pac-Man, as well as one that stood out among the many Arcade games that were in Disney Quest. So this game definitely gets an okay from me.

And on a lighter note here’s hoping that this title comes to the Switch down the road!

Ultrasonic’s thoughts: Independence Day video game (Sega Saturn, Playstation 1)

When Independence Day came out in theaters, it was definitely a movie that helped bring back the summer blockbuster, which had been in a bit of slump for a while until the mid/late 90s. Given the science-fiction/action nature of the film – particularly with regards to the dogfight scenes between Earth’s fighter planes and the Alien Attackers – it felt like there was a video game that could be made out of this. Or at least that was the mindset the developers at Radical Entertainment had when they got the call to create a video game tie-in to the film.

Much like the flight simulator games that came out during this time, ID4 puts you in the cockpit of a fighter plane – with Steve Hiller as your wingmate – and you have to complete an objective for the place you are at (destroy Shield generators, protect an AWAC, shoot down X amount of Alien craft) and then once you complete that objective you then have to take out the City Destroyer’s primary weapon to complete the whole mission.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there’s the fact that you have to contend with Alien Attackers that will try to shoot you down, to say nothing of everything else the enemy will try to throw at you – gun turrets, smaller transport ships, and other types of attackers besides the one audiences know from the film.

In just about every location you will find yourself confined to flying underneath the Destroyer so you can only go so far. However, the space is large enough to where you can take it all in, while trying not to get shot down, of course. Plus the fact that you can shoot down the Alien Attackers is definitely a plus.

While the fighters you fly can take punishment – unlike the movie – that’s not to say they are invincible, for the life gauge – or shield gauge if you want to call it that – does decrease as as you get hit by enemies weapons or even if you accidentally run into buildings or even get up close and personal with either the City Destroyer or the perimeter shield. Plus the missiles you have will also decrease as you use them, and if you run out you’ll be in quite a pickle because while the cannon you have shoots unlimited tracers, it’s not going to inflict as much damage as missiles will.

But of course, what kind of shooter is complete without power-ups? And this game has plenty. From to missile power-ups to Health power-ups to repair your fighter jet, even one that not only repairs your fighter’s life gauge to the max, but gives you an energy shield of your very own, you’re pretty much set. But’s only the tip of the iceberg, because there’s plenty of other power-ups to discover, from finding other fighter planes to unlock, along with other types of power ups that can range from freezing aliens for a short time, as well as weapons that can either blind alien craft from seeing where they’re going to sending them out of control, and even unlocking portals that can take you to different places, this game definitely wasn’t lacking in material.

(The Alien attackers definitely got my attention more, given their design aesthetic. I wonder if some of these were done by concept artists from the movie but never made it into the final cut)

In all, this game was a decent one to me. While it was no StarFox 64 epic by any means it isn’t as awful as some say it is, and if nothing else it was a game that tried to be more than just a cash-in.

So if nothing else it is a game that will at least keep you entertained for a while.


References: https://independenceday.fandom.com/wiki/Independence_Day_(video_game)

Avatar: The Last Airbender Review

We have all heard the phrases, “Once upon a time…”  as well as “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” but in February 2005, a new opening phrase was created.

“Water, earth, fire, air…”

If one hadn’t seen the intro one would think that it was yet another generic adventure series, nothing too serious.  But if one took a closer look, they would find that this is no regular animated show on Nickelodeon.  In fact, much like certain animated series from the 90s – like Batman The Animated Series and Disney’s Gargoyles – this would be yet another great show that challenged the conventions of animation on TV, and would become a true classic.

Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, Avatar takes place in a world that is made up of four different nations: The Air Nomads, The Earth Kingdom, The Water Tribe, and The Fire Nation.  For many generations the four nations “lived together in harmony”, but then the Fire Nation became power-hungry and began attacking the other nations in an attempt to seize more power.  Fortunately there was one force that could stop them: The Avatar, a being who has the ability to utilize all of the four known elements – water, earth, fire, and air – to keep balance in the world.  Unfortunately this individual had disappeared at a critical moment in the conflict and as such the Fire Nation was able to continue extending their grasp over the world.  Despite this a Water Tribe native named Katara still held out hope that the Avatar would return, given that the being had the ability to reincarnate itself within different people over the centuries, with Roku being the most recent.  In keeping with the life cycle this would mean that the next one to have the Avatar’s power would be an Air Nomad, though no one had seen said nomads in a long time.

The story begins with Katara and her brother Sokka out to catch fish to bring back to their tribe, and Katara is practicing her ability to waterbend, something that her brother dismisses.

After no success in their hunt, which in turn leads to an all out argument between the two siblings, Katara and Sokka discover an iceberg that surfaces in front of them, only the iceberg isn’t empty.

Once Katara breaks the ice enough a figure emerges, revealing itself to be a young airbender a few years younger than the two siblings with arrow tattoos on his head and arms named Aang.  Once Katara introduces herself and her brother Aang introduces his flying bison Appa and the group then make their way back to the Northern Water Tribe.

Unfortunately this didn’t go unnoticed to some extents, for a short distance away a Fire nation ship containing an exiled Prince Zuko and his Uncle Iroh was within range of seeing the energy emitted by the new Avatar, which Zuko happened to see.  While not much is known about why Zuko is so obsessed with finding the Avatar, it is something that becomes much more clearer as time goes by.

So Aang gets acquainted with the rest of Katara and Sokka’s tribe – small as it is – and brings a sense of fun to the children there, which is something they haven’t had in a while.

As Aang and Katara are going penguin sliding the duo stumble upon an old Fire Nation ship and Aang accidentally triggers one of the traps which in turn causes a flare to shoot out from the ship, thus catching the attention of Zuko.

Although Aang and Katara manage to get out of the ship the tribe reveals that a Fire Navy ship has been spotted and is on its way here.  Admitting his culpability and also at the insistence of Katara’s grandmother Aang leaves the village, but no sooner does he leave that the Fire Nation finds the village and attacks, with Zuko demanding the Avatar show himself. Fortunately Aang wasn’t too far away and eventually with the help of Katara and Sokka managed to fight Zuko and the rest of the Fire Navy off, but not without having the Airbender’s true identity as the Avatar revealed.

Despite not wanting anything to do with being the Avatar at first, Aang steps up and accepts his destiny and begins his journey with Katara, Sokka and Appa to master the other elements and bring balance to the world, as other Avatars before him had done.

While this is only the first two episodes of the series, it is one heck of an introduction.  Right away you meet most of the main characters who will play a massive part in the story that takes place over the course of three seasons, and not one moment is wasted.  And the writing on the show is treated the same way as some other animated shows from the 90s were-on multiple levels and even then, said writing was taken to a whole other degree not seen in a Nickelodeon show, which in turn led to winning an Emmy, Kid’s Choice and Peabody Awards as well as catching the attention of audiences beyond the kids.  Adults found themselves enthralled by the adventures of these characters as well, and thanks to the writing, all the characters grew and matured in very realistic ways that everyone could connect with.  And much like the best serialized storytelling, it all built to an incredible climactic finale that only a few sagas can match.

As such, this is a series that has endured, and transcended in many ways, and still holds up to this very day, and now that it has arrived on Netflix fans can once again enjoy the adventure from the beginning and for new fans to discover for the very first time.

So if whether you have Netflix, or if you have the Blu-Ray collection, watch this series.  There is a reason why it is hailed as one of the best animated series out there, and once you start watching Avatar, you will find yourself pulled in, and just like Aang’s friends when he goes into the Avatar state, you will find it a series to behold.

Team Avatar Assembled

Pac-Man Month Special: Pac-Attack (SNES)

Pac-Attack_Coverart

To say that Pac-Man is a video game icon is no understatement.  Since his 1980 debut in the arcades Pac-Man has become an institution, one that doesn’t reinvent itself too much over the years but even when it does, it doesn’t stray away from the basic fundamentals that co-creator Toru Iwatani and his team established, and this is made pretty clear with the array of sequels/spin-offs that have followed the original arcade game.  For myself, I have been fortunate to have played some of these, but the one that that stood out to me the most – especially during the 90s, was the game called Pac-Attack.

Pac-Attack Adverstisement

If you’ve ever played games like Tetris, Dr. Mario, Columns or Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine then the gameplay shouldn’t feel out of place.  The objective of the game is to basically line up the blocks that drop into rows, with each row disappearing once it’s made.  Sounds pretty simple, until you consider the ghosts, for they will be there as part of the blocks as they appear.  Fortunately Pac-Man will be there as well to help gobble up the ghosts and clear the way.

Like with the aforementioned games, there is both a one player mode as well as a two player mode but with this game there’s two types of modes for single players.  One being the normal mode and the other called puzzle mode.

304px-Pac-Attack_mode_selection_screen

In the normal mode all the player has to do is first choose a level of difficulty, then as mentioned before, line up the falling blocks into rows, and clear out the ghosts using Pac-Man once he appears.  As Pac-Man eats the ghosts a fairy meter on the left side of the screen will start to fill up.  Once it’s completely full a fairy piece will appear, clearing out all ghosts below said piece.  The difficulty you choose will determine the level you start at, so the higher the difficulty, the higher the level, and the faster the blocks will drop.

220px-Pac-Attack_SNES_screenshot

As you clear out rows of blocks your level goes up, and as this happens the new blocks that appear start to descend faster.  This can get hectic if you’re not quick enough, so keep your wits about you.  Of course, don’t fret if this your first time playing this game.  Like most titles during the 8-bit/16-bit era, it takes messing up a lot before you start to get good.

Puzzle mode is another mode that is also fun – and a little more fun than normal mode in my opinion – because while you still can clear the rows, you aren’t obligated to.  Instead the objective in puzzle mode is to clear out all the ghosts on the screen.  Once you do you can then move on to the next level.

Pac Attack Puzzle Mode

(One cool thing about the puzzle mode is that if you manage to clear out all the ghosts in one shot, you get a cool message)

While there are 100 levels in total, you don’t have to worry about trying to play the mode all the way through.  For each level you play there’s a password that players can make note of and use later on if they have to stop the game at some point.

With two-player mode it’s pretty much what one would expect from any vs. mode: try to outlast your opponent.  Each player can pick their own difficulty, which is a nice touch because at least that way you can play to your strengths and decide what speeds to go with.  Best two out of three wins.

pac-attack two player vs

In all, Pac-Attack is definitely a game worthy of being a part of the best Pac-Man games.  It isn’t completely like the original, but there’s a good enough balance in the game that you won’t be put-off or be bored.  Plus, like Tetris and Dr. Mario Pac-Attack is another game that you can play in short spurts or for a long duration if you feel inclined.  And most importantly.  It’s just a lot of fun.

So if you do have a copy of the game – hard copy or digital – enjoy it.

Happy Eating Arcaders!

Voice Lessons by Rob Paulsen (Ultrasonic’s Thoughts)

Voice Lessons Rob Paulsen Book cover

When it comes to most Autobiographies/Memoirs, one can always come away with them with a sense of “If you’ve read one, you’ve read them all”.  Aside from some notable exceptions out there audiences tend to expect some degree of embellishing when reading these types of books.  However, this book is very different from the pack.  While it isn’t the first autobiography from an actor – let alone the last – what makes Voice Lessons different is that is a book written by an actor that very few people would recognize on the street.  The reason for this is because Rob Paulsen is a voice-actor.

Now what exactly is a voice-actor?

MR-2116-Which-microphones-are-best

Well, it is the title for an actor/actress who does what they would usually do – portray characters but the difference being that the actors themselves are not on camera.  Instead they are behind a microphone, with their scripts on a music stand.  Now this isn’t a novel concept, given that the history goes all the way back to the 1930s/40s with radio shows.  Then as cartoons began to emerge actors from said radio shows found themselves segueing into that and were able to bring life to characters that would become legendary, with Mel Blanc and June Foray being the most notable ones.

Mel_blanc_002 June Foray

Then when the 1980s came around a surge of cartoons designed for syndication (around 65 episodes) began to be made.  As such this opened up more opportunities for actors, and for Rob Paulsen, this is where he came into prominence after having had a few stints in some live-action roles (Jack-In-The-Box commercials, MacGyver).

From starting out in G.I. Joe as the voice of Snowjob, to Transformers G1 and then several characters in the now-classic Disney Afternoon shows, Rob Paulsen had truly found his niche in show business.  And when he was offered the opportunity of auditioning for an animated series based on an indie comic called “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, Rob would find himself being a part of not just a great show, but a phenomenon.

TMNT Original cast

As the voice of Raphael, as well as some incidental characters, Rob along with Cam Clarke (Leonardo), Berry Gordon (Donatello) and Townsend Coleman (Michelangelo) would bring life to four heroes in a half shell for many years to come.  And for kids – myself included – that was fine by us.  From merchandising of all types to especially video game adaptations and a hit film that would hit in 1990 (of which Rob and the others weren’t a part of sadly), as well as the actors doing vocal “appearances” via charity calls and the like, Ninja Turtles proved to be one of those moments in pop culture that transcended beyond what it originally was.

TMNT Movie Promo Poster

But as totally awesome as it was for Rob, more great moments would come as the 90s came around and Paulsen found himself cast in more great shows like Tiny Toon Adventures and especially Animaniacs.  And interestingly enough, Paulsen would even find himself cast as Stanley Ipkiss in the animated version of The Mask.

But beyond all the animation work that kept coming during this time, what makes this book special is also the other moments that Rob went through, both from the beginning of his acting career to the slow time during the late 2000s when Rob wasn’t getting much work.  While his voice-over career would kick back up again – from “Tuff Puppy” to being cast in the new iteration of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in 2012 as Donatello, as well as starting up a podcast of his own named “Talkin’ Toons” which took off magnificently – Rob would face his greatest challenge in the form of throat cancer, which he more than highlights in the book.  While his battle with cancer is something only those who have either gone through it or seen family members/loved ones go through it can understand, you still are able to empathize with him in those moments as much as you can, and through it Rob details every stage he went through – from his initial gung-ho attitude to fighting cancer, to the times when he couldn’t even keep a glass of water down and felt as low as ever due to the chemotherapy and other treatments.  Through all this, Rob would eventually draw on the life lessons he had learned before early on, and in a lot of cases relearn.  In the end, Rob did win his battle with cancer, and he was also able to save his voice.

Southwest The Magazine October 2019 Rob Paulsen

(From Southwest Magazine)

In all, this book is definitely a must to have.  And not because it’s yet another actor’s biography, but because it’s one by an actor from a different part of Hollywood.  For voice-actors the true celebrity is in the characters said actor has played, and as Mark Hamill put it best, “The character actor disappears into his role and you don’t see the actor-you see the character.”  As such audiences can connect with the character fully and yet the actor isn’t recognized for the role unless folks are looking at the credits.  Whether it be from the book itself (paperback or eBook), or the Audiobook version, I can definitely guarantee you will be pulled into Rob’s story, and hopefully you get a sense of some of the greatest gifts we have within us: The power of the human spirit, and how through all the experiences we go through, good and bad, we can all find our own voice lessons and impart them not just to ourselves, but to others as well, and in the most positive of ways.

And to finish it up, here’s a treat from one of Rob’s characters.


Available wherever books are sold, including:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Voice-Lessons-Couple-Turtles-Animaniac/dp/B07Y8VQJT9/ref=sr_1_1?crid=MVCUFJMIUMP8&dchild=1&keywords=voice+lessons&qid=1588643851&sprefix=Voice+Less%2Caps%2C191&sr=8-1

And of course, Apple Books.

Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 1 (Ultrasonic’s thoughts)

the-mandalorian

For the longest time whenever someone was to mention Star Wars the original three films came to mind, as well as the prequels that followed later on in the early 2000s.  Television was never really in the minds of audiences aside from some die hards who would ponder about hat little possibility but nothing more.  And then in the late 2000s we were finally introduced to the Clone Wars era.  First was the version made by Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack) which was made up of animated shorts that helped bridge the gap between “Attack of The Clones” and “Revenge of The Sith”.  As great and nifty as they were, they weren’t enough to satisfy fans completely.

Until late 2008, when an animated film named Star Wars: The Clone Wars came on the scene, followed by the debut of an animated series of the same name a couple of months later, and from that point on, the rest was history.

For six seasons, audiences were enthralled with the stories that George Lucas and his protege Dave Filoni brought, for they not only validated the prequel trilogy tremendously but they also expanded on the Star Was mythology ten fold, and with George Lucas at the helm.  Sadly the series was cancelled and put on the shelf for a long while, until this year as of this post, when an official final season was placed on Disney Plus, thus finally giving a definitive conclusion to the series as George and Dave envisioned it to be.

Now there have been other series that have followed Clone Wars – Rebels, The Freemaker Adventures, Resistance – with some series being more compelling than others, but there was always that lingering question: Is a live-action Star Wars TV series possible?  Can a live-action series still deliver the spectacle/myth-building epic fans have come to expect and demand, and with a TV budget at that?

Well, with this series, I think we more than have the answer to our question: Yes.

With the way the story starts, you are immediately introduced to the protagonist (Pedro Pascal).  He doesn’t go by any name at all, aside from a nickname some bar thug calls him, but I – and many other fans can agree – the nickname “Mando” works just as good as his full title, The Mandalorian.

Much like the protagonists from classic spaghetti westerns, Mando is a man of few words, but his actions can more than make up for that.  Taking place some years after the events of “Return of The Jedi”, the Galaxy far far away is pretty much like what one would expect with a crippled government – a great deal of lawlessness is raging across star systems, but with that comes opportunities that only a Bounty Hunter can take full advantage of, but even that brings its own set of complications, as a mysterious client relays to our protagonist.

“Bounty hunting is a complicated profession.”
-The Client

Taking on what appears to be yet another job Mando finds himself on a journey that will ultimately change the course of his life once he acquires the bounty he was sent to retrieve, but what the show does best – among many things – is that even getting to that point is a journey in and of itself, because as Mando is making his way to his bounty he ends up encountering characters that at first may seem secondary or just flat out insignificant, but they too have a part to play in guiding Mando, specifically the character Kuiil (Nick Nolte), and his help goes beyond just saying three simple lines.

Kuiil I have spoken

But perhaps the biggest reveal was at the end of the first episode, which was definitely a surprise, but a welcome one, and it is nothing short of amazing that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, as well as the rest of the cast and crew kept their mouths shut about this surprise, but all the same it was incredible.

And that reveal was of course the bounty itself, or should we say, himself.

The Child Mando

No, you are not seeing things, the bounty is a 50 year old toddler who is of the same race as the now late Grandmaster Yoda in this timeline, but since nobody knows what sentient race he is, the Internet has come forward and nicknamed him “Baby Yoda” until further notice, and I’m glad they have.

To everyone’s surprise, this reveal went viral, thus leading to all sorts of things from new internet memes to tattoos and even a song (?).  The fact that the creators are using an actual animatronic puppet on set makes this even more special.

But even with this child’s age he is no dead weight, for it is seen shortly after his reveal that he is extremely gifted with the Force, as his saving Mando a few times over the season has shown.

Unable to simply leave the Child in the hands of the client – and whatever may befall him after – Mando then has a change of heart and goes to retrieve him, and with the unexpected help from fellow Mandalorians manages to achieve this goal and heads off to get “Baby Yoda” as far away as possible, thus truly kickstarting the season.

For the rest of the season that follows, Mando is trying to do everything he can to safeguard Baby Yoda while still trying to take whatever jobs he can, and avoid detection.  Along the way he runs into an old acquaintance named Cara Dune (Gina Carano) who becomes a big help.

But trying to stay under the radar is easier said than done, because at one point just when it seems like Mando can leave Baby Yoda in a safe place Cara manages to take out a bounty hunter who is tracking the child, thus forcing Mando to take the former with him.

Of course, nothing lasts forever, and Mando’s constant evading of capture and refusing to turn Baby Yoda over catches up to him, for the client isn’t even the real person who wants the Child, rather it is an Imperial Moff named Gideon.

“You have something I want.  You may think you have some idea of what you are in possession of, but you do not. In a few moments it will be mine.  It means more to me than you will ever know.”
-Moff Gideon

And even with help from Kuiil, Cara and even Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) things don’t look good.  However, a reprogrammed Assassin droid named IG-11 comes to the rescue and through this Mando’s real name is revealed: Din Djarin.  He also meets up with a Mandalorian armorer from earlier episodes who, upon meeting Baby Yoda decrees to Din that until the latter can find a way to reunite the Child with his own kind or “until it is of age.”  Gifting Mando with a jetpack the latter and his makeshift group make their escape but a squad of Stormtroopers are awaiting them.  Knowing that there aren’t any other options IG-11 makes a decision and self-destructs, taking out the group and giving the others time to escape.

After an intense fight with Moff Gideon, Mando manages to take the former down and escape but as is the case with the big bad – unless it’s the final season, they always come back, and Moff still turns out to be very much alive, and with a weapon that no one expected him to have in his possession, which begs the question how he got it given that said weapon was in the hands of someone else (spoilers for Star Wars Rebels).

In all, this season has definitely been a strong start to what appears to be an incredible series.  It is a great throwback to serialized adventure, as well as spaghetti westerns and Samurai movies by Akira Kurosawa, all of which inspired George Lucas as a child, and yet the series is able to stay true to the essence of what makes Star Wars Star Wars, and that’s thanks in no small part to Dave Filoni, who learned from George Lucas during the Clone Wars days, and with the help of one of the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Jon Favreau, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch that the series is in good hands with these two at the helm.  Plus bringing in other talented folks like Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi to help behind the camera is an even bigger plus.

It may be a while before we see any more Star Wars movies, but that doesn’t mean the story won’t continue in other ways, and with Disney Plus Star Wars has a way to expand the story and make it richer than what has been done before, and The Mandalorian is doing exactly that in spades.

So yes, this series gets a recommend from me, and here’s to the next season!

The Mandalorian Poster

Ultrasonic’s Thoughts: Avengers Endgame

“Part of the journey’s the end.”
-Tony Stark/Iron Man

Since 1978 there have been superhero films that follow one after the other for a time, but none of them ever really feel like there is a continuation from what’s come before.  Of course the closest ones were Superman 1 and Superman 2, but then again the scripts that made up those two movies were built off of one script, and Batman 1989 and Batman Returns had some connection but that was pretty much it.  With each franchise the latter films became stand-alone and unfortunately lackluster.  Then going into the early 2000s with the X-Men and Spider-Man movies things started to get a little bit more coherent, but there was still something missing.  Then Christopher Nolan began to truly incorporate the idea of a long narrative across his Batman films, but it wasn’t really until the first Iron Man movie came out in 2008 that all of a sudden things began to shift in regards to the superhero film genre.

“Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.”
-Nick Fury

Boy, little did any of us know how prophetic those words were back then.

But even with that, audiences didn’t have the slightest inkling what Kevin Feige and everyone else at Marvel-Studios had in mind, and it was a vision that at the time seemed almost unthinkable if not completely impossible – a large, coherent story that would take place over the course of several films, and in a way not too dissimilar to what would be expected in the best serialized TV shows.

But could this vision be done in films?  Unlike the Star Wars, Harry Potter and The Lord of The Rings films this was a much bigger ambition, and one that if it failed would yet be another mere footnote in film history, but if it worked…it could turn into something that could be beyond anyone’s imaginations.

And boy, did it.  Once Iron Man became a success it was clear to Feige and co. that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had arrived.  But us audiences didn’t really believe it until Avengers (2012).

And with scores of more movies and team-ups we all became more enthralled with more amazing characters – both good and bad – but among the many things that hooked us audiences in, there was always this sense that there was a much bigger villain that seemed to be pulling the strings, and with many of the films we only got a glimpse of said character and only that – a tease, but all that would come to a head once Avengers: Infinity War came out in theaters.

To say that that film was a true culmination of everything that had been happening since Iron Man 1 would be an understatement.  Right from the start audiences saw Thanos on a mission, and nothing and no one was going to get in his way, and as the film goes on our heroes find themselves not really making any kind of headway in regards to trying to stop “The Mad Titan”, and even when some heroes head off to try and regroup quickly – and meeting other heroes in the process – the whole thing ends up being for naught, for Thanos succeeds in doing what he set out to do – get all the Infinity Stones, and wipe out half the population in the universe but not for nefarious reasons, but rather to preserve life.

It’s a moment that only the classic “Empire Strikes Back” can equal, because the audience as well as the heroes themselves realize that they lost in the worst way, and on a personal level many of their own allies/friends also die once Thanos snapped his fingers with the Infinity Gauntlet.

tenor

But as we should know, the story is not by any means over yet because three movies later – namely after “Ant-Man and The Wasp” and then “Captain Marvel” – we end up right back where we were with “Avengers: Endgame”, and with some help from a recent addition to the MCU Roster Tony Stark and Nebula get back to Earth and manage to meet up with the rest of the remaining Avengers who weren’t snapped away.  Sadly there isn’t much time for introductions because not too long after our heroes manage to get a fix on Thanos’ location and head there in Peter Quill’s ship to confront him hoping to undo the mess the Mad Titan made.  Unfortunately they discover that Thanos had destroyed the stones so as to make sure they couldn’t be used again.  Thor manages to kill him but even that does not bring the Asgardian any kind of satisfaction given what he and the others now learned.

In many ways you would feel cheated given that the buildup/hype was for nothing, but it’s after that scene ends is when the film truly begins.

Fast forward five years later, and the Avengers have been trying to move on with their lives as well as help the people of Earth move on, but it seems more like everyone is barely getting by emotionally.  The only real flipsides are that Nebula and Rocket have struck up a friendship with the remnant Avengers – especially in the case of Nebula – and have been trying to help them keep some degree of peace in regards to watching for any super-villains but so far nothing; plus Tony and Pepper end up having a daughter named Morgan and Stark himself has managed to find some degree of peace.

While all this is going on Scott Lang/Ant-Man manages to get out of the Quantum Realm and finds himself in a world with half the population gone and his daughter now a teenager.

Making his way to the Avengers compound Scott then meets up with the team there and explains what happened to him which then in turn leads to them heading to Stark’s house but the latter refuses to help, believing Scott’s idea to not only be sheer suicide but also believing he had a second chance with his wife and daughter and did not want to squander that.  Discouraged but undeterred, the group goes looking for Bruce Banner who is now different than before which is an incredible (pun intended) nod to the comics when Bruce managed to combine several versions of his Hulk persona into Professor Hulk.  Of course in this case Banner managed to combine both himself with Hulk to where he is Hulk but he still has his brains to go with it.  At first Banner isn’t so sure about Scott’s “Time Heist” idea but after some encouragement from Natasha he decides to give it a shot.  At first there’s no success but then Stark shows up after discovering a way for the idea to work and that is when the ball gets rolling with regards to the time heist – especially after Thor (a very depressed Thor at that) gets retrieved from a newly established Asgard in Norway.

What follows is a montage of brainstorming for our heroes and then they are able to piece together a plan where they split into small groups and travel to different points in time to get the stones.  Now for those who saw a certain three-part movie in the eighties you might think this would create time paradoxes but thanks to what Banner says the time-travel logic in this film is based off of a certain popular anime (I’ll let you guess which one).

After an unexpected setback our heroes find themselves a few Pym Particles short and an Infinity Stone short but then they figure out exactly when to get more, and Tony and Steve manage to pull it off but not before we get a chance for Stark to meet his father face-to-face again since the latter’s death back in 91.  Given what we know about Tony and his dad it’s obvious that the two didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms, with Tony still never really feeling like he ever had his father’s approval, much less his love.  But after they talk Stark comes away with the closure he needed for the longest time – that his father always loved and believed in him, even if it wasn’t always in the most ideal of ways.

In all this you figure that aside from that one setback there wouldn’t be any more wrenches thrown into the works but that is far from the truth because it turns out that when Nebula and Rhodey time-traveled to where Peter Quill/Star-Lord was the Nebula and Thanos in that time period ended up being able to detect the former’s future duplicate which ends up leading to a capture.  With this version of Thanos still in his conquering phase the latter is able to look into Future Nebula’s memories and c+omes away with the realization that he does succeed in his plan to obtain the stones despite his later demise.  However, he also realizes that the remnant Avengers are trying to stop him from succeeding by simply getting the stones first and then using them to undo the snap and bring everyone back.  With Future Nebula in their captivity Thanos then plants 2014 Nebula into the Avengers with the intent on following them back to the present.

With enough time the Avengers are eventually able to get all the stones – with one coming at the cost of one of their own – and make it back to their own time and begin creating a Gauntlet of their own, but they aren’t able to decide whom until Banner volunteers, believing that he would be the one that has best chance of surviving the snap given that the radiation emitted is mostly gamma even though that alone is no guarantee of survival.

But even with that, Banner is able to do the snap and nothing happens at first, but then Clint – who had taken the alias of Ronin after his own family was taken during the Decimation – gets a call from his wife revealing that the snap did indeed work, but sadly that realization is short-lived once 2014 Thanos arrives and attacks the Avengers compound, leveling the entire area but the Avengers survive, and Cap, Iron Man and Thor meet up and see Thanos, and with a renewed determination go to confront him once and for all.

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Having now realized that his plan to eliminate half of all life in the universe would only result in more people resisting rather than appreciating what happened 2014 Thanos tells the trinity of the Avengers that he will simply destroy the universe completely and then rebuild it again with none of the Avengers around to say otherwise.  With nothing else left to say Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Thor attack Thanos with everything they have, knowing that losing again is not an option.

During all this the other Avengers have their hands full with trying to get out of the rubble while present Nebula tries desperately to reason with 2014 Gamora, telling her what Thanos will do to get the Soul Stone despite his own internal pain.

Despite holding their own against 2014 Thanos as best they can, the Avengers trinity are still overpowered by the Mad Titan, and even with a certain scene that has to be seen to be believed – though it was hinted at in Age of Ultron – are all down for the count.  But despite that, Steve steeled himself and prepared to face Thanos’ armada alone when he receives a call that would almost cause him to cry under normal circumstances – his old friend Sam Wilson/Flacon.

And not just Sam, but everyone that had turned into dust when Thanos snapped his fingers appeared via portals that a revived Dr. Strange created, along with what could only be described as a brigade of people from all over Earth and the Universe.

No, not enough.

Nope, still not enough.

Perfection.
(Hey, the audience’s live reaction is always the best)

And that really is the best way to describe that entire moment, because everything from the past 11 years has been leading up to this moment, and now we get to see all the heroes we have seen since the first Iron Man film together with one common goal: To stop Thanos and his army, and avenge the Decimation the Mad Titan had inflicted on everyone.

Plus, it delivers what Dr. Strange had told Thanos back in Infinity War:

“I think you’ll find our will equal to yours!”
-Dr. Strange

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What follows is a battle of herculean proportions that is more than just a slugfest.  Chief among them being the reunion scene between Tony and Peter which hearkens back to the early scene from Spider-Man Homecoming and finally brings it full circle.

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But even with that, there’s still the matter of trying to stop Thanos’ forces, and from the heroes playing a life-or-death version of “keep away” with the Iron Gauntlet things are still looking bleak and then Dr. Strange gives Tony the indication that this is the one possibility where they win, and what’s great is that it isn’t told in words, but everything is conveyed and what has to be done.

So Thanos manages to get the Gauntlet, and although Captain Marvel tries to stop him, it still isn’t enough until Stark comes at Thanos only to be knocked back as well.

And then what follows can only be summed up in just a few words.

“I am inevitable.”
-Thanos
(Snaps fingers, nothing happens)

And then of course:

“And I…am…Iron Man.”
-Tony Stark/Iron Man
(snaps)

And so, with one snap of the fingers, Thanos’ forces get decimated and turned into dust, followed by Thanos himself.  Although it looks like everything is finally been taken care of, there’s one thing that needs to be taken into account: When the person holding the Gauntlet with the Infinity Stones snaps their fingers, a huge amount of gamma radiation – among other types of radiation – is emitted around the person.  And if Thanos used them and was nearly killed in the process, what would that do to a regular person, specifically a man in a can?

Well, as Robert Downey Jr. later said in an interview,

“The last suit he has isn’t even designed for him to survive.”
-RDJ

So essentially the final Iron Man suit was designed to somewhat channel the power of the Infinity Stones – or as much as one could given how much power the stones have – so the wielder can do the snap, nothing more.

Surrounded by his friend Rhodey, his one true love Pepper, and his protege Peter Parker Tony is able to see them one last time with Pepper assuring him that her and their daughter Morgan will be okay Tony breathes his last, with all the Avengers kneeling in respect for a man who, despite all his flaws was able to step up and make the sacrifice play in the end, saving not just his family and friends, but the entire universe, echoing Thanos’ line about he hoped people would remember Stark.  Well Thanos, people will remember Iron Man for sure, and the montage of everyone being united with their families with Stark’s speech along with his holographic form looking at his daughter with a smile and then saying the same thing she said to him not too long ago is one that doesn’t just tug on the heartstrings, but it rips them apart.

Although the crisis is over there is still the matter of returning the Infinity stones back to their proper continuities in the timestream, to which Steve volunteers.  However, instead of returning within five seconds nothing happens.  But then Sam and Bucky notice someone not too far away and when Sam goes over it is none other than Steve himself, now an old man.  When Sam asks him what happened Steve merely replies by saying he figured he would try some of that life Tony mentioned and with few words you know he was able to finally live a full life – something that he more than deserves given all he has been through.

With a final scene of a young Steve dancing with Peggy capping it off the audience is left with a montage of characters with the cast portraying them and then the original six Avengers appear with the actor’s signatures to finally end the entire film, and with no end credit scene this time around.

So with all that, what is the best way to describe this film?  Honestly there is no one way, because this film had everything one could expect from something like this: You laugh, you cry, you cheer, everything.  Given that this is a true culmination of 11 years and 22 films The Russo Brothers and co. pulled out all the stops to make this story the grand finale that it is.  And for those who have been fortunate enough to see the Infinity Saga from the first Iron Man film to Avengers Endgame (I was one), it has truly been one Amazing and Spectacular ride.  For those who were little kids when this whole thing started and are now on the verge of adulthood, one could say that this is the end of an era for them, almost the equivalent of going through elementary, middle and high school (and in a good way at that) and now graduating with this film.  For younger generations who have yet to experience this incredible saga, let alone this film, they will be in for a treat.  Chris Evans wasn’t kidding when he said that these films will last, and because of how tightly knit the story was as a whole, and how everyone’s character arcs melded so well, these movies already are true movie classics.

Speaking of which, I don’t think enough credit is given to composer Alan Silvestri for the score he created for the film.  While it still has the hallmarks of a modern score, Silvestri still manages to up his game and create what a good score should do – tell the story as well as elevate it to another level.  And he even manages to give that classic film serial/western feel in the sense that the heroes ride off into the sunset in their own ways, and this is even more exemplified with the end credits.

But although this story is over, Marvel Studios is far from done, as multiple projects have already been announced to take the MCU further into the next chapter, and while I have no doubt that there will be more great stories to tell, I do wonder if it will be on the same level as this saga.  In a lot of ways the MCU could end here and we the audience could make up our own stories as to what happens after this.  But as long as audiences keep coming, Marvel Studios will be there with new stories.

Now I had originally wanted to get this article written up and posted before the end of 2019 but real life being what it can be sometimes doesn’t bend to your will, and even if I had the Infinity Gauntlet I couldn’t bring myself to mess with that.

In all, this film really is an epic that deserves to be right up there with the classics, and it really shows how you can serialize the storytelling in films to a degree never seen before, or has it?  Because given how movies started out as serials way back when and the audience had to wait a while before the next chapter, the MCU took that concept which has also existed in their comic books – interlocking stories within one continuity across multiple movies – and put it on a grander scale, a concept that other studios tried to mimic later on, but with mixed results.

But one thing is for sure, the impact that the Infinity Saga has had on Hollywood – especially with this film – that is something that will never, ever be forgotten, and for this Arcader, I am glad to be a part of the generation that was there at it’s inception and with a new beginning just around the bend.

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Voltron Season 7 Thoughts

When you’ve hit such an emotional peak with a season like Season 6 of Voltron, where do you go from here?

Well, it’s simple. you keep the action going and never make too easy or too straightforward for the heroes, and that’s exactly what the showrunners did.

In many ways this season can be split up into two parts, the first half being “The Road Trip Home” and the latter half “The Battle For Earth”.

Going into the first half we pick up where we left off with Team-Voltron and they’re trying to contact Earth as well as find a way to re-energize the Lions given that they took a real beating during the fight with Lotor.

Not only that but we get a series of flashbacks that show us exactly how Keith and Shiro met, and what exactly happened to the former’s father.

Plus we also get a “Honey, I shrunk the kids” feel given what happens to some of our heroes as they’re trying to get something that only creatures called Yelmores can find.

But even after they get said materials Team-Voltron find themselves encountering Lotor’s former Generals and things aren’t as swimmingly as they originally thought.  With Lotor gone the power vacuum in the empire is worse than before, and now it’s a free-for-all.  Fortunately with a little help from the Altean Mice – and Coran and Acxa – the team was able to escape and be on their way.

But then they find a distress signal that only Blades of Marmora use and find ruins with the “help” of a stranger who explains that many Blades were lured to this planet and were systematically wiped out.  Of course, the whole thing was also a trap for Team Voltron as well but once again our heroes manage to get free and dispose of the Druid.

While Krolia had been accompanying the team to Earth, she decides to stay behind with an injured yet alive Kolivan and help find any surviving Blades of Marmora.  It is bittersweet for Keith and his mom but they all had to do what needed to be done.

(I still wonder how the Battle for Earth would have gone had Krolia and Kolivan went along for the ride though.)

And after a crazy adventure on an alien game show – no joke – our heroes find themselves in a pickle in “The Journey Within” for the Lions then completely shut down and no one is able to find a way to reactivate them.  So they try to tether the Lions together but that doesn’t work and the crew find themselves without their Lions and with only each other to rely on.  At first things go okay, but then they find themselves encountering various illusions and sometimes only one Paladin can see the illusion.

Then things get heated and Hunk out of everyone on the team tries – and actually manages to pull everyone together, living up to the Yellow Paladin’s tagline of being able to “lift the team up and hold them together”.  During all this, everyone – Keith in particular – comes around and realize that everything that they have gone through – good and bad – is no coincidence.  And credit to Steven Yeun’s performance because when he has Keith say, “This brought us together as friends” you believe it.  It could have almost sounded corny, but the way Yeun delivered the line and everything else that followed – it worked.  And right when that happens the Lions wake up fully energized and the Paladins find themselves facing off against some creature and they immediately draw their bayard weapons.  Things get heated up once the creature tries to finish them off but the five Lions come to the rescue and save our heroes.  And once they’re back in the Lions they form Voltron and with the help of some bayards the team manages to unlock another upgrade – this time giant rocket boosters – and are able to make their way across several galaxies until they find themselves on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, and their home planet, and here is where “The Battle for Earth” begins.

As they get to Earth Team Voltron discovers that Earth has been invaded by the Galra Empire but Sam did manage to get there before that point.  After explaining the story to the rest of the Garrison Sam implores that they prepare for an eventual invasion and while everyone agrees Admiral Sanda doesn’t seem so inclined, preferring to do things by the book, even though this is nothing like what she had been trained for, and this is an attitude that pervades the latter half of the season, which ultimately will come to backfire on Sanda later on.

So we meet some new characters – Colleen Holt, as well as Veronica, Griffin, Kinkade, Rizavi and Leifsdotter – and Sam along with Commander Iverson begin to prepare Earth in earnest, eventually creating Altean-Earth hybrid fighters and a battleship called the Atlas.  Unfortunately because Sanda decreed that no information about an alien invasion should be divulged resources begin to get scarce and ultimately Colleen decides to bring the truth out, causing the rest of the planet to rise to the occasion and offer assistance.

But no sooner does the first particle barrier get built for the Garrison does Sendak invade, and things go south real quickly.  While the particle barrier holds up, a counter-attack using regular fighters goes horribly wrong and even then Sanda refuses to budge.  Iverson and Sam ultimately give the order to send out the MFE fighter jets and things work, but Sendak is nothing if not patient.

And when our Paladins finally arrive, they realize it’s going to take everyone to stop Sendak but once again Sanda proves her inability to listen by suggesting that Team Voltron hand the Lions over to which the whole team – including Sam and Iverson – pretty much go, “Quiznak, no!”

As they meet up with resistance groups and look at what Sendak has set up – Team Voltron comes up with a plan to take out the cannons Sendak has been building but the whole thing turns out to be a trap and Sendak knew what our heroes were planning, and just who was the one to rat them out?  You guessed it – Admiral Sanda.

But even with that she manages to eventually redeem herself – at the cost of her life – and requests with her dying breath to save Earth.

Meanwhile Shiro the rest of the Garrison make their way to the Atlas and at first they have trouble getting it up and running but Coran using his quick thinking manages to get the crystal that the original Castle ship had been crushed into and uses it to power the Atlas, which works.

After a long and lengthy battle with Sendak’s forces – and a cool fight between Shiro and our new Galra villain – our heroes find themselves with a new enemy – some kind of mech robot.  But even with Voltron and the Atlas providing support things still aren’t in our heroes’ favor, until Shiro gets a feeling from his new prosthetic arm, and suddenly the Atlas transforms from a battlecruiser to a giant robot.

Once this happens our heroes are able to finally dispatch the robot and begin rebuilding, and this time the surviving members of the Coalition and the Blade of Mormora – including some familiar faces – finally get to Earth and assist with rebuilding.

Then several months later as the Garrison manages to salvage the wreckage of the robot that fought Voltron Allura and Sam discover that there was someone in the robot, and it was none other than an Altean!

In all, this season was nothing short of fantastic, with the two main halves blending in very well.  In the road trip section we finally got some last pieces to the Shiro-Keith puzzle, what happened to some key allies of Team-Voltron, and a cool episode that showcases how trials aren’t really there to defeat you, but to help make you stronger, and can even help you get to where you need to go and in a much quicker way than you think.

With the Battle for Earth it’s about our Paladins – namely Shiro, Pidge, Hunk and Lance – getting acclimated back to their home planet as well as combining forces to save their home.  And naturally there’s going to be some foils in regards to people like Sanda – people who want to protect Earth but they prefer to do it by the book even though to stop someone like Sendak you had to throw the old rulebook away, and Sanda wasn’t willing until she was fatally wounded.

And most importantly we get a teaser at the end of this season which you know is going to lead into the eighth and final conclusion of this incredible series.

So how about all of you out there?  Are you ready for the final chapter of this show?  I am a little of both – excited yet anxious – as of this post but I am looking forward to it.  It’s going to be bittersweet once we get to the credits of the final episode but it is going to be one exciting ride!

Ultrasonic’s thoughts: Voltron Season 6

In TV shows, there’s always seasons that are well more liked than others, and that’s just the nature of the beast.  But in the midst of all that there’s always that one season that manages to elevate the show beyond what it is and into something that no mere word can describe.  And in the case of “Voltron: Legendary Defender”, Season 6 is that season.

To start off, we meet up with our heroes after the events of the previous season and are introduced to Lotor’s mentor, whom Lance jokes was the new Emperor’s nanny way back when.  In addition Hunk finds himself learning more about Galra culture, but not in the way he would expect.

With Lotor attempting to unite the entire Galra Empire, Sendak on the other hand has decided to create a schism of his own within the Empire (The Blade of Marmora being the first), naming it “The Fire of Purification” which is a group of Galra headed by Sendak himself and is opening up to any Galra who do not believe in Lotor’s new leadership.  Although he is only seen in one episode this season, you’re left with the sense that he will come back, and in a more threatening way.

But even despite Sendak’s little interference, the team still manages to pull together and Hunk manages to not only put some of the training he had learned from Lotor’s nanny into play, but he’s able to use his mechanical know-how to take charge and guide the rest of Team-Voltron into solving the problem.

Meanwhile, we return to Keith in the next episode where he realizes the Blade of Mormora operative he just encountered is his own birthmother who goes by the name of Krolia.  Like Keith she too had been sent on the same mission to investigate the new quintessence that the Galra Empire were experimenting with.  Whether or not Blade of Marmora leader Kolivan knew of Krolia’s connection to Keith is a bit iffy, but given how the Blade of Marmora is known for intelligence-gathering, I wouldn’t doubt it.

And then we get treated to not just an amazing scene, but a string of amazing ones because during this episode Keith and Krolia find themselves near something that is called a “Quantum Abyss” which is part of a galaxy that is known for its warped space-time because of the clusters of stars and celestial objects around it.  Along with having to deal with certain hostile creatures lurking there, the mother-son duo find themselves encountering solar flares coming from the center of the Abyss triggering visions of the past and in the duo’s case, their past, beginning with Krolia’s and how she even ended up on Earth in the first place, and this is where the episode shines because the audience is able to get exposition from the visuals, as opposed to hearing it from the characters.  Plus the visions come across in a more objective way so you never get a sense of bias.

Eventually they find themselves encountering a creature that looks like an Earth whale and are able to get on the animal once they figure out that the “space-whale” may know its way around the Abyss better than they do.  During all this they find that the creature is able to generate its own atmosphere for them to breathe, plus they discover a wolf-like animal that had crashed into the space-whale and almost ended up being eaten by other parasitic creatures had it not been for Krolia and Keith’s interference.

From there on in two years go by and while not much is seen, you still get a sense that Keith is able to talk to his mom, as well as train and bond with both her and their new canine friend, who is able to teleport over short distances.

Eventually Keith and Krolia are able to finally disembark from the space whale and they find themselves on a desolate planet which leads them to another world that is eerily similar to the one Allura had in the holo-deck on the Castle Ship.  And then, as they make their way to a forest with a river they run into someone who turns out to be none other than…an Altean!

Then we return to the rest of Team-Voltron and instead of being on a usual mission we find that they are actually taking a break and playing a game that Coran calls “Monsters and Mana”, which is in many ways an ultimate love letter to Dungeons and Dragons and every single RPG/Action-Adventure game in both tabletop and video game form.

Essentially everyone has to pick a character as their avatar for the game. Pidge chooses a Viking, Hunk chooses a healer, Lance a thief, and Allura an elf-ranger, and Shiro as a Paladin, with Coran as essentially the DM to coin a tabletop game phrase.

The quest begins with our heroes meeting up with each other, each with their different quests.  But once they find that their goals seem to intertwine they each decide to team up and help each other out.  And from that point on just about every single RPG/adventure reference/trope you can think of is present, but it’s done in a way that isn’t tacked on, and interestingly enough they help move things forward.

But even as great as the episode is, it is essentially the last “fun” episode for the season because after this everything gets very…I don’t want to say “dark”, but they do get very tense, and even that is an understatement.

With “The Colony” Lotor and Allura finally head into the Quintessence field via the Sincline ship – which Allura had been upgrading via her newfound Alchemic skills from Oriande (Season 5) and while Lance voices his concerns about the Quintessence field – namely from what they know regarding Zarkon’s backstory – Shiro points out that Zarkon fell victim to his own ambitions/instincts and that the Quintessence field didn’t create those feelings, only revealed them.

During this time, a ship is spotted heading in their direction and it turns out to be an Altean pod with Keith piloting it. Once he gets on the Castle of Lions Keith along with Krolia, Romelle and the cosmic wolf get aquatinted (reacquainted in Keith’s case) with the rest of the team and Romelle explains her story, revealing Lotor’s true nature and what he had been really planning this whole time. It turned out that a significant number of Alteans were off-planet when their home world was destroyed and stayed in hiding until Lotor found them. Once he did he offered the refugees a safe planet for them to colonize until a permanent solution could be found, and for a while things were fine, but then when Romelle and her younger brother Bandor were born things began to change, namely when they reached their teens. By this point the colonists worshipped Lotor as a savior but Romelle wasn’t so inclined. When Bandor is selected to go to another colony Romelle protests but Bandor assures her it is Lotor’s will.

Some time later Bandor ends up contacting Romelle via a communicator he gave her before leaving and when Romelle catches up to where he is all he can tell her is that Lotor and the other colony were a lie before he dies in her arms.

Now knowing that her suspicions were beyond justified but also knowing that without any kind of proof she couldn’t say anything Romelle was in a bit of a pickle. But then she encountered Keith, Krolia and the cosmic wolf and once they all got to talking it didn’t take long for them to suspect a connection between the missing colonists and the pure quintessence the Blade of Marmora had been tracking. As they backtracked Bandor’s return to the first colony the group found the second colony which turned out to be a place that was harvesting the quintessence out of other Alteans, including people Romelle knew.

Shocked by this revelation the rest of Team-Voltron then confront Lotor once he and Allura come back onto the ship and Romelle spills the beans on Lotor’s deceit. Naturally Lotor tries to spin it in a way that it was a necessary evil but Allura, feeling betrayed in ways beyond anyone’s understanding simply throws him to the floor. Of course, this is when Haggar takes control of Shiro and everything goes straight down the tubes real quick as Shiro systematically takes out everyone on the bridge and escapes with Lotor. Fortunately Keith quickly takes command and heads to Black Lion in his Paladin Armor and helps the team take the fight to Lotor’s generals, who had snuck onboard the Castle Ship and took the other Sincline ships.

What follows for the rest of the season is an all-out, rock-em-sock-em fight and Keith showcasing his growth and true leadership skills, but even with that it’s still tough going, especially when Zethrid, Ezor and Acxa try to escape via a wormhole. Keith gets through but after some encounters with some Galra cruisers he manages to find himself at a facility that is housing clones of…Shiro!

And once Keith hears Shiro’s voice What then follows is a fight that had fans had been wondering/anticipating since the beginning. And it is a fight that does not disappoint.

But just when it seems like all hope is lost, Keith find himself in the astral plane and comes face-to-face with none other than the real Shiro who confirms what many had suspected about him.

While all of this is going on, Lotor and his generals are headed back to Voltron’s position in an attempt to try and access the quintessence field once more so Allura and the other Paladins destroy the entrance but then Lotor shows up and once again tries to justify his actions but Allura ain’t having it and attacks, even going so far as to liken Lotor to his father more than before, which snaps Lotor and he and his generals attack, and it’s here where Lotor goes from his usual stoic, charming self to a scenery-chewing madman.

And that madness only shows itself more once Lotor jettisons his generals and creates his own Voltron. Even when Coran steps in to help things still don’t go well.

In the midst of this Keith is trying to get to the battle as fast as he can but with one of Black Lion’s thrusters damaged he is going even slower and he cries out to Shiro for help. Fortunately his older brother figure is there to provide him with the same advice he’s given him countless times before.

“Patience yields focus.”

So Keith does exactly that and manages to get to his team faster than even he anticipated. Once he does he manages to catch Lotor off-guard and the whole team forms Voltron for one more fight.

And now we have yet another incredible battle but things are still at a stalemate, and then once the team realizes Lotor is using the Quintessence Field to teleport in and out they decide to enter the field as well, knowing it’s the only way to match his power level.

Once they’re in the field the team is able to match Lotor attack for attack but slowly they begin to get more aggressive and Allura says they need to get out quickly or they’ll end up like Zarkon and Honerva. Since Voltron has extra Quintessence Allura has the team give Lotor that extra energy via their attacks which seems to knock the Sincline robot out of commission but Voltron is beginning to overload and they need to leave. Allura still wants to save Lotor despite her own feelings but it isn’t until Keith says that Lotor made his choice and they had to go.

Once they get out of the field Team Voltron still can’t relax yet for all the teleporting Lotor has been doing had opened up space-time rifts that, unless they were closed would destroy all of reality. Coran then suggests using the Castle ship’s teleduv, believing that would do the trick in closing the rifts, although…the process would also mean sacrificing the ship itself.

With no other option the team – along with Krolia and Romelle helping out – gets all the supplies they could salvage from the ship and have it go into the rift, which does the trick.

Despite that problem solved there was still the matter of Shiro, which Keith explains to the others. Fortunately Allura is able to step in and despite having little Alchemic training is able to extract the essence of the real Shiro from Black Lion and put it in the clone body which works.

So now with Shiro finally back the team is left with the question of what to do, to which Pidge supplies the answer.

“There’s only one place that has the plans necessary for a replacement of the Castle of Lions. Coran gave them to my dad.” – Pidge

“We’re going home.” – Keith

So in all, this is a season that delivers in such a way that you feel emotionally drained in the best way possible. While this season isn’t the final one, it is the season that connects a lot of the dots and answers questions that audiences have been wondering since Season 1. The highlights being that we finally learn Lotor’s true colors and after several seasons of being the “loner” and having been away from the team for two seasons, Keith finally returns to the team a new man. And boy was it worth the wait. And I love the fact that by leaving the team to track down the new Quintessence it all came full circle for Keith because he not only was reunited with his birth mother but he also got answers he had been looking for since the beginning, plus he gets a pet of his own in the cosmic wolf and meets a new ally/friend who is also a character from the original series in Romelle, but he was able to discover the source of the new Quintessence which turned out to be Altean colonists who had been hidden away by Lotor all this time. And once things hit the fan – and boy, do they – Keith steps up with no hesitation and from that point on you can see that he is not the impulsive loner that he was in the early seasons anymore. Now that he’s gotten the answers he had been seeking – and having had time to process and come to terms with everything for two years – now he’s ready to step up and become the Black Lion’s Paladin, and this time, it is earned.

But now that things have been resolved, in no way is the story over, because now our heroes have to head to earth. But now the question is, can they get there before the Galra decide to invade it? Guess we’ll see next season.

But as I said before, this season delivers in every way and it sets the stage for the last two seasons to follow.

Ultrasonic’s thoughts: Tetris DS

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Ever since Alexey Pajitnov created Tetris in 1984, this puzzle game has continued to evolve by leaps and bounds (and inspire quite a bit of copy-cats), but even with all this, the core concept of what made Tetris great still remained intact, and fortunately for many users the world over, this is a very good thing.

And when the Nintendo DS came along, an opportunity presented itself for bring Tetris to it but in a very distinct way, namely with the Nintendo formula added to it.

The end result? A game that not only has the classic Tetris gameplay, but with some wrinkles to keep you coming back for more.

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For starters you’ll notice that the characters from some of Nintendo’s well-known franchises are in the background.  While it would be easy to think that they were just placed there just as nostalgic eye candy, that’s not the case.  In many of the game modes the characters are placed in such a way that they reflect how you play, and this is quite prevalent in the modes you select.

And speaking of modes, they are quite ingenious. For example, the “Catch” mode requires you to catch the Tetris pieces called “Tetriminos” to form a 4 by 4 square and then detonate it.  In the midst of this you also have to make sure that your energy doesn’t run out or that the blocks don’t stack to the bottom or top because if any of those things happen it’s game over.

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With “Mission” mode there is an objective you have to complete before your supply of hearts run out.  But don’t get too comfortable, because another mission will pop up once you complete another.

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In “Puzzle” mode you have to clear the screen of Tetriminos.  However, there’s a catch: you can only use the Tetriminos provided for you, so you have to get very strategic with this.

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“Touch” is the classic Tetris gameplay formula, but you use the touch screen and stylus to move and rotate the Tetriminos.

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And finally, “Push” mode has you going up against the CPU in an effort to push your opponent down and not let it get up top to defeat you.  One way to help is to clear 2 or more lines to keep your opponent down.

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In all, if you are looking for a good Tetris game with something distinct, then this is a game worth tracking down and adding onto your DS library.  Besides having the Nintendo sprites in the background, there’s plenty of modes to grab your attention.  And in keeping with true Tetris tradition, it’s something you can play for a few minutes or for a very long while, and it never gets boring at any of those points.