Thursday, July 20, 2017

Niko and the Sword of Light Review

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Growing up, just like most children, I had a strong love of cartoons. Saturday morning or after school cartoons were a favorite in my household and I watched them religiously. As I got older, cartoon watching was replaced by video games or sports, but one thing remained, a love for quality animation that tells a compelling story. There are a ton of cartoons on the market today and with streaming services showing old favorites from your childhood, it's hard to decide on what exactly is quality animation vs. filler. Well, I'm here to give you my review on one such new kids animation series that is certainly not filler. Niko and the Sword of Light will start streaming on Amazon Prime Video on July 21st and it is definitely worth your kids (and possibly your) attention.

Niko and the Sword of Light begins with the viewers being introduced to a world of darkness. An evil sorcerer named Nar Est works to cast darkness on all innocent creatures turning them into multi-eyes monsters. While attempting to evade one of these monsters, the sidekick animal of the show Mandok, knocks over a crystal that contained a young boy inside. We later find out that this crystal housed a hero that is destined to take the fight to Nar Est and restore light to the world, but now he was "born" too soon...much too soon. Niko is only 10 and has a lot to learn about world events. He's head strong, reckless, and always hungry. With the help of Princess Lyra (a guide of sorts for heroes) and Mandok, they work to get him ready to take on his destiny with the mythic heroes weapon, the "Sword of Light." Each of the 13 episodes will see Niko continue his journey to magical areas of the world and take on dangers thrown at him by the evil sorcerer, all in the hopes of confronting his destiny and cleansing the world of darkness.

Even after watching the first episode it's easy to see what makes this series so special. For starters, the animation in the show is top notch. Watching the show brought back memories of the cartoons I watched growing up. The beautifully drawn characters and fluid motion are a sight to behold. And the animation isn't the only positive. The cast of the series, while maybe not the most well known to non-animation fans, really stands out if you have kids. With big names like  Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), Steve Blum (Star Wars: Rebels), Jim Cummings (Shrek, Winnie the Pooh, and pretty much any Bethesda video game), and Kari Wahlgren (Kung-fu Panda) it's easy to see they went all out to get quality voice acting. And to be honest, it shows. The banter between characters is fluid and meaningful and you can tell they have chemistry between them. These aren't phoned in lines but rather professional recordings done by professional voice actors, something that isn't too often seen in some streaming shows out there.

So, you know what the show is supposed to be about and how they went about making, but what did I think about it overall? I loved it. The moment I knew I really liked the show came a couple episodes in when I thought to myself, "I would love to play this as a video game." And to be honest, I don't know what higher praise you can give to an animated show by a video game fan. The coming of age story mixed with a band of misfits is something that is tried and true, but Niko and the Sword of Light puts it's own spin on it. Each episode saw Niko surpassing challenges with both wit and compassion, albeit with some stumbles along the way. As Niko frees shadow enemies, they leave behind the original animals that were cursed by the darkness. The worlds they visit are beautifully created (and incredibly imaginative) and give the characters a ton of room for character growth, something that happens seamlessly over the 13 episodes. Niko, born much too soon for the task at hand, is often funny and endearing as he storms headlong into his destiny while also fumbling with normal human emotions and feelings along the way (and hunger...the kid is always eating!) His relationship with his colleagues begins a little silly with a ton of mishaps and evolves into a friendship that helps him with his monumental task. This is great kids programming that will keep your kids enthralled and I bet will even do a number on you.

So, what age range is this for? Well, that's up to you. How do your kids do with scary things in shows like multi eyed, multi headed beasts that try to eat the protagonist? The enemies always lose, but at times those monsters can get a little scary. I know my son, who is 3 1/2, and this wouldn't work for him, but to be honest, he's not the target demographic. I'd say maybe 6 and up would be perfect for this show. Past that age where everything is scary and into the wonder of swords and magic. And speaking of swords, while the protagonist does wield one, it's usually used to shoot light out of to banish darkness. Also, with strong male and female leads, this show would be a good choice for both boys and girls (and Princess Lyra can be a serious badass with her staff!)

I typically don't watch kids animated shows, but when asked to review Niko and the Sword of Light, I was intrigued. I initially thought the show would be just another kids cash grab but I'm glad I was mistaken. The animation, the voice actors, and the overall plot all come together to make something truly unique in the world of animated kids shows. The Legend of Zelda like storyline evokes memories of young adventure and will entice the imagination of any viewer. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, and have young kids, you owe it to them to give this a viewing. This is one show that you won't feel bad about turning on and watching yourself (although be prepared, because if your kids are anything like my son, it'll be on repeat for a couple weeks.) Niko and the Sword of Light premiers on Amazon Prime Video tomorrow, July 21st. To get ready for it, check out the trailer below. You can also check out the Amazon page for the show by visiting this link: Niko and the Sword of Light.

*I was compensated for this sponsored review, but all words and thoughts on the show are my own.

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