Today I decided it had been too long since my notifications bar was filled with comments about how pretentious I am and decided I would fix that by discussing some of the missteps and failings of the original Bionicle storyline. So before Lego adopts Nintendo like policies on fan made content and shuts TTV down unless they start paying royalties, I figured I might as well take this opportunity to start another lively discussion about the quality of Bionicle's story.
Before we begin, though, couple of things to keep in mind. Firstly, to avoid having @Political_Slime challenge me to another fight, keep in mind that just about everything stated below is opinion. I'm putting this here so I don't have to write "IMO" every 5 words.
Secondly, there are some more obvious flaws I'll be leaving out (the movies, for instance) because just about everyone acknowledges them as flaws and that particular dead horse has been beaten and turned into a Burger King Whopper already. I'll try to only include things if I feel that I have something at least relatively new to bring to the discussion.
So with that in mind, let's get started.
FLAW #1: The general premises of 2007
2007 is a year that I kind of wanted to tackle right off the bat because it encompasses a large part of what I'm here to complain about, which is a general lack of creativity. To put it bluntly, 2007 is a retread of 2006. The same basic setup is copy/pasta'd from 2006; there's a Matoran settlement that seems to be utterly screwed because it's in an isolated location with few resources, they're being oppressed by a team of villains who are all generally working towards the same goal (something to do with the Mask of Life) but are constantly held back by their distrust for each other, a team of Toa show up not long after in search of the Mask of Life, and the rest of the year is basically a group of disconnected battles between the two sides before the grand finale.
Quite honestly, I like the general premises of this. It's quite atmospheric and gives way to a sense of intrigue, especially in the earlier part of the year when the outclassed Matoran are forced to rely on stealth and trickery in order to survive (the earlier books in 2006 are particularly good at this). The villains are also much more compelling than anything thrown before, in which the bad guys were seemingly destroying things just because they were evil or something. Unfortunately, Lego adopted the policy of "If it's worth doing once, it's worth doing twice," and this is where 2007 falls short. It has little ambition outside of dragging the Mask of Life quest out for another year and going through the same motions as 2006. There's nothing original or creative about 2007, it's just the same basic plotline of 2006 except we're all underwater now. $60 for new versions of the same Toa with tubes and lime green limbs that break if they touch any surface harder than a tissue, please.
Basically 2007 is the Twilight Princess to 2006's Ocarina of Time.
FLAW #2: Matoro's Sacrifice (and Matoro in general) is Incredibly Lame and Unengaging
General rule about character sacrifices; if you want them to be meaningful to the player in any way, shape, or form, you have to establish the character, and then make us care about them. Bionicle does a pretty good job at the first and fails miserably at the second, mostly because Matoro has all the personality of an upturned bucket resting on top of a lamppost. Superman is probably the best comparison I can give for Matoro; he has absolutely no character flaws outside of possibly some self esteem issues that he uses to justify another noble act of his. He's simply unengaging because he's basically perfect as far as morals go; he sacrifices himself (twice), helps some Matoran mirage in Karzahni, and is considered to be so good of a person that a mask will demand that only he wears it. It's because of this that his sacrifice is utterly bland and uninteresting. Matoro's character is one of basically absolute perfection; and it's nigh on impossible to connect with him as a result. The same sort of things that make Superman the blandest comic book hero in history make Matoro arguably the blandest Bionicle character, and so his sacrifice comes off as lame and unengaging since it's a person dying who I barely even care about.
FLAW #3: The ending to Time Trap is beyond poorly thought out
For what it's worth, Time Trap is a pretty engaging book, and quite honestly I wish more of the Bionicle books were like it. The trouble comes with the ending, where Lego writes themselves into a bit of a corner; Vakama needs to escape with the Mask of Time (so that he can give it to Tahu later) and be able to rebuild society on Mata Nui, while Makuta needs to be established as a threat to Mata Nui, but not until the Turaga can make villages n' stuff. The book's method of getting around this is that Vakama threatens to break the Vahi (and supposedly destroy time, however that works), which scares Makuta into allowing for a year of peace before he attacks.
Problem here is that Vakama...still has all the bargaining power when Makuta shows up. Unless he went senile, he should have just threatened to break the mask again unless Makuta got out. If the effects of destroying time are truly that disastrous, and Makuta is convinced that Vakama isn't bluffing (as it would seem by the fact that he gave him a year of peace)...why didn't Vakama just pull the exact same stunt as before?
FLAW #4: Inconsistent Balance of Power
This one's been remarked on a few times, but where Bionicle started to sort of lose me was after the Toa Nuva's defeat by the Piraka. I can buy that the Piraka are super powerful villains and could take down the Toa Nuva, and that the Toa Inika are super powerful Toa who can stand up to the Piraka, which leads to a bit of a hierarchy of power being created here. The Toa Nuva are on a level with villains like the Rahkshi, while the Piraka and Toa Inika are on a vastly superior level. No problems so far.
Where issues start to arise is when these same Toa Nuva, previously established as much weaker than the Piraka and Toa Inika, begin taking on groups of foes that have already been established as stronger than both Piraka and Inika, such as...Makuta. Yes, the entire year of 2008 is dedicated to the Toa Nuva fighting Makuta. And yeah, I get that the Makuta were supposedly holding back, but the Toa still display usage of force that, at various points in time, "stuns" and even forces the Makuta to retreat. These being the same Toa that only managed to take down a single Piraka in their previous fight.
This isn't exactly an isolated incident either. Tahu easily bests a Skakdi Warlord in a less powerful form in 2010, the Toa Inika/Mahri somehow held their equal against the Barraki after Pridak was previously established being far stronger than a Skakdi (who the Inika were roughly as powerful as in 2006), and the Rahkshi are established as cakewalks for the Skakdi...the same Rahkshi who the Toa Nuva barely managed to defeat...but, as previously established, Nektann can't defeat a less powerful version of Tahu. Basically what I'm saying is that power seems to be about as arbitrary here as it does in the average Netherrealm fighting game story.
FLAW #5: Makuta's actions during the Mask of Light quest are absolutely stupid
2003's a year that's frequently listed as one of Bionicle's best, which strikes me as odd, because half of it was taken up with clone sets, and the other half was arguably the most cliched, generic plot in the entirety of Bionicle's storyline. Any plot that ends with "the true strength was within you all along" probably deserves to get tossed out immediately, but what deserves special attention is the sheer idiocy of Makuta during the entire incident.
Let's recap; Makuta's plan (the plan that has supposedly been in the works for thousands of years) is for the Toa Mata/Nuva to awaken Mata Nui, so Makuta can slip in and steal his body. To accomplish this, the Toa Nuva will need to reach Metru Nui at some point. To reach Metru Nui, the Mask of Light must...do that thing it does at the end of the movie...where it shoots a beam of light out and finds Metru Nui...which presumably can only happen if there's a Toa of Light there.
So Makuta needs Takanuva to become a thing, and have the Toa Nuva survive, for his plan to succeed. And yet, his own servants nearly ruin both of these conditions on a number of occasions. Turahk almost kills Takua. Kuurahk makes Tahu very upset, which leads to near fatal anger management classes with Gali. Takua very easily could have gotten crushed by the falling rocks in Onu Koro, and Onua establishes that he and Pohatu would likely have been killed were it not for Kopaka's help...off screen...somewhere... He even plays Kohlii with energized protodermis against Takanuva, which I believe kills people if it so much as touches them. If Takanuva screws up, no more Toa of Light. Plan ruined.
So Makuta's master plan was almost ruined on a number of occasions by his own doing. I realize that this is all probably stuff that the writers of Bionicle simply hadn't planned out yet, but nevertheless Makuta's actions here are absolutely stupid in the context of his greater goal.