Sunday, December 18, 2011

Halo: Part 1: Unforgotten

     Well, we're finally here. Let me start by apologizing to my regular readers for not posting in two days. I'm probably more sorry to myself than I am to any reader though, as you most likely care much less than I do on the subject. Anyway, I've decided to name this blog and the next piece as simply, "Halo." Each part with a subtitle of one of my favorite songs. I will also be separating each blog into small chapters, which I will then name after different Halo songs, as there were so many choices that I wanted to use.

     Before I being, I'd also like to say a couple things. First, I'd like to point out that my friend, Natalie, has also started her blog. Congrats on the first post and I hope it continues to blossom into something that you care for very much. I can't wait to see what's in store. Next, I recently discovered that since mid-June of 2011, I've lost roughly 60 pounds! It wasn't until seeing this that I finally made the realization that perhaps this is part of why I have become so cheerful lately. And finally, I now know that I should be alone when I write. Being around friends has become such a distraction for me now because I actually tend to talk to others, rather than just observe and comment where necessary. And even past that, this blog is more a journal that anything, just with a relatively small audience; so really, it should be something "private" for me to talk about when there are no other distractions to take me away from my thoughts. 

     I would also like to preface by saying that I don't want to get into a whole lot of detail, as this is a fairly long story as it is and I want to keep things moving. Now, it's time to tell you a story...

-----Part 1: Unforgotten-----

-Prologue (Halo 2 OST):

     It's nearing the end of 2011 CE. The Halo franchise has just turned 10. What an amazing feat. How many things that you do on a regular basis can you say you've carried out for an entire decade? Not too much, I'd imagine, unless it is/was something that is very near and dear to your heart. So to be a fan of something for so long deserves to be applauded, but not to me, to everyone else who has seen Halo from its inception to where it is today. Me? I've haven't always been there. In fact, there was a time in which Halo meant absolutely nothing to me. But in time, Halo would become the thing that would define me, and set me on a new path for the coming years ahead.

-Out of Darkness (Halo Legends OST):

     I did have an Xbox, but back in the beginning of the decade, I was a Playstation kid. It was where I spent most of my time gaming. The Xbox was something that essentially just collected dust in the corner while I played games like Armored Core 2, Final Fantasy X, or even playing the latest Pokémon, as I was a big fan of that as well. And where my Xbox got so little attention, the newest game craze known as "Halo: Combat Evolved," for the Xbox got even less attention from me.

     During those days, I was at the tail end of, I believe, junior high school. I always hung out with Mike and Matt, both of whom I have mentioned before, and Pat Flanagan, who was the fourth in our close in-group. Mike and Matt, and before that, my friend Brant, only owned PS2, so to keep with continuity, that is what I spent my time with. I wanted to have as much in common with those that I kept company with, so it made sense for that to be my most-played-with toy. 

     I remember an instance, back in 8th grade, right at the beginning of the school year. I was in homeroom with Mike and Matt, which we couldn't help but be elated about. Dan Gatsakos, whom I cannot remember if I've talked about yet, was also in our homeroom. Dan has been a close friend of mine since elementary school, we've both always had similar interests like gaming and whatnot. Anyway, during our homeroom period, he had asked me if I owned an Xbox. I did. He followed up by asking if I ever played Halo. "Halo?" I thought to myself. I couldn't even put the cover picture to the name. He explained it to me until I finally remembered. I finally gave an emphatic, "No. That game sucks." Looking back, what a childish answer and way of reasoning. I had never even played it, but it was on the Xbox, which was "clearly" worse than the PS2. I had absolutely no interest in Halo whatsoever, let alone shooters, which I sort of played already with AC2 and SOCOM... No, Halo was a joke to me that shouldn't have even been given the time of day. Oh, the close-mindedness of it, how ignorant I truly was...

     During that year, another friend of mine, Ken Trader, had mentioned a web-series called "Red vs Blue." He told me that it took place in a videogame and followed these people who were fighting against one another but pretty much did absolutely nothing but talk and yell at one another. He pretty much went through the entire first episode. What I had missed, however, was that it took place in Halo. If I had known that ahead of time, my horribly biased mind would probably never have given it a look and I may have never started my journey.

-Blood Gulch Blues (Trocadero's "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue")

     I began watching Red vs Blue when it was only a mere seven episodes in. Yes, it took place in Halo, but that didn't matter after watching the first episode. It was too funny not to keep watching, and watch I did. It became one of my favorite shows, and it remains so today. It's what actually got me thinking about Halo. I loved the color customization for each player and how they 'fought' (for lack of a better word) on Blood Gulch. 

     The more I watched, the more the idea grew until, finally, I decided to go and get Halo: Combat Evolved. Now mind you, this is about 2 and half years after Halo came out. I suppose that's my secret: I used to actually hate Halo and didn't get started for a fair while... Wow, if only I'd have known ahead of time...

-Installation 04 (Halo CE:A OST)

     I sat down, put my newly bought Halo disc in the tray and pushed it enough to where the box took over. The game loaded and I was brought to the main menu. A mysterious and haunting chant began to play as the camera flew slowly around a giant mechanical ring floating in space. "Hmm..." I though to myself. I created my profile, simply named, "Jake." My spartan, I decided, would be cobalt blue, to liken myself to my favorite character from RvB, Church. I began the campaign on normal, because I didn't want to be dying constantly and because easy was what I would've considered 'dishonorable.'

     I played through "Pillar of Autumn" with a cautious viewpoint, as I was still unsure of what to expect from it. I was following the basic storyline well enough to understand it, but I didn't pick up on the subtleties like the jump from Reach. I also didn't understand for a while that the Covenant was a bunch of different alien races. At the time, I had understood it as the Covenant being one race of aliens that molted into new forms as they aged. I was young and I thought they all looked similar enough to where this was possible. Grunts turned into Jackals, which turned into Elites, which in turn, if they were strong and fortunate enough, would turn into Hunters. Like I said, they all had relatively dark skin, including Jackals at that point, so that's how I understood them.

     When my Bumblebee escape craft finally slammed onto the surface of Halo, I was a bit more open to it, not being so cautious about what I thought. I did feel, as was intended, the scale of it. The giant ring going up into the sky and then coming back down on the other side? It was massive. The lightly pined forest which I fought through gave a nice atmosphere. It wasn't too scary or destroyed or busy. It was just there (which isn't intended to be a bad thing). 

     After that first big battle, when the warthog is dropped off, I couldn't help but be thrown back into RvB. I played through the level, albeit getting lost a few too many times... In fact, I got lost to the point of getting fed up with it and quit playing for a while. I instead went to the split screen option where I checked out the maps and played by myself as I semi-reenacted RvB episodes.

     I eventually got back into it during the summer and continued playing up until the level, "The Library." This is where I almost stopped for good. The Flood was just such a scary character to me. I absolutely hated the feeling of being so surrounded by so many creatures that were stronger than me. Even today, I maintain that I hate the flood because of all that they are. They jump high, hit hard, sound fucking terrifying, and to top it all off, they were always in large numbers. So, I quit out of fear... 

-To Kill a Demon (Halo 3 OST):

     The next school year came and I hadn't even thought about playing Halo again since the horrid release of the Flood. I did, however, keep up with RvB. It was my only real conduit to Halo at the time. I was told that Halo 2 was coming out that coming November and it looked way better than the first one. New things were implemented like duel-wielding, and we would be fighting back on Earth, sans Flood. The story was back at a place where I preferred; a place where I wasn't cowering in fear like the soldier in "343 Guilty Spark." But a stray thought occurred... Perhaps I should actually go and finish Halo 1 before venturing into Halo 2.

     If I remember correctly, I ended up having someone else show me what happens during and after "The Library, so that I could get a feel for it. During the year, I eventually got around to completing the campaign on my own, thanks to the guided help I received. I ended it happy though, it had taken my months longer to actually beat it, but with Halo 2 just around the corner, I was ready for it. Halo 2 wasn't coming soon enough.

-Halo Reborn (Halo 3 OST)

     Finally, November 9th rolled around. My mom and I were in the Toys 'R' Us in Schaumburg, IL, which is about 30-40 minutes away. She was getting Christmas gifts for someone. While there, I decided to see if they happened to have a copy of Halo 2. They had told me that they had only one left that wasn't for pre-sale. We nabbed it and we went home. My parents went off to parent-teacher conferences. Meanwhile, I sat upstairs, unwrapping the cellophane from the game. Like I had done before, I opened the disc tray, set the game in, and pushed it shut. 

----------End of Part One----------

     I feel I have barely gotten into this story and yet, so far, It's longer than most blogs I've done thus far. So my thinking now is that it will be comprised of maybe 3 or 4 parts total. I will be continuing this piece either tomorrow, or, if I reason differently, will make this a blog that comes up every once in a while with other regular blogs in between. If you've read everything up to this, please comment and tell me how you think I should do it. And perhaps this is just me, but this portion of the story is somewhat drier than the parts to come, so if you felt the same way, don't worry, it'll be getting better as I continue.

Until then, please enjoy my favorite Halo song of all time (thus far), "Unforgotten," by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. This song means a lot to me in ways that perhaps will be talked about in the future. 

Until next time...

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