Here we are, going far, to save all that we love;
If we give, all we’ve got, we will make it through.
Here we are, like a star, shining bright on your world;
Today, make Evil go away!
For some completely random reason I started thinking about Code Lyoko, an old cartoon show from about 5 years ago that I used to watch. Why I suddenly started reminiscing about a show that I haven’t thought about in years is beyond me, but I remembered thinking how awesome the premise of the show was…and how sloppy it was in execution.
To actually explain the concept of the show is far too great a task to explain in a simple blog post. Long story short, a group of friends that attend a boarding school enter a virtual world known as Lyoko where they assist a female AI in thwarting evil AI Xana’s attempts to hack into special towers in Lyoko which in turn allow Xana to do malicious things in the real world.
The story isn’t really the important thing here though. What’s unique about Code Lyoko is that it employs two different animation styles. Scenes in the real world take place in traditional animation, whereas scenes in the digital world of Lyoko take place in CGI. When the group travels into Lyoko to stop the latest Xana plot, it looks and feels like a video game. In a way it sort of is, as the kids gain uber weapons, ninja skills, and have “hit points” that get depleted when Xana’s virtual monsters hurt them. Run out of hit points, and you are ejected from the digital world for the remainder of the episode.
As this show aired during the latter years of my video-game junkie phase, I naturally fell in love with the show. At the same time however parts of the show were just plain infuriating. For one thing, the show pretty much had no continuity through the first half of its four season run. It followed a standard formula of “Oh look, Xana’s causing random trouble, let’s stop him just in the nick of time!” that is standard in most kids action shows. Oh and there’s the usual middle-school drama that takes place between the main characters and other inhabitants of the boarding school. To be fair the plot picks up (and how!) in seasons three and four, but the early days were pretty shaky.
The plot isn’t really my main concern with the show however. Naturally I’m far more interested in discussing the video game elements of Lyoko. The problem is, the characters and their digital ninja forms just plain sucked at combat. Now I’m willing to understand the need to be cautious (after all, this wasn’t just a video game, haha) but even the most basic of Xana’s underlings would cause the characters to stop drop and whine before pulling off some random (and lucky) maneuver that would magically kill them all.
Mind you the characters did have a good reason to be cautious. This is because in Lyoko everyone has the constitution of a box of Kleenex. Seriously, if you get so much as grazed by a laser in this world, then you lose like 50% of your hit points. Every time someone got hit with a laser or bludgeoned with some object it was always “careful! another hit like that and you’re a goner!” I know ninja character archetypes aren’t the most durable people in the world, but you should seriously be able to withstand more punishment than these guys are dying over.
Speaking of dying, this series also suffers a bit of Disneyitis. Everytime Xana causes trouble in the real world, it usually involves some kind of crazy destruction for ye olde boarding school. No matter how badly the place gets destroyed though, it doesn’t matter. When Xana’s attack is stopped in Lyoko, the female AI I mentioned earlier performs a magic time warp that reverts the real world back to the point time before Xana screwed everything up. Everyone but the main characters forget that they were 5 seconds away from dying or what have you, and life goes on…until the next attack that is. Here’s the really strange thing though: no one dies during the attacks, which can sometimes get quite serious. Reason being is that a time-warp cannot bring back the dead. Despite the fact that a magic time warp occurs and fixes all boo-boos and property damage, if someone dies, they’re still dead, despite the fact that time warped back and the death never actually happened. Illogical? Yes. Loophole probably invented because it was a kids show? Most likely. Oh well. C’est la vie.
So yeah, as much as I liked the whole video game virtual reality components, it’s filled with loopholes. Even still, it has cool video game virtual reality components that kept me coming back for more like a crazy drug. See the dilemma I was having? It was like the original pokemon anime all over again.
One thing I never knew about the show until after I watched it was that it actually had a cool theme song. This was mainly because Cartoon Network didn’t air it for I presume time reasons. Although the English version was kinda subpar (I did like the refrain though, which is what I quoted at the beginning of the article) the French version was actually quite awesome. Oh yeah, I should probably mention that this show was developed (and takes place) in France. No Japanese import here! Maybe it’s because everything sounds cooler in French, but the French version of the theme song has earned a place on my IPod once again.