Plot: What’s it about?
The path of the Roughnecks under the command of Lt. Razak has been a harsh one, as the soldiers have always been in the thick of the battles. But these troopers have no regrets and while they risk their lives, they do so with enthusiasm and hope that soon, they can eliminate the bug menace forever. The brave troopers have mounted assaults on Pluto and Hydora with positive results, but there is still a long road ahead of them, without a doubt. The next stop on this journey is Tophet, a planet bathed in sand and heat, thanks to a total desert landscape that poses a lot of problems for Razak’s Roughnecks. Rico, Flores, and the others soon bump into some humanoid Skinnies, who seem a tad too friendly and hospitable, but the troopers accept their generous help, though they keep their eyes & ears open. These Skinnies aren’t the only new friends however, as Razak’s team also encounters a robotic trooper and if they doubted the machine, they didn’t after it saved them from an almost lethal ambush. But more surprises lurk around every turn, as the soldiers discover who they can trust, as well as who seeks to betray them…
This excellent computer animated series was handed a miserable time slot and ended up sinking, even though it found a sizable audience. But Columbia has seen that audience now and as such, we have Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles on DVD, complete with some cool bonus materials. The approach taken is to release the episodes in campaign packs, so one story arc (five episodes) per disc and that works out well, I think. The Tophet Campaign is the third installment in terms of chronological order and so if you’ve only seen Pluto & Tesca, then Tophet & Hydora will fill in a lot of the blanks. And as this series moves in arcs and focuses on storyline & character development, I think new viewers should watch them in the correct order, even if that means waiting on future discs to arrive. This campaign is up to snuff and has some great moments, both in terms of storyline & action scenes. The show is geared to all ages and that means lessened gore, violence, and language, but the filmmakers are able to overcome the limitations. The animation is crisp and looks impressive, the voice talent is well chosen, and the storylines are fun to watch play out, so of course, this next campaign is highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame form, just as the series was shown on television. This kind of animation shows some edge enhancement and shimmering at times, but in the end, I feel this is a fine visual treatment. The colors display the intended dank, drab hues well and flesh tones, while a little wax like, seem in order also. The contrast here is very dark and dismal, but the black levels ease up when needed, to allow some extra detail to pass through. This is sharper and more refined than it looked on television, which is about all you can want from this release.
Audio: How does it sound?
As they did with The Hydora Campaign, Columbia has included a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option for these episodes, whereas prior campaigns (Pluto & Tesca) were in 2.0 surround. The rear channels are used often to enhance the battle scenes, as well as add some ambient noise and of course, this elevates the experience. You won’t be blown away by the surround presence, but it is quite good and given the material, this is one terrific mix. The vocals are crisp and clean at all times, with no problems in the least to report, impressive stuff. This disc also includes language options in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Thai, Korean, and Chinese, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I was pleased to find that Columbia has included two audio commentary tracks here, both of which fans of the series will not want to miss. The first session is a filmmakers’ track and is hosted by producer Audu Paden, who is joined at times by various members of the cast & crew, including other producers, voice actors, the story editor, the composer, and several others. This track is jam packed with data and since the participants rotate with each episode, each has plenty of time to dish out their thoughts & insight. Paden returns to host the technical commentary, which features a number of people involved in the animation process. The speakers discuss the finer points of how the show is put together, animated, and of course, the troubles of animated a CG television series, in terms of schedule & budget. This disc also includes some conceptual artwork, talent files, and bonus trailers for other Roughnecks releases.