XenForo Template Halo Legends Release Date: February 16, 2010 Studio: Warner Brothers Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover Year: 2010 Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 1:59:00 MSRP: $34.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.78:1 and 2.35:1 1080i high definition Audio Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, Japanese 5.1 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish, and Japanese (movie and select bonus material) The Feature: 4/5 "Halo Legends" is an anthology of anime shorts inspired by the highly popular and wildly successful console game franchise "Halo." Though the game has spawned a number of companion works - novels, graphic novels, and the like - this is the first time the mythology has been explored and expanded upon in animated form. Following the production model established by "The Animatrix" and continued in "Batman: Gotham Knight," "Halo Legends" brings together some of the most well-known and respected Japanese animation studios and directors to give added depth and dimension to the Halo universe. As expected, some stories work better than others and the varying design and animation styles will not universally appeal, but anyone who appreciates animation in general, and anime and Halo in particular, will find something to enjoy. My favorite shorts include the two-part "Origin," which tells the full story of the Halo universe, not unlike the two-part "Second Renaissance" from "The Animatrix;" "Homecoming," which gives us a glimpse at the personal sacrifices made by those who don the Spartan armor; and "Babysitter," which is an action-heavy but ultimately profound look at the relationship between an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) team and a mysterious Spartan soldier. Pieces like "The Duel" and "The Package" tend to be more interesting to look at than thought-provoking - the former employing a filtering algorithm that gives the image a painterly effect, and the latter combining the aesthetics of cell shading with 3D animation - though "Odd One Out" and "Prototype" both manage to surprise with conclusions that are more compelling than their initial premises. Though it's undoubtedly a long and involved process gathering the sizable talents to create an anthology such as this, I'm hoping for a second installment that will further explore the vast and ripe-with-potential Halo universe. Video Quality: 4.5/5 Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec, the first two shorts deviate from the dominant 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a scope presentation of 2.35:1. Black levels appear solid and deep and contrast displays the full range of values. Colors have excellent depth, fidelity and stability. Fine object detail is similarly excellent, as revealed by the clarity of star fields and crispness of line art. Even with the high contrast edges of the latter, there are no signs of edge haloing or digital sharpening artifacts. Certain pieces display the usual issues with animated works - color banding within gradients, aliasing along the lines of the computer-generated elements, and some noise in fine pattern areas - but they are relatively few and far between. Overall it's an excellent visual presentation of some undeniably impressive animation. Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Though a lossless audio track would have made for a fitting companion to the quality high definition presentation, the 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track does a decent job keeping pace. Though the mixes vary from short to short - some pieces being more dialogue heavy and others emphasizing action and pyrotechnics - the track in general is suitably detailed, balanced and expansive, though sometimes limited in its dynamic range and oddly subdued in the lower registers for all the exploding and shooting going on. Surround activity is similarly limited in its use, reserved mostly for supporting the score or the most obvious of directional effects. The short "Prototype" is the primary exception, doing more with the speaker array than most of its companion pieces. Special Features: 4/5 Offering plentiful behind-the-scenes information to the production, the only notably lacking element from the special features package is an art gallery, where viewers could have taken a closer look at some the great animation and design work. Audio Commentary with Producers Frank O'Connor and Joseph Chou: O'Connor and Chou offer plenty of insights in their measured but always informational commentary track. Though some of the details are also found in the video pieces, the longer run times allow them to expand on things mentioned only briefly in the other format. Halo: Gaming Evolved (21:46, HD): The retrospective piece on the first "Halo" game includes a look back at the initial reaction from the gaming community, what made the game so exciting and popular, and the successive steps built on its foundational story and technology. For those who still hold "Halo" in a high regard, it's a fitting tribute to a groundbreaking game and console gaming experience. Halo: The Story So Far (23:56, HD): O'Connor narrates the overview of the Halo mythology, which pulls together all the story elements from the three Halo games. Since the overarching narrative can be a little hard to piece together in the midst of engrossing gameplay, the piece offers some needed context and clarification to the events spanning across the three Halo releases. The Making of Halo Legends (54:49, HD): Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage give viewers a glimpse at the development and creation of each of the anime shorts. Trailers: Includes "Halo Reach" (1:17, HD) and "Justice League: Crisis on 2 Earths" (1:17, SD). Recap The Feature: 4/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 Warner Brothers turns in a fine presentation of anime short collection inspired by the highly successful Halo console game franchise. The supporting special features package offers some great behind-the-scenes information, but a gallery featuring the art and designs is notably absent.