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January 15, 2013
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
None9/1/2013MadmanAtsushi Takeuchi
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Freddie Prinze Jr (voice)

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Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is an anime film.

If you've read our 2012 Awards then you will know just how much we loved EA's Mass Effect 3, so hearing there was a film in development, set before the events of the third game should generate interest from all gamers - it's just something of a shame that the film wasn't released 9 months ago, prior to the game hitting shelves.

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost follows the early career of Alliance Marine, James Vega. Vega leads an elite Special Forces squad into battle against a mysterious alien threat known as The Collectors. Stationed at a colony in a remote star system, Vega and his soldiers must protect the civilians from a ruthless invasion determined to capture the population for unknown purposes.

Making a film set in the same universe as three of the most loved video games of the last decade was always going to be a difficult proposition. That's not due to a lack of detail in the universe as some may suggest about films based on video games - indeed the Mass Effect universe is probably one of the richest and most diverse in the games industry - but rather as the games are so open many of the main characters could live or die by your choices, while even the games main hero, Commander Shepherd, can be male of female and have a visual style dictated by your choices. Therefor it's impossible to include any of the characters from the main games in this feature film.

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Vega is the main character in Paragon Lost.
That then introduces the question - why would a Mass Effect fan bother with this film without any of the main characters from the games? Well it does focus on Lieutenant James Vega who has a small role in the third game, andfills in much of his back story but given he's such a minor character the we have to ask if gamers will really care? I can't say that I did. Not only that, but those that have played Bioware's third game will be aware of what happens to the main characters in this film, and thereby ruining much of the (potential) surprise...

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost isn't a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that it adds little to the massive universe set up in the games - you're talking 2 hours of film versus 100+ hours of video game (or, perhaps, 20 hours of story-telling cut-scenes and dialogue).

Presented at the HDTV-filling 1.78:1 aspect ratio and encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec the transfer of Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is pretty much perfect. Of course this is an anime and as such while it has smooth animations the visuals can look very simplistic - that's the nature of Japanese animation rather than the super-slick massively detailed presentations put out from Hollywood including companies such as Pixar.

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Visuals are often quite impressive.
But that doesn't mean this is any less impressive, as just as there's different forms of painting from Abstract to Realism, Pop Art to Cubism (yes, my art lessons at high school paid off at last mum!), it's just a different form of animation. The transfer here is great with impressive colour reproduction and no evident artifcating in the compression.

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost includes a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which is very impressive overall with some good music (although we don't think as memorable as that in the latest game), and solid effects. Key to any animated release however is the delivery of the dialogue and for the most part the actors do a fine job.

Freddie Prinze Jr. reprises his role from the games as Lieutenant James Vega but, somewhat disappointingly Keith David didn't return to voice Admiral David Anderson, although replacement voice actor Patrick Seitz has an uncanny similarity for the voiceover while Jamie Marchi has replaced Ali Hillis (who voiced the character in all three games) as Dr. Liara T'Soni. It would have been nice for some more original voice actors to return.

There are no other audio tracks on the Paragon Lost Blu-Ray, and only a single subtitle track - English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which from our samples at various points throughout the film are accurate to the dialogue, and with good pacing and clear to read.

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Don't smile, you're being shot at!
Upon booting the Mass Effect Blu-Ray you will first encounter an unskippable trailer for Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker (1:36). There are a few extras on this Blu-Ray which may be of interest.

All Doors Open: A Look Inside Electronic Arts (8:36/HD): Presented by Pat O'Brien, the Vice President of EA Entertainment, this is more of a promotional piece selling Electronic Arts to Funimaion (who worked on the film on this disc). Not much to do with the movie, but it's a mildly interesting look at the gaming company for gamers (who, let's face it, are the audience for this disc). And yes, they even have a Starbucks at the head office! As for leaving the companies alone after acquisition - I think a few gamers would question that - including those that worked at Bullfrog, Pandemic, Origin Systems, NuFX and Bright Light.

An Inside Look At The Mass Effect Universe (12:39/HD): I was hoping this would be a summary of the main plot points from the video games however it's more of a "Making of" featurette for the game. Still quite interesting it's worth a look to see some details on how the games were developed including Character Modelling, Animation, Gameplay and Sound Design.

Directing Effect (24:19/HD): To be honest I wasn't really expecting an in-depth "Making of" documentary but this featurette looks at creating the Mass Effect universe for the games, and then the decision to create the animated film when the developers started working on Mass Effect 3 before looking at creating the storyline for the film, and then having Funimation create the film.

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Paragon Lost is decent, but not essential viewing.
US Trailer (1:17/HD): No surprise here really, this is the American Trailer for Mass Effect: Paragon Lost.

Previews: Also included on this Madman Blu-Ray are trailers for other animated films including Blood-C (1:16/HD), Deadman Wonderland (1:47), King of Thorn (1:02/HD), Hellsing Ultimate (0:58/HD), the non-animated/real-life Lost Girl (1:04/HD), Evangelion (1:32/HD), Steins;Gate (1:06/HD) and finally (0:32/HD) which is an advertisement for the Funimation website.

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost isn't the superb film we were hoping for - it's certainly not up to the standards set by the phenomenal Bioware games. Still if you love the universe set up by Bioware this film includes more back story and is probably worth a rent - especially if you like anime.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Madman. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.